Check It Out

Check It Out Blog

Literary Damsels in Distress

Heroines book coverWhen the world is too much with us, we all can appreciate the need to seek respite.  Doesn’t it only make sense that some of the most put-upon heroines in literature might also need to get away from the drama?  In The Heroines, Penny Entwhistle and her mother run a bed-and-breakfast for a rather unusual clientele.  Scarlett O’Hara, Emma Bovary, and Franny Glass are among the guests, and Penny’s mom does her best to soothe their wounded spirits without divulging what awaits in the chapters they have yet to experience.  When thirteen-year-old Penny has an encounter of her own in a nearby wood, the resulting confusion leads to her commitment in a psychiatric ward.  Will Penny compromise a heroine to save herself?  In her debut novel, Chicagoan Eileen Favorite gratifies those who have ever wished to interact with the tragic heroines of great books – and perhaps even wished to be one.

A Very Special Delivery

Dear Frankie DVD coverOne of the most sweetly satisfying movies you will ever see, Dear Frankie is funny, touching, and original.  Frankie is a boy who has not had an easy life, but one of his few joys is writing to and receiving letters from his seafaring father.  What Frankie doesn’t know is that the letters are secretly written by his mother (Emily Mortimer), who arranges for them to be posted from different towns.  When her son hears that his father’s ship is expected, well-meaning Lizzie decides to hire a handsome stranger (Gerard Butler) to pose as Frankie’s dad for a day.  Of course, nothing follows exactly according to plan, and the connections formed will change all of their lives.  Director Shona Auerbach styles an affecting debut, and the film deservedly earned several audience awards.  Do yourself a favor and let this engaging film find a place in your heart.

What Led to Wall-E

Pixar Touch book coverFew studios can boast the impeccable track record of Pixar Studios, arguably a touchstone of storytelling and filmmaking.  This summer’s universally acclaimed release of Wall-E is a prime example of the studio’s success in creating entertainment with enough whimsy and resonance to enthrall both children and adults.  What you may not realize, however, is what a long and winding road it was before the dream of a full-length computer animated film could be realized.  The Pixar Touch is a tribute to the making of a company and its ground-breaking success.  Reaching from the prototypical start in a garage to the very complicated relationship with the Walt Disney Company, David A. Price’s book is a testament to the technical and creative genius that has revolutionized animation, transforming it from a novelty to an art form.

Belong to Me

Belong to Me book coverCathleen of Fiction/AV/Teen Services recommends Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos:

Feeling much like the new girl in school, young wife Cornelia moves from the city life she knows to unfamiliar suburbia.  Almost immediately she encounters two women who will become indelible parts of her world: formidable Piper, the self-appointed guardian of the neighborhood, and savvy Lake, a single mother with an extraordinary son and a vague past.  In Belong to Me, Marisa de los Santos skillfully weaves these three families into an evocative fabric of secrets and vulnerability, strength and survival.  Struggling to balance cherished dreams with the painful crises that interfere is what defines their futures, especially as each seeks to belong without losing herself.  Belong to Me is rich and rewarding, with vivid characters that will be with you long after the book is closed.

Sweets to the Sweet

Sugar Queen book coverChloe has always had a special relationship with books, but it’s not something that she can easily explain.  You see, books magically appear any time she needs them – and sometimes even when she doesn’t want them.  Currently her personal life is suffering problems, but it is embarrassing to have self-help books popping up at her sandwich shop.  Her newest customer, Josey, has issues of her own.  She spends all her time trying to please her impossible mother, she is in love with her mailman, her secret pleasure is sneaking sugary treats, and she has a strange woman living in her closet.  In The Sugar Queen, a worthy follow-up to last year’s bestselling debut Garden Spells, Sarah Addison Allen again enchants with a story sparkling in sweetness and warmth.  From one candy-themed chapter to the next, readers will be utterly charmed by this clever confection of sugar and spice.

A World War II What If

Second Objective book coverWhat if the Germans, in a last-gasp effort, trained English-speaking soldiers to infiltrate the Allied lines just before the Battle of the Bulge?  Moreover, what if an elite unit within the team had a second directive – to assassinate General Eisenhower?  Such is the premise of The Second Objective, a fast-paced thriller named the best of the adrenaline genre (including all suspense, thriller, and action-adventure titles) for this year by The Reading List Council.  Author Mark Frost deftly mixes a well-realized cast of both real-life and fictional characters into an expertly crafted plot that hurdles toward a white-knuckled climax.  Rich in detail and menacing in tone, Frost somehow manages to generate incredible suspense in the face of historical fact.  As one review succinctly notes, this is thriller gold.

The Truth Is Out There

X Files Fight the Future DVD coverI want to believe.  Don’t you?  The new X-Files movie is opening in theaters tomorrow, and now is a great time to re-visit the first feature-length production of the series, The X-Files: Fight the Future.  Featuring intrepid FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) in their search for the truth, this 1998 Twentieth Century Fox Film traces a government conspiracy from desert cornfields to remote Antarctica.  Just under the surface of a seemingly innocuous Texas town, a strange black substance seeps closer to the population.  Add a federal bomb threat, a paranoid doctor, and genetically-engineered bees, and once again the agents must risk their credibility and their lives to explain the inexplicable.  Co-written by series creator Chris Carter and directed by Rob Bowman, Fight the Future also includes notable performances by Martin Landau, Blythe Danner, Armin Mueller-Stahl, and Lost‘s Terry O’Quinn.

If It Sounds Too Good To Be True…

the rich man of pietermaritzburg book coverIn a rural community where hard work is a way of life, an uninvited guest arrives with promises of attainable wealth.  The stranger claims that his motive is solely to help his people, and he has glowing testimonies from others.  Can the villagers afford to second-guess this opportunity?  Selected by an international jury as one of Africa’s best books of the twentieth century, The Rich Man of Pietermaritzburg is the third and final novel of Sibusiso Nyembezi, a Zulu novelist, poet, and scholar.  Set in a time when apartheid was a looming reality, this newly translated narrative preserves the cadence and humor of the African voice.  The visitor’s insistence on his own importance and the ease with which he tickles the itching ears of the village set up a delightful farce.  It is up to the youth to question whether the man can be trusted, but no one wants to listen.  A light story full of local color, The Rich Man of Pietermaritzburg is a cautionary tale of big talk too easily overshadowing better judgment.

Awards to Inspire

Chasing Fireflies book coverThe 2008 winners of the Christy Awards, honoring excellence in faith-based fiction, were announced this week. Charles Martin’s Chasing Fireflies, “a haunting story about fishing, baseball, home cooking, and other matters of life and death”, was chosen in the contemporary (stand alone) category.  Bestselling author Jan Karon was recognized in the contemporary (series, sequels, and novellas) group.  Her book Home to Holly Springs is the first of a new series with beloved character Father Tim.  In romance, Remembered by Tamera Alexander was honored for the story of a young woman who finds love while searching for her estranged father.  Lynn Austin’s A Proper Pursuit, which takes place in Chicago during the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, was selected as best historical.  The awards are named in tribute to author Catherine Marshall’s cherished novel Christy and have been celebrating the brightest in Christian fiction since 2000.

Do Dreams Come True?

A Raisin in the Sun DVD coverMade-for-television movies are not always associated with quality or excellence, but the 2008 production of A Raisin in the Sun is an exception.  Adapted from the award-winning play revival and with most of the lead cast intact, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment gives new gloss to Lorraine Hansberry’s classic story of a struggling family in 1959 Chicago.  Sean “Diddy” Combs stars as Walter Lee Younger, a man who wants better things for his family and who hopes that his father’s life insurance settlement might provide the chance of a lifetime.  However, first he must convince his mother, expertly portrayed by Phylicia Rashad, his conflicted wife (Audra McDonald), and his headstrong sister (Sanaa Lathan) that his is a dream worth pursuing.  It is the women who shine brilliantly, energizing each scene they play, especially when with each other.  Both Rashad and McDonald earned Tony Awards for their stage performances, and this is your chance to taste a bit of that Broadway greatness.