Staff Review – Out Of Africa

     Out of Africa is one of those rare movies you can watch over the years and never tire of. Isak Dinesen is a superb story teller, and the cast includes Meryl Streep and Robert Redford as love interests.  It certainly deserves the Oscars it won including Best Picture.

     We love the main characters for their struggles.  All of them have their faults, but they are all people we care about.  Dennis Finchhatten, (Robert Redford), although he loves Karen (Meryl Streep), cannot help himself but disappear into the wild for days at a time.  He also makes money selling elephant ivory. But at the same time he won’t shoot a lioness threatening Karen, unless it got “a bit” closer. And he has a tribesman friend who travels with him. 

     Karen is somewhat of a feminist.  She inherits her family’s fortune only if she marries, which she does with a friend she doesn’t love.  He leaves her, and she runs a coffee plantation in Africa using black labor that she ambiguously both expects hard work from, yet respects at the same time. 

     They have come as privileged guests who were not invited into someone else’s continent and tribe, in this case. Yet, they are not disrespectful, and they do love Africa.

     In one memorable scene, Robert Redford brings a phonograph into the plains and plays Mozart.  He says, “Just think, never a human sound in their life and then Mozart.” 

     I will not give away the ending except to say it is sad and beautiful.  One sees that they loved Africa and each other and the African people, but they didn’t belong to each other or the continent. – Tom

     

Staff Review – And I Do Not Forgive You

And I Do Not Forgive You
by Amber Sparks

This collection of short stories was interesting in the sense that presents its theme very clearly on the cover. It is a series of stories and “other revenges.” A revenge fantasy can be a delicious treat for the psyche when done right. I found that some of these stories did not deliver on the edginess that a bright purple axe on the cover would suggest. “Mildly Unhappy With Moments of Joy” is one such story that is bogged down by its passive-aggressive tone.

 

 Passive-aggressive revenge is a very modern way to deal with problems. Personally I would much rather read something with a Shakespearean flavor.  In it two best friends seemingly drift apart. The cause is unclear. Divorced friend attempts to track down married friend even after being artfully ghosted by her. (Married friend decides to skip town in order to solidify that she really doesn’t want to talk to divorced friend.) Eventually everything settles down and the equilibrium of mild unhappiness is restored.  “In Which Athena Designs a Video Game with the Express Purpose of Trolling Her Father,” is similarly passive-aggressive, but in a much more  delightful way since Athena is making a very pointed statement by making her dad the villain of the game. 

 

“A Place for Hiding Precious Things” stood out as one of the more powerful tales. It’s about a motherless princess whose father decides that he would like for her to marry. Marry him that is. The princess and her fairy godmother are having none of that and devise a plot to facilitate an escape. This story uses the fairytale rule of three wonderfully as the princess asks for the royal seamstresses to create three dresses: one the color of blood, one the color or bone, and the last the color of death. Other honorable mentions are “Is the Future a Nice Place For Girls,” which is about a medieval queen who gets the opportunity to travel through time with her infant daughter. The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines,” is a pleasant romp as the protagonist cons a fellow conman who is able to see her despite her plain appearance as she shoplifts her way through life.  

 

The best of the tales in terms of telling a gripping and revenge-soaked story is “The Eyes of Saint Lucy,” where a daughter recounts the series of events that led her martyr-obsessed mother to strike out against her philandering husband once and for all. With a chilling refrain of, “Because there is no God,” this one is the one most likely to induce shivers.  – Katie

 

Staff Review: The Florida Project


Long after I watched it, I still think about The Florida Project from 2017 staring Willem Dafoe. The small budget sleeper which received many acting nominations and awards for Dafoe  was recognized by both the
National Board of Review and American Film Institute as one of the top 10 films of the year in 2017.

Set in Florida the story centers on six year old Moonee  who with her mother lives at the Magic Castle, a faded pink stucco two story motel located along a busy freeway. Without helicoptering parents to squash their freedom Moonee and her friends from the motel are free to roam which also means there is no one to protect them when their curiosity and creativity can have dangerous results. A visually captivating film, the single shot of a sign advertising the proximity of Walt Disney World to Magic Castle is not lost on the viewer.

Dafoe with his weathered face has seen many lives pass thru the motel he manages which serves as housing for poor single mothers who resort to any way to make the rent money from reselling fake Disney World tickets to prostitution. Meanwhile the looming threat is family services will discover these desperate acts by Moonee’s mother and she will lose her daughter to foster care. Dafoe is the stability in the lives of the motel residents both children and adults. But for how long can he protect the children and their mothers from making bad choices.  As consequences unfold the viewer is left to wonder what truly would be the best outcome for Moonee. 

Staff Review – Darwin’s Origin of Species 

Darwin’s Origin of Species 
by Janet Browne

 

I was looking for  a non-fiction book that I could read quickly, get some real knowledge from and really enjoy.  And I found it!

The Atlantic Monthly Press has published  books that are ‘biographies’ of world changing books from “The Bible” to “Das Kapital.” The biography that I chose was Janet Browne’s “Darwin’s Origin of Species.”   She writes about all the research that went into the planning and development of the book and the personality and dedication of the author. After working on the book for years, Charles Darwin’s book was finally published on November 24 in 1859 with the title:  “On the Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.”  He knew how controversial it would be. The concept that evolution (plants and animals changing slowly from generation to generation) and not divine creation  was put forward for all to debate. And they certainly did!

I loved Janet Browne’s short book (only 153 pages long!) It provides the background of the book, an intellectual biography of Charles Darwin, a summary of the controversy in Britain, and a followup of the twentieth century’s take on the book.  It has footnotes, a list of sources and suggested reading and a real index! It was a fast and inspiring read! Onward to “On the Origin of Species!” Or maybe Browne’s biography of Charles Darwin.

Many books in the series, “Books that Changed the World,” are in Ocean State Library Catalog.  Go on the catalog, from Title scroll down to Series and put in “Books that changed the World” for a complete list. – Charlotte

 

 

Staff Review – The Testaments

The Testaments is the rabidly anticipated sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale and I was eagerly counting off the days at the beginning of September until the launch date. Virtually everything about the book was shrouded in mystery. It would be set in Gilead, it would be 15 years after the close of the first book, and there would be three point of view characters. That was it. After over 30 years of wait time in between these works, some hype was felt, especially by me. I tried not to let it color my opinions, but it was extremely difficult.

One of the recurring stars of this dystopian drama is someone readers will  be familiar with if they have read the previous installment or seen the tv show: the taser-wielding Aunt Lydia,  the scourge of Gilead. Then there is Agnes. Agnes is a true child of Gilead who doesn’t remember any other way of life but she is fearful that she will be married off to the most powerful man that will have her. Last but certainly not least is Daisy. For this Canadian teenager her whole life and identity comes into question on what she believes is her 16th birthday.

While I enjoyed  this book, I don’t think that it has quite the same acidic punch that The Handmaid’s Tale possesses and I think that is mainly due to splitting up the narrative focus between three characters. The absence of June’s incredibly strong voice leaves a considerable void for the reader, but ultimately this book is  a well-written exploration of how life finds a way even under the darkest of regimes. Drawing inspiration from current politics, as always Atwood makes it very clear what her stance is and that alone makes this a delightful read. The Testaments also sprinkles in some additional details of the inner workings of Gilead and the true corruption and dysfunction that it takes  to make the sausage. It’s not just birthmobiles and punishing handmaids; the aunts are the keepers of genealogies and they ensure that there are new aunts to go on pilgrimage outside of Gilead.

I’m honestly  really hoping based upon what happened in this book, that there will be a sequel to this sequel coming down the pipeline. As Margaret Atwood herself puts it, “All good things come to she who waits.” – Katie

 

A Boy Called Bat – Elana K. Arnold

Kyera's Library

A Boy Called Bat (A Boy Called Bat, #1)

A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Boy Called Bat is a children’s chapter book about a boy that tries to convince his veterinarian mom to let him keep the skunk kit that she rescued. It is a very simple storyline without much to make it stand out other than the fact that Bat, Bixby Alexander Tam, has autism. The most beautiful part of this book is the fact that no one ever comes out and says it, but most of the people in the book just function around it as if there is nothing wrong with Bat – and there is nothing wrong with him. He just functions and thinks a little differently than his peers. That normalizing of autism was so beautiful.

His mother and even his sister are able to understand his idiosyncrasies and mold the world in a…

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Staff DVD Review

Disney’s new live action reboot of “Dumbo” is fun for the whole family, but I feel it lacks some of the key elements that deemed it a “classic.” Some of the parts from the original have been edited out to make it more appropriate for modern times, which is great, but I think deviating from the original storyline took away from the film as opposed to adding to it. All in all, it was a great film, but the original animated version from 1941 will always be THE classic. – Children’s Room Staff