Never Been Kissed by Timothy Janovsky

Film buffs rejoice! Timothy Janovsky has written the ultimate romance for you in Never Been Kissed, featuring summer at the drive-in, a cranky and reclusive legendary film director, and second-chance romance with a childhood crush.

Wren has never been kissed – not only a big regret for him as a lover of rom-coms, but also a major source of teasing from his friends. Considering he’s also graduating college without a plan beyond his regular summer job at the drive-in, it’s especially hard for Wren to feel like a grownup. After a few too many at his 22nd birthday he decides there IS something he can do about one of his problems – he can send out all the emails he’s written to the boys he almost kissed over the years, and launch a quest to get himself kissed. In the morning, this was obviously a terrible idea, but it did reopen communications with childhood friend (and major crush) Derrick, who just so happens to be ALSO working at the drive-in this summer… awkward! Not to mention he’s juggling being a manager at the drive-in, for the first time, with also trying to save it from shutting down by hosting a big event featuring the the local film legend, reclusive director Alice Kelly. Through it all there’s Derrick, and some uncomfortable conversations about what happened to them in high school that need to be faced if there’s a future for them now.

At first I wasn’t sure about the 90s rom-com vibes of this book, or about how immature Wren seemed, dodging his problems and clinging to the past. But over the course of the book, while the film nostalgia stayed strong, Wren started to change, to learn and grow and face his uncomfortable truths. By the end his confidence has grown and he’s acting like a real adult — making the book not only satisfying but relatable, as we all face that moment of growing up and taking responsibility sooner or later. In general, this book was strongly Gen Z, both in terms of lingo, film references, and openly affirming things like mental health, found family, and a wide spectrum of identities. It’s a major milestone for the romance genre that this book openly discusses being demi (which means only feeling certain attractions once a strong emotional bond has been formed) and how important it is to have words to understand yourself. In fact, the atmosphere of acceptance was strong and unquestioned, which was refreshing to read.

This is the 90s romantic comedy movie rewrite I didn’t know I always needed — if you like New Adult coming-of-age stories, second chance romances, or just jump at the chance to go to the movies, I definitely recommend you read this book and then take a trip out to your nearest drive-in theater to keep tradition alive.

Freaky Friday, Then and Now

When I was younger, one of our favorite movies to watch as a family was Freaky Friday starring Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis. The sass and attitude that both Lohan and Curtis (to say nothing of Mark Harmon) brought to the screen were (and remain) comedy gold. I felt both old and excited recently when I discovered how many iterations of the story there are to discover. Here’s a rundown of how you can laugh your way through some body-swapping action.

Start here: 

Through inter-library loan, you can start with the 1977 original Freaky Friday, based on a book of the same name by Mary Rodgers. This is the classic storyline: thirteen-year-old Annabelle thinks her mother Ellen sure has it easy, and doesn’t understand how hard Annabelle’s life is at all. But then, one hilarious and freaky Friday, she gains a greater understanding and sympathy for her mother after they swap bodies for the day. Hijinks include an out-of-control washing machine, parent-teacher conferences AND losing her little brother.

Then, a walk down memory lane:

Next comes the 2003 film Freaky Friday starring Curtis, Lohan, Harmon, and more comedic geniuses from my childhood. In this version, punk rock guitarist Anna changes her contentious relationship with straitlaced psychotherapist mother Tess after a magic fortune cookie makes them swap bodies…the day before Anna’s band is supposed to have the audition of a lifetime, and Tess is supposed to get remarried! It’s a laugh-a-minute race against the clock, and I doubt I’ll ever really get sick of it.

Gender-bend it!

In 2011, there was a gender-bending take on the concept with The Change-Up, starring Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman as childhood best friends Mitch and Dave who have drifted apart, and now find themselves envying each other’s lifestyles. While Mitch is still single and partying, Dave is an overworked father. After a crazy night and a bit of magic, they wake up in each other’s bodies, and not only have to figure out how to switch back but also discover the truth in the adage “Careful what you wish for…”

Next, a musical reboot:

In 2018, Disney made an updated version of the original story, with a few interesting tweaks. In this musical version of Freaky Friday, mother Katherine and her 16-year-old daughter Ellie are at the most stressful times of their lives, and struggling to see each other’s point of view, when a magic hourglass from Ellie’s late father sends them on a body-swapped adventure. Once again, the next day’s wedding adds urgency to their quest to switch back.

And now, a horror-movie twist!

Originally released in 2020, Freaky is the dark comedy story of Millie, a 17-year-old trying to survive high school, who finds herself the latest victim of the local serial killer The Butcher. The magic of his dagger swaps their bodies, and it’s up to Millie and her friends not only to find a way to switch back before it becomes permanent, but also to survive The Butcher on a killing spree, emboldened by his new innocent and feminine appearance.

Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check-in

Hello Readers!

How has your reading been going this month? Have you found a good book to accompany this month’s film, Field of Dreams? With no Major League baseball until (fingers crossed) the end of the month, no minor league baseball and limited high school baseball, it’s been a very quiet season. But things are looking up; the MLB is set to return beginning July 23 and the highly anticipated “Field of Dreams” game in Dyersville is still scheduled to be played on August 13 (now with the Cardinals playing the White Sox). While you wait for this shortened season to begin, fill your time with some reading and some movies. Here are some baseball films to get you started.

A League of Their Own with an All-Star cast that includes Tom Hanks (“there’s no crying in baseball!”), Geena Davis, Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell and many more about an all-women’s league that played during another difficult time in our history, World War II.

Bull Durham. Susan Sarandon and Kevin Costner heat things up in this funny story about a minor league baseball team.

The Natural with Robert Redford, is the story of Roy Hobbs, a baseball phenom that was on the path to stardom until his life takes an unexpected turn.

Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt, is based on the true story of how Bill Beane put together a winning baseball team by drafting players using computer analysis.

Pride of the Yankees with Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig, one of the greatest baseball players of all time who rose from humble roots and faced a devastating disease with courage and honor.

Bang the Drum Slowly starring Robert De Niro, follows the developing friendship between a charismatic and worldly star pitcher and the simple, unsophisticated catcher who learns he is dying of cancer.

 

Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check-In

Hello Fellow Readers!

How is your month of reading going? Have you found an especially good “Friends and Family” related book? Of course, this is a crazy busy month so maybe a movie would be a better choice. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started.

Ordinary People describes a youth’s breakdown and recovery and how it affects his family.

The Royal Tenenbaums. A once prominent New York lawyer pretends to have a terminal illness in order to try to reunite with his family of former childhood prodigies.

The Glass Castle chronicling the adventures of an eccentric, resilient and tight-knit family.

The Family Man. Jack Campbell, a workaholic Wall Street exec, gets to see what his life might have been like if he’d stayed with his former sweetheart, Kate.

The Impossible. Based on a true story of a family caught, with tens of thousands of strangers, in the mayhem of one of the worst natural catastrophes of our time.

Kramer vs Kramer. When his wife walks out, Ted Kramer and his six-year-old son have a chance to really get to know each other.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. A story about a special summer in the lives of four lifelong friends who are separated for the first time.

Bridesmaids. Annie’s life is a mess. But when she finds out her lifetime best friend is engaged, she simply must serve as Lillian’s maid of honor.

Stand By Me.  Four boys set out on a two-day search for a missing teenager’s body, a search that turns into an odyssey of self-discovery.

 

Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check

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!

Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check

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.

Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check

Hello Challengers!

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!

 

Online Reading Challenge Wrap-Up

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?

Online Reading Challenge – June

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?

 

 

 

Online Reading Challenge – Mid Month Check

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.