Standing in the Shadows of Motown

Twenty Feet from Stardom

If you're waiting for  "Muscle Shoals" to be released on DVD and still in the holds queue for "Twenty Feet From Stardom" consider watching "Standing in the Shadows of Motown" to make it worth the wait. Like the other titles, "Standing in the Shadows of Motown" gives belated credit to the extraordinary musicians who created Motown hits like "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" and "I Heard it Through the Grapevine." Dubbed the "funk brothers," these talented men descended into the creative snake pit of Motown Records on a daily basis and spun gold nearly every time.

Silver Bell

"American Kid" by Patty Griffin

Patty Griffin's 2013 CD "American Kid" is getting some competition from an earlier recording that was hung up in record company purgatory. Entitled "Silver Bell," Griffin here is electrified both musically and metaphorically. Always mixing a little rock n roll in her country, with a full band she cuts loose on "Little God" and "Boston." That is not to say her lyrics don't have their usual clever precision or heartbreaking themes. They wend their way throughout, possibly most devastating in "Mother of God" and "Top of the World," a song that received a wider audience thanks to the Dixie Chicks who covered it and several other Griffin tunes.

RedDevil 4

The new mystery "RedDevil 4" was written by local neurosurgeon Eric C. Leuthardt. Leuthardt researches brain-computer interfaces and is a leader in the field of neuroprosthetics. His expertise is evident in this compelling page-turner.

"RedDevil 4" is set in St. Louis in 2053. Most of the population relies on neuroprosthetics for communication and information retrieval. People communicate directly from brain to brain without speaking and are able to retrieve and review data without equipment. Not everything has changed, however. St. Louis still has separate city and county police departments, and dog walkers still carry small plastic bags to clean up after their pets.

Claiming what’s yours in Poland

Old people are so inscrutable! That's what you're thinking if you're Mica and you're stuck with your now silent grandmother in Poland as depicted in "The Property" by Rutu Modan. This graphic novel follows the two as their once unified purpose, to find the status of the older woman's property lost during the Holocaust, falls apart and divides them.
 
The grandmother changes her mind about researching the property upon arrival, leaving Mica confused and on her own. The novel mixes somber topics with light-hearted ones, as Mica makes her way around Warsaw without her grandmother.

Absurdity abounds in this graphic novel

"My Dirty Dumb Eyes" by Lisa Hanawalt is a very funny and very adult graphic novel. It's probably more accurate to say it's a collection of musings done in visual form. The book is not for kids.
 
Artist Lisa Hanawalt envisions beings with cat heads or horse heads doing things in a half human, half animal manner. She draws many animals, some wearing bizarre hats such as a Desert Hare wearing a Lazy Susan hat with hot dog and pancake condiments. Creating and exposing absurdity is her specialty.
 
Hanawalt's drawing style varies throughout. Her animals in hats are lifelike, except, of course, for the bizarre hats. She can also draw more simply, as when she shares "Tips for Living with a Significant Other." Her illustrated movie reviews are absolutely hysterical, and this book includes four. "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" gets a good recommendation "if you love apes." "The Vow" gets skewered.

Presidents’ Day Reading

"Lincoln's Boys" by Joshua Zeitz

If you celebrate Presidents' Day with history books, you are in luck. Two recent books about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln address lesser known aspects of the lives of our first and sixteenth presidents.

"Lincoln's Boys: John Hay, John Nicolay, and the War for Lincoln's Image" by Joshua Zeitz focuses on Lincoln's personal secretaries during his presidency. Hay and Nicolay formed a close and trusting relationship with Lincoln and his family. After the assassination they were given exclusive access to Lincoln's personal papers in order to write his official biography. The multi-volume work that resulted helped to shape the popular view of Lincoln.

After Visiting Friends

"After Visiting Friends" by Michael Hainey

Michael Hainey was six years old when his father died suddenly. This loss cast a shadow over his childhood and haunted him well into adulthood. Hainey felt unsettled about the event, often doubting that his father was really dead. When he was eighteen, he looked up his father's obituaries and found reports that his father had died after visiting friends. This brief phrase prompts Hainey to undertake a search for answers about his father's death and becomes the title of his memoir.

What’s Lingering on Your Reading List?

Perhaps this happens to everyone. You hear about a book and think "I need to read that." But you are busy, there is a long waiting list, and you put it off. That was my experience with Maggie Shipstead's debut novel "Seating Arrangements." When I learned that Shipstead has a new novel coming out in April, I finally read her first book.

"Seating Arrangements" appears to be a typical family drama centered on a wedding. The Van Meters are hosting the wedding of daughter Daphne at their summer home on an island. The family faces challenges beyond normal wedding chaos.

It was 20 Years Ago Today – Make that 50

The Four Complete Ed Sullivan Shows Starring the Beatles

It was February 9, 1964 when the Beatles played their U.S. debut on the Ed Sullivan Show. If you weren't even born when the Beatles played Ed Sullivan, you're in luck. SLCL carries "The Four Complete Ed Sullivan Shows Starring the Beatles" whose title says it all.

One proof of the Beatles' creative genius is how their songs still resonate today. Whether it is the pure pop of "Help" and "I Saw Her Standing There" or the more intricate works of "Norwegian Wood" and "Something" they never go out of style. 

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