Recently, I downloaded the movie DVD Flyboys from the Library's Hoopla database. It's the story of several young Americans who go to France and volunteer to fight the Germans. One is trying to escape the law, one has lost a ranch, one is trying to impress his father, and one wants to become a pilot for the US Mail Service. One pilot becomes romantically involved with a local girl. It's a motley crew of Americans in search of themselves. Regardless, they become the first French fighter pilot squadron. It also emphasizes the plight of the French people, who must live with the threat of war and destruction day after day.
The storyline is excellent, and there are many great special effects. I was very impressed with the acting. It's an exciting, historical movie that I'm sure you'll enjoy.
I've always been curious about Stephen Hawking. I must admit, I don't know much about him, except that he is a brilliant scientist. While browsing the Hoopla movie site on the library webpage, I spotted the movie "Hawking" and decided to watch it. I was glad I did!
I learned that Hawking grew up in a very intellectual family. He attended Oxford and Cambridge. Although he didn't consider himself among the brightest, he excelled at his studies - with very little effort, I might add! During the prime of his life, he started experiencing seizures. Hawking was diagnosed with ALS ( Lou Gehrig's Disease). He was told he had 2 to 3 years to live. This didn't stop him from getting a PhD, marrying, raising a family and excelling at Physics.
This is a great documentary about one of the world's greatest scientists, who is included with such greats as Galileo and Newton. He had to overcome many obstacles to achieve success - more than the average person. Hawking did it, and is, indeed, an example to us all.
No Impact Man
I recently downloaded the Hoopla movie No Impact Man (2009), a documentary about a couple and daughter who tried to change their lives so they wouldn't leave a "carbon imprint" on the planet's environment. Although this is a very noble cause, the results were not what they expected. The family decided to walk rather than use their air-polluting automobiles, eat only locally produced vegetables, go meatless, grow food in a common garden in the city, give up television and electricity all together. They designed their own make-shift refrigerator and compost box. They made their own environmental cleaning products from vinegar, baking soda and castile soap. This experiment lasted a year, with occasional television and radio interviews. You'll be surprised at the outcome. This movie is well worth your time.
Natchez Burning, by Greg Iles
Natchez Burning is this reviewer's introduction to a book written by Greg Iles. Actually, it is the first book of a planned trilogy and what a story teller Iles is. Iles begins this tale in 1964 with racially-driven, brutal killings in Natchez, Mississippi. Then, the story moves on to 2005 and the reader meets Penn Cage, the mayor of Natchez. For Iles's fans, this is the fourth book featuring Penn Cage, a very likeable and fine man who will be the main character in the trilogy. Penn's father Tom Cage, a physician in Natchez, could be arrested for the murder of an older black nurse who had worked for Tom in her much-younger years. The murders from 1964 then become involved in the story. An evil splinter group of the KKK, the Double Eagles, were the culprits in the 1964 crimes and are still determined to remain a potent force in Mississippi and Louisiana. From there, the story takes off with Penn Cage trying to clear his father of any connection to his former nurse's death, Tom Cage fleeing from arrest, the Double Eagles continuing to perform awful crimes, and many other events as Iles weaves his terrific story for the reader to enjoy. Iles has a wonderful writing style and fills this book with so much Southern atmosphere as well as suspense. His characters, be they good or evil, are solidly built. In all, Natchez Burning is an absorbing and excellently written story and leaves the reader eager to continue to volume 2 of Iles's trilogy.
The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate
This stirring and unforgettable novel from renowned author Katherine Applegate celebrates the transformative power of unexpected friendships. Inspired by the true story of a captive gorilla known as Ivan, this illustrated novel is told from the point-of-view of Ivan himself.
Having spent 27 years behind the glass walls of his enclosure in a shopping mall, Ivan has grown accustomed to humans watching him. He hardly ever thinks about his life in the jungle. Instead, Ivan occupies himself with television, his friends Stella and Bob, and painting. But when he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from the wild, he is forced to see their home, and his art, through new eyes.
In the tradition of timeless stories like Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little, Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan's unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.
The Chocolate Touch, by Patrick Skene Catling
Can you ever have too much of your favorite food? John Midas is about to find out.... In a laugh-out-loud hilarious twist on the legend of King Midas, a boy acquires a magical gift that turns everything his lips touch into chocolate.
The best word to describe the downloadable movie Red Lights (2012) is suspenseful. The lead characters, Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) and Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy), are experts on psychic fraud. They search for scientific answers to what appear to be paranormal phenomenon. When psychic Simon Silver (Robert DeNiro) reemerges - following several years of hiding after a critic was killed - they set out to prove he is a hoax. Buckley is left to pursue the truth after Matheson's sudden demise. There's a very clever twist at the end, which you'll never see coming!
The Girl on the Train
As I was browsing Hoopla, the library's free movie database, I spotted the title The Girl on the Train. I remembered seeing this as a coming attraction in the movie theater, but never got a chance to see it. So I decided to download it.
The movie is very mysterious. An independent movie maker meets a strange girl on a train, while he's traveling to film a documentary about a Holocaust survivor. After a suspenseful discussion, she disembarks, and he thinks he will never see her again. However, she runs into him again, and they become close friends. She eventually talks him into filming her ex-husband for a divorce trial, and he finally agrees. Then the trouble begins!
The action is tricky to follow as we flashback to his interview of the Holocaust survivor; but if you stick with it, you'll be surprised and entertained. There's a very unique twist at the end. Try to approach this downloadable movie with an open mind.
The Handy Islam Answer Book, by John Renard
The Handy Islam Answer Book by John Renard is a fantastic resource for anyone interested in learning about Islam. Renard, a professor at Saint Louis University, presents the history, traditions, religious aspects, traditions and controversies of Islam in a very clear and well written manner. For example, he devotes chapters to various subjects regarding Islam and its relationship to other religions, overview of Islam, the division between Sunni and Shia, Islamic visual arts, Islamic spirituality and many other topics. Renard writes much of his book in a question and answer format and it is extremely understandable. This book was published in 2015 and can serve as an updated and very reliable study of Islam.
Pedro, by Pedro Martinez
One of my favorite baseball players has always been Pedro Martinez. The pitcher from the Dominican Republic played with the Dodgers, Expos, Red Sox, Mets and Phillies. He explains in the downloadable book "Pedro" (2015) that, despite the fact that his brother Ramon broke into the majors, his path was blocked by many obstacles. For one thing, his coaches felt he was two small and fragile to face the rigors of a major league schedule. He felt he was held back in the minors since he was Hispanic. When it came to salary arbitration, he always got the short end of the stick. His desire to control the inner half of the plate resulted in him being labeled as a "Headhunter", and other players, coaches and umpires used to hold this against him. On several occasions he was passed over for the Cy Young award because of his reputation. The one thing that helped him through this was his strong religious beliefs and love of family. Eventually, he earned a Cy Young, as well as an MVP Award and World Series Championship. Despite all his celebrity, he still remained humble, and learned to take joy in his home and family.
El Deafo, by CeCe Bell
Going to school and making new friends can be tough. But going to school and making new friends while wearing a bulky hearing aid strapped to your chest? That requires superpowers! In this funny, poignant graphic novel memoir, author/illustrator Cece Bell chronicles her hearing loss at a young age and her subsequent experiences with the Phonic Ear, a very powerful--and very awkward--hearing aid. The Phonic Ear gives Cece the ability to hear--sometimes things she shouldn't--but also isolates her from her classmates. She really just wants to fit in and find a true friend, someone who appreciates her as she is. After some trouble, she is finally able to harness the power of the Phonic Ear and become "El Deafo, Listener for All." And more importantly, declare a place for herself in the world and find the friend she's longed for.
Public School Superhero, by James Patterson
Kenny Wright is a kid with a secret identity. In his mind, he's Stainlezz Steel, super-powered defender of the weak. In reality, he's a chess club devotee known as a "Grandma's Boy," a label that makes him an easy target for bullies. Kenny wants to bring a little more Steel to the real world, but the question is: can he recognize his own true strength before peer pressure forces him to make the worst choice of his life? Featuring more than 150 pieces of line art and comic-style sequences, this novel is a genuinely funny yet poignant look at middle school in a challenging urban setting, where a kid's life can depend on the everyday decisions he makes.