new DVDs

New DVDs – November 2019

The following films have been added to our collection during the month of November.
MPAA ratings follow each title in parentheses, with (NR) denoting the film is not rated.  If a language other than English follows the film title, the film will be in that language with optional English subtitles.

After the Wedding (PG-13)
American Woman (R)
Amityville, Mt. Misery Road (NR)
Anna (R)
Annabelle Comes Home (R)
The Art of Racing in the Rain (PG)
Batman Hush (PG-13)
Brian Banks (PG-13)
Crawl (R)
Crossword Mysteries: A Puzzle to Die For (TV-G)
The Dead Don’t Die (R)
Deadwood: The Movie (TV-MA)
The Farewell (PG)
47 Meters Down: Uncaged (PG-13)
Hobbs & Shaw (PG-13)
The Kitchen (R)
Luce (R)
Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House (PG-13)
Midsommar (R)
Ophelia (PG-13)
The Peanut Butter Falcon (PG-13)
The Professor and the Madman (NR)
Red Joan (R)
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (PG-13)
Spider in the Web (NR)
Stuber (R)
The Tomorrow Man (PG-13)
We Have Always Lived in the Castle (NR)
Wild Rose (R)

Updated 11/29/19

Book Club

The After Party – Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break – October 2019

Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break Book Discussion Groups on
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Ratings:
The Books and Bagels Book Discussion Group members rated the book between a 1.5 and 5.0. The average of the ratings was 3.51.  

The Morning Book Break Book Discussion Group rated the book between a 3.0 and 5.0. The average of the ratings was 4.23.

Review:
For the past seven years during the fall, the book clubs have read selections from the Suburban Mosaic, an organization that “seeks to confront issues of racial and social justice and promote cross-cultural understanding through literature.” (http://www.suburbanmosaicbooks.org/

This 2018-2019 season, Suburban Mosaic selected the nonfiction book, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal-practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system.  One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinkmanship — and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.  Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming-of-age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.  Just Mercy is soon to be a major motion picture starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx.

Last year, during the 2018-2019 book club season, the facilitator selected The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult, and Varina by Charles Frazier. (See previous posts for more information about these books)  During these clubs, the facilitator and other members brought to light some of the work that Bryan Stevenson has done at the Equal Justice Initiative.  In an attempt to expose the members to different material, the selector chose An American Marriage as a fiction substitute for Just Mercy.  Tayari Jones attempts to cover different ground by showing readers how mass incarceration affects the family unit, specifically a marriage.

Discussion Highlights:
Club members discussed the title and the cover art. We discussed whether or not the title represents the novel and what about the novel makes it a particularly “American.” Several members thought the author did an excellent job portraying the state of marriage in modern day America.  The novel shows the various states of marriage and the author also shows a couple deciding not to marry, but live in “communion.” The author describes the different stages of romance through various characters—the readers are exposed to first dates, engagements, marriage, divorce, second and third marriages, love affairs, etc. The author did an excellent job in attempting to describe love and marriage—a nearly impossible feat.  The members thought Tayari Jones wrote a well-written, thought-provoking novel that has readers talking about important topics. 

The facilitator told the group members that other book clubs have gotten into fights defending the actions of one of the three main characters.  Book club members have taken sides about what they thought each character should or should not have done. One all male book club disputed the actions between Andre and Roy.  Many in this group felt Andre broke the “bro code” by having relations with Celestial, who was married to his best friend, Roy. 

The group members at the Rolling Meadows Library treated each other very considerately and respectfully.  We talked about the three alternating perspectives in the novel—Celestial, Roy, and Andre. We talked about which perspective we responded more positively towards.  The members felt Tayari Jones wrote vivid three-dimensional characters, which is why readers are responding strongly to the different characters she brought to life.

Celestial’s view of love: (pp.138)
“Much of life is timing and circumstance, I see that now.  Roy came into my life at the time when I needed a man like him.  Would I have galloped into this love affair if I had never left Atlanta?  I don’t know. But how you feel love and understand love are two different things.  Now, so many years down the road, I recognize that I was alone and adrift and that he was lonely in the way that only a ladies man can be.  He reminded me of Atlanta, and I reminded him of the same. All these were reasons why we were drawn to each other, but standing with him outside of Maroons, we were past reason.  Human emotion is beyond comprehension, smooth and uninterrupted, like an orb made of blown glass.”

Tayari Jones attempts to show how marriage is like a tree (the family unit) and the bride and groom are like a sapling.  Marriage attempts to bond two different families into one unit—the next generation, “But home isn’t where you land; home is where you launch.  You can’t pick your home any more than you can choose your family. In poker, you get five cards. Three of them you can swap out, but two are yours to keep: family and native land.” (pp. 4)

Unfortunately, Roy’s prison term ramps up the already present friction between Celestial and Roy and it becomes evident that: “Our marriage was a sapling graft that didn’t have time to take.” (pp.284)

We discussed the structure of the novel, which at times is told through the exchange of letters.  Many members enjoyed this structure. Some members wished the letters were dated; others members felt the author made a good choice in not dating the letters because this allowed for the lengthy passage of time with regards to the incarceration. In the interviews below, the author chose letter writing to eliminate some of the mundane aspects of prison life and to protect the reader from the violent aspects of prison life.  The author wanted her novel to have wide readership, and she felt a dark, gritty prison read would not have wide appeal. She hopes more people will read her book, enjoy talking about the love triangle and will begin to ponder the effects mass incarceration has on the wider community.

In an interview, Tayari Jones did she said, “I don’t see how our prison system is working for anyone—not the people who have committed crimes, not the victims, not the tax payers.  Nobody is winning here.” We discussed whether or not the novel illustrated this point and whether or not our opinions on the American prison system changed after reading An American Marriage.  Many members felt that they did not learn anything new about the prison system, but agree with Tayari Jones’s view.

We talked about Celestial’s business and the symbolism behind the baby dolls she creates.

Without including any spoilers, we talked about the incredibly important person Roy meets while in prison.  Several members thought this was an interesting plot device and other members felt it was too contrived. Even the author was surprised that Roy met this person.  Tayari Jones does not write with an outline; she likens her style of writing to this metaphor: she is the driver in a car with the characters in her novels. As they travel along in the car, her characters make decisions and she lets them, but sometimes she has to take control of various situations. Members enjoyed Tayari Jones’s writing style and would definitely read another book by the author.  A few members disliked the book because it was too contrived and written like a “Lifetime Movie”.

We talked about the two major twists at the end of the novel.  Most members felt the author did a great job of tying up the loose ends.  Although it is not a fairy tale ending—the novel ended in a hopeful manner giving each character dignity.

Resources:

For books and audiobooks in our collection by Tayari Jones, please click here.

Tayari Jones speaks about the inspiration behind An American Marriage:

Tayari Jones talks about letter writing, her love of The Odyssey, and mass incarceration:

Tayari Jones talks about her love of bookstores; she says with every book you can visit a different world and meet new people.   Tayari Jones talks about one of her favorite authors, Toni Morrison. Tayari Jones admires Toni Morrison so much that she has soil from Toni Morrison’s homeland in a jar in her office.

Read-a-Likes:

Members highly recommended watching the film If Beale Street Could Talk, based on the novel by James Baldwin.

new DVDs, reader's advisory

New DVDs – October 2019

The following films have been added to our collection during the month of October.
MPAA ratings follow each title in parentheses, with (NR) denoting the film is not rated.  If a language other than English follows the film title, the film will be in that language with optional English subtitles.

Booksmart (R)
Bottom of the 9th (R)
Child’s Play (2019)(R)
The Fencer (Estonian and Russian)(NR)
John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum (R)
Mary Magdalene (R)
Shaft (2019)(R)
Spider-Man: Far from Home (PG-13)
Total Dhamaal (Hindi)(NR)
Yesterday (PG-13)

Updated 10/11/19

Book Club, reader's advisory

The After Party – Morning Book Break and Books and Bagels – September 2019

Morning Book Break and Books and Bagels Book Discussion Groups on
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Ratings:
The Books and Bagels Book Discussion Group members rated the book between a 4.0 and 5.0 with two members giving the book a 3.5. The average of the ratings was 4.62.  Two members did not like the humor and thought nothing could be funny when you consider the trauma Eleanor suffered.

The Morning Book Break Book Discussion Group rated the book between a 4.0 and 5.0 with one member giving the book a 3.0. The average of the ratings was 4.53.

Review:
In the seven years the facilitator has been conducting these clubs, this book received the highest favorable ratings. The author masterfully wove pathos and humor together, which is a very difficult task. Members have been recommending this novel to everyone.  Everyone rooted for Eleanor and we were not disappointed. Terrific life lessons were presented in the novel, such as; kindness creating a ripple effect in the community and kindness working its own kind of magic.

Discussion Highlights:

  • Club members like that Honeyman developed a good friendship between Eleanor and Raymond. 

We discussed the qualities in Raymond that allow Eleanor to feel comfortable with him which created an atmosphere for her to open up. They were thrilled that Honeyman did not end the novel with a romantic Hollywood ending instead Honeyman allows the relationship to develop naturally, displaying how the two main characters support each other.

  • Honeyman makes a point to show how small acts of kindness have a ripple effect. Raymond insists that Eleanor help Sammy, an old man who has fallen in the street, and at first Eleanor is put off and judgmental, but this is the beginning of her growth. This simple task of helping another changed her life. In the Books and Bagels Book Discussion Group members shared small acts of kindness that were significant to them.  The book points out that not all scars are visible and that kindness works wonders.
  • The novel sheds light on mental illness, depression, survivor guilt and how judgmental people can be. It highlights emotional abuse, physical abuse, and child neglect.  The group discussed Mummy and the effects she had on Eleanor. We discussed why Eleanor continued her weekly phone calls with Mummy.
  • We discuss the meaning of the title.
  • Members discussed the trauma Eleanor experienced as a child and how she easily developed a teenage crush on the musician, Johnnie.  
  • The clubs spent a lot of time discussing the final plot twist. Everyone was surprised by the ending and this evoked even more sympathy and understanding for Eleanor.  The members discussed Honeyman’s skillful writing and her use of red herrings in the novel to create suspense. As members read the novel, they thought Eleanor’s Mummy was either in prison or a mental institution or possibly it was a voice in Eleanor’s head.  Honeyman wrote the novel in the first person, so Eleanor is an unreliable narrator which helps to create further mystery and suspense. Readers tried to figure out what might be going on with Eleanor. Was she on the spectrum? Did she have OCD? Did she hear voices? 
  • The author wanted to braid two related ideas together.  The first was the idea of loneliness and the other strand was that of social awkwardness. “I realized that I wanted to tell a story about someone like this, or, rather, someone who’d ended up like this, living a small life. A lonely person, a slightly awkward person, and someone in whom loneliness and social awkwardness had become entwined and self-perpetuating.  I wanted to tell the story of how this had happened to her, and of what happened to her next, and this became the story of Eleanor Oliphant.” The author explores reasons that explain a person’s awkwardness. “Might there perhaps be something in their background or childhood experiences, some life event that had helped to shape them in this particular way?” We discussed whether or not the author was successful in her purpose and we also discussed the question of nature versus nurture. We discussed whether or not, Eleanor would be socially awkward if she had not had a traumatic childhood.
  • We discussed some of the funniest moments in the novel.  Due to the fact that Eleanor had an abusive childhood, two members did not find anything funny about the novel. Because Eleanor is blunt and has few filters she exhibits moments of astute social commentary, so we discussed these moments.  We discussed what factors contribute to her unconventional personality.
  • We discussed the main theme of the novel, which seemed to be: “I suppose one of the reasons we’re able to continue to exist for our allotted span in this green and blue vale of tears is that there is always, however remote it might seem, the possibility of change.” The book has a wonderful joyful message which is why it is resonating with so many readers.
  • We discussed how Glenn the cat is a metaphor for the change Eleanor experiences and how the simple act of caring for others nurtures us and a healthy cycle is created in society.

Resources:

Gail Honeyman sends a thank you to libraries and librarians:
Interesting Podcast, Gail Honeyman shares in-depth about the UK newspaper article about loneliness in young people and how she incorporated this information into her character, Eleanor.

Read-a-Likes:

new DVDs, reader's advisory

New DVDs – September 2019

The following films have been added to our collection during the month of September.
MPAA ratings follow each title in parentheses, with (NR) denoting the film is not rated.  If a language other than English follows the film title, the film will be in that language with optional English subtitles.

Alita: Battle Angel (PG-13)
All is True (PG-13)
All You Ever Wished For (NR)
Avengers: Endgame (PG-13)
Breakthrough (PG)
Brightburn (R)
A Dog’s Journey (PG)
El Chicano (R)
Family (R)
Fast Color (PG-13)
Godzilla: King of the Monsters (PG-13)
Greater (NR)
Heavens to Betsy 2 (NR)
High Life (R)
Hotel Mumbai (R)
The Hustle (PG-13)
I’m Not Here (NR)
The Intruder (PG-13)
The Last Black Man in San Francisco (R)
Little Woods (R)
Long Shot (R)
Ma (R)
Men in Black International (PG-13)
No Date, No Signature (Farsi)(NR)
Poms (PG-13)
Rocketman (R)
Saint Judy (PG-13)
Shadow (NR)
Storm Boy (PG)
The Sun is Also a Star (PG-13)
Tolkien (PG-13)
Unplanned (R)
The White Crow (R)
X-Men: Dark Phoenix (PG-13)

Updated 9/25/19

new DVDs, reader's advisory

New DVDs – August 2019

The following films have been added to our collection during the month of August.
MPAA ratings follow each title in parentheses, with (NR) denoting the film is not rated.  If a language other than English follows the film title, the film will be in that language with optional English subtitles.

Bel Canto (NR)
The Best of Enemies (PG-13)
Border (Swedish)(R)
Change in the Air (PG)
Hellboy (2019)(R)
Little (PG-13)
The Mustang (R)
Never Look Away (German)(R)
No Manches Frida 2 (Spanish)(R)
Pet Sematary (2019)(R)
The Public (PG-13)
Shazam! (PG-13)
Teen Spirit (PG-13)

Updated 8/26/19

new DVDs, reader's advisory

New DVDs – July 2019

The following films have been added to our collection during the month of July.
MPAA ratings follow each title in parentheses, with (NR) denoting the film is not rated.  If a language other than English follows the film title, the film will be in that language with optional English subtitles.

The Aftermath (R)
Captive State (PG-13)
Eat, Play, Love (TV-G)
Everybody Knows (Spanish)(R)
Five Feet Apart (PG-13)
Happiness is a Four-Letter Word (NR)
Jhankaar Beats (Hindi)(NR)
Karz (Hindi)(NR)
Love at the Shore (TV-G)
Love, Of Course (TV-G)
Love, Romance, & Chocolate (TV-G)
Maine Pyar Kiya (Hindi)(NR)
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (NR)
The Perfect Bride: Wedding Bells (TV-G)
Simmba (Hindi)(NR)
Under the Silver Lake (R)
Us (R)

Updated 7/12/19

reader's advisory

New DVDs – June 2019

The following films have been added to our collection during the month of June.
MPAA ratings follow each title in parentheses, with (NR) denoting the film is not rated.  If a language other than English follows the film title, the film will be in that language with optional English subtitles.

Andhadhun (Hindi)(NR)
Captain Marvel (PG-13)
Cold Pursuit (R)
Darrow & Darrow: Body of Evidence (NR)
A Dog’s Way Home (PG)
Escape Room (PG-13)
Fighting with My Family (PG-13)
Greta (R)
The Kid (R)
Lizzie (R)
Lords of Chaos (NR)
A Madea Family Funeral (PG-13)
The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot (NR)
Miss Bala (PG-13)
The Upside (PG-13)
We Die Young (R)
Welcome Home (R)

Updated 6/21/19

new DVDs, reader's advisory

New DVDs – May 2019

The following films have been added to our collection during the month of May.
MPAA ratings follow each title in parentheses, with (NR) denoting the film is not rated.  If a language other than English follows the film title, the film will be in that language with optional English subtitles.

Arctic (PG-13)
Capernaum (Arabic)(R)
Destroyer (R)
Dragged Across Concrete (R)
The Hole in the Ground (R)
Isn’t It Romantic (PG-13)
The Prodigy (R)
Serenity (R)
Triple Threat (R)
The Vanishing (R)
What Men Want (R)

Updated 5/25/19

new DVDs, reader's advisory

New DVDs – April 2019

The following films have been added to our collection during the month of April.
MPAA ratings follow each title in parentheses, with (NR) denoting the film is not rated.  If a language other than English follows the film title, the film will be in that language with optional English subtitles.

Aquaman (PG-13)
Baaghi 2 (Hindi)(NR)
A Bag of Marbles (French)(NR)
Becoming Astrid (Swedish and Danish)(NR)
Berlin, I Love You (R)
Bumblebee (PG-13)
Columbus (NR)
Escape at Dannemora (NR)
First Reformed (R)
Glass (PG-13)
Here and Now (R)
Holmes & Watson (PG-13)
If Beale Street Could Talk (R)
The Invisibles (German)(NR)
Jonathan (TV-MA)
King of Thieves (R)
Love on Safari (TV-G)
Mirai (PG)
The Mule (R)
On the Basis of Sex (PG-13)
Replicas (PG-13)
Rust Creek (R)
Second Act (PG-13)
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (PG)
Stan & Ollie (PG)
Thugs of Hindostan (Hindi)(NR)
Vice (R)
Welcome to Marwen (PG-13)

Updated 4/30/19