The years following the collapse of the Roman Empire were stressful ones for Europe, leading many to think that the end of the world was quickly approaching. In "The Forge of Christendom," Tom Holland describes how this feeling of imminent apocalypse drove the development of medieval Europe over a period of several centuries. He discusses political, military, and religious developments and how each affected the others, even to the point of extrapolating the consequences of medieval history to more current events, in some cases. More interestingly, Holland's discussion of medieval history does not just focus on the usual historical players (England, France, etc.), but even takes a look at Icelandic and Visigothic events of the time. While many historical books mention an event and its consequences going forward, this book also gives the lead-up to many well-known events, such as the Battle of Hastings and the Council of Claremont.
--Michael B., Jamestown Bluffs Branch
Some movies are so bad they're good and some movies are so bad they're just laughable. The long lamented television show, "Mystery Science Theater 3000" made an art form out of mocking bad movies. Under the premise of being trapped in space and forced to watch bad movies, the show's host and his robot pals would verbally pick apart some of the worst movies ever filmed. Some bad movies are a bit more ripe for the riffing and four of the classic shows are found on "The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection. Volume 2."
Episode 1 is a gem of the "Charlie's Angels" variety. To avenge the beat down suffered by her drug buying younger brother, a budding singing sensation recruits several sexy young women to band together and fight the pushers. Not since "The Love Boat" have there been so many fine cameos in one production: Jack Palance, Peter Lawford, Jim Backus, Arthur Godfrey and Alan Hale, Jr. It's like "Fantasy Island" for the big screen - and I mean that as a compliment.
A whimsical tale that dances back and forth in time during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, "The Night Circus" is the story of the magical and mysterious "Le Cirque des Rêves," which translates from French as "The Circus of Dreams."
Conceived by the eccentric theatrical producer Chandresh Christophe Lefèvre, "Le Cirque des Rêves" takes on a life of it's own at the hands his assistant, Marco Alistair, and the show's illusionist, Celia Bowen. Though nobody directly involved with the show knows it, the circus is a venue for a great competition between the young magicians Marco and Celia... one that they were bound to in childhood. As the two try to outdo one another with enchanting circus attractions, they inevitably fall in love, neither knowing that the exhausting game can only end with one of their deaths. As the competition wears on and the circus grows in popularity, Marco and Celia are not the only ones who's lives are in peril.
One great thing about living in St. Louis is the access to so much beautiful green space. From tidy urban parks covering one city block to huge conservation areas of over a thousand acres, the St. Louis area offers ample opportunities for outdoor enjoyment.
Many of these treasures are featured in the new book "St. Louis Parks" by NiNi Harris and Esley Hamilton. Produced by local publisher Reedy Press, the book features full color photographs, a brief history, and basic statistics on parks in the city and county.
NiNi Harris, who has written many books on St. Louis history and neighborhoods, wrote the descriptions of the parks in St. Louis City. Esley Hamilton, preservation historian for the St. Louis County Department of Parks and Recreation, provides the text for the county parks. Mark Abeln and Steve Tiemann are responsible for the outstanding photography.
"Carte Blanche" continues the James Bond legacy with quick wit and fast women. Author Jeffrey Deaver follows the path Ian Fleming started years ago, sending James Bond to risk his life and save the world, not missing a chance to romance ladies along the way. Similar to Fleming's style, fast-paced with concrete prose, the story starts with a train derailment in the Balkans, moves to London temporarily and ends in South Africa. Deaver's blog reveals the author as a young man was a fan of the Bond series. He was thrilled when Fleming's estate gave him the chance to continue the spy's exploits after Deaver won the Crime Writers' Association's Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award for his novel "Garden of Beasts." Though "Carte Blanche" has a contemporary setting and even touches on the global need to recycle, many of the classic Bondisms remain. The CDbook is narrated by Toby Stephens.
You may have heard that St. Louisan Hikaru Nakamura won his third U.S. Chess Championship title this week. Since 2009 the competition has been hosted by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis. If this news has inspired you to learn how to play chess, improve your skills, or read about some of the game's great players, St. Louis County Library has plenty to offer.
In the midst of all the summer blockbuster superhero movies, "Chronicle" may just slip under your radar. I can assure you that it is not to be missed if you are a fan, obsessed or casual, of the superhero and/or sci-fi genre.
The movie centers around three characters: loner Andrew, his cousin Matt, and a fellow student and popular football star, Steve. The three bond after they encounter a mysterious object underground that gives them telekinetic powers. The movie is an origin story unlike any other, it deals with serious consequences and the fun three teenagers can have when they are suddenly granted superpowers.