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


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. 


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. 


b2ap3_thumbnail_madwoman.jpgThis book is hilarious, unnerving, irreverent, honest, and did I mention hilarious? An essayist for The Atlantic magazine and an NPR radio commentator, Tsing Loh has never shied away from addressing very personal stuff, and this book is no exception. She chronicles her experiences going through perimenopause, as her life seems to go up in flames. She has an affair, which destroys her 20-year marriage; she’s raising two preteen daughters; she’s trying to manage the affairs of her highly eccentric 89-year-old father – all while her hormones are raging uncontrollably. Tsing Loh obsesses about her weight, which seems to be increasing no matter how hard she exercises. She creates a “happiness project” for herself. She takes on a 12-year-old bully at her daughter’s school. It’s like any middle-aged mother’s life – only more interesting and way funnier.

Pretty much any woman older than 40 will relate to this book. Its chapters flow just like perimenopausal mood swings: one minute you’re up, the next you’re down. Some of the book is downright silly (her list of diet foods), some is touching (a sweet note from her 11-year-old daughter), and some is educational. Tsing Loh has thoroughly read the literature on menopause and has distilled it down to a couple of useful books and theories, and the tips she shares are realistic and doable. In fact, the book ends on a downright hopeful note. So while I’m ab2ap3_thumbnail_tsing-loh.jpg little scared of menopause after reading this book (I’m sure I’ll go off the deep end too), I also know that if Tsing Loh can survive it, I can too.

For more about Sandra Tsing Loh, here’s a great NY Times article from May 2014: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/18/fashion/for-sandra-tsing-loh-change-is-good.html?_r=0


b2ap3_thumbnail_sweetjudyblueeyes.jpgI’m a doctor’s office People Magazine reader. I don’t buy it or go out of my way to read it but I invariably pick it up when I’m waiting for an appointment. So I’ve surprised myself lately to find that I’m picking up and devouring music celebrity memoirs. And if it’s an audiobook, even better!

A few months ago, I listened to Judy Collins reading her memoir Sweet Judy Blue Eyes: My Life in Music. I’ve always been a fan of Collins and her music.  She is totally candid about her personal struggles, her love affairs, her activism, and the folk music scene. Yet, she is gentle in her description of music industry insiders. There are juicy details about her “brilliant romance” with Stephen Stills, some inside stories about sex, drugs, rock and roll and her fellow artists.

I lived through the '60s but I certainly didn’t live it the way that the singers, songwriters and musicians did, committed to making a difference through their music. It was such a turbulent time yet much of the folk music of the day is still relevant and so beautiful.