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Can it be true that spring has finally arrived?  It's hard to believe that the month of May is almost over when temperatures for the month have often more closely resembled those of December!


BogartBacallSpeaking of May and December:  May-December romances have been an integral part of the plots of many fine films over the years.  For example, who doesn't love the magnetic pairing of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall?  The chemistry between the pair is obvious in each of the four films they made together.  The couple met and fell in love on the set of the 1944 movie To Have and Have Not, which marked Bacall's film debut.  They married a year later, when Bacall was just 20 and Bogart was 45.  They remained married until Bogart's death from cancer in 1957. 

 

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shotgun lovesongsI was drawn to this book because of its rural Wisconsin setting. I grew up in suburbia, so there’s always been something charming and seductive about small-town life for me.  Given our proximity to Wisconsin, it wasn’t hard to imagine the town of Little Wing, the setting of this marvelous book. Shotgun Lovesongs tells the story of four friends who grew up together in Little Wing but went their separate ways: one to ride the rodeo circuit, one to make his fortune on the Chicago commodities exchange, one to become a rock star. Only one man, Henry, stays home and works his father’s farm with his wife Beth, who is loved in different ways by all four friends. The story begins with a wedding that brings them all back together in Little Wing, and what follows is an exploration of the events that have shaped and sometimes broken their relationships. Although all four men are adults, at some level their friendships have not passed beyond adolescence, and it takes some painful lessons to cause each of them to finally and fully grow up.

This book is a beautiful study of love and friendship, but it’s also a love song to small-town America. Butler, who lives in rural Wisconsin, captures the Midwestern landscape, its sensibility, its poverty, with gentleness and respect. I haven’t lived in a small town, but I can tell you this: you will feel for these characters. As each one tells you their story, your heart will go out to them and not come back for a long time. Shotgun Lovesongs is a story that is moving, warm, and heartfelt.

-- Andrea Larson, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Are you looking for an ultra-imaginative dystopian tale of a matriarchal society, which violently polices any variation in preset roles and biology, yet must ultimately rely on that very capability in a brave low-caste member to save the group? Do you want it to appeal to young teens through adults? Read The Bees: A Novel by Laline Paull.

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Flora 717 is introduced at the moment of her birth as a sanitation worker in the hive of nearly 10,000 family members. As soon as she emerges from her cell into the Arrivals Hall, she is recognized as variant by both the fertility police, who almost immediately destroy her, and by a high-caste “priestess,” Sister Sage, who interrupts the police and escorts Flora into the hive nursery , thus beginning an experiment to see how her variation might be of use. And what amazing usefulness does Flora discover about herself! She is willing to use all her discovery and understanding for the future of her hive in brave, daring, and intelligent ways.

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'Tis the season for college graduations!  Now is the perfect time to revisit the classic film The Graduate, which provides an especially entertaining look at the confusion that can reign at such a significant time in life.  Dustin Hoffman plays recent college graduate Benjamin Braddock who, after becoming involved in a complicated affair with a woman twice his age, finds himself falling in love with her beautiful daughter.  Anne Bancroft and Katharine Ross co-star in the 1967 film by legendary director Mike Nichols.  The movie also features an outstanding soundtrack by Simon and Garfunkel, showcasing their songs Mrs. Robinson, The Sound of Silence, and Scarborough Faire/Canticle.

 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_donteverlookback.jpgHooray! Retired Police Detective Baruch “Buck’’ Schatz returns, more ornery than ever, in Daniel Friedman’s terrific second mystery, Don’t Ever Look Back. Friedman introduced the colorful octogenarian in Don’t Ever Get Old, imagining what life would be like for a Dirty Harry type of character in his 80s.

At 88, Buck is in even worse physical shape in Don’t Ever Look Back, thanks to injuries he incurred in the first book. He is living with his wife in a senior assisted living facility, and must use a walker to get around. As annoying as the walker is, Buck discovers that it turns out to be a handy weapon.

Buck’s sedentary lifestyle, filled with painful physical therapy appointments, is disrupted when an b2ap3_thumbnail_danielfriedman.jpgenemy from his past shows up at the retirement home. The 80-year-old criminal, known only as Elijah, got away with a huge bank robbery heist in 1965 when Buck was a cop. But now Elijah beseeches Buck for help, saying his life is in grave danger.

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