Natchez Burning

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Click for availability and more information 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.
-Roy

Red Lights

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Click for availability and more information Red Lights
 
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!
-Carl

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The Girl on the Train

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Click for availability and more information 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.
-Carl

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The Handy Islam Answer Book

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Click for availability and more information 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.
-Roy

Pedro

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Click for availability and more information 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.
-Carl

El Deafo

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Click for availability and more information 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.
-Margaret

Public School Superhero

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Click for availability and more information 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.
-Margaret

Click for availability and more information Kung Pow Chicken: Let's Get Cracking, by Cyndi Marko
 
Kung Pow Chicken is the superhero everyone has been waiting for! In this exciting series, Gordon Blue transforms into Kung Pow Chicken, an avian superhero who fights crime in the city of Fowladelphia. The first book in the series, Let's Get Cracking, kicks off when Gordon's birdy senses lead him to a festival. Suddenly, POOF! Feathers fill the air and shivering naked chickens are everywhere. Why have all these chickens lost their feathers? Forced to wear wooly sweaters, the city itches for a hero. Kung Pow Chicken hops into his Beakmobile to save the day!
-Margaret

Through A Lens Darkly

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Click for availability and more information Through A Lens Darkly
 
I found the DVD titled Through A Lens Darkly to be a very interesting story about the portrayal of African-Americans in the American media. Before the Civil War, most media photographers were White, and they depicted Blacks as wild, uneducated animals. Newspaper cartoons were especially cruel. After the Civil War, this started to change as Blacks were recognized for their sacrifices during the war (and ensuing wars), and making important contributions to American culture. The number of Black photographers began to increase, and Blacks were now portrayed in a better light. Pictures were more artistic and respectful. The Black community began to make strides in all fields. Although discrimination still exists today, there's no doubt that Black photographers helped advance the cause of Equality and Civil Rights.
-Carl

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The Sixties

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Click for availability and more information The Sixties
 
Whether you grew up in the sixties, or just want to get a better understanding of this dynamic decade, which helped shape the country, you'll want to watch The Sixties. It does an excellent job of covering all the key aspects of the decade: the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, the Space Race, the Assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy as well as Martin Luther King, Jr., the British Invasion. African-American leaders used peaceful resistance to fight for equality, while students protested against the war. New phrase began to infiltrate our language such as the Generation Gap, Hippies, and Drug Culture. There may never be another decade like the sixties. You owe it to yourself to view it.
-Carl

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Click for availability and more information Charlie Bumpers vs. the Really Nice Gnome, by Bill Harley
 
Meet Charlie Bumpers, a fourth-grader who is always coming up against embarrassing worst-case scenarios. He keeps trying to make the best of bad situations, but things don't always work out the way he'd planned! In this story, Charlie is disappointed when he is cast as the Nice Gnome--rather than the Evil Sorcerer--in the class play. Attempts to write his way into a better part fail, but the production illuminates Charlie's quick instincts and supportive nature.
-Margaret

Memories Are Made Of This

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Click for availability and more information Memories Are Made Of This, by Deana Martin
 
I've always enjoyed Dean Martin's music, so when I was browsing the Overdrive catalog, I just had to download Memories Are Made Of This by his daughter Deana Martin. This is a powerful story of how the man from Steuben, Ohio, became a recording artist, comedian and film star. Despite his success, his personal life was less than perfect. He had several failed marriages, and was absent from his family due to his rigorous schedule. Nonetheless, he was a very loving and generous father. I was also surprised to read that, unlike his television and "Rat Pack" persona, he very rarely drank! It was all an act. His work ethic was impeccable, and he worked hard to become a success in the entertainment business.

This book provides a behind-the-scenes look at the great entertainer. Many important Hollywood figures visited his home. He became one of the most beloved entertainers+ of all times.
-Carl

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