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Rhett Butler’s People

Rhett butler's People book coverBarb of Fiction/AV/Teen Services recommends Rhett Butler’s People by Donald McCaig:

Rhett Butler’s People is an intriguing companion to Gone with the Wind.  It’s an epic story which chronicles the life and times of the adventurous and romantic hero, Rhett Butler.  Some of the people who shape Rhett’s life include his uncompromising, mean-spirited father, Rhett’s devoted sister Rosemary, his best friend and one-time slave, Tunis Bonneau, former love Belle Watling and, of course, the love of Rhett’s life, the passionate Scarlett O’Hara.  By all accounts, Gone with the Wind is so legendary that it seems untouchable.  However, Donald McCaig’s adaptation of the beloved Margaret Mitchell saga is a worthy story that never questions the essence of the characters:  family, land, country, and, most of all, love.

Charlton Heston, an Epic Life

Charlton Heston actor photo“If you need a ceiling painted, a chariot race run, a city besieged, or the Red Sea parted, you think of me.”    — Charlton Heston

Evanston-born Charlton Heston, Oscar winner for his star turn in Ben Hur, died Saturday, April 5, 2008.  Best known for heroic roles in grand epics such as The Ten Commandments and El Cid, Heston brought intensity and presence to his work both on screen and off.  A World War II Army veteran, he visited troops during the Vietnam War and in 2003 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.  Author Patrick O’Brian counted Heston as a friend and even envisioned him one day playing his title character Captain Jack Aubrey.  A writer himself, Heston penned his autobiography In the Arena as well as a book entitled To Be a Man: Letters to My Grandson.  Among his many other film credits are The Greatest Show on Earth, Julius Caesar, and The Planet of the Apes.

The First Patient

The First Patient book coverWhat if those closest to the President of the United States couldn’t be trusted with his safety?  In The First Patient, strange episodes have begun to plague the country’s leader, and his personal physician has mysteriously disappeared.  Dr. Gabe Singleton, an old friend of the President’s, is asked to take the job.  Not long after arriving in Washington, he realizes that his college buddy is in the midst of a health crisis that could have national ramifications.  Gabe must balance dedication to his patient with responsibility to his country, and attacks on his own life only add to his suspicions.  Michael Palmer crafts a tense thriller that explores frightening scientific abuses and the vulnerability of the leader of the free world.

Blue Heart Blessed

Blue Heart Blessed book coverHow does a caring, intelligent, and capable woman cope with being jilted ten days before her dream wedding?  If she is Daisy Murien, she opens a shop for specially-selected second-hand wedding gowns!  Blue Heart Blessed by Susan Meissner is the story of how one recently “disengaged” woman creatively tries to keep her romantic outlook hopeful while coming to terms with pain and disappointment.  Sewn into the fabric of each dress she sells is a tiny satin heart which has been given a special blessing for the new bride.  Repeatedly finding reasons not to sell the perfect gown she never wore, Daisy is a heroine who invites both sympathy and amusement.  Inspirational fiction written with cleverness and a light touch, Blue Heart Blessed celebrates one woman’s personal journey with real heart.

On Top of Spaghetti

On Top of Spaghetti book coverIs there anyone who doesn’t love a good plate of pasta?  Prepare to take your enjoyment to the next level with On Top of Spaghetti…Macaroni, Linguine, Penne, and Pasta of Every Kind.  Renowned chefs George Germon and Johanne Killeen and  share their passion for creating and recreating pasta dishes in this exceptional cookbook.  Whether you are looking for a new taste experience or merely a way to spice up an old favorite, On Top of Spaghetti offers uncomplicated, inventive recipes made with a variety of common ingredients.  Complete with cheerful commentary and occasional anecdotes, each dish is presented with clear directions and helpful serving suggestions.  You may never go out for Italian food again.

A Flaw in the Blood

A Flaw in the Blood book coverConspiracy, blackmail, intrigue, even murder – and Queen Victoria is in the center of it all.  In a new mystery by Stephanie Barron, Irish barrister Patrick Fitzgerald is returning from a summoned audience with the Queen herself when the royal carriage is viciously attacked.  Both he and his ward, young Dr. Georgiana Armistead, have episodes in their pasts which may offer clues, and they race to make sense of the escalating violence before they can be silenced.  Whether a thrilling pursuit through the London slums or a restrained gathering in the royal chambers, A Flaw in the Blood boasts Barron’s trademarks:  impressive period detail and a sense of the sinister amidst cultured society.

The King of Kong

King of Kong DVD coverGranted, it is not unusual for a film to feature contests in which likable underdog players compete in order to prove themselves.  What is unique about the 2007 Picturehouse Entertainment documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters  is that the game under scrutiny is not basketball or football, but Donkey Kong.  Yes, this ubiquitous arcade game from the 1980s serves as backdrop to an intense rivalry between longtime champion Billy Mitchell and earnest challenger Steve Wiebe.  Eminently watchable, The King of Kong is overflowing with tension, humor, heartbreak, and triumph.  Even those who care little for video games will find themselves invested in Wiebe’s attempts to earn recognition and respect.

Cry, the Beloved Country

Cry the Beloved Country book coverFirst published in 1948, Cry, the Beloved Country remains one of the most beautiful and stirring books of the 20th century.  The story of a divided and hurting South Africa, Alan Paton’s narrative focuses on two fathers:  a rural priest and a wealthy landowner.  Reverend Stephen Kumalo must journey from his native district to search for his sister and his son, but what he discovers is agony and catastrophe.  Meanwhile, James Jarvis grapples with the senseless death of a son he never fully understood.  In Paton’s own words, Cry, the Beloved Country “is a song of love for one’s far distant country…it is a story of the beauty and terror of human life.”  Both simple and poetic, it is ultimately a story of hope.

Sara Paretsky

Sara Paretsky author photoTranslated into almost thirty languages, Sara Paretsky’s books have earned many accolades, including the coveted British Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger for top novel of 2004 (Blacklist) and Diamond Dagger for lifetime achievement.  Paretsky first introduced her stereotype-shattering heroine in 1982 with Indemnity Only.  In a genre that had traditionally depicted women either as victims or as femme fatales, tough-talking female investigator V.I. Warshawski signaled a new and welcome direction, one in which a female character could display intelligence, strength, courage, and ability.

Long associated with Chicago, Paretsky first visited the city in 1966 to do community service work in the same neighborhood where Martin Luther King was organizing.  Even today she demonstrates that same passion for social justice through her work in several foundations both nationally and in Chicago, her home for many years.  Bleeding Kansas, Paretsky’s 14th novel and most recent best seller, is set in the part of the Kaw River Valley where Sara was raised.

Book Smart

Book Smart book coverIf you have an interest in becoming well-read but are uncertain of how to go about it, then Book Smart is a great place to begin.  Subtitled “Your Essential Reading List for Becoming a Literary Genius in 365 Days”, Book Smart is more than a collection of suggested titles.  Focusing on one theme for each month, author Jane Mallison offers a concise overview and ten books to whet your appetite in such categories as “Lighten Up:  Smiles at the Human Condition” and “Stranger in a Strange Land:  Unaccustomed Places, Real and Fancied”.  Classics are mixed with more recent works, and the author’s engaging style invites you to join in journeys of new experiences.  Even if you do not accept the year challenge, just browsing the suggestions will inspire you to add to your personal reading list.