Archive for the ‘Valerie’s Reviews’ Category
Hear Ye, Hear Ye!
Lords and Ladies are encouraged to participate in a medieval reading quest this summer. The quest is open to everyone 18 years of age or older. Below are a few popular medieval historical fiction books and films from our collection to help transport you back in time:
- Agincourt: a novel by Bernard Cornwell. This is a tale about the battle of Agincourt. The story is vividly told through the eyes of an archer, Nicholas Hooks. Nicholas, a brilliant archer becomes a fugitive after striking a priest. Fleeing England, he soon finds himself in France, where he becomes a mercenary, witnessing some horrendous betrayal and violence. Forced to return home, he battles under the King’s sovereign as a member of the archer’s core to regain the throne of France. Amidst the atrocity of war, he saves a cloistered, young woman who he eventually takes as his wife. The best parts of the book are the vivid and compelling battles!
- Pope Joan [electronic resource (eBook)]: a novel by Donna Woolfolk Cross. It is blasphemous to even consider that there might once have been a female Pope. The very idea of a woman disguised as a man, seated on the papal throne in the 9th century, is an interesting legend or is it? Pope Joan, is inspiration to women everywhere. Despite the oppressive time period in which she lived, she stood up for herself, pursuing her own dreams and desires. Joan had a passion for knowledge but as the daughter of a canon who did not value women, she struggled to pursue an education. However, it was education opened up her world and she became a dedicated scholar and a celebrated healer. Defying the seemly insurmountable obstacles throughout her life was of course, all part of God’s plan. Perhaps the underlying story suggests that this tale might be the beginning of feminism. Whether fact or fiction, this is a great “I am woman hear me roar” story!
- The Kingmaker’s Daughter by Philippa Gregory. This is a gripping tale about Anne and Isabel, the daughters of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, told from Anne’s perspective. Without a male heir, their father, the Kingmaker uses his daughters as pawns in his political games as he makes war on his former friends. From early in their lives, these sisters have learned the true meaning of sibling rivalry, politics, conspiracy, revenge and most importantly, when to use it to their advantage. It is clear throughout the story that the two sisters take very different paths based on the harsh reality of power and its effect on their lives. Anne marries at age fourteen, to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who later becomes King Richard III, for both love and political advantage. Isabel marries the enemy. And the rest as they say, “is history.”
- The Confessions of Catherine de Medici: a novel by C.W. Gortner. Catherine was just one of the many royalties with a bad reputation. The book portrays Catherine as a woman, mother, queen, lover, friend, ruler, patriot, and the ultimate monarch. Written in the first person, the emotions evoked by each of these roles exquisitely reveal the character of the woman. The details of Catherine’s multifaceted life are flawlessly woven together to create a story that provides a whole new dimension to France’s ruling family during the 16th century. And, despite the fact she has been portrayed throughout history as a villainous, cold hearted woman, this novel challenges you to think otherwise about Catherine. Is it possible to love Catherine when history has done? You be the judge.
- Lionheart by Sharon Kay Penman. Treachery, treason, and trysts what more could one ask for on a medieval quest? The quest begins as the reader becomes acquainted with the four surviving sons of Henry Plantagenet and Eleanor of Aquitaine who were referred to as “The Devil’s Brood.” Richard I, the third son, known as the Lionheart, was a legend in his own time. After the death of his older siblings, Richard took the throne and, almost immediately, set off for the Holy Land. This 3rd Crusade was characterized by deadly campaigns among the Christians and the Saracens. Despite one bloody, brutal battle after another, Lionheart was admired and respected by his soldiers for his prowess as a battle commander and a warrior. His men loved him because he walked among them, toiled and fought alongside them, and protected them. Meanwhile, back in England, Richard’s youngest brother, John, plots to steal his crown.
- Camelot. The complete first season-(DVD) by Michael Hirst and Chris Chibnall. This is yet another adaptation of the King Arthur and the round table story. The streamlined version of the tale is set in lush Ireland and is supported by delightfully evil cast. Modern viewers will appreciate the feel of this edgy and provocative drama.
- The Tudors. The complete first season-(DVD) by Michael Hirst. This made for TV drama looks at the early life of King Henry VIII, beginning from his assumption of the British throne at the age of 19. As a young man, Henry VIII, is full of both passion and drive. He is compelled by the desire to establish his legacy early in his monarchy by having influence over European affairs. Political affairs were not his solitary focus; affairs of the heart seem at times to play an even larger role in creating his legacy. At times, his desire to make a difference in Europe’s progress is impaired by his need to covet another woman. In fact, his sexual libido and his exercise of power are so overt that some use this flaw for their personal gain. The LBPL owns seasons 1-3 of The Tudors.
- The Borgias. Season one-(DVD) by Neil Jordan. The Borgias is a historical fiction television drama series, set in the 16th century, and follows the rise of the Borgia family, an Italian dynasty of Spanish origin, to the pinnacle of the Roman Catholic Church. The series begins with the election of Rodrigo Borgia to the papacy with the help of his son and bribery. The simony used to win the election, enrages the College of Cardinals, and his rival decide to plot against him. Pope Alexander takes on his enemies with the help of his family, while striking alliances with other European powers to strengthen his position. Meanwhile, seeking to unseat him, Cardinal Della Rovere, travels across Italy and France seeking allies. Della Rovere persuades King Charles VIII of France to help him in remove Pope Alexander. Season one culminates with King Charles and his army, accompanied by Della Rovere, marching to Rome and challenging the Borgia family’s grip on power. The LBPL owns seasons 1&2 of The Borgias.
- The other Boleyn girl-(DVD) by Peter Morgan. This is the story of two sisters competing for the same man, a king. The drama loosely uses historical facts to frame this entertaining work of fiction using breathtaking cinematography to set the tone of the dialogue. Anne Boleyn woes King Henry VIII with her wily, womanly ways. The king, however, desires her shy sister, Mary. Angered by the King’s choice, Anne turns on her sister and schemes to become not only the King’s consort, but his new queen. Entranced by Anne, King Henry the VIII declares himself the Supreme Governor of the Church of England and separates from the Catholic Church so he can divorce his wife. Anne weds Henry and becomes Queen of England. The reminder of the story now is focused on Henry’s mission to create a male heir to the throne and the problems this goal creates for all involved. This is a truly a family drama!
Summary: This Starz made for TV drama series, Boss, written by Farhad Safinia and produced by Stella Stolper, is all about the power, control, and secrecy used by the politico to succeed. Set in Chicago, the story follows the day-to-day actions of the protagonist, mayor, Thomas Kane. Chicago Aldermen, representing many of the ethnic groups of the Windy City’s melting pot, vie for political favors from not only the mayor, but also each other. Of course, each favor comes at quite a cost. Being related to the mayor is also a liability. The mayor’s immediate family is dysfunctional at best and this lack of family functionality provides the additional thematic material used throughout the eight episodes to create a complex and intriguing drama.
Review: After watching episode one, I was not sure I would continue to watch the remaining seven episodes because I found the film to be an assault on my senses and ethical beliefs. This being said, I feel compelled to forewarn potential viewers that this series is a lot like an extreme, twenty-first century version of The Godfather. The screenwriter relies heavily on the use of overt sex and violence to convey the power and control possessed by the Mayor Kane. Few topics explored in the series seem to be taboo, and most seem to be based on actual Chicago events.
The characters in the story are the mayor, his staff, the city aldermen, and to a lesser extent his wife and daughter, as well as other government officials. Each episode’s plot is meticulously revealed through the narrative threads woven by the main as well as the supporting characters. This serial drama relies on the previous episode to develop the story line of the current episode to chronicle a day in the life of Mayor Kane. Each day is filled with the jobs needed to get done by the mayor’s office, no matter what the cost. Moreover, every endeavor undertaken by the Mayor and his staff is aimed at enhancing, protecting, or repairing his legacy. Actor Kelsey Grammer, known for his comedic rather than dramatic roles, brilliantly portrays the story’s manipulative, corrupt, and ruthless Mayor Thomas Kane. Grammer’s performance is complimented by an equally talented supporting cast, which makes the series very compelling. Boss is dramatic, intense, unsettling, and definitely not for the faint of heart.
More Movies Like This: If you enjoy mature and intelligent, adult dramas like The Sopranos, 24, The Wire, and Boardwalk Empire, you will love Boss. Other DVD films owned by the Lake Bluff Library that possess political or mob themes are GoodFellas, Public Enemies, American Gangster, The Vegas Casino War, and There Will Be Blood.
Availability: Season one of the TV DVD series Boss is available for patrons at the Lake Bluff Library.
Review by Valerie
COUNTY: Life, Death and Politics at Chicago’s Public Hospital (by David Ansell,M.D.:Nonfiction) © 2011
Posted August 13, 2012on:
Summary: David Ansell’s exposé on health care at County, Chicago’s publicly funded hospital, is insightful and thought provoking. The reader is introduced to the many problems and inequities patients and physicians encounter when treatment occurs at a public hospital for low-income and uninsured patients. However, perhaps in spite of itself and Chicago politics, County and its physicians are responsible for the creation of many highly regarded patient treatment and education programs, such as: the Women’s Early Breast Cancer Detection program, the Burn Treatment Center, the Asthma Treatment Center, the Maternal and Infant Health Center, and the Infectious Disease Prevention and Treatment Center as well as the first Trauma Unit, the world’s first Blood Bank and the first Cobalt-beam Therapy Unit. These are impressive health care accomplishments for any hospital but even more so for a hospital dependent on government funding. Finally, in 2002, Cook County Hospital was replaced by the John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital. The addition of this the new medical facility eliminated one of the many inhumane conditions patient’s faced at County but it did not eliminate the social inequalities of poverty. Overcoming many obstacles, County/Stroger Hospital continues to strive to provide adequate health care for all.
Review: Health care in the United States has been and always will be a hot button topic. Whether one believes that adequate health care is a basic human right or a privilege, author/physician David Ansell constantly reminds the reader that a person’s quality of life is directly related to their health and no matter if one is rich or poor, politics always plays a role in health care public policy formation. That being said, the author goes about describing how he and his colleagues fought against a formidable foe, namely politics, to create renowned healthcare protocol and programs to better serve the healthcare needs of those they serve. Ansell clearly became a physician because he wanted to help people. Employing great compassion and humanity, he recounts patient stories in a thought provoking manner connecting the patient’s health issues to their life and death. As a healthcare activist, he fought for the under served, now however, he fights for a system that provides adequate medical care for all.
Read-a-likes: My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor is a personal account of how the Harvard trained neuroanatomist recovered from a stroke and retrained her brain using her in depth understanding of the human brain’s inner workings. Her recovery chronicles the physical and emotional journey of a woman trying to become whole. This book is available in the library’s nonfiction collection in several formats: hardcover, audio book, and eAudiobook.
Review by Valerie.
Summary: This HBO film, based on the book by Andrew Ross Sorkin, chronicles the 2008 United States economic crisis. Screenplay writer Peter Gould clearly illuminates the thought process behind the bank bailout plan and the steps taken by the U.S. government to avert financial disaster. The story begins after the Government allows Leman Brothers to go bust, chronicling the period of financial failure beginning with the collapse of Bear Stearns through the rise of TARP.
Review: This is a story about financial greed. The characters in the story are bankers and government officials. It is through their actions and dialogue that the story’s crisis is revealed. The movie concentrates on how the crisis was averted, one day and bank at a time, rather than why the crisis happened. Actors William Hurt and Paul Giamatti, convincingly portrayed the story’s hero, Henry Paulson Jr., and the doomsayer, Ben Bernanke, respectively. Both characters have done a brilliant job convincing the audience that without immediate intervention, the economy faced imminent collapse. The viewer comes to realize that this impending collapse was brought on by the financial industry’s reckless deregulation and subsequent risk ladened borrowing by consumers. This gluttony brought banks and insurance companies down to their knees as they faced default. As most know, after Lehman Brothers failed, the government steps in to save banks and the country from an economic catastrophe. Mr. Bernanke makes it clear; doing nothing would have catastrophic consequences. The only solution was to create something “Too Big to Fail.”
More Movies Like This: Other films owned by the Lake Bluff Library that address the financial crisis are the Inside Job, and Margin Call. If you enjoyed the movie Too Big to Fail you might try reading Sorkin’s book with the same title and other accounts of the 2008 financial crisis such as Michael Lewis’ The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, Bethany McLean’s All the Devils Are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis, Suzanne McGee’s Chasing Goldman Sachs : how the masters of the universe melted Wall Street down– and why they’ll take us to the brink again, and Damon Vickers’ The Day After the Dollar Crashes: a survival guide for the rise of the new world order.
Review by Valerie
Summary: This story is set in 18th century England and it is here that Dr. Thomas Silkstone, a Philadelphia trained anatomist, has come to continue his own education as a medical doctor and forensic scientist, as well as lecture to the anatomy students of Christ Church College. As a forensic expert, he is called upon to investigate the sudden death of Lady Lydia Farrell’s brother, Sir Edward Crick. Despite the fact that his fellow townsmen despised Sir Edward, their rumors have implicated her husband, Captain Michael Farrell in his death. Silkstone, with the help of his forensic and medical training along with deductive reasoning, navigates his way through unforeseen twists and turns and ultimately determines who killed Crick.
Review: The Anatomist’s Apprentice is a fairly fast paced mystery that chronicles the progress made in understanding scientific principles and human anatomy, as well as the reluctance of some to embrace these new theories acquired during the age of enlightenment. References to social class and mores of the day also help to establish the true nature of characters within the storyline. Vividly descriptive language enable readers to see, smell, and hear every detail used to explore and unravel the mystery. Overall, this book is an intriguing tale of good versus evil, love, murder, mystery, and heroism. Any reader who watches NCIS or CSI will enjoy reading this period, forensic mystery.
Read-a-likes: Cat of the Century by Rita Mae Brown, Double TakebyCatherine Coulter, The Keepsake by Tess Gerritsen, Port Mortuary by Patricia Daniels Cornwell, The Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin, and The Alienist by Caleb Carr are all novels which feature sleuths in historical context.
Review by Valerie.
Summary: 2CELLOS are the dynamic, classically trained, celli duo of Luka Šulić and Stjepan Hausner. Given that Elvis is considered the King of Rock-n-Roll, these two might be considered the modern day wizards of instrumental music, creating an eclectic tracklist filled with popular rock and pop songs. The magic happens as these musicians use a variety of playing techniques, including rapid bowing, pizzicato, and percussive slaps to capture the melodic intricacies of popular music such as “Smooth Criminal,” “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and “Welcome to the Jungle” with the same emotion and interpretation they would afford a piece of classical music.
Label: Sony Masterworks
Review: Simply put, these two guys make playing the cello cool! Every time I listen to this CD, I smile. While some classical music purist may disagree, I have come to realize that current pop and rock music can be filled with the same rhythmic complexities and melodic depth found in most classical performances. Luka Šulić and Stjepan Hausner impress me with their pure musicianship, sheer energy, and masterful interpretation of a wide range of artists from Michael Jackson to Nirvana.
There is nothing new about the cello, it has been around for centuries, and is still considered more of a rhythmic element in classical music pieces. Until more recently, the cello did not get a lot of recognition as a solo instrument. This duo’s approach, however, is to use the celli for both the rhythm and the melody of these songs in a bold and sometimes competitive, musical call and response form. In addition to the call and response commentary, Šulić and Hausner also place an emphasis on capturing and expressing the texture and percussive qualities of the rock and pop music they perform, which truly makes each piece come alive. Luka Šulić and Stjepan Hausner have artfully knocked down the walls dividing two music genres, classical and rock/pop. While Beethoven may roll over upon hearing this work, Bach is definitely screaming, “rock on.”
Sound-a-likes: While nobody has the same energy or sounds exactly like the 2CELLOS, instrumental renditions of current pop and rock music by other, classically trained, artists such as the Vitamin String Quartet, The Section Quartet, The String Quartet, Break of Reality, or Apocalytica are already popular among listeners who enjoy instrumental music.
Availability: This music is available from the Lake Bluff Public Library as a CD or as downloadable music from the Library’s freegal music site. Check the Lake Bluff Library catalog for current availability!