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The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (2013)

This is my first taste of Neil Gaiman as a writer for an adult audience. The same master storytelling and ability to keep you on the edge of your seat is there. The Ocean at the End of the Lane seems like a child's novel at first. The main character is reminiscing about a nightmarish memory from his childhood. After a while, it becomes quite apparent that the content is straight from a nightmare and also for mature audiences.

Gaiman keeps the reader questioning. Is this reality, fantasy, or are we dealing with mythical creatures as old as life itself? As a consolation to readers, no matter how horrible the nightmare gets, we know our hero survives to recount the story as an adult.

 

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.

 
 
 

Red (2010) PG-13

Bruce Willis is Frank Moses, a retired black-ops CIA agent living in Cleveland. Frank is lonely and often calls customer service agent Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker) who works in the GSA pension office. He deliberately tears up his pension checks so he has an excuse to call her to say his checks never arrived.

One night a hit squad raids his house and tries to eliminate him. Knowing the assassins tapped his phone, he goes to save Sarah, who doesn’t want to go with him. He binds and gags her with duct tape and takes her with him while he tries to find out who is after them.

Red provides a lot of action and laughs and a happy ending starring Willis, Helen Mirren, and Morgan Freeman among others. And if you enjoy this film, you'll be excited to know that the sequel hits theaters next week!

Cars (2006) G

As part of my “homework” for an upcoming trip to Disneyland, I finally watched Cars. I can see how this movie has become a favorite for kids and adults alike – with a combination of Pixar animation, talented voice actors (Owen Wilson, Bonnie Hunt, Paul Newman, and Larry the Cable Guy, to name a few), humor and action, plus a nostalgic Route 66 setting, there’s something for everyone.

Lightning McQueen (Wilson) is an up-and-coming talented racer with an attitude problem. When he ends up stranded in ramshackle Radiator Springs, he discovers there’s more to life than winning.

Spotlight: Ben Affleck

Who is Ben Affleck anyway?

After an early start at the age of eight, starring in the PBS series The Voyage of the Mimi, Ben Affleck didn’t make his big introduction into feature films until 1993 when he was cast in Dazed and Confused. After that, he did mostly independent films like Kevin Smith's Mallrats (1995) and Chasing Amy (1997).

Interestingly, in the same year he made Mimi, Affleck made the acquaintance of Matt Damon, a boy two years his senior who lived down the street. The two became best friends and, of course, eventual collaborators.

In his early years in Hollywood, tired of being turned down for the big roles in films and the forgettable supporting ones he did play, he decided to write his own script. Matt Damon was having the same trouble and together they produced a script with the kind of roles they wanted to play! Good Will Hunting (1997) was the result and it went on to win two Academy Awards (nominated for nine).

Career ups and downs followed with much media attention to romance and rehab. After many flops, he seems to have re-invented himself as a director.

He's has earned critical acclaim for directing films including The Town and Argo so perhaps Affleck's greatest talent lies behind the camera where reviews of his films call him ”a sensitive, thoughtful and collaborative” director.
Here are my choices from a long list of his films:

The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity by Mike Carey and Peter Gross (2010)

At first glance, The Unwritten seems to be about a grown-up, real-life Harry Potter: a man desperately trying to escape the shadow of the fictional character based upon him. (In actuality, co-creator Mike Carey has said the character of Tom Taylor is based more upon the real-life Christopher Robin of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories than anything else.) But read a little more, and you'll witness Tom Taylor get dragged further into a world that may or may not be fictional, where the collective of human consciousness can grant powers, and a shadowy, book-burning cabal wants him for their own purposes.

The Unwritten is an ongoing comic series published by Vertigo, currently collected in six volumes (the seventh was published in March 2013). It features diverse artwork by Peter Gross (The Books of Magic, Lucifer) and beautiful, lush cover art by Yuko Shimizu (Barbed Wire Baseball).

Spotlight: Edward Norton

One actor whose films I’m always anxious to watch is Edward Norton. He is so gifted and versatile. The characters he plays are often intense and/or troubled, and always captivating and true-to-life. My favorite films are American History X (1998) and Primal Fear (1996), although I’ve also enjoyed many others. Here’s a selection of some of his movies that are available at IPPL:

A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005) PG

A very funny and an interesting plot. The film was brilliant, and it makes me want to read the book by Douglas Adams, A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The science fiction series was originally broadcast as a radio show on BBC radio 4. Watch A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy today.

Source Code (2011) PG-13

I enjoyed Source Code. I would recommend it to anyone who liked Inception (2010) and Eagle Eye (2008). There are a few things that I question about the film, but overall it was entertaining to watch.

Check out a Wired.com interview with screenwriter Ben Ripley.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (2012)

The author revisits Homer’s Iliad, and allows Patroclus to tell of his close friendship with Achilles before and during the Trojan War. Yes, she finds a love story in this ancient tale of heroes. Trouble comes from Achilles’ mother Thetis, who detests Patroclus and expends much effort in keeping Achilles from him and out of the war. She sends Achilles to Scyros disguised as a lady in waiting to the local princess; fate intervenes and Achilles becomes married to the princess and a father (of Pyrrhus) before he is joyfully found by Patroclus and unmasked by Greek generals looking for recruits.

At Troy, Achilles proves to be the best of the Greek warriors until he is killed by Paris and later joined in his grave by Patroclus’ ashes. Readers unfamiliar with Greek legends will be pleased to find a character glossary at the end of the novel. Some may be disappointed at so little told of the Trojan horse and the dipping of the baby Achilles in the river Styx.

Read more at the New York Times.
Check out a copy of The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller today.

 
 

Rounding the Horn by Dallas Murphy (2004)

Excellent mixture of a 1990s trip to the southern tip of South America with tales of past voyages, beginning with Magellan through missionary journeys in the early 20th century. The stories bring in current friction between Chile and Argentina as well as conflicts among the English, Spanish, and the Aborigines in Terra de Fuega. These adventurous explorations leave a salty taste for all of us would be sailors.

Start your adventure with Rounding the Horn by Dallas Murphy today!



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Rounding the Horn: being a story of williwaws and windjammers, Drake, Darwin, murdered missionaries and naked natives--a deck's-eye view of Cape Horn by Dallas Murphy (2004)
Excellent mixture of a 1990s trip to the southern tip of South America with tales of past voyages, beginning with Magellan through missionary journeys in the early 20th century. The stories bring in current friction between Chile and Argentina as well as conflicts among the English, Spanish, and the Aborigines in Terra de Fuega. These adventurous explorations leave a salty taste for all of us would be sailors.

Nonfiction, travel, history, adventure

Hugo (2011) PG

I usually begin my reviews by stating the year of the film and listing the main stars. I briefly describe the plot, perhaps quote a line from the film or describe a scene and emphasize what I believe are some of the high points of the film.

In this case, I decided to write my review as I approached viewing the film. I knew almost nothing about the film. All that I knew was that it won several Oscars, and I had seen a few brief snippets during the Academy Awards ceremony. I chose not to find out anything more about the film, and I would advise anyone who has not seen this film to take the same approach.

If you appreciate art, science, fantasy, a vivid imagination, you will love this film. If you don't appreciate art, if science bores you, if you look at a cloud and that's all you see, you won't like the film.

This film reminded me of what it was like to see a motion picture in a movie theater for the first time. I was amazed and filled with a great sense of wonder. You too can experience this again, if you see this film.

Based on the novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. Directed by Martin Scorsese.

Join us on Friday, May 4 at 7:00 for a screening of Hugo. Doors open at 6:30; fresh popcorn will be served. Register at calendar.ippl.info.

Cowboys & Aliens (2011) PG-13

Cowboys & Aliens stars Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, and Olivia Wilde. It is a combination sci-fi/western picture. My initial reaction to the title and to a few previews I saw was, "Give me a break, how silly can you get?" But a few people told me it was a pretty good movie, so I decided to give it a chance. And I am now very glad I did.

This is a fun movie. It works very well as an old fashioned 1950s sci-fi movie set in the "Hollywood West." Daniel Craig gives a wonderful performance as Jake Lonergan, a bad guy turned good who sets out to right past wrongs. It's as though James Bond was sent to the past without a memory of who he was, what his mission is, or any of his special gadgets except one, which he does not know how to use. But he retains his martial arts ability and his ability to "think on his feet."

So sit back and enjoy.

The Getaway

The Getaway (1972) PG
Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw are coupled in this gangster getaway adventure, reminiscent of Bonnie & Clyde. Both characters are in a badly flawed relationship. The story starts when McQueen gets paroled from prison by a dirty sheriff to rob a local bank. Of course, it’s a setup. As the action heats up and everything goes bad, one of the robbers takes two hostages, one being Sally Struthers (All in the Family) who outperforms herself as the unfaithful wife.

There are car chases, shootouts, and a trip to a garbage dump. The acting of McQueen and MacGraw raise the level of the story.