What I’ve Been Watching…

Angel DVD set

After watching all the available seasons of Supernatural, I needed to find something to fill the Winchester void. Many positive recommendations later I decided to watch Angel, a show that finished airing on television so I wouldn’t have to wait for the DVDs to be released. I wanted something with a paranormal element, lots of action, and writing filled with wit and sarcasm and I found it! Being a fan of Bones, I already knew I was going to like watching David Boreanaz as the lead character. He plays Angel, a 250-year-old vampire who is trying to redeem his soul by “helping the hopeless.” He forms an agency in Los Angeles and recruits employees from his past to help clients plagued by demons, ghosts, and other creatures of the night. Important questions like, “Did you ever wonder what would happen if you were turned into a puppet?” and “What does Mad Men’s Pete Campbell look like with long hair?” and “Why do I hate Rita from Dexter so much?” are answered throughout the five season series.

smile time puppet

 

Lisa Shaia is the children’s librarian who will be going back even further in time to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

What I’ve Been Reading

Tana French Series

Tana French writes a set of psychological thrillers that take place in Ireland. She’s up to five so far and each one centers on a different detective in the “Dublin Murder Squad.” Not a traditional series, her books always delight and surprise with complex plots, rich characters, and a murder mystery that has more layers than a really good Superbowl dip. Her characters have flaws and childhoods that leave them with lingering baggage that they carry with them while on the job. The best thing about these is that you don’t have to read them in order since they don’t overlap in any way. If you’re looking for a meaty story for a snowy day you’ve found one. Pick one up (any one) before they’re developed into a movie series!

Lisa Shaia is the children’s librarian who is listening to Irish music after putting French’s books down.

What I’ve Been Watching

mentalist

The Mentalist‘s main character, Patrick Jane, is a charming and suave man with a brain reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes. The television series chronicles a police department located in San Francisco that uses Jane as a consultant to solve murders. His acute powers of observation and “magic” tricks help solve crimes without forensic evidence and are a delight to watch. His team gels together midway through the first season when he forms a true partnership with team captain Teresa Lisbon. This show can be added to your binge watching list for the winter months! Throughout the series you can see character flashback episodes, learn how Jane sharpened his skills growing up as a Carney, and best of all watch all the gag reels on the six seasons which are available on DVD at OWL.

Lisa Shaia is the children’s librarian who can’t wait to see who Red John turns out to be!

What I’ve Been Watching

bones (1)

My husband and I started watching the television show based on Kathy Reichs’ book series, Bones. It has all the good ingredients of a successful, long lasting show (now in its tenth season): great chemistry between main characters, love triangles galore, and bizarre murder mysteries that you hope never happen to anyone you know! The two main characters, forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan and FBI special agent Seeley Booth, have the same sexual chemistry that Mulder and Scully had throughout the X-Files. Most episodes end with my husband and me yelling at the TV telling the characters to just take the plunge already. Their props department does a fantastic job of creating skeletons that have exploded, melted, and decayed after endless murder scenarios. We even watch the DVD extras about how the special effects department makes some scenes come to life. And, no binge watching season is complete without a gag reel where you get to see the stars of the show grasp for words and try not to giggle through an autopsy.

 

What I’ve Been Reading

Everything I Never Told You

“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” Everything I Never Told You is a haunting story about what happens to a family after the unexpected death of its favorite daughter: 16 year-old, Lydia. In the surest sign of a great book, I found myself looking for any spare moment I could in order to keep reading. Every day I kept my fingers crossed for an extra-long nap from my girls so I could find out what happened to Lydia Lee. Set in small-town Ohio in the 1970s and told through the alternating perspectives of Lydia’s parents—Marilyn, a brilliant woman whose future was forever altered when she fell in love with James, a professor of American history and son of Chinese immigrants; and Lydia’s siblings—Harvard-bound Nathan and observant fifth-grader Hannah. The reader is fully immersed in the world of the Lee family and the secrets that led to the shocking death of its central member. This absorbing debut novel is a story of lost dreams, fitting in, and the expectations of family. Not to be missed.

Patricia Moore is a part-time librarian at the OWL.

What I’ve Been Watching

Jack Bauer

With the resurgence of action hero Jack Bauer in the new release of 24: Live Another Day, I’ve decided to give the television show “24” a shot (pun intended!). The original show ran for eight seasons and was groundbreaking in terms of filming scenes in “real time” (one-hour of television equals one-hour of “real life”). Each season equals one day in counter intelligence officer Jack Bauer’s life. His mission is to save the world and he does so again and again battling terrorists and nuclear weapons, while becoming close with American Presidents. The action, suspense, betrayal and intrigue set the bar for an action show. Give it a try, but don’t watch too close to bedtime. Your heart will be racing too much to go to sleep!

Lisa Shaia is the children’s librarian who is counting down the days for 24: Live Another Day to be released on DVD.

Cotton Candy Reads: Deliciously Fun, Super Sweet, and Lighter than Air

 

cottoncandy

I have been a “seasonal” reader for as long as I can remember.  Horror in the autumn; epic, doorstop-sized fantasies and bildungsroman carry me through the long winter; followed by short stories and continuing series in the spring.  As we head into summer, I find myself looking for a particular type of book: it needs to be fun, fast, and affecting.  There are lots of terms for these novels, “chick-lit” may be seen as the most dismissive, with “women’s fiction” and “domestic fiction” also being tinged with the implication that these books are “less than”–less literary, less serious and therefore less important.  This type of pigeon-holing is true of most genre fiction, but “chick-lit” seems to suffer even more because it is primarily read by (and written by) women.  So, before we get to the reading recommendations let me begin with this disclaimer: I love chick-lit!  I do not find it to be silly or pointless or less worthy than “literary fiction.”  There is value to books that are fun, sweet, and light (to reference this post’s title).  There is value to being entertained and loving a story so much that you cannot put the book down.  Lastly, there is value in all types of books–no need to disparage an entire genre simply because it is popular and entertaining.

Now, on to the books:

Series fiction with quirky, likable heroines:

size12bigstonegap

Meg Cabot is an author I have adored for years.  Known for writing across age groups, Cabot has written wonderful series for children, teens, and adults.  Like many of her formerly-teen/currently-adult fans I was thrilled to read that she will be continuing her Princess Diaries series with an adult title being released next summer that follows Princess Mia as she plans her wedding to Michael Moscovitz.  In addition to Princess Mia, another favorite Meg Cabot heroine of mine is Heather Wells–a former teen pop star who works in a residence hall at a NYC college and becomes wrapped up in several mysteries–the first book in this series is Size 12 is Not Fat.

Adriana Trigiani, like Meg Cabot, delivers romance in wonderful series of books.  The Big Stone Gap series (my personal favorite) follows Ave Maria Mulligan, a pharmacist in the town of Big Stone Gap, Virginia.  A whole lot of heart, a great setting, and a wonderful cast of characters make this the perfect example of Trigiani’s work.  Check these out quick!  With Big Stone Gap (the movie!) being released this year there is sure to be renewed interest surrounding these fantastic titles.

Magical realism and the thrice-named-Sarahs:

gardenspellsblessed

I love books that have a little bit of magic woven into the story and nobody does it better than these two (in addition to magic there is also quite a bit of food in their stories–this makes me very happy).  If you need a place to start I would pick up Garden Spells (a story of two sisters, the magical plants they care for, and the town in which they live) by Sarah Addison Allen and Blessed Are the Cheesemakers (two lost souls, a small Irish dairy farm, and a colorful cast of characters) by Sarah-Kate Lynch.

Funny, fast & affecting but not quite as light, aka the “heavy hitters” of chick-lit:

goodinbedlittleearthquakesdivinesushifireflylaneflyaway

Jennifer Weiner is one of my favorite authors ever, in any genre.  Her books are funny, heartwarming, and impossible to put down–not in an “I-need-to-find-out-who-the-murderer-is” way, but definitely in a “what-amazing-women-and-relationships-where-will-they-go-from-here?” way.  As a reader of all her titles, Good in Bed and Little Earthquakes are tied for first as far as my personal favorites go.  And just for fun, another avenue to witness the hilarity of Jennifer Weiner is by following her tweets (@jenniferweiner) during episodes of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette (the only time I miss having cable is when these shows are airing and I’m unable to follow along with the insanity).

Rebecca Wells is best know for Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and the companion novels Little Altars Everywhere and Ya-Ya’s in Bloom.  Set in Louisiana and following the lives of four best friends from their shared childhood through the joy and sorrow of marriages, raising children, and growing old.  Her writing is evocative and the characters fully realized.  Of the three novels, Divine Secrets is my favorite because in addition to the Ya-Yas it also tells the poignant mother-daughter story of Vivi and Sidda–with Sidda’s narrative being set in the present.  If you missed reading these during the height of their popularity, now’s your chance.

Marian Keyes has written many wonderful novels, the best one (in my humble opinion) being Sushi for Beginners.  “A nervous breakdown seems like a great idea: all that lying in bed and watching daytime TV. But who’s going to have it? Will it be housewife Clodagh, who spends her days microwaving pasta for her demanding toddlers and waiting for her beautiful husband Dylan to come home? Or Lisa, hard, brittle and shiny as an M&M, reeling from the shock of a demotion from her fabulous job in London to a one-horse magazine in Dublin? Or Ashling, so normal she’s weird?”(from Ms. Keyes’ website).

Most of Kristin Hannah’s books are categorized as “domestic fiction” or “women’s fiction” with topics a bit too weighty (the term “heart-wrenching” is used often) and serious to place them in the sphere of chick lit.  Firefly Lane is an exception to this–“spanning more than three decades and playing out across the ever-changing face of the Pacific Northwest, Firefly Lane is the poignant, powerful story of two women and the friendship that becomes the bulkhead of their lives.”  Don’t get me wrong this title, and it’s companion novel Fly Away Home, are far from light and fluffy, but there is a universal appeal to this novel of friendship.

We read for so many reasons: to continue learning new things, to nurture our feelings of empathy towards others, to expand our horizons and sometimes simply for the pleasure and joy that comes from reading a well-written, engaging and FUN story.  Don’t hide your bright, jewel-toned volumes of chick-lit!  Carry them proudly and be sure to read in public so that all those naysayers can see what a happy reader looks like. 🙂

~ Patricia is a part-time librarian at the OWL who during the warmer months of the year, also enjoys reading books set in the South–so much so that she is convinced she was Southern in a past life.

My Dear Watson

Watson actors

One of the first series I remember reading was the Sherlock Holmes stories. By the time I was 11, I had read everything in the children’s section at my local library (remember that the publishing field in children’s and teens wasn’t nearly as prolific as it is now). It was the first time I went into the adult stacks. I felt so grown up, especially when I started reading the stories. I think it was the first time I used a dictionary while reading for pleasure. I loved the complex plots, Dr. Watson’s observations, and most of all Sherlock’s power of deduction. After watching a few new re-inventions of Sherlock, I remembered when I tried to become Sherlock’s protégé. I observed details about relatives and said them aloud. As you can imagine, my observations went over like a lead balloon. I concocted my own recipe for lifting fingerprints, which consisted of shoe polish and baby powder. I think it took me two whole weekends to clean up my mess. I recruited my little sister to be my Watson, keeping a journal of my witty remarks. My mother had enough and I was told to read something else. I don’t know how happy she was when I brought home Stephen King, but at least I didn’t ask for a dog!

My favorite things about the Sherlock stories haven’t changed over the years. In fact, with new Sherlock stories being made into movies, mini-series, and television series I’m ready to rediscover the original stories. If you haven’t tried any of the new Sherlock’s, I urge you to give them a try:

Elementary

There are many twists and turns in the television series, Elementary, featuring Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock and Lucy Liu as Watson. Miller’s Sherlock is a recovering addict who fled to New York City to begin anew. His Dr. Watson, played by a woman, is his live-in sober companion who keeps him on the straight and narrow. Their chemistry reminds me of Mulder and Scully in the X-Files days. Their cop partner is played by Aidan Quinn, who is fabulous as always! The storylines in NYC are never dull. Plus, they develop the arch-enemy Moriarty plot line throughout the season. It builds to a climax in the final episode of the season with a twist you will never expect! I keep waiting for Lucy Liu to whip up one of her Kill Bill fight scenes, but it hasn’t happened yet. Maybe when the second season comes out on DVD.

Sherlock Holmes character posters of Robert Downey Jr as Sherlock and Jude Law and Watson

Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes and Game of Shadows features Robert Downey, Jr. as Sherlock and Jude Law as Watson. These movies are highly entertaining on so many levels. The signature highlight being the slow-motion fight scenes. Sherlock, being a student of martial arts, gets himself into physical danger at every turn down a dark alley. Of course, you can’t help but laugh at the banter between two A-list actors in every scene they appear together. The endings of the two films are always surprising, with an Ocean’s 11-style recap.

Sherlock Benedict

The BBC’s hit mini-series features Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock and Martin Freeman as Watson. My husband and I were apprehensive in watching this series. We loved Elementary so much, we didn’t think that another version of the story could compare. I’m glad we decided to watch this after much coaxing from my fellow librarians! The BBC version has its own trademark on the classic stories and in no way diminishes or competes with the American television series. The close-up camera details of the murder scene and victim bring details to the viewer as Sherlock is observing them. I can never quite figure out how Sherlock is going to solve the case, but he inevitably does.

OWL has all the original Sherlock stories. If you’re looking for a place to start reading the classics, here are a few ideas:

Scandal in Bohemia“: This story is the one and only where Irene Adler makes an appearance. Irene has been magnified in my favorite films to be Sherlock’s love interest / girlfriend / wife, though in the original story she outwits Sherlock and never returns into his life.

The Adventure of the Final Problem“: This is only one of two stories that have Sherlock’s nemesis, Moriarty, in it. Sherlock refers to him often, but he only appears in two stories. You meet him in the flesh and see him for his true “Napoleon of Crime” self, as Sherlock describes him.

The Adventure of the Speckled Band“: Author, Conan Doyle, identified this as his favorite story. He loved it so much, he wrote and produced a play based on this story. The plot is very complex and involves a “cold-case” murder that was committed two years prior.

With four novels, and 56 stories I think I’m going to be busy a while!

JLM HolmesLisa Shaia is the children’s librarian who will be watching other Jonny Lee Miller films over the weekend.

 

Supernatural

Supernatural xfiles

Even though the show has been running for the past eight years, I recently discovered the television series Supernatural. The premise is simple: two brothers take over the family business of hunting demons, vampires, and other supernatural creatures. The brothers, Sam and Dean, travel cross country saving lives in a ’67 Impala nicked named Baby. My younger self is staring at me as I type this with her mouth hanging open in shock and disbelief…but this show is better than The X-Files. I know, I know, I didn’t think it was possible either, but it is!

My husband normally doesn’t watch anything that isn’t firmly grounded in reality. His favorite shows involve cops and lawyers. Every time I have this show on when he comes home from work, he gets sucked right in! I think it was their classic car that originally caught his attention, but he’s equally enjoying this show with me now. He joins Dean in his ’80’s ballad sing-alongs on their long journeys, including Bon Jovi‘s “Wanted Dead or Alive,” REO Speedwagon’s “I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore,” and Asia’s “Heat of the Moment.”

If the witty dialogue and acting isn’t a good enough reason for you to take a look, try keeping up with pop culture references in each forty-two minute episode. I’m constantly pausing and Googling as I watch to make sure I’m not missing anything. Even the show titles crack me up: “Season Seven, Time for a Wedding,” “The Girl with the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo,” “Dog Dean Afternoon.” So, before you begin reading the official Wiki page, I have a list of my top-five episodes that will make you start watching. This is really hard for me, kind of like choosing my favorite children:

supernatural teddy bear

Season 4, episode 8: Wishful Thinking

Word gets out that a wishing fountain actually works, and soon a tiny town is overrun with life-size teddy bears contemplating what the meaning of life is, and very odd couples in love. Of course, when magic is involved there is always a high price to pay for it. Still, it made me wonder what I would wish for. (Is anybody else thinking Sam and Dean clones?)

Supernatural books

Season 4, episode 18: The Monster at the End of This Book

Sam and Dean interview a comic book shop owner and find out that they are characters in a cult series. Every detail about their lives (and near future lives) is chronicled in a book series called Supernatural. There’s a fan club and Cosplay group that centers around their exciting lives, and they join in on the fun for one murder mystery evening. They are surrounded by men who are dressed like them and look-a-likes of their past girlfriends. Creepy, yes; funny, hell yes!

Supernatural tv

Season 5, episode 8: Changing Channels

The brothers get caught in a TV version of hell, channel surfing their way through a Japanese game show, a forensics drama, a sitcom, and a sexy medical series. They have to “act” the roles they are assigned in order to get back to their normal lives. The best part of this episode is that they are thrown into a show similar to “Grey’s Anatomy” where they meet a patient, Denny Duquette, who is in desperate need of a heart transplant. Denny’s character was played by actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan who also played Sam and Dean’s father in the series’ first season. I told you, you needed to keep up!

supernatural french

Season 6, episode 15: The French Mistake

Sam and Dean are put into an alternate universe where they are Jared Padalecki (the actor who plays Sam) and Jensen Ackles (the actor who plays Dean). They jump through a window and are transported to the set of a television series called Supernatural. In this world, supernatural beings are fictional and there is no such thing as hunters. They find out the history of their alter egos and are horrified when they learn about their pasts. Jared is married to the actress who played a demon in season 4, and Jensen began his acting career on a soap opera! They try everything to get out of their Hollywood personas, and boy is it great to watch.

supernatural gun

Season 8, episode 8: Hunteri Heroici

This slapstick episode is where Supernatural meets Looney Tunes. A murder investigation begins with a man whose heart literally came out of his chest at the sight of his true love. A robber drops an anvil on a bank teller, and then draws a black hole to leave the scene of the crime. This made me check out old episodes of Bugs and Road Runner.

So who’s coming with me to Comic Con next year?

supernatural bobbyLisa Shaia is the children’s librarian who’s re-watching the best death episode ever filmed from Season 7, episode 10 called Death’s Door.

Literary Destinations

Living in our neck of the woods is the perfect location. We’re just a couple of hours from New York or Boston and have so many opportunities for awesome day trips! My husband and I have been taking advantage on the weekends and going on literary adventures. The children’s librarian in me is delighted with all there is to offer for picture book lovers:

Eric Carle Pigeon

The Eric Carle Picture Book Museum (Amherst, MA) is just about an hour and a half drive. (OWL’s pass admits two adults and four children into the museum for free.) In addition to housing Eric Carle’s art from various picture books, their exhibitions change about every six months and feature a mix of prolific and new picture book artists. This is one museum where I feel right at home, not having to worry too much about whispering and acting proper. Recently there was a Mo Willems exhibit that I had to see! I had fun with Pigeon (even though neither of us got to drive the bus), Knuffle Bunny, and Elephant and Piggie. In addition to being an art museum, there is a craft room to try out different art techniques. Even adults get to play with all of their fun art tools! Their library is full of Caldecott honors and winners, and the newest additions to the picture book medium. They have a regularly scheduled storytime for families, featuring new and classic picture books for all to enjoy. Their gift shop is expansive and has lots of signed books for gift giving, baby literacy-related toys, and even literacy-related clothes! (I had to buy myself a Pigeon shirt!)

Boston Public Courtyard

After spending a recent fall weekend in Boston, I went to the Boston Public Library (Boston, MA) for the first time. The library is amazing in size, offerings, and collections. The children’s room is named after the writer and illustrator of the Curious George series: Margret and H.A. Rey. But the most amazing thing about the library was the outdoor courtyard. Everyone was outside, eating snacks, on their laptops using the Wi-Fi, and reading various types of publications. If my husband and I lived in Boston, we agreed that lots of our spare time would be spent here!

Make Way for Ducklings

A short walk from the Boston Public Library is the Boston Public Gardens (Boston, MA). The park has a Make Way for Ducklings statue. If you’re not familiar with this classic children’s book it tells the story of Mr. and Mrs. Mallard who can’t decide on the perfect place to start a family. The ducklings hatch and Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack follow Mama on a great adventure until they finally decide to live in the Gardens. This was the fifth book to win the Caldecott Medal in 1942 for most distinguished picture book. There’s always a line to have your picture taken with the family, but it’s well worth it.

Wild Things

My first visit to the New York Public Library (New York City, NY) was just one month ago. They were having a special exhibit called Why Children’s Books Matter. You can poke around for hours in this amazing exhibit. You can stomp through a Wild Things doorway, pause to read in the Goodnight Moon window, follow Harold’s Purple Crayon around the room, and walk through the rabbit hole from Alice in Wonderland. It was so neat to see where the first children’s room was created and where the first storytime was done in the world. I paid my tribute to Anne Carroll Moore, the first children’s librarian, on my way out the door.

Good Night Moon Room

The Children’s Museum  (New Haven, CT) also has a Goodnight Moon Room. Each room in the Children’s Museum is based on one of the theories of multiple intelligences. The Goodnight Room is the “linguistic” room and features the classic book in many different languages including Spanish, French, Korean, Japanese, Hebrew, and Braille. I just want to curl up and listen to a bedtime story in this peaceful space.

There are plenty of other day trips to take in the area to visit some “grownup” authors. We plan on making these visits, too:

Mark Twain House exterior

Mark Twain House (Hartford, CT) (OWL’s pass admits one complimentary adult admission with the purchase of one adult admission OR two complimentary child admissions with the purchase of one adult admission.)

Emily Dickinson House

Emily Dickinson Museum (Amherst, MA)

The Mount Edith Wharton

The Mount (Edith Wharton’s Home in Lenox, MA)

Alcott House

Alcott House (in Concord, MA where Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women)

New Bedford Whaling

New Bedford Whaling Museum (New Bedford, MA where Herman Melville left on the voyage that inspired Moby Dick)

What’s your favorite literary destination?

Lisa Shaia is the children’s librarian who is adding The Art Institute of Chicago to her Someday List to see the sixty-eight miniature rooms that inspired the children’s series The 68 Rooms.