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When I started reading all the rave reviews in 2012 for Leigh Bardugo’s dark fantasy, Shadow and Bone, my interest was piqued. The New York Times called the debut novelist’s writing “Mesmerizing…Bardugo’s set up is shiver-inducing, of the delicious variety. This is what fantasy is for.”

The reviewers were right: I loved Shadow and Bone, Bardugo’s first book in her young adult fantasy trilogy. She has created a dark, mysterious country called Rafka with the flavor of old Russia. The heart of the book is Bardugo’s heroine, Alina Starkov, a b2ap3_thumbnail_leighbardugo_20140725-183224_1.jpgwise-cracking orphan who doesn’t take herself too seriously.

Alina’s life dramatically changes when she discovers she has a hidden superpower. She is forced to be trained as one of the Grisha, the magical elite led by a fascinating, dangerous man called the Darkling. Alina eventually realizes the Darkling wants to use her power to conquer all of Rafka.

After I read
Shadow and Bone, it was hard waiting for the next two books. Siege and Storm was released in 2013, and the finale, Ruin and Rising, came out last month. Although the books deal with dark themes, humor is sprinkled throughout the pages, which lightens the reader’s journey with Alina. Some romantic twists also nicely add to the highly entertaining, action-packed story.

DreamWorks bought the rights to
Shadow and Bone, so a movie may be in the works. In the meantime, Bardugo is writing another fantasy set in the same world as the Grisha Trilogy, but in a different country with new characters. I can’t wait.

Jo Hansen, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Garner1We were sad to hear of the passing of actor James Garner this week -- he was 86.  In a career that spanned six decades, the Oklahoma native moved with ease between television and film, making his biggest mark in his starring roles in two iconic television series:  the classic 1960's western series Maverick, and the even more successful 1970's series The Rockford Files.  Although they operated in two different worlds, the characters Sheriff Brett Maverick and Private Detective Jim Rockford had much in common:  both were anti-heroes who oozed the same charisma and sly humor as the actor who portrayed them.  Garner was a tough guy with a tender heart. 

 

Garner2In film, the amiable actor proved equally at home in comedies, action films, and dramas.  Garner scored major film hits throughout his long career, with memorable romantic pairings with Doris Day, Julie Andrews, Audrey Hepburn, Sally Field, and Gena Rowlands -- thrown in with successful buddy outings with the likes of Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, and Jack Lemmon.  Garner published a charming, self-deprecating memoir entitled The Garner Files in 2011, in which he reviewed and rated his own films.  What better way to remember an actor than by revisiting projects he felt reflected some of his best work?  He cited the following films as his personal favorites:

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b2ap3_thumbnail_big-little-lies.jpgLiane Moriarty’s best-selling 2013 novel The Husband’s Secret was a big hit among our library patrons, and I think Big Little Lies will be equally popular -- it's a great read. Moriarty has a gift for addressing big issues with a light touch, and that’s exactly what she does in this new book. At Pirriwee Public, an upper-middle-class elementary school, a melee breaks out at a school fundraiser. The origins of the trouble lie in issues hidden beneath the surface of these apparently ordinary families: domestic violence, bullying, adolescent rebellion, and lots of bad parent behavior. Moriarty teases the reader right at the start with an account of the fight at the fundraising event, then goes back and explains the events of the school year leading up to it. She alternates perspectives between the three main female characters in the book and throws in hilarious quotes from bit players in the novel at the end of each chapter.

Big Little Lies brilliantly skewers suburban life. Although it is set in a beach town in Australia, it could just as easily have been here in Libertyville. She hits on so many aspects of modern parental life: the “mom cliques” in elementary schools (I laughed out loud at her description of the “Blonde Bobs,” the group of women that thinks they run the school); the parental obsession with “gifted and talented” programs; the ongoing conflict and judgment between working and non-working mothers. The characters are both frustrating and endearing. They’re a little bit caricatured, but this only contributes to the satire. And like any good satire, it exposes the worst parts of parenting and marriage in contemporary society.

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Meet Junior Bender, a professional cat burglar who is more than an ordinary thief. His intelligence and skills have made him the go-to guy for crooks with problems.

Do you want to know who stole your stolen painting? Then Junior is the person for the job, if you can put up with his wise-cracking remarks and moral streak (yes, a burglar can have a moral streak). He follows his own code, such as only stealing from the rich. As Junior notes, “They’re the only ones with anything worth taking. What are you going to steal from the poor? Aspirations?’’b2ap3_thumbnail_timothyhallinan.jpg

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For so many of us, our love of movies began when we were young children.  What is the first truly special movie you remember seeing as a child?  Perhaps it was E.T. the Extra-TerrestrialToy Story Mary Poppins?  What movie will be the first "best" movie memory for today's kids?  The chances are very good that it may turn out to be one of the movies we remember so well from our own childhoods.  Whether our first favorite movies simply sparked our imaginations, filled us with wonder, scared us silly, encouraged us to sing-a-long, or perhaps even made us cry -- there is little doubt that certain movies over the years have proven they have the power to move or inspire generations of children like no others. 

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This week's edition of Entertainment Weekly magazine offers an amazing list of the 55 Movies Every Kid Should See before age 13.  To make it really easy for parents, the films are listed in recommended viewing order, and by the suggested age for initial viewing.  Just a quick scan of the list brought a smile to my face and brought back lots of happy memories of time spent in the wondrous company of some of the greatest family movies ever made. 

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