Good Morning, Vietnam (1987) R

goodmorningvietnamI’ve seen the clip of Robin Williams saying, "Gooooood morning, Vietnam!” loads of times and always wanted to watch the film; I finally viewed Good Morning, Vietnam for the first time after his death.

As an irreverent airman and a DJ in 1965 Saigon, Adrian Cronauer is in Vietnam to provide a bit of comedic relief to the troops (and as a bonus, irritate his superiors). Williams’ comedic talents are on full display. His monologues, voices, and impersonations, as well as his physicality, keep your eyes glued to the screen. And while he excels as a comedian, he handles the dramatic turns admirably as well.

The music is amazing, highlighting many hits of the 1960s. Check out the soundtrack that nabbed Williams a Grammy (it features a mix of Williams’ comic routines and music).

Check out Roger Ebert’s take on Williams’ performance and the film.
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Delicious! by Ruth Reichl (2014)

deliciousI savored Ruth Reichl’s first foray into fiction (sorry for the pun – couldn’t resist!). I vacillated between eagerly turning the pages and pausing for a break, simply because I didn’t want the story to end. In Delicious!, we meet Billie as she prepares for an interview as the assistant to the editor of a food magazine.

In the engaging characters she encounters, the mouth-watering food she describes, and the foodie side of New York City she explores, the reader is drawn in to all of Billie’s new experiences. With an unexpected WWII tie (Billie discovers letters between James Beard and a precocious 11-year-old Lulu), a mystery, and unresolved family issues, this book is hard for me to describe – other than it was lovely and wonderful and completely worth a read.

Buzz Kill by Beth Fantaskey (2014)

index.aspxIn this witty teen mystery, Millie Ostermeyer investigates the murder of the successful (yet unpopular) high school football coach in small town Honeywell. Aided by the enigmatic quarterback Chase Albright, Millie battles her archnemesis – the newspaper editor and cheerleading captain Viv – and the bumbling town detective in her pursuit to uncover the truth and clear her father’s name.

Buzz Kill by Beth Fantaskey is a great fit for fans of Veronica Mars, Nancy Drew, Meg Cabot’s Heather Wells mysteries, or Lisa Lutz’s Spellman family.

Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me: The Pursuit of Happiness, One Celebrity at a Time by Rachel Bertsche (2014)

index.aspxI thoroughly enjoyed Rachel Bertsche's quest to emulate a different celebrity each month (Jennifer Aniston's workout regimen, Gwyneth Paltrow's cooking, etc.) in order to improve her happiness, well-being, etc. In Jennifer, Gwyneth, & Me, the planning and execution of the journey is balanced with her personal struggle with infertility. The author's engaging voice is humorous and relatable. She includes interesting perspectives on celebrity culture and how it has changed... whether you're a regular People or have a love-hate relationship with the current obsession with celebrities, Bertsche's voice will draw you in.
 
 

Veronica Mars Season 1 (2004-2005)

Veronica_Mars_season_1_DVDAfter hearing about this cult classic and the groundswell of fan support to make a movie, I finally watched season 1 of Veronica Mars. I can see the appeal. The title character (portrayed by Kristen Bell) is a likable yet troubled high school student in Neptune, California.

After her best friend Lilly (Amanda Seyfried) is killed and her dad Keith (Enrico Colantoni) loses his job as sheriff over the handling of the murder investigation, Veronica uses her PI skills to discover the truth behind Lilly’s death. This arc lasts the entire 22 episodes, as does Veronica’s quest to discover what happened to her at a party last year. In the meantime, she’s solving mysteries big and small for classmates and community members, plus dealing with the typical high school angst. A smart, addictive show.

That Summer by Lauren Willig (2014)

thatsummerAn unexpected inheritance. A mysterious painting. A forbidden relationship. In this mesmerizing tale, a house and a painting provide the link between 2009 and 1849 England.

In 2009, unemployed New Yorker Julia unexpectedly inherits a house in suburban London from a mysterious great aunt. In the mid-nineteenth century, Imogen’s mundane existence is transformed by the appearance of members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

I was immediately drawn into the family saga spanning two centuries. I love Lauren Willig’s writing style, and how she mixes historical facts and figures with her fictional tale.

After I finished That Summer, I immediately wanted to start again to revisit those gothic twists that made me question what I’d previously read.

If you enjoyed The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes (2013) or A Vintage Affair (2010) by Isobel Wolff, or simply adore books that travel between the past and present, read this book!

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (2008)

This book has been on my “to read” list for years – thanks to Jez for motivating me to finally read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I loved this sweet story told through letters. Set in 1946 England, thirty-something writer Juliet is struggling with her next project. When a chance correspondence begins with the residents of Guernsey (an island occupied by the Germans during WWII), she discovers not only her next book idea, but kindred spirits.

Today is the 69th anniversary of V-E Day.
For other novels set during WWII, check out our list.

The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger (2014)

I had a smile on my face the entire time I was reading Susan Rieger’s debut The Divorce Papers – except when I was tearing up over those poignant moments. This epistolary novel quickly became a favorite read.

29 year-old Sophie is a loveable lawyer who prefers criminal work because then her clients can't get to her...she goes to them. When she gets roped into working on a divorce case, her life takes an unexpected turn that gives her a new perspective and forces her to confront unresolved childhood issues (and all revealed in an entirely engaging and largely humorous manner).

Set in 1999, the story unfolds through a series of letters, memos, emails, transcripts, and legal documents. Because of the format, it's a book that allows you to read a bit and put it down, but you'll get so hooked on the story that you won't want to stop.
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The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel and Brett Witter (2009)

My grandfather was a WWII veteran, plus I've always been fascinated by history. He spent time in Hawaii, New Guinea, and the Philippines, so my explorations of the war focused primarily on the home front and the Pacific theater.

My forays into WWII fiction covered Poland, England, and France, among others, but I had never before considered this slice of history. What happened to the irreplaceable artwork during wartime? Robert M. Edsel (with Brett Witter) explores that question in this fascinating study of a group of monuments men. In the real world, they were architects, museum directors, and conservationists. Now, they were racing across Europe in a war zone to preserve cultural treasures.

I love a personal take on history. It's why I'm a fan of Unbroken, The Girls of Atomic City, and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. The Monuments Men is another exhilarating tale from the front lines. It's a gripping combination of art, history, biography, war, and adventure.

Oh, and George Clooney turned it into a movie. Learn more about these heroes.
 

Sports Night. The Complete Series (1998-2000)

Before The West Wing, Aaron Sorkin created Sports Night. My only complaint for the snappy series is that it only lasted two seasons…but what an entertaining 45 episodes. Sports Night focuses on a group that produces a lives sports newscast, much like ESPN’s SportsCenter.

The snappy, rapid-fire dialogue, the witty banter, and the entertaining cast of characters will make the episodes fly by. And this isn’t just for sports fans – while the events of the show are centered around sports, it’s more about the characters and the clever dialogue. I’ve gotten friends who don’t follow sports hooked on Sports Night. Warning: if you try an episode or two, you may be compelled to finish the series immediately. Enjoy!

Oh, and if you need a bit more convincing…you’ll find Felicity Huffman pre-Desperate Housewives, Peter Krause before Six Feet Under and Parenthood, Josh Charles before The Good Wife, Joshua Malina pre-The West Wing and Scandal, plus Robert Guillaume.

The Sun and Other Stars by Brigid Pasulka (2014)

Brigid Pasulka's sophomore effort delights as much as her debut (A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True). We leave Poland for a small village on the Italian coast where soccer is king. 22-year-old Etto is struggling after the deaths of his mother and twin brother. He and his father run their butcher shop with minimal communication. It isn't until a disgraced Ukrainian soccer star and his family come to town that life begins to change.

In this lush and lyrical tale, the residents of San Benedetto come vividly to life. The Sun and Other Stars is an engaging story of loss, healing, community, passion, friendship, and love that will keep you turning the pages well into the night.

Meet the author! On Thursday, February 27 at 7pm, Brigid Pasulka will be at Indian Prairie to discuss her work, answer your questions, and sign books. Barbara’s Bookstore in Burr Ridge will be selling books. Register here: http://bit.ly/1iPM58h
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Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (2012)

Code Name VerityI’ve never been so tempted to flip to the end to find out what happened. But I resisted and instead frantically turned the pages of this gripping and unforgettable story of a pair of young women who forge a bond during wartime.

Told in a series of written entries, the story unfolds from the perspective of a British spy captured by Germans in Nazi-occupied France in 1943. Code Name Verity is an irresistible mix of suspense, adventure, and historical fiction. Every time you think you’ve figured out the story, the plot twists again. While on the edge of your seat, you’ll laugh and cry along with the engrossing characters created by Elizabeth Wein.

Wein followed up Verity with Rose Under Fire. We've also created a list of WWII novels.

 

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (2011)

Set in 2044 in a sad shell of America, Ready Player Onefollows the quest of Wade Watts. Reality is so horrible that the majority of the population spends the bulk of their waking hours in the OASIS, a virtual reality. When James Halliday, owner and founder of OASIS, dies without an heir, the contest begins: whoever can complete the three tasks first wins a fortune.

In a world filled with 80s trivia and nostalgia where the lines between what’s real and what’s not blur, Wade embarks on an epic adventure that will keep you turning the pages of Ernest Cline’s debut until you reach the satisfying conclusion.

 
 
 

The Heat (2013) R

In this female buddy comedy, Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy deliver laugh-out-loud performances. In The Heat, a drug case forces a straight-laced FBI agent to pair up with a rough-around-the-edges Boston cop. The two hours will fly by as you enjoy the complementary antics of two comedic stars (plus the great supporting cast).
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The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (2013)

I loved Graeme Simsion’s debut novel The Rosie Project. The characters are loveable, the writing witty, and the plot quirky. When genetics professor Don Tillman decides that it’s time to get married, he devises a complex questionnaire dubbed “The Wife Project” to find the right woman. Instead, he meets Rosie Jarman, who fits none of his requirements.

While there is a romance at the center of this story, it’s more about characters growing and changing, and about human interaction. Don’s behavior presents a classic case of Asperger’s, but he is oblivious to any social challenges. You’ll fall in love with Don and Rosie, and frantically turn the pages to follow along on their journey.