Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

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Click for availability and more information Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
 
Nelson Mandela sacrificed much for South Africa. He gave up his freedom, his youth and his marriage. Yet, he remained true to his cause and himself. His people were being repressed even though they were the majority. Black South Africans of all ages were being beaten, tortured and killed. Several members of his family were killed during the violent unrest. Mandela knew this had to end, and embraced civil disobedience to this end. He believed in "one man, one vote" and worked to get representation for his people in government.

This is a very powerful movie based on his autobiography. The acting is superb. It helped me "fill in the blanks" about something I had heard about through most of my life, but never fully comprehended. The respect I had for Mandela has been increased 10-fold. Nelson Mandela was indeed a great leader. I highly recommend that you view the DVD Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.
-Carl

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Shadow

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Click for availability and more information Shadow, by Michael Morpurgo
 
Surviving in a cave in war-torn Afghanistan, Aman and his mother are separated from Aman's beloved dog, Shadow, when they flee for the safety of England. Just as they are getting settled as free citizens in England, they are imprisoned in a camp with locked doors and a barbed wire fence. Their only hope is Aman's classmate Matt, his grandpa, and the dream of finding his lost dog. After all, you never lose your shadow.)
-Margaret

Lulu and the Brontosaurus

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Click for availability and more information Lulu and the Brontosaurus, by Judith Viorst
 
Lulu is so accustomed to getting what she wants that when her parents deny her birthday request for a brontosaurus, she throws a four-day temper tantrum and then storms off into the forest in search of the dinosaur she clearly deserves. Lulu isn't particularly impressed with the snake, tiger, and bear she encounters, but then she finds him--a beautiful, long-necked, graceful brontosaurus. Mr. B completely agrees with Lulu that having a pet would be a wonderful thing and Lulu thinks she's gotten her birthday wish at last. Until she realizes that Mr. Brontosaurus thinks that she would make an ideal pet for him!)
-Margaret

The Body in the Library

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Click for availability and more information The Body in the Library, by Agatha Christie
 
Often called "the world's best-selling novelist", Agatha Christie wrote 66 mysteries that have thrilled readers since her first book was published in 1920. A great example of her finesse as a writer is The Body in the Library, which has recently been re-released. A classic Christie story, The Body in the Library begins with just that: a murdered woman's body is discovered in the library of Dolly and Arthur Bantry's country estate. Eventually, the always wise and clever Jane Marple is enlisted by Dolly Bantry to help the local police solve this crime. The story unfolds with the introduction of numerous possible murderers, twists in plot development and eventually Miss Marple uncovers the true killer.

This is another wonderfully crafted mystery by the great Agatha Christie and will be enjoyable reading for those readers familiar with Christie's books. For first-timers to reading Agatha Christie, The Body in the Library is a great introduction to a terrifically entertaining reading experience. The Greenwich Library has an extensive collection of Christie's mysteries for readers to enjoy.
-Roy

Click for availability and more information The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra, by Helen Rappaport
 
As the last autocratic ruler and czar of Russia, Nicholas II's reign and legacy have been written about repeatedly since his overthrow and murder in the Russian Revolution. The first of these staff picks, The Romanov Sisters, is, however, concerned with his four daughters: Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia. Using diaries and memoirs of family members and other eyewitness accounts to their lives, newspaper articles written about them during their lives and other historical sources, Helen Rappaport has created a richly textured group biography of the gloriously regal lives these four grand duchesses led. Immensely readable, this book shows their world of growing up and living in a world with great wealth, prestige and position. They all come across as having charm and grace during their short lives. Educated by tutors in magnificent palaces, the sisters were sheltered by Nicholas and Alexandra as they were raised to be the royal daughters of the czar of Russia. Their family unit was complicated by the birth of their hemophiliac son Alexis. His health was precarious at times due to his disease and thus cast a dark shadow over the future of the Romanov family reign in Russia. A lovingly close family, these girls faced growing discontent in Russia with the czar's reign as World War I broke out. Yet, they served as nurses and treated injured Russian soldiers with love and dedication during the war. As they emerged into adolescence, they each developed romantic crushes on soldiers who were part of the regiments assigned to protect them. Historical events trapped them in the Russian Revolution and eventual exile in small towns as the revolution swirled around them. They were doomed to be murdered along with their mother, father, brother and several family servants in a dark basement in Ekaterinburg in 1918. The Romanov Sisters is a finely written and engrossing story of four young women who, by birth, were caught in one of the Twentieth Century's most dramatic events.

Click for availability and more information Diary of Olga Romanov: Royal Witness to the Russian Revolution, by Olʹga Nikolaevna
 
As a follow up to the above book, The Diary of Olga Romanov, is the perfect source to get an ever fuller picture of the oldest daughter of Nicholas and Alexandra. In her own words, the reader can follow Olga's daily life and her observations of major events, such as the outbreak of war with Germany and Austria. Her feelings about Rasputin are clearly described as she records her reaction to his murder. Interspersed within the diary, the editor Helen Azar has included diary entries of Nicholas, some of her tutors and other family members, which enhances the reading experience This is a wonderful bok for those who want to know more about this charming young woman and her observations of the momentous events in Russia in the years around the Russian Revolution.
-Roy

United States of America V. James J. Bulger

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Click for availability and more information United States of America V. James J. Bulger
 
Since I'm a transplant from Massachusetts and attended college in Boston, I was very interested in the recent trial of "Whitey" Bulger. I saw this DVD on the shelf and decided I'd take a look to see if I missed anything.

Bulger was a member of the Irish Mafia in the South End, and was responsible for many crimes including murder. I'd seen a 60 Minutes feature on the case, and had read about him in the newspapers; but this movie really surprised me!

There's no question that Whitey Bulger was a career criminal, who committed many egregious crimes. However, Bolger evaded arrest due to help from the FBI. Furthermore, the FBI, Massachusetts State Police and Boston Police seemed unable to join forces to facilitate his capture. Although officials claimed he was an informant, Whitey denied such charges. Victims claimed the FBI had to make such claims to explain why they hadn't arrested him. They implied top officials were being bribed and let crime elements continue their reign of terror. There were also claims that Whitey was tipped off so he could flee before his capture in Boston.

I found this documentary to be very disturbing. It basically followed the trial as it unfolded, giving background information in logical spots. The agencies I thought were there to protect me seemed to be flawed. As one victim's family commented, the FBI was worse than the mob!

If you want to learn more about the Whitey Bulger case, this is the DVD for you.
-Carl

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Tuesdays at the Castle

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Click for availability and more information Tuesdays at the Castle, by Jessica Day George
 
Tuesdays at Castle Glower are Princess Celie's favorite days. That's because on Tuesdays the castle adds a new room, a turret, or sometimes even an entire wing. No one ever knows what the castle will do next, and no one-other than Celie, that is-takes the time to map out the new additions. But when King and Queen Glower are ambushed and their fate is unknown, it's up to Celie, with her secret knowledge of the castle's never-ending twists and turns, to protect their home and save their kingdom. This delightful book from a fan- and bookseller-favorite kicks off a brand-new series sure to become a modern classic.
-Deirdre

The Artist

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Click for availability and more information The Actor
 
As I browsed the Greenwich Library DVD shelves, my eye was drawn to the cover of a movie titled The Artist. It displayed a man and a woman, from what appeared to be the early 1920s. He looked like one of the early screen "heartthrobs" like Douglas Fairbanks, Tyrone Powers or William Powell. (He had a pencil-thin moustache.) The woman reminded me very much of Ginger Rogers. This turned out to be a silent movie within a silent movie! Even the main action is subtitled. The lead character was a very successful silent screen star. A woman manages to befriend him, and she becomes his screen partner. When "talkies" are introduced, the man refuses to embrace the new art. As a result, his acting career wanes, but hers sky rockets! Then the Great Depression hits, putting more stress on his career.

I loved this movie! The concept of presenting it as a silent, black and white movie was unique. John Goodman played a superb supporting role, and the leads were excellent. Make a point to see this gem!
-Carl

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The Trouble with Chickens

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Click for availability and more information The Trouble with Chickens, by Doreen Cronin
 
J.J. Tully is a former search-and-rescue dog who is trying to enjoy his retirement after years of performing daring missions saving lives. So he's not terribly impressed when two chicks named Dirt and Sugar (who look like popcorn on legs) and their chicken mom show up demanding his help to track down their missing siblings. Driven by the promise of a cheeseburger, J.J. begins to track down clues. Is Vince the Funnel hiding something? Are there dark forces at work - or is J.J. not smelling the evidence that's right in front of him?
-Deirdre

The Berlin Stories

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Click for availability and more information The Berlin Stories, by Christopher Isherwood
 
The wonderful Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood, set in the lively Berlin of the 1930's, was first published after World War II and has endured in popularity ever since. While Isherwood was born in England, he spent much of the 1930's in Berlin working on developing his skills as a novelist and earned a living by being an English tutor. That experience gave Isherwood inspiration for the writing of this collection of short stories. With great skill, Isherwood captures the fascinating Berlin of those years. He has created so many intriguingly eccentric and vivid characters for his stories. Among them are Fraulein Schroeder, the landlady of the rooming house he calls home, the mysterious Mr. Norris who is wandering through Berlin with unknown motives, musicians trying to get work in seedy nightclubs, and many others. Perhaps the jewel in this collection is the one about Sally Bowles, whose story would be later adapted into the play I Am A Camera and the famous stage and movie musical Cabaret. The rising anti-Semitism in 1930's Berlin was becoming all too public and Isherwood weaves that development into his stories. Included in the Greenwich Library's collection are two related items. The terrifically entertaining movie Cabaret shows how Sally Bowles was brought brilliantly alive by Liza Minnelli. On a more serious note, William L. Shirer's Berlin Diary The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent is the diary kept by William L. Shirer, who served as the Berlin correspondent for CBS news during the pre-World War II years. His is a detailed history of the rise of Nazism in Germany he witnessed while living in Berlin during those years. This is a great follow up to The Berlin Stories as it documents the historical times from which Isherwood wrote his terrifically entertaining Berlin Stories.
-Roy

Other Days in Greenwich

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Click for availability and more information Other Days in Greenwich, by Frederick A. Hubbard
 
Last month I wrote about the main book I use to research early Greenwich history: The History of the Town of Greenwich by Spencer Mead. There is another book that complements this one titled Other Days in Greenwich by Frederick A. Hubbard. It expands and overlaps Mead's book by providing lesser known information about the Town and prominent people. There is information on Town residents who served in the Civil War. Some industries are described. It devotes a lot of time on William "Boss" Tweed, who implemented some useful services in town. There are many interesting photos. This book will give you an idea about life in Greenwich during the 1800s.
-Carl

The Signature of all Things

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Click for availability and more information The Signature of all Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert
 
After her previous, extremely successful autobiographical book Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert has changed genres and entered the world of fiction with her latest work, The Signature of All Things. Briefly, Gilbert's newest book is a sweeping, wonderfully written and absorbing tale set in the world of 19th century botany. It is so evident that Gilbert has done extensive research into the major developments made in the history of discovering and describing plants from all over the world during that time. Readers first meet Henry Whittaker in his Dickens-like life working on an English estate managing its vast gardens. After a series of calamities, he embarks on multi-year travels around the world studying plant life in various locales. Eventually, he settles in Philadelphia after establishing a successful business empire based on using plants for medicinal purposes. Henry's story studying plants around the world is quite interesting. His daughter Alma then becomes the main character and is a wonderfully complex and fascinating woman. In her younger years, she becomes the successor to her father as she runs his business. Her life eventually changes as she experiences a heart-breaking love affair and ends up, like her father, wandering the world studying plants. While writing a book set in the complex world of 19th century botany may strike some readers as an odd choice for fiction, Gilbert has made The Signature of all Things is a hugely enjoyable reading experience.
-Roy

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