Thursday, February 26, 2015

Laugh and the World Laughs With You

In celebration of comedian Eddie Izzard's recent birthday (February 7), we're here to offer you a highly subjective list of a few of our favorite comedians. Let them tell you a little bit about themselves -- in their own words:

-- Mike Birbiglia

"Growing up, I was discouraged from telling personal stories about insignificant things. Like, I wouldn't make the soccer team, and my father would say, 'Don't tell anyone.' And I would say, 'They're gonna know when they show up to the games and I'm not on the team and I'm crying."

Mike Birbiglia's comedy has appeared several times on NPR, and his Sleepwalk With Me story -- in which he recounts the time he sleepwalked his way out of a two-story hotel window -- went on to become a best-selling book, as well as a film. He also runs an online blog, My Secret Public Journal, where you can read his humor essays and stay up-to-date on upcoming shows.

You can hear his sleepwalking story on NPR's website.

"I wake up at 4:30 am to jump on a plane, which is that part of the morning before the earth even exists. Before they've even programmed the Matrix. You walk out of your apartment and the road isn't even there. You walk out of your house, and there's just a guy with a laptop who yells, 'We need a road, stat!' 'How 'bout a building, Tank!'"

Request What I Should Have Said Was Nothing from the Catalog

-- Ellen DeGeneres

"All we have is the here and now. That's why procrastination feels so right. Procrastinate now; don't put it off!"

Before her long-running daytime talk show and acting career, Ellen Degeneres started out as a stand-up comedian. She gained acclaim for her observational humor in the early 80s, appearing on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson in 1986 (Carson reportedly likened her to Bob Newhart). She's hosted the Oscars, the Emmys, the Grammys, won 13 Emmys and 14 People's Choice Awards -- and voiced the forgetful fish Dory in Pixar's classic animated film Finding Nemo.

"Have you ever heard somebody sing some lyrics that you've never sung before, and you realize you've never sung the right words in that song? You hear them, and all of a sudden you say to yourself, 'Life in the Fast Lane?' That's what they're saying right there? You think, Why have I been singing 'wipe in the vaseline?'  How many people have heard me sing 'wipe in the vaseline?' I am an idiot."

Request Ellen DeGeneres: Here and Now from the Catalog

-- Eddie Izzard

"It's the cutting edge of politics in a very extraordinarily boring way."

Born in England, Eddie Izzard's comedy incorporates world history, politics, religion, languages, and film study into his comedy (I was first introduced to his stand-up when a college linguistics professor showed us a few clips from Izzard's shows). But when your Henry VIII sounds like Sean Connery and you've got Death Star Stormtroopers sipping tea and waving flags, the resultant show is anything but dry. Izzard's humor effortlessly juxtaposes the everyday with the truly quirky, and the result is wholly unique.

"We stole countries! That's how you build an empire. We stole countries, with the cunning use of flags. Just sail halfway around the world, stick a flag in. 'I claim India for Britain.' And they're going, 'You can't claim us; we live here! There's five hundred million of us!' - 'Do you have a flag?' - 'We don't need a bloody flag, this is our country!' - 'No flag, no country! You can't have one. That's the rules that I've just made up!'"

Request Dress to Kill from the Catalog

-- Louis C.K.

"People on planes are the worst. They get off the plane, they come to your house, and they tell you about their whole flight experience. 'That was the worst day of my life!  I had to sit on the runway for forty minutes!'  For forty minutes?  Oh, my God, really?  What happened then??  Did you fly through the air, like a bird, incredibly?  Did you soar into the clouds, impossibly?  Did you partake in the miracle of human flight, and then land softly on giant tires that you couldn't even conceive how they put air in them??  How dare you! Complaining about flying! 'I had to pay for my sandwich --' YOU'RE FLYING!  You're sitting in a chair in the sky!  You're like a Greek myth right now!!  [You think] air travel is too slow?  [It's] New York to California in six hours!  That used to take thirty years!"

Combining his self-deprecating humor with his observations on modern society, Louis C.K. manages to make us laugh at our own shortcomings, as well. Releasing his annual stand-up shows on his website,, he is also the creator, head writer, and star of the hit FX series Louis. 

"So then my doctor's like, 'Well, okay. How far into a meal do you typically realize you're full and stop eating?' And I'm like -- 'I don't stop eating when I'm full. The meal isn't over when I'm full. The meal is over when I hate myself.'"

Request Hilarious from the Catalog

-- Post by Ms. B 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

It's Oscar Time!

You may recall that I made predictions two years ago for the Academy Awards with the plan of doing it every year. For whatever reason, I did not make any predictions last year. So I am back and I plan to make this an annual occurrence.

Once again I have not seen all of the nominated films or performances. I managed to see four of the eight of the films nominated in the Best Picture category. And while I have my personal favorites I will not share them here, although some may be obvious from prior posts. This is going to be who I think the winners will be, not necessarily who I would like to see win.

So let's get to it! I'll check back in next week to see how I did!

Best Picture

American Sniper
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything

My prediction: Boyhood

Actor in a Leading Role

Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton, Birdman
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

My prediction: Michael Keaton, Birdman

Actor in a Supporting Role

Robert Duvall, The Judge
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Edward Norton, Birdman
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

My prediction: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Actress in a Leading Role

Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon, Wild

My prediction: Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Actress in a Supporting Role

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Laura Dern, Wild
Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
Emma Stone, Birdman
Meryl Streep, Into The Woods

My prediction: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood


Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

My prediction: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman

--Post by Tracy

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Like No Business I Know

Read on for a trio of reading recommendations on one of America's favorite topics: fame.

“Stardom isn’t a profession; it’s an accident.”
-- Lauren Bacall

The Setup: A True Story of Dirty Cops, Soccer Moms, and Reality TV by Pete Crooks.


Chris Butler was a former cop who'd opened his own PI firm in California. So far, so normal -- except that Butler's firm was staffed entirely by soccer moms. Average, everyday women who had become real-life versions of Charlie's Angels.

Even before Lifetime came banging at their door to offer them a reality TV show (to be called PI Moms), Butler and his soccer moms were a hit, appearing in such places as People magazine and Dr. Phil. (They even got a mention by This American Life host Ira Glass.) When reporter Pete Crooks was promised a ride-along one on of the firm's cases, he was just a writer for the California lifestyle magazine Diablo, looking for nothing more than a typical local fluff piece.

But if Crooks's adventure with the "PI Moms" seemed too good to be true, it wasn't long before he discovered ... it was. The PI bust he'd witnessed had been a set-up, the clients and perpetrators played by actors. The whole scene had been staged -- and it wasn't the first time such a set-up had occurred. Soon, Crooks was peeling back the layers of a bizarre case involving disgruntled employees, illegal drugs, and a con intended to make good use of the lack of "reality" often required for a reality TV show.

I was personally hoping for more time spent on the "Moms" themselves, in the hopes of finding out why such ordinary people would agree to take part in such an extraordinary con, and what the determination for fame might truly cost. But if you're looking for a read on the bizarre layers of a corrupt would-be star, give this book a whirl.

Read Crooks's original article for Diablo magazine here.

Request The Setup from the Catalog

- Fame Junkies: The Hidden Truths Behind America's Favorite Addiction by Jake Halpern.


Fame, author Jake Halpern argues, is one of America's biggest addictions. From entertainment magazines to reality television shows, our obsession with celebrity has never been higher. In this book, Halpern tries to figure out why.

He travels the country to interview three different types of people who are committed to the pursuit of fame: hopeful performers looking for their big break (focusing particularly on would-be child stars), the workers who devote their careers to celebrities (in the forms of paparazzi or celebrity personal assistants), and obsessed fans to the stars (like the Pittsburgh woman who has a room in her house devoted entirely to singer Rod Stewart). Along the way, he talks to psychologists, sociologists, biologists, counselors, and other experts to try to peel back the layers of why we're so fascinated by the world of celebrities -- and the celebrities who inhabit it.

Request Fame Junkies from the Catalog

- Funny Girl by Nick Hornby.


Barbara Parker only entered the Miss Blackpool beauty pageant because you have to start somewhere if you want to be a star. And Barbara doesn't want to be just any type of star: she wants to go on television and star in a sit-com, like her hero, Lucille Ball. She knows she's got the talent, but she's also a woman in 1960s England, where she's more likely to be offered a job making coffee than making people laugh.

But she's got serendipity on her side, and so a chance meeting, a name change, and her own sense of committed determination leads her to a starring role in a sit-com designed just for her. The ensuing fames is beyond what she'd hoped for -- even as her own life begins to oddly mirror that of her sit-com alter ego.

Her story is intertwined with her cast and crewmates from her series: the show's creators, their producer, her on-screen husband, the occasional guest stars. The various characters gives Hornby a chance to look at different facets of show business: what it means to be famous, the art of comedy, the tension between highbrow art critics versus those in the world of popular culture, and, ultimately, what we strive for in life -- whether we're famous or not.

Request Funny Girl from the Catalog

-- Post by Ms. B 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Staff Recommendation #39: Cassidy Jones and The Secret Formula

Since becoming a librarian I have read more Young Adult novels than I ever thought I would at this point in my life. Luckily, most of them have been good and some have been outstanding. One such book is Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula by Elise Stokes.

Several years ago I stumbled upon this book, although now I'm not really sure where I read about it. It was available as a free ebook, so I decided to take a chance. And what a find it was!

Cassidy Jones is like many other fourteen-year-old girls - she has a loving family that gets on her nerves on occasion, she's mostly ignored in school and has a secret crush on a boy who happens to be one of her twin brother's friends. Oh, and now she has super human strength!

Cassidy joins her television reporter Dad when he sets off to the lab of world-renowned geneticist, Serena Phillips, for an interview one day after school. Unfortunately, for Cassidy she doesn't leave that lab the same person. After a freak accident, she inhales fumes from several vials that have been knocked over and end up mixing together.

The next morning Cassidy begins to notice many changes. Her senses and strength have been altered dramatically and soon realizes that she has the speed of a jaguar. She decides to keep her new freakish abilities to herself. To make matters worse, Professor Phillips goes missing!

Then she meets the professor's enigmatic and brilliant fifteen-year-old son Emery. After confiding in Emery, the duo are determined to find Emery's mother which puts them both in danger.

I found Cassidy Jones to be a believable and relatable character even for someone, like me, who hasn't been a teen in a very long time. Cassidy is at an age where so many things are happening in her life and now she has the added burden of super human strength. These new abilities scare her and she behaves as many teenagers would - she keeps it to herself. She doesn't even tell her best friend. Instead she turns to a steady and reliable new friend. It's refreshing to see an author have a boy and a girl be real friends and not automatically turn it romantic.

This is really a story about how a young woman learns to deal with the unexplained changes in her life and the new friend who is helping her through this tough time. Ms. Stokes has given us a young woman who could be a great motivator for anyone, let alone other teens. Cassidy learns that she has courage and integrity. She also learns to rely on herself, but to also lean on others when she needs to.

More than anything, this book, and the continuing series, are just a lot of fun to read. So, if you'd like to check out a young adult book that isn't Twilight, The Hunger Games or The Fault in Our Stars, then be sure to read Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula. You won't be sorry!

The Series:

-- Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula

-- Cassidy Jones and Vulcan's Gift

-- Cassidy Jones and the Seventh Attendant

-- Cassidy Jones and the Luminous

--Post by Tracy

Friday, February 6, 2015

Readalikes: "The Hunger Games"

When fans of the popular YA dystopian trilogy The Hunger Games come to the library, they're often looking for a similar read. Since the bookshelves of libraries (and bookstores) are swimming with a vast array of dystopian fiction for the choosing, I usually try to narrow it down a bit by asking what it is, precisely, the reader liked about The Hunger Games. The action?  The politics?  The strong leading character?

Everyone's answer is different, of course. But one answer many fans give is that they like the Games themselves. Or, perhaps, not precisely the games -- but the rites of passages, and subsequent choices, that lead the characters into them.

The Hunger Games is not the only story to show a dystopian society's rite of passage lead to unintended consequences -- not only for the main characters, but for the worlds they inhabit. Here are three more to try:

Uglies - Scott Westerfeld

Tally Youngblood's sixteenth birthday is approaching, and she couldn't be more excited. Her whole life, she's been living with the "Uglies," the slang name given to the city's children. But once you hit sixteen, you get to become a "Pretty," undergoing a surgical procedure that transforms your appearance into one of beautiful perfection. She'll get to leave behind her old life and take up residence in Prettytown, where she'll be beautiful, popular, and able to fill her days with clothes, parties, and unending fun.

But then she meets Shay, a fellow Ugly who doesn't seem to understand how great being a Pretty will be. Much to Tally's surprise, Shay's planning to run away to escape her surgery. Shay, it turns out, has a suspicion that there's a price to pay to become a Pretty. And she thinks the people of the Smoke -- a group of protestors who have rejected the Pretty life -- may have the answer.

Tally won't go with her, but she wishes Shay the best -- at least until the governmental department of Special Circumstances step in and offer Tally a choice. They know about the Smoke, and they want to put an end to it. So if Tally ever wants to become a Pretty, she has to make a choice: follow Shay to the Smoke and betray her best friend and her new home to the authorities, or remain an Ugly forever.

Request Uglies from the Catalog

Atlantia - Ally Condie

Author Ally Condie is primarily known for her dystopian-esque trilogy Matched. But I liked this one better -- a standalone novel that tells the story of Rio, who has grown up alongside her twin sister, Bay, in the underwater city of Atlantia. Rio's always dreamed of leaving her world beneath the waves behind, and it looks like her chance has finally come. But when her sister uses their coming-of-age ceremony to escape the Below, she leaves Rio trapped in Atlantia -- with no way out.

Rio, already reeling from her mother's death several months before, now finds herself betrayed and alone in the Below. But then, Rio's used to being alone: she's had to hide her secret all her life. Rio is a siren, and if anyone were to discover her powers, everything would change.

Forming unexpected alliances with True, who also lost his best friend to the Above, Rio is determined to find a way to the surface. But then her mother's sister, Maire, shares secrets of Atlantia with Rio that she never could have expected -- and suddenly, it's not just Rio and Bay whose lives are at stake, but rather the whole of Atlantia.

Request Atlantia from the Catalog

Divergent - Veronica Roth

Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), Erudite (the intelligent), Abnegation (the selfless), and Candor (the honest). You'll forgive me if the Factions of Tris's world put me just slightly in mind of the different Hogwarts Houses from the world of Harry Potter.

Tris's city is divided up into these five Factions. She's grown up in Abnegation, but it's never been the Faction for her; she knows she can never be selfless enough to be happy there. Like Hogwarts, Tris and her fellow students must undergo something of a test to see which Faction they would be best suited to be in -- but despite what the test results show, the choice still remains in each students' hands. And so Tris does not let her (eerily inconclusive) test results stop her from choosing the people she's always wanted to be with: the Dauntless.

But the world of the Dauntless is not always what Tris expected. Bravery here seems to be defined as recklessness more than true courage, and Tris finds herself testing her loyalties to herself and her friends, as well as the world she's grown up in. It doesn't help that Tris carries a secret: she's not really Dauntless nor Abengation, but rather something else entirely: Divergent. But when she uncovers a secret about the very fabric of her society, Tris finds herself drawn into something she's not sure she'll ever be able to find her way out of.

Request Divergent from the Catalog

-- Post by Ms. B 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

February Library Reads

It's time for some more reading suggestions from the February Library Reads list. Be sure to get your name on the waiting list for these new titles!

A Spool of Blue Thread: A Novel
by Anne Tyler

“In this book, we come to know three generations of Whitshanks–a family with secrets and memories that are sometimes different than what others observe. The book’s timeline moves back and forth with overlapping stories, just like thread on a spool. Most readers will find themselves in the story. Once again, Tyler has written an enchanting tale.”

Catherine Coyne, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, MA

My Sunshine Away
by M.O. Walsh

“A crime against a 15-year-old girl is examined through the eyes of one of her friends–a friend who admits to being a possible suspect in the crime. This is a wonderful debut novel full of suspense, angst, loyalty, deceit, and most of all, love.”

Alison Nadvornik, Worthington Libraries, Columbus, OH

A Darker Shade of Magic
by V. E. Schwab

“Fantasy fans should enjoy this atmospheric novel, where London is the link between parallel universes, and magician Kell is one of two Travelers who can move between them. Now something sinister is disturbing their equilibrium, and Kell must try to unravel the plot with only feisty street thief Delilah Bard as an ally.”

Beth Mills, New Rochelle Public Library, New Rochelle, NY

A Murder of Magpies
by Judith Flanders

“Loved this mystery! The acerbic narrator is 40-year-old British book publishing editor Samantha, whose best author goes missing after writing a tell-all book about a famous French fashion designer who died under suspicious circumstances. Very funny, and great secondary characters as well.”

Ann-Marie Anderson, Tigard Public Library, Tigard, OR

Dreaming Spies: A Novel of Suspense Featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes
by Laurie R. King

“Considering that King is one of the finest mystery authors writing today, it’s no surprise that the latest in the Russell/Holmes series is an engaging read. Intrigue follows the duo as they board a liner bound for Japan and meet up with a known blackmailer and a young Japanese woman who is not all that she seems. Great historical research and rich atmosphere!”

Paulette Brooks, Elm Grove Public Library, Elm Grove, WI

--Post by Tracy

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Dream Come True: Australia Day, Part 2

Sydney Opera House
Since I was a teenager I had dreamed of visiting Australia. I longed to see the Sydney Opera House, spend time in the Outback and marvel at the Great Barrier Reef. It's hard to say when this dream actually started, but I think the seed was planted when I was about 13 and I got a small, stuffed koala as a present. A small collection soon followed.

Then in my late teens I saw this film that really set the dream in motion. The Man From Snowy River (1982) is a classic Australian film set in the mountains and flatlands of southeastern Australia in the late 19th century. It tells the story of a young man who becomes a part of a search for a wild horse. Why did a western from Australia make me want to go there? I have no idea, but it did lead me to watch other Australian films which led me, more and more, to wanting to visit this beautiful country.

Since Australia is so far away I never thought it would happen. I assumed that it would remain a dream. But five years ago I had the opportunity to accompany my husband on a business trip to Australia. My dream was finally going to come true!

Because of limited time we didn't really stray that far from Sydney. Which meant that I didn't get to see the Outback, the Great Barrier Reef or even the mountains from The Man From Snowy River. But that's o.k, because we still got to see some amazing places. One place in particular has stuck with me. It is now one of my favorite places.

The Blue Mountains
That place is about a two hour drive west of Sydney near a town called Katoomba - The Blue Mountains National Park. This very popular national park is a part of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area due to its many and varied examples of plant life which still produces great scientific discoveries. All I know, is that this was one of the most amazing sights I've ever seen in my life.

The Blue Mountains are technically a sandstone tableland and not mountains, but they still provide very challenging hiking trails nonetheless. My husband and I attempted one of these trails. I really enjoy being in the great outdoors but I am very far from being an outdoorswoman, but I knew that I had to do this.

The Three Sisters
Our hike started in the early morning at the Echo Point Lookout which provides the best view of The Three Sisters (above). One Aboriginal legend has it that these three pillars are three sisters from one tribe who fell in love with three brothers from another tribe that they were not allowed to marry. The brothers went to war over the sisters. An elder from the sisters' tribe turned the sisters to stone to protect them planning on reversing it when the war was over. Sadly, the elder was killed in battle and the sisters remained as stone pillars.

After a short climb down to the Three Sisters the difficult part began. We climbed down 872 steps and 1,000 feet to get to the valley. It was very steep in places and my left leg was incredibly sore the next day. But it was worth every step to see the view on the way down and the forest and the valley floor when we got to the bottom.

Ascending just a few of the 872 steps!

The walk across the valley was breathtaking. We saw such wonderful and unique trees and flowers. After walking 2.5 kilometres we were able to take a cable car back to the top. But the most interesting way to get to the bottom was the Katoomba Scenic Railway, originally built to haul coal out of the valley in the 1880s. So we decided to ride it down and then back up again. On the way down they played the Indiana Jones theme!

Katoomba Scenic Railway
I did get to experience one of my dreams on this trip. While visitors are no longer allowed to hold koalas they do allow visitors to touch and pet them. I was almost in tears when I touched this koala hanging out on his perch and munching on eucalyptus leaves. It is a prized memory.

Our other stops included The Barrington Tops National Park which includes a temperate rainforest, a ride on a train on the Zig Zag Railway, and a boat ride across Sydney Harbour to Manly Beach.

While I didn't get to see as many places as Ms. B did, I loved everything that I saw and every moment spent in this beautiful and amazing country!

Don't forget to watch for kangaroos or koalas crossing the road!

From the Catalog:

-- The Man From Snowy River [DVD] - the film that set the dream in motion!

-- The Man From Snowy River & Other Verses by A.B. Peterson - the poem that the film was based on.

-- Strictly Ballroom [DVD] - a hilarious look at an Australian ballroom champ who wants to break all the rules of dancing while his family desperately tries to stop him.

-- Breaker Morant [DVD] - Three Australian lieutenants are court martialed for executing prisoners as a way of deflecting attention from war crimes committed by their superior officers.

-- Muriel's Wedding [DVD] - Muriel longs for the big city life of Sydney in this Australian comedy.

-- Australia [DVD] - Baz Luhrmann's epic about an Australian ranch during World War II.

From the Web: 

-- The Lost Valley of the Wollemi Pine [Scientific American] - a 2012 article about the discovery of a species of tree thought long extinct found in the Blue Mountains.

-- How Australia Put Evolution on Darwin’s Mind [Smithsonian Magazine] - a 2015 article about Charles Darwin's little known trip to the Blue Mountains in 1836.

-- The Blue Mountains National Park - official page of the park.

--Post by Tracy