In a World

In a World

Winner of Sundance's best screenplay competition in 2013, "In a World" is a fun indie movie that does a good job balancing comedy with drama. Lake Bell, who wrote and directed also plays Carol, a voice-coach still living with her dad. Her father is a famous vocal talent, with a big booming voice. A new dystopian film is coming out and who does the ad beginning with the iconic phrase "in a world" is all the buzz. Carol is encouraged to break the glass ceiling by geeky studio guy, Louis, who is also crushing on her. Meanwhile, her father's protégé, Gustav, thinks the job is surely his only to find competition coming from all quarters. Throughout the film, Carol, determined to get accents and verbal tics down on tape, risks her own safety to eavesdrop. The dysfunctional family dynamic is so realistic it may make you want to cry instead of laugh, but there is plenty of sarcastic humor to lighten the mood.

--Cindy F., Headquarters

Odd Thomas

Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz

I waited with anxious anticipation for my request of "Odd Thomas" to arrive. Hollywood has a long history of changing crucial elements of a favorite series. I must say I was pleasantly surprised by director Stephen Sommers' take on the Dean Koontz series. With some relatively minor exceptions, it was the closest book to movie interpretation that I've seen.

For those of you unfamiliar with the books, Odd is a small town fry cook who has paranormal abilities. He can see dead people. Odd can also see bodachs who are wraith-like demons who are attracted to pain and destruction. When he sees his town of Pico Mundo overrun with bodachs, he realizes it heralds a near apocalyptic event. Enlisting the help of his girlfriend, Stormy, and the local police chief, Odd races against time to save the day.

Top Guns

American Gun by Chris Kyle

Books open doors to familiar places that look new.  I enjoyed such an experience between the covers of "American Gun: A History of theU.S. in Ten Firearms" by Chris Kyle. In the context of firearm innovations, Kyle examines historical events where guns played pivotal roles. The people who wielded the famous weapons were figures of fame as well as infamy, found on Mt Rushmore as well as in footnotes. For example, Theodore Roosevelt, Al Capone, the Dalton gang, Corporal "Zip" Koons and Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester entwined their lives with guns, as did the author. As Kyle reminds us, good often sits side-by-side with bad.

Local Historian Takes on Local Landmark

Hoosiers and Scrubby Dutch: St. Louis's South Side by Jim Merkel

St. Louisan Jim Merkel's books "Hoosiers and Scrubby Dutch: St. Louis's South Side" and "Beer, Brats, and Baseball: St. Louis Germans" both offer an entertaining, light-hearted look at St. Louis history. Now Merkel turns his attention to our beloved national monument in "The Making of an Icon: the Dreamers, the Schemers, and the Hard Hats who Built the Gateway Arch."

Department 19

Department 19
There were two defining moments in Jamie Carpenter's life. The first occurred when he saw his father shot by government forces for betraying his country. The second happened two years later when his mother was kidnapped by vampires and Jamie was aided by Victor Frankensten's creation. Jamie was introduced to a mysterious agency called "Department 19". The agency was created in 1892 to combat the supernatural creatures among us.
 
"Department 19" by Will Hill is an excellent urban fantasy book. It should especially appeal to boys because it returns the vampire to its original state. They fly, drink blood, and burst into flames in the sunlight. The action is intense, and the blood and gore quotient high. The book ends with the reader wanting more.

2014 Pulitzer Prize Winners

The Goldfinch

The 2014 Pulitzer Prize winners were announced this week. This is the 98th year for the prizes established by the former owner of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Joseph Pulitzer. Check out these winners to see if you agree with the Board's choices.

Fiction - "The Goldfinch" by Donna Tartt

Biography - "Margaret Fuller: A New American Life" by Megan Marshall

Roosevelt Battles Polio

"The man he became : how FDR defied polio to win the presidency" by James Tobin

"The man he became : how FDR defied polio to win the presidency"  by James Tobin delves into the battle Franklin Roosevelt waged to overcome polio and fulfill his life's goal of becoming president. This is not new ground, as FDR's polio has been the topic of conversation, speculation and misinformation since 1921 when he contracted the virus. But Tobin cuts through the misinformation to dispel some of the lingering myths about how FDR and those closest to him dealt with the crippling illness that threatened to sideline him. Tobin posits that Roosevelt did not win the presidency despite his affliction, but because of it. He has plenty of ammunition for the argument.

How I Live Now

How I Live Now

Saoirse Ronan never shies away from an acting challenge. Her roles in "Atonement" and "Lovely Bones" shows she tackles literary masterpieces with verve. "How I Live Now" is based on the book by Meg Rosoff and is different from the recent dystopian teen onslaught by giving a view of what would happen if a major world war happened not in the distant future, but tomorrow. Ronan stars as Daisy, a typical U.S. teen always attached to her ear buds and concerned with fashion and her weight. She's sent to relatives in Britain because her father believes war may break out.

The Hot Zone

"The Hot Zone" by Richard Preston

Recent disturbing news of an outbreak of Ebola virus in Guinea has got me thinking about Richard Preston's chilling book "The Hot Zone." Preston presents what his subtitle calls "a terrifying true story." In 1989 a strain of Ebola appeared in a Virginia laboratory, and a military biohazard SWAT team worked frantically to identify and contain the virus. I read it many years ago and still remember the gruesome descriptions of what happens to a human dying of Ebola. This 1994 book is nonfiction but reads like a thriller and leaves the reader with an uneasy fear of this deadly virus.

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