The Murder at the Vicarage

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Click for availability and more information The Murder at the Vicarage, by Agatha Christie
 
Agatha Christie, in her long career as one of the best selling mystery writers of all time, created two enduring characters for her stories : Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple. The Murder at the Vicarage, first mystery in book form that featured Jane Marple, was published in 1930 and still can be an extremely enjoyable reading experience for mystery lovers. There is indeed a murder in the vicarage in the village of St. Mary Mead, ironically the fictional home of Jane Marple. Colonel Protheroe is shot while in the study of the vicarage. A master at mysteries, Christie has woven this one with an intriguing cast of characters from St. Mary Mead, many who might have had motive and the ability to kill the colonel. Jane Marple, an elderly spinster in St. Mary Mead who declares that "her hobby is - and always has been - human nature," uses these skills when she eventually becomes involved and aids in solving the crime. This is a very enjoyable book to read the first of Agatha Christie's works featuring Jane Marple.
-Roy

Joshua Dread

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Click for availability and more information Joshua Dread, by Lee Bacon
 
For Joshua Dread, middle school is proving to be, well, awkward. Not only do bullies pick on him, but do you see those super-villains over there trying to flood the world? The ones that everyone, including his best friend Milton, are rooting for Captain Justice to take down? They're the Dread Duo, and they just happen to be his parents. As if trying to hide his identity wasn't hard enough, Joshua has started leaving a trail of exploding pencils and scorched handprints in his wake, and only Sophie, the new girl in town with a mysterious past, seems unsurprised. When a violent attack at the Vile Fair makes it clear someone is abducting super-villains, and that his parents may very well be next, Joshua must enlist both Sophie and Milton's help to save them.
-Margaret

Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days

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Click for availability and more information Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days, by Stephen Manes
 
Is it possible? Can an ordinary human being really become a perfect person in three short days?

Milo Crinkley thought so. What gave him the idea was a book that fell on his head one day at the library--a book with the impressive title Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days! The author, Dr. K. Pinkerton Silverfish, did look kind of weird, but he claimed to be the world's leading authority on perfection.
Milo took the book home and followed its instructions. He liked the idea of being perfect. Perfect people never had their parents nag at them. Perfect people never had to take the blame for rotten tricks their sisters played. Perfect people never needed erasers. Perfect was obviously the perfect thing to be!

Did Milo become a perfect person in just three days? More importantly, can you?
-Margaret

Bhutto

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Click for availability and more information Bhutto
 
Here's a documentary that may help clear up the complex political situation in the Middle East. The Bhutto family was involved in Pakistan politics for many years. They were considered "The Kennedys of Pakistan". Daughter Benazir Bhutto eventually became the first woman to lead a Muslim nation. Her father tried to install a democratic form of government, but the military mounted a coup, and he was executed. When the Russians invaded Afghanistan in 1979, many Muslim volunteers flocked to Pakistan to mount resistance and force the Russians out in 1989; but when the Russians retreated, no money was available to send the fighters back to their countries. They were eventually absorbed into the military, and became Al-Qaeda. As one Prime Minister put it, a new clandestine organization that combined intelligence and politics with military power emerged. Ironically, the money and equipment given to the forces to fight the Russians by the United States was used as seed money to fund terrorism!

The Bhuttos continued to fight to get control of the government. They knew Pakistan was sponsoring terrorism. Despite being driven to exile, they returned to try and save their country, which started suffering from economic stagnation. Money was diverted from social programs to fund the development of nuclear weapons. They received threats on their lives, but Benazir still returned to her homeland.
-Carl

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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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