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The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton (2018)

bellesCamellia is a Belle. Belles are the most important people in the kingdom, other than the royal family, because they control beauty. In the world of Orléans, everyone is born a "gris": gray skin, red eyes, straw colored hair. Only the Belles can grant a person a new look, using their magic to change appearance, manner, and control age.

Camellia wants to become the Favorite Belle—to work in the palace and work for the royal family. But is that life really what it seems? When dark mysteries arise, like crying girls in the middle of the night and former Belles being veiled, Camellia must decide to find her own truth in beauty.

I've listened to The Belles on audio twice. Rosie Jones, the narrator, does a wonderful job with voices and accents. She makes the city of Orléans come to life, and her take on Princess Sophia's voice still sends shivers up my spine.

I love Dhonielle Clayton's descriptions of the world of Orléans – the post balloons and petit cakes and teletropes – the world building is fantastic.

The last few pages of this book will keep readers on the edge of their seat. And when they read the last line, they'll be clamoring for the sequel The Everlasting Rose, out March 5, 2019. [Beware! There are spoilers on the linked page for The Belles.]

In the meantime, you can join me as I start my third re-listen.

The Judge Hunter by Christopher Buckley (2018)

judgeThis read is a fun tour of the British and Dutch colonies of North America in the mid-17th century. The principal character, Balty, although young and inexperienced, is charged with finding the two judges who signed the death warrant for King Charles I of England. Balty links up with Huncks, an experienced agent of the Crown, who guides Balty through the new world territories populated by Puritans, Quakers, Native Americans, and finally the Dutch.

Meanwhile, back in England, Balty’s cousin, Samuel Pepys, fears a war with the Dutch might be imminent and Balty might be in great danger. Almost miraculously, Balty survives and New Amsterdam gets a new name.

Check out The Judge Hunter by Christopher Buckley today.

Big Hero 6 (2014) PG

844856_1_ftcBig Hero 6 is a superhero movie that adults would enjoy watching with the whole family.  The plot revolves around orphans Hiro and Tadashi, technological whiz kids living with their aunt.  College-age Tadashi created an inflatable robot named Baymax, whose purpose is to act as a portable paramedic/doctor. When someone steals younger brother Hiro’s invention to use for evil, Hiro gives Baymax a few superhero upgrades.  Also, check out our list, Great Movies: Kid Movies for Adults.

 
 

Moana (2016) PG

moana_dvd_coverMoana is a spectacular adventure movie.  Charged with returning the heart of the goddess Te Fiti, Moana leaves her island nation and sails away on her mission.  I absolutely love the animation of this movie.  The ocean is a character in and of itself because of the creative team's work.  Some of my favorite moments though are those of Moana's introspection and self-realization.  Moana is a very different Disney "princess."  First of all, she rejects the word princess, and she has her own agenda, making the decision to follow her draw to the ocean. Also, she alone solves the mystery of Te Ka in order to save Te Fiti.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the wonderful music that sets Moana soaring.  While I love Auliʻi Cravalho's voice (the voice of Moana) and "How Far I'll Go," my favorite songs are the ones that are sung in Tokelauan.  Lastly, I would encourage you to seek out reviews from Pacific Islander reviewers to speak to the culture represented in the movie.  This Buzzfeed article is a great round-up of dialogue, and so is this review from Strange Horizons.

All in all, I think Moana is a genuine, worthwhile story and a great Disney film that will stay with you long after the credits roll.

The Matrix (1999) R

51vpnbwfhrl-_sy445_Neo (Keanu Reeves) is a computer hacker with a somewhat ordinary life…but all is not as it seems.  When government agents suddenly show up at his work looking for him, Neo is forced to enlist the aid of a mysterious man named Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), who promises to reveal the true nature of reality—the Matrix.  Should Neo join Morpheus’s secret group?  The Matrix is full of amazing visual effects with a mind-blowing plot that will keep you on the edge of your seat right ‘til the end.

Cowboy Bebop. The Complete Series (1998-2003) TV-MA

51x5myp3xxl-1If you’re a Firefly fan, then you’ll definitely love Cowboy Bebop.  Both are space-westerns with a sassy, devil-may-care crew.  Join Spike Spiegel, Faye Valentine, Jet Black, Edward, and last but not least welsh corgi, Ein, on their adventures bounty-hunting their way through space.  If you enjoy comedic action/adventures with a dramatic flair, this is the anime for you.

1356 by Bernard Cornwell (2013)

1356A gripping historical adventure filled with compelling characters, 1356 details another segment of the fight for supremacy among England, France, and the church. While this is Bernard Cornwell’s fourth novel featuring Thomas of Hookton, you can jump right in to this standalone story.

1356 is an action-packed tale of intrigue, political machinations, and a quest culminating with the Battle of Poitiers during the Hundred Years’ War. Thomas and his band of mercenaries adhere to strong moral code, often putting them at odds with others in medieval France.

For fans of history and historical fiction, military and war stories, quests, and compelling characters. Just a warning: this novel features several battles, so includes some graphic (though not gory) violence.

Pro tip: Listen to the dramatic narration by Jack Hawkins for distinctly voiced characters, gritty battle scenes, and intense adventure.

 

Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly (2017)

hellouniversekellyHello, Universe was one book that I had to read in a single sitting because I was so enthralled with the story telling. Told by four very different characters, their storylines intertwine and meet throughout . The adventure is high-stakes (at least for a claustrophobic like me!), and I loved watching the characters develop and progress through their actions and thoughts.

My favorite character was Virgil Salinas. I loved his relationship with his pet, Gulliver, and with his lola (grandmother). He feels out of place in his family since he's not interested in sports. He's also the character who I felt the most concerned for, in terms of the adventure that he takes.

But I think what really made this a special read for me is that I read it the week before I heard Erin Entrada Kelly give her acceptance speech for winning the Newbery Award. The combination of book and speech is unforgettable and I'm so looking forward to anything Kelly writes next...including the Golden Valley High series. Ha!

The Brass Verdict (2008) and The Wrong Side of Goodbye (2016) by Michael Connelly

Author Michael Connelly is often at his best when he brings his two principle characters together. In The Brass Verdict, attorney Mickey Haller and detective Harry Bosch meet for the first time when Haller takes over the lucrative docket of a murdered lawyer and Bosch investigates the crime. At first, they don’t recognize each other, but there are suggestions of family connections. Bosch sets up a scam attack on Haller in an effort to gain information, but Haller figures it out and the two decide to work together and find the real culprit.

 
In The Wrong Side of Goodbye, these half-brothers fully cooperate when private eye Bosch is engaged by an aging billionaire to find an heir. Bosch retains Haller as his attorney when the billionaire dies and Bosch becomes entangled in more legal issues than he can manage. Check out a New York Times review. In these novels, the reader is treated to both investigative and legal strategies as the adventures unfold.

Patsy Walker, a.k.a. Hellcat! Vol. 1: Hooked on a Feline by Kate Leth (2016)

All up-to-date on Marvel Netflix TV shows like Jessica Jones? Want to get into the comics but are too intimidated to dive in? Get your toes wet with Patsy Walker, a.k.a. Hellcat! Volume 1: Hooked on a Feline. The canon is completely separate from the Netflix shows, but still super enjoyable nonetheless. It’s great to see a different side of Jessica’s bestie, Patsy, as well as meet more super friends!

Kate Leth’s comic is ridiculously newcomer-friendly, lighthearted, and all around a good time. For people who do want to dive in further, when the comic refers to other issues, it provides you with the name and the number of the issue it is referencing! Easy peasy! The entire series is available now: check out volumes 2—Don’t Stop Me-Ow— and 3—Careless Whisker(s)— today. Go grab them, kitty-cat!

News of the World by Paulette Jiles (2016)

Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd has the job of returning a 10-year-old girl, who has been stolen by the Kiowa Indians, to her aunt and uncle. Set in 1870 Reconstruction-era Texas, the Captain travels from town to town reading the news aloud. He buys a wagon, loads it with supplies, and, with the girl, starts on his route taking them closer to her family. Along the way, the pair encounters unfriendly Indians, robbers, and the harsh conditions of the West.

News of the World is a wonderful story of a man who shares the world's news with people throughout Texas, which gives him the feeling that he is living an ethical life. He believes he is helping foster dialogue and peace in the world.

Our Novel Idea book club will discuss Paulette Jiles’ novel on Wednesday, September 13 at 7pm. Just drop in. Pick up a copy of the novel at the checkout desk.

Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV (2016) PG-13

The film acts as a prologue to the video game Final Fantasy XV but also stands as a full-length film all on its own. The story centers around Nyx Ulric, a member of the king’s personal guard (also known as the Kingsglaive) defending the kingdom of Lucis from incoming invaders from Niflheim. Whether or not you have played a Final Fantasy game in your life, the story in Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV is excellent and moving. Can Nyx save the kingdom? The people of Lucis sure hope so.

Swiss Army Man (2016)

The film opens with Hank Thompson (Paul Dano) being stranded on a deserted island, literally at the end of his rope, ready to give up hope of ever being rescued. He is startled when he sees another man (Daniel Radcliffe) wash up on the shore. Hank goes to rescue the man, but finds that he is already deceased. Despite this fact, this man’s body is able to perform an assortment of magical abilities that help Hank find freedom from the island. As they journey home, the body slowly comes to life as Hank begins to teach it about the world and what there is to live for.

Swiss Army Man is as unique of a story that can possibly be told, which is what makes it so attractive in an industry filled with cliché stories and reboots. It’s a beautiful story about friendship and how important it is to share and communicate with the people around us. This movie has a fair amount of adult humor, but this humor is complemented by the story’s beautiful views and lessons about life.

Radcliffe’s performance is particularly worth noting, as he plays a dead man who is slowly coming back to life and remembering what it means to truly live. The beautiful friendship that blossoms between these two characters is transcended to another level with a film score that uplifts the viewer with feelings of happiness toward the success of their travels back to civilization. With this being the directorial debut by the co-directors and co-writers simply known as Daniels, it begs the question, “What will these two come up with next, and how can they possibly top what they’ve already accomplished?”

The Crossing by Michael Connelly (2015)

crossingMichael Connelly lets his two popular characters – Detective Harry Bosch and his half-brother Mickey Haller (The Lincoln Lawyer) – cross paths and work together in The Crossing. Thus the reader is treated to the tactics and viewpoints of both defense and police as the investigation proceeds. But Harry is not at all comfortable working with the defense even though he has been forced into retirement by the police. He can’t help feeling like a traitor crossing over to the enemy and can only justify helping a defense lawyer by saying he is searching for the true killer. Other baffling crossings occur among the killers, victims, and the police who cross to the dark side.

Cold Wind by C. J. Box (2011)

coldwindC. J. Box does allegories as well as any author; in Cold Wind, we have consistent characters portraying Vengeance, justice, evil conniving, integrity, family loyalty, weakness, and corruption. See if you can tell who they are as you read this gripping tale of game warden Joe Pickett’s family living through troubling times of murder, accusation, and the temptations of wealth. His mother-in-law is accused and often appears pitiful in the proceedings, but Joe is not misled as he tries to do the right thing. Also, you’ll get a view of how government support may make wind energy a principal source in our environmentally focused economy and whether this is the right path.