Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg

In her latest novel, The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion, Fannie Flagg makes a come-back after a three year hiatus. Flagg is perhaps best known for her novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe from which Hollywood created a hit movie with an all-star cast  - (Mary Stuart Masterson, Mary Louise Parker, Jessica Tandy and Kathy Bates.)

In typical southern style, Flagg's heroine this go-round is Mrs. Sookie Poole of Point Clear, Alabama. Having lived her entire life in the shadow of her overbearing mother's expectations, Sookie is floored to discover that she is actually adopted. Her biological family is Polish ---and from Wisconsin, no less!

Sookie sets off on a journey to discover more about her biological family in an effort to figure out who she truly is at her core. Does nature or nurture define a human being? Chock full of southern-isms and lovable characters, this book is exactly what one might expect in a Fannie Flagg novel. Perfect for some light spring or summer reading. - AD

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Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr


Lucy Beck-Moreau is a 15 year old piano prodigy. A professional since she was 10, Lucy’s world is filled with family pressure, performances, appearances and recordings. But when tragedy strikes, she leaves it all behind to live a “normal” life, putting the burden of representing the Beck-Moreau name on her equally talented younger brother, Gus. But when she meets Gus’s new piano teacher Will, she feels herself being pulled back into the world that she had once loved. Will is young and kind, and seems to know exactly what Lucy is feeling as she contemplates re-entering the musical world, but this time on her own terms.
I happened to glance at this book when I was shelving one day, and immediately had to check it out and read it. As a violinist, I love to read any fictional books relating to music. And though I am not a prodigy, I can still relate to some of the pressures that Lucy faces. But a person doesn’t have to be a musician to enjoy this book. We’ve all faced situations in which we felt pressure, whether it’s from our parents, relatives, friends, coaches or even teachers. Lucy’s journey back to the piano is compelling and realistic. I would recommend this book to fans of Sarah Dessen, John Green or Maureen Johnson.  -LT  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY by Tracy Letts


Written as a play, August:  Osage County takes place in a middle-class country home in modern-day Oklahoma.  With dark humor throughout, the story reveals the troubled, contentious extended Weston family’s secrets as closet skeletons come tumbling out, one after another.   


The disappearance of the family patriarch, Beverly, sets events into motion and elicits strong emotional reactions from each of his three daughters and especially from his drug-addicted wife, Violet, who skewers her daughters with caustic comments and criticism at every turn.  The Westons are quarrelsome and dysfunctional as they attempt to navigate the situation while dealing with their own personal agendas, their strange relationships with each other, and Violet’s abusive control. 


Billings Public Library does not yet have the widely acclaimed film starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts that is based on the book, but it has been ordered.  Given the powerful dialog and chaotic action, the story would be compelling in any format.  The play was awarded the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for drama.  -MS


Respect the Spindle by Abby Franquemont

Spring is a great time of year for many reasons, but among those reasons I have three favorites:  There's more light, farmers have sheared their sheep, and I'm ready to create.  It's time to kick winter blues and get a second wind of productiveness by picking up a hobby that's inexpensive and requires relatively little skill (at least at first):  Spinning.

Drop spindles are plentiful and relatively inexpensive to make or buy which is a great boon in learning a new craft.  Living in Montana has its advantages because freshly sheered wool is everywhere at this time of year and is a great way to support your local farmer or rancher.

Enter Respect the Spindle.  This is the book to turn to if spring fever is making your fingers itch to learn a fiber art.  It teaches you how to use the fiber and use the spindle to create beautiful yarns that go on to feature in knitting, crochet, weaving, or whate
ver else you choose to imagine.  The best thing about this book is that it turns a potentially intimidating hobby into something simple and easy to understand, and (for people like me who need lots of illustration) it's loaded with step-by-step photographs.

Give it a go, it's great.  Reserve Respect the Spindle.

If you're interested in fiber arts, we'd love to hear from you.  Come meet us at the BPL Knitting Circle; we get together and chat and share our fiber projects every fourth Thursday of the month at 1pm.  The next meeting is on April 24th at 1pm in the first floor Popular Materials Room.  You do not have to be a knitter to hang out with us!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Long Walk by Richard Bachman

Raymond Garraty is a 16 year old boy from Maine, who volunteers to compete in the country’s annual Long Walk. One hundred teenage boys are chosen out of hundreds of applications. But there is a catch. This is no ordinary foot race. Once the Walk begins, the boys must maintain a speed of 4 miles per hour. There are no exceptions. If they slow down, they get a warning. Slow down again, that’s two. After three warnings, they get a ticket; a bullet in the head. The last boy standing wins the ultimate prize: anything their heart desires. As the Walk starts, Ray finds himself making friends with some walkers, and enemies out of others. But as walkers start dying, and Ray is faced with the terrifying limitations of the human mind and body, he begins to question why any of them volunteered for a walk that was a guarantee of certain death for all but one.

I discovered this book several years ago, and it has become one of my favorite books of all time. I read it about once a year, and it never gets old. Stephen King published The Long Walk in 1979 under his pseudonym, Richard Bachman. It’s an amazingly dark look into teenage psyche, society and cultural entertainment. What I found most compelling was King’s description of the Crowd. The Walk is a hugely popular event, with people gathering on the sides of the road for a chance at a glimpse of the walkers. It’s even more exciting if they are lucky enough to be right there when a walker gets his ticket. As the walkers’ numbers dwindle, the Crowd surges on, growing bigger and bigger, until near the end the walkers can’t even distinguish faces. They are only Crowd, cheering at the chance to see a child die. It makes you wonder if authors like Suzanne Collins drew inspiration from this book for their own novels. Read this book if you are a fan of The Hunger Games, Battle Royale or even Running Man, another Richard Bachman novel.   -LT


Friday, March 14, 2014

Lulu in Hollywood by Louise Brooks


I am in the midst of Old Hollywood right now, thanks to Louise Brooks and her candid and witty memoir, "Lulu in Hollywood."  Brooks became an icon of the silent pictures due to her starring role as an innocent hedonist in "Pandora's Box" (1929) for the director Georg W. Pabst, only to walk away from Hollywood by the late '30's.  After her retirement, she went on to pen a series of essays on film for Sight and Sound Magazine, proving herself to be an insightful, graceful writer whose wit spared no one, least of all herself. This collection of eight autobiographical essays covers her years in Hollywood and the making of Pabst's masterpiece, and also includes an introductory essay, "The Girl in the Black Helmet" by critic Kenneth Tynan who was instrumental in reintroducing Brooks to movie fans in the 1970's.

This work is an indispensable and entertaining glimpse of a sequined-glittering moment in time.  -BR

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Friday, February 28, 2014

House of Cards (2013)

Politics is a brutish sport;  so says this TV drama, which portrays intrigue of Shakespearean proportions hidden in Congressional chambers and the affluent homes of Washington.  At its core is Congressman Frank Underwood, played with chilly relish by Kevin Spacey, and his equally contained wife Claire, Robin Wright.  Underwood has been slighted by a newly elected president as the series begins, and sets out to revenge himself on those who have taken what he sees as rightfully his while also maneuvering himself into a position of power.  A young, ambitious reporter, Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara), complicates matters when Underwood chooses her both as his conduit to the media and as a lover.

Perhaps the greatest thrill the series gives lies in the conceit of having Underwood address the camera. His asides explain his reasoning, contradict his public stance, or sometimes offer cutting commentary on other characters.  Spacey delivers these with a villain's gleam in his eye that may make you shudder as you laugh.  I was reminded of Shakespeare's Iago more than once!

Is this in any way reflective of real politics in Washington?  In the words of Underwood himself, "you might think that, I couldn't possibly comment."  -BR

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