Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Academy Award-winning films

The next Genre Reading Group meeting will be on Tuesday, December 27 at 6:30pm.  Join us for one of our biannual Salon Discussion, where there is no assigned topic.  Bring whatever you’d like to share with the group!  The library will be on holiday hours and will close at 6 but I will be here to let you in and share books with you!

The threat of weather dampened (if you’ll forgive the pun) attendance tonight, but several people emailed their selections to me and my 3 year-old godson made a surprise visit to GRG (who knew he had such a love and knowledge for films that won awards for Best Animated Feature?) so here we go with Academy Award-winning films! (all review blurbs are from www.rottentomatoes.com)

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Ratatouille (Best Animated Feature) (released 2007)
In the hilarious new animated-adventure, Ratatouille, a rat named Remy dreams of becoming a great chef despite his family's wishes and the obvious problem of being a rat in a decidedly rodent-phobic profession. When fate places Remy in the city of Paris, he finds himself ideally situated beneath a restaurant made famous by his culinary hero, Auguste Gusteau. Despite the apparent dangers of being an unwanted visitor in the kitchen at one of Paris' most exclusive restaurants, Remy forms an unlikely partnership with Linguini, the garbage boy, who inadvertently discovers Remy's amazing talents. They strike a deal, ultimately setting into motion a hilarious and exciting chain of extraordinary events that turns the culinary world of Paris upside down. Remy finds himself torn between following his dreams or returning forever to his previous existence as a rat. He learns the truth about friendship, family and having no choice but to be who he really is, a rat who wants to be a chef.

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Braveheart (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Editing, Best Makeup) (released 1995)
Mel Gibson, long-time heartthrob of the silver screen, came into his own as a director with Braveheart, an account of the life and times of medieval Scottish patriot William Wallace and, to a lesser degree, Robert the Bruce's struggle to unify his nation against its English oppressors. The story begins with young Wallace, whose father and brother have been killed fighting the English, being taken into the custody of his uncle, a nationalist and pre-Renaissance renaissance man. He returns twenty years later, a man educated both in the classics and in the art of war. There he finds his childhood sweetheart Murron (Catherine McCormack), and the two quickly fall in love. There are murmurs of revolt against the English throughout the village, but Wallace remains aloof, wishing simply to tend to his crops and live in peace. However, when his love is killed by English soldiers the day after their secret marriage (held secretly so as to prevent the local English lord from exercising the repulsive right of prima noctae, the privilege of sleeping with the bride on the first night of the marriage), he springs into action and single-handedly slays an entire platoon of foot soldiers. The other villagers join him in destroying the English garrison, and thus begins the revolt against the English in what will eventually become full-fledged war. Wallace eventually leads his fellow Scots in a series of bloody battles that prove a serious threat to English domination and, along the way, has a hushed affair with the Princess of Wales (the breathtaking Sophie Marceau) before his imminent demise. For his efforts, Gibson won the honor of Best Director from the Academy; the movie also took home statuettes for Best Picture, Cinematography, Makeup, and Sound Effects. ~ Jeremy Beday, Rovi

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Forrest Gump (Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Director, Best Visual Effects, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing) (released 1994)
"Stupid is as stupid does," says Forrest Gump (played by Tom Hanks in an Oscar-winning performance) as he discusses his relative level of intelligence with a stranger while waiting for a bus. Despite his sub-normal IQ, Gump leads a truly charmed life, with a ringside seat for many of the most memorable events of the second half of the 20th century. Entirely without trying, Forrest teaches Elvis Presley to dance, becomes a football star, meets John F. Kennedy, serves with honor in Vietnam, meets Lyndon Johnson, speaks at an anti-war rally at the Washington Monument, hangs out with the Yippies, defeats the Chinese national team in table tennis, meets Richard Nixon, discovers the break-in at the Watergate, opens a profitable shrimping business, becomes an original investor in Apple Computers, and decides to run back and forth across the country for several years. Meanwhile, as the remarkable parade of his life goes by, Forrest never forgets Jenny (Robin Wright Penn), the girl he loved as a boy, who makes her own journey through the turbulence of the 1960s and 1970s that is far more troubled than the path Forrest happens upon. Featured alongside Tom Hanks are Sally Field as Forrest's mother; Gary Sinise as his commanding officer in Vietnam; Mykelti Williamson as his ill-fated Army buddy who is familiar with every recipe that involves shrimp; and the special effects artists whose digital magic place Forrest amidst a remarkable array of historical events and people. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

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The Apartment (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Writing (Original Screenplay), Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Black & White) (released 1960)
Widely regarded as a comedy in 1960, The Apartment seems more melancholy with each passing year. Jack Lemmon plays C.C. Baxter, a go-getting office worker who loans his tiny apartment to his philandering superiors for their romantic trysts. He runs into trouble when he finds himself sharing a girlfriend (Shirley MacLaine) with his callous boss (Fred MacMurray). Director/co-writer Billy Wilder claimed that the idea for The Apartment stemmed from a short scene in the 1945 romantic drama Brief Encounter in which the illicit lovers (Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson) arrange a rendezvous in a third person's apartment. Wilder was intrigued about what sort of person would willingly vacate his residence to allow virtual strangers a playing field for hanky panky. His answer to that question wound up winning 6 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. The Apartment was adapted by Neil Simon and Burt Bacharach into the 1969 Broadway musical Promises, Promises. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Street Angel (Best Actress) (released 1928)
Fox's follow-up to Seventh Heaven, The Street Angel reunited stars Charles Farrell and Janet Gaynor with director Frank Borzage. The action begins in Naples, as poverty-stricken Maria (Gaynor) steals medicine for her ailing mother. Now a fugitive from justice, Maria escapes by joining a travelling carnival, where she meets and falls in love with portrait painter Angelo (Charles Farrell). Impressed by her ethereal beauty, Angelo asks the girl to pose for his portrait of the Madonna. But when she's suddenly arrested, the disillusioned Angelo sinks into depravation. Released from prison, Maria sees her portrait in a church and is inspired to seek out Angelo. Explaining the circumstances of her arrest, Maria saves Angelo from his sordid surroundings, inspiring him to return to painting -- and, not surprisingly, to propose marriage. Heavily influenced by the "Germanic" style then in vogue, Street Angel lacked the simplicity and sincerity of Sunrise but managed to post a profit all the same.

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Klute (Best Actress) (released 1971)
The first part of his "paranoia trilogy," Alan J. Pakula's 1971 thriller details the troubled life of a Manhattan prostitute stalked by one of her tricks. Investigating the disappearance of his friend Tom Gruneman (Robert Milli), rural Pennsylvania private eye John Klute (Donald Sutherland) follows a lead provided by Gruneman's associate Peter Cable (Charles Cioffi) to seek out a call girl who Gruneman knew in New York City. The call girl is Bree Daniels (Jane Fonda), an aspiring actress who turns tricks for the cash and to be free of emotional bondage. Klute follows Bree's every move, observing the city's decadence and her isolation, eventually contacting her about Gruneman. Bree claims not to know Gruneman, but she does reveal that she has received threats from a john. As Bree becomes involved in Klute's search and realizes that she is in danger, she reluctantly falls in love with Klute, despite her wish to remain unattached to any man. When she finally comes face to face with the killer, however, she is forced to reconsider her detached urban life.

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Room (Best Actress) (released 2015)
Both highly suspenseful and deeply emotional, ROOM is a unique and touching exploration of the boundless love between a mother and her child. After 5-year-old Jack (Jacob Tremblay) and his Ma (Brie Larson) escape from the enclosed surroundings that Jack has known his entire life, the boy makes a thrilling discovery: the outside world. As he experiences all the joy, excitement, and fear that this new adventure brings, he holds tight to the one thing that matters most of all--his special bond with his loving and devoted Ma.

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The Wizard of Oz (Best Song, Best Original Score) (released 1939)
L. Frank Baum's classic tale comes to magisterial Technicolor life! The Wizard of Oz stars legendary Judy Garland as Dorothy, an innocent farm girl whisked out of her mundane earthbound existence into a land of pure imagination. Dorothy's journey in Oz will take her through emerald forests, yellow brick roads, and creepy castles, all with the help of some unusual but earnest song-happy friends.

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Gone With the Wind (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress, Best Cinematogrphy (Color), Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction) (released 1939)
Gone With the Wind boils down to a story about a spoiled Southern girl's hopeless love for a married man. Producer David O. Selznick managed to expand this concept, and Margaret Mitchell's best-selling novel, into nearly four hours' worth of screen time, on a then-astronomical 3.7-million-dollar budget, creating what would become one of the most beloved movies of all time. Gone With the Wind opens in April of 1861, at the palatial Southern estate of Tara, where Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh) hears that her casual beau Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard) plans to marry "mealy mouthed" Melanie Hamilton (Olivia de Havilland). Despite warnings from her father (Thomas Mitchell) and her faithful servant Mammy (Hattie McDaniel), Scarlett intends to throw herself at Ashley at an upcoming barbecue at Twelve Oaks. Alone with Ashley, she goes into a fit of histrionics, all of which is witnessed by roguish Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), the black sheep of a wealthy Charleston family, who is instantly fascinated by the feisty, thoroughly self-centered Scarlett: "We're bad lots, both of us." The movie's famous action continues from the burning of Atlanta (actually the destruction of a huge wall left over from King Kong) through the now-classic closing line, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." Holding its own against stiff competition (many consider 1939 to be the greatest year of the classical Hollywood studios), Gone With the Wind won ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actress (Vivien Leigh), and Best Supporting Actress (Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American to win an Oscar). The film grossed nearly 192 million dollars, assuring that, just as he predicted, Selznick's epitaph would be "The Man Who Made Gone With the Wind." ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Wuthering Heights (Best Cinematography: Black & White) (released 1939)
Growing up together in 19th-century Yorkshire, Heathcliff and Cathy form a deep bond. In young adulthood, Cathy wounds the penniless Heathcliff by marrying into wealth, and his obsession with revenge leads to tragedy. Laurence Olivier is brilliant as the brooding Heathcliff in this poetic adaptation of Emily Bronte's novel.

My 3 year old godson Henry visited the boardroom while I waited for participants and so I engaged him in his first bookclub discussion, on the various merits of the relatively recent Academy Award for Best AnimatedFeature.

He said he did not like Shrek (the first recipient in 2001) because it was scary. 

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Once upon a time, in a far away swamp, there lived an ornery ogre named Shrek whose precious solitude is suddenly shattered by an invasion of annoying fairy tale characters. There are blind mice in his food, a big, bad wolf in his bed, three little homeless pigs and more, all banished from their kingdom by the evil Lord Farquaad. Determined to save their home--not to mention his own--Shrek cuts a deal with Farquaad and sets out to rescue the beautiful Princess Fiona to be Farquaad's bride. Accompanying him on his mission is wisecracking Donkey, who will do anything for Shrek... except shut up. Rescuing the Princess from a fire-breathing dragon may prove the least of their problems when the deep, dark secret she has been keeping is revealed.

He said his mom’s (she was not so enthusiastic when I asked her about it) favorite movie on the list was Happy Feet (2006),

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In the world of the emperor penguin, a simple song can mean the difference between a lifetime of happiness and an eternity of loneliness. When a penguin named Mumble is born without the ability to sing the romantic song that will attract his soul mate, he'll have to resort to some fancy footwork by tap dancing his way into the heart of the one he loves. Directed by Babe mastermind George Miller, Happy Feet tells the tale of one penguin's quest for love, and features an all-star cast of vocal talent that includes Robin Williams, Hugh Jackman, Elijah Wood, Nicole Kidman, and Brittany Murphy. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

though he also enjoyed Frozen (2013)

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Featuring the voices of Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel, "Frozen" is the coolest comedy-adventure ever to hit the big screen. When a prophecy traps a kingdom in eternal winter, Anna, a fearless optimist, teams up with extreme mountain man Kristoff and his sidekick reindeer Sven on an epic journey to find Anna's sister Elsa, the Snow Queen, and put an end to her icy spell. Encountering mystical trolls, a funny snowman named Olaf, Everest-like extremes and magic at every turn, Anna and Kristoff battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom from destruction. (c) Disney

and The Incredibles (2004). 

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Once one of the world's top masked crime fighters, Bob Parr--known to all as "Mr. Incredible"--fought evil and saved lives on a daily basis. But now fifteen years later, Bob and his wife--a famous superhero in her own right--have adopted civilian identities and retreated to the suburbs to live normal lives with their three kids. Now he's a clock-punching insurance claims adjuster fighting boredom and a bulging waistline. Itching to get back into action, Bob gets his chance when a mysterious communication summons him to a remote island for a top-secret assignment.

He got VERY excited about Toy Story 3 (2010) (I can neither confirm nor deny that there may have been some confusion with the first Toy Story)

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"Toy Story 3" welcomes Woody, Buzz and the whole gang back to the big screen as Andy prepares to depart for college and his loyal toys find themselves in... daycare! These untamed tots with their sticky little fingers do not play nice, so it's all for one and one for all as plans for the great escape get underway. A few new faces-some plastic, some plush-join the adventure, including iconic swinging bachelor and Barbie's counterpart Ken, a thespian hedgehog named Mr. Pricklepants and a pink, strawberry-scented teddy bear called Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear.

but he said Brave (2012) was his very favorite.


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Merida is a skilled archer and impetuous daughter of King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). Determined to carve her own path in life, Merida defies an age-old custom sacred to the uproarious lords of the land: massive Lord MacGuffin (Kevin McKidd), surly Lord Macintosh (Craig Ferguson) and cantankerous Lord Dingwall (Robbie Coltrane). Merida's actions inadvertently unleash chaos and fury in the kingdom, and when she turns to an eccentric old Witch (Julie Walters) for help, she is granted an ill-fated wish. The ensuing peril forces Merida to discover the meaning of true bravery in order to undo a beastly curse before it's too late. -- (C) Disney

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

food and friendship

The next Genre Reading Group meeting will be Tuesday, November 29th at 6:30pm and the topic up for discussion will be Academy Award-winning films.  The display on the second floor currently contains Best Picture winners, but it can be a film that has won an Academy Award in ANY category from Best Directory to Best Visual Effects…whatever, you get to pick!  Last week, GRG discussed cookbooks. My thanks go out to Amanda for handling the meeting while I was under the weather!

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American city girl marries Irish dairy farmer; cooking, growing, foraging, fishing, preserving, and baking ensue: 150 delightful classic Irish recipes updated for the modern home cook. 

The Farmette Cookbook documents Imen McDonnell's extraordinary Irish country cooking journey, which began the moment she fell in love with an Irish farmer and moved across the Atlantic to County Limerick. This book's collection of 150 recipes and colorful stories chronicles nearly a decade-long adventure of learning to feed a family (and several hungry farmers) while adjusting to her new home (and nursing a bit of homesickness). Along the way she teaches us foundational kitchen skills and time-honored Irish traditions, sharing wisdom from her mother-in-law and other doyennes of Irish cooking. We learn the ritual of Sunday lunch, pudding, and tea. We go along with her on wild crafting walks--the country version of foraging for wild edibles. We visit her local fishmonger to see what we can create with his daily catch from the sea. Along the way we see how she's deviated from classic Irish recipes to add contemporary or American twists. 

The Farmette Cookbook 
is a compilation of tried-and-true recipes with an emphasis on local, fresh ingredients and traditional Irish kitchen skills, which for Imen have healed homesickness and forged new friendships.

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Veganism has been steadily moving toward the mainstream as more and more people become aware of its many benefits. Even burger-loving omnivores are realizing that adding more plant-based foods to their diet is good for their health and the environment. Big Vegan satisfies both the casual meat eater and the dedicated herbivore with more than 350 delicious, easy-to-prepare vegan recipes covering breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Highlighting the plentiful flavors that abound in natural foods, this comprehensive cookbook includes the fundamentals for adopting a meat-free, dairy-free lifestyle, plus a resource guide and glossary that readers can refer to time and again. Eat your veggies and go vegan!

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You'll find some of your all-time favorite restaurant recipes in Birmingham's Best Bites. Both old and new are featured and an easy to use format. Inspired photograph's make this a pleasing book for any kitchen.

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The sassy, country-cookin’ matriarch of the Robertson clan and star of A&E®'s Duck Dynasty® dishes up her fabulous recipes and stories in this irresistible family cookbook.

Writing a cookbook for people who love good food has been a lifelong dream for me—and I’m so happy to be sharing some of our family’s favorite recipes with you! In this book you’ll find everything from Jase’s Favorite Sweet Potato Pie to Phil’s own special recipes, like his scrumptious Crawfish Fettuccine. There’s “girly” food for a gathering of your best girlfriends, like Aunt Judy’s Cranberry Salad, as well as dishes straight from the hunt like Boiled Squirrel and Dumplings. 

In addition to more than one hundred specially chosen recipes, I’ve included old family snapshots of the days before the Duck Dynasty® series on A&E® and stories of our family and how we live. The dinner table has long been one of our favorite places for telling stories, and there’s always competition to see who can dish out the wildest story. We believe that food and cooking bring people together—it’s brought our family together for generations, and it can do the same for yours. Gather your family around the table and serve up delicious home-cooked meals with recipes like . . . 

• Willie’s Famous Chicken Strips 
• Melt-in-Your-Mouth Biscuits 
• Cheesy Corn Casserole 
• Fresh Strawberry Pie 
• Best Brisket Ever 
• Crawfish Balls 
• Creamy Green Grape Salad 
• Papaw Phil’s Homemade Ice Cream 

Join with our family as we create lasting family traditions that will warm the hearts and bellies of those you love. Let’s do it together.

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The Good Housekeeping Cookbook by the editors of Good Housekeeping Magazine

In honor of the magazine's 125th anniversary, here is the revised and expanded edition of Good Housekeeping's trusty cook's companion! Filled with 1,275 delicious recipes, this indispensable kitchen reference also offers dependable information on cooking techniques, tools, ingredients, food handling, and nutrition.

In addition to popular favorites like Southern Fried Chicken and Strawberry Shortcake, there are 168 new recipes attuned to today's lifestyles, all-new chapters devoted to Canning and Freezing, ideas for holiday celebrations, and mouthwatering new photography.
And, as always, every recipe has been triple-tested and perfected for ease, reliability, and great taste in the famed Good Housekeeping Test Kitchens.

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R. W. Apple, Jr., of The New York Times credits third-generation Alabamian Frank Stitt with turning Birmingham into a "sophisticated, easygoing showplace of enticing, southern-accented cooking." His southern peers think his cooking may have a more profound sense of place than any of theirs. His food is rustic and homey, but sophisticated in method.

Now, Alabama's favorite son has written a long-awaited cookbook that features his enticing Provençal-influenced southern food. More than 150 recipes range from the traditional--Spicy Green Tomato and Peach Relish, Spoonbread, and Pickled Shrimp--to the inspired--Slow-Roasted Black Grouper with Ham and Pumpkin Pirlau and Pork Loin with Corn Pudding and Grilled Eggplant. Desserts such as Bourbon Panna Cotta and Sweet Potato Tart with Coconut Crust and Pecan Streusel elevate the best of the South for cooks everywhere.

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“Seasonality is the cornerstone to our menu-planning success,” says Chef Chris Hastings. The Hot and Hot Fish Club Restaurant is one of the best in the South because it only uses the finest and freshest ingredients in their recipes. From the fresh-caught Pacific seafood flown in from Osprey Seafood in San Francisco to the blackberries and Vidalia onions from local Garfrerick Farms of Alpine, Alabama, Hot and Hot goes to great lengths to make sure that what goes into every dish is always fresh and in season.

The Hot and Hot Fish Club Cookbook contains more than 200 creative and delicious recipes that are organized to reflect the seasonal nature of local ingredients. It features profiles of dozens purveyors who supply the restaurant with the freshest ingredients. With more than 50 full-color photographs, lifestyle menus complete with wine and beer pairings, and a sourcing section, The Hot and Hot Fish Club Cookbook is your guide to preparing exquisite, fresh cuisine from the hottest restaurant in the South.

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Treasured Alabama Recipes by Kathryn Tucker Windham

Windham’s book is divided into regions: Coast, Piney Woods, Wiregrass, Black Belt, Tennessee Valley, Appalachians, and Cities.  Recipes mentioned include pulled mints, pot licker dumplings, eggplant and okra.  Windham is a noted storyteller so tales and stories about food and family abound, including a humdinger about paper vs monogrammed linen napkins!


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

myth and legend

Things to look forward to in October:

Oct 18, 6:30pm – documentary on a famous haunting (strong language, scary images)
Oct 25, 6:30pm – next month’s Genre Reading Group will meet in Administration on the 2nd floor


GRG met last night and had a discussion of mythic proportions!  See what I did there?  Seriously, we discussed books and movies that deal with myth, legend, storytelling, etc.  It was a wide ranging discussion from conspiracy theories of human development to the prophecies of what humanity may be like in the future.  We talked about it all! (note: all book reviews come from Amazon or book jacket; DVD reviews from www.rottentomatoes.com)

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One Summer: America 1927 by Bill Bryson
The summer of 1927 began with Charles Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic. Meanwhile, Babe Ruth was closing in on the home run record. In Newark, New Jersey, Alvin “Shipwreck” Kelly sat atop a flagpole for twelve days, and in Chicago, the gangster Al Capone was tightening his grip on bootlegging. The first true “talking picture,” Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer, was filmed, forever changing the motion picture industry. 

All this and much, much more transpired in the year Americans attempted and accomplished outsized things—and when the twentieth century truly became the American century. One Summer transforms it all into narrative nonfiction of the highest order.

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Claymore & Kilt: Tales of Scottish Kings and Castles by Laclaire Alger (Sorche Nic Leodhas)
A delightful collection of stirring historical tales about Scottish kings, lairds, and chieftains from the time of King Fingal in 211 AD to King James VI in 1611 AD. Strong through these tales of love, battle, loyalty, misdeeds, and good deeds are the Scots’ unbending honor and steadfast sense of humor, colorfully captured by the author in her inimitable lilting style certain to charm readers.

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Where did "modern" civilization begin? What lies beneath the waves? Do myths describe interstellar impact? How'd they lift that stone? Was the Ark of the Covenant a mechanical device? Were there survivors of an Atlantean catastrophe? Who really discovered the "New" World? "Hidden history" continues to fascinate an ever wider audience. In this massive compendium, editor Preston Peet brings together an all-star cast of contributors to question established wisdom about the history of the world and its civilizations. Peet and anthology contributors guide us through exciting archaeological adventures and treasure hunts, ancient mysteries, lost or rediscovered technologies, and assorted "Forteana," using serious scientific studies and reports, scholarly research, and some plain old fringe material, as what is considered "fringe" today is often hard science tomorrow.

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A decade ago, French architect Jean-Pierre Houdin became obsessed by the centuries-old question: How was the Great Pyramid built? How, in a nation of farmers only recently emerged from the Stone Age, could such a massive, complex, and enduring structure have been envisioned and constructed?
Written by world-renowned Egyptologist Bob Brier in collaboration with Houdin, The Secret of the Great Pyramid moves deftly between the ancient and the modern, chronicling two equally fascinating interrelated histories. It is a remarkable account of the step-by-step planning and assembling of the magnificent edifice – the brainchild of an innovative genius, the Egyptian architect Hemienu, who imagined, organized, and oversaw a monumental construction project that took more than two decades to complete and that employed the services of hundreds of architects, mathematicians, boatbuilders, stonemasons, and metallurgists.

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Mary Magdalene was the woman healed of her possession by seven devils and was the first to see the risen Jesus on Easter Day. Was she also the reformed prostitute who washed Jesus's feet with her tears? Was she the sister of the raised Lazarus? Did she marry Jesus? And did she become a leader of the early churches, despite the opposition of Simon Peter (who later became the first pope)? For centuries Mary Magdalene has been shrouded in mystery, but in Beloved Disciple renowned scholar Robin Griffith-Jones cuts through the confusion to bring this extraordinary figure back to startling, fascinating life.

Griffith-Jones examines New Testament accounts, ancient Gnostic sources, such as the Gospel of Mary, as well as medieval and Renaissance accounts of Mary's life and travels in the years following her discovery of Jesus's empty tomb on Easter morning. Beloved Disciple addresses questions about Mary and Jesus that have long stirred passionate debate, exploring the roles and power of men and women in the early churches—issues that still haunt the Church.

Illustrated with some of the most beautiful images of this enigmatic figure ever produced, this book puts the tantalizing fragments of information we have of Mary back into their original context: the vital stories in which Mary plays a part. Beloved Disciple shows us Mary as a model of discipleship and, through the lens of her life, offers a fresh perspective on the New Testament gospels and the Gnostic stories, to reveal them as we have never seen them before.

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Never before in the history of medicine has mankind faced such hope and peril as those of us poised to embrace the radical medical technologies of today.

Eve Herold's Beyond Human examines the medical technologies taking shape at the nexus of computing, microelectronics, engineering, nanotechnology, cellular and gene therapies, and robotics. These technologies will dramatically transform our lives and allow us to live for hundreds of years. Yet, with these blessings come complicated practical and ethical issues, some of which we can predict, but many we cannot.

Beyond Human taps the minds of doctors, scientists, and engineers engaged in developing a host of new technologies while telling the stories of some of the patients courageously testing the radical new treatments about to come into the market.

Beyond Human asks the difficult questions of the scientists and bioethicists who seek to ensure that as our bodies and brains become ever more artificial, we hold onto our humanity. In this new world, will everyone have access to technological miracles, or will we end up living in a world of radical disparities? How will society accommodate life spans that extend into hundreds of years? Will we and our descendants be able to bring about the dream of a future liberated by technology, or will we end up merely serving the machines and devices that keep us healthy, smart, young, and alive?











GENERAL DISCUSSION – The Children of Men by P.D. James:  Told with P. D. James’s trademark suspense, insightful characterization, and riveting storytelling, The Children of Men is a story of a world with no children and no future. The human race has become infertile, and the last generation to be born is now adult. Civilization itself is crumbling as suicide and despair become commonplace. Oxford historian Theodore Faron, apathetic toward a future without a future, spends most of his time reminiscing. Then he is approached by Julian, a bright, attractive woman who wants him to help get her an audience with his cousin, the powerful Warden of England. She and her band of unlikely revolutionaries may just awaken his desire to live . . . and they may also hold the key to survival for the human race. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood:  In the world of the near future, who will control women's bodies?  Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are only valued if their ovaries are viable.  Offred can remember the days before, when she lived and made love with her husband Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now....Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, The Handmaid's Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force.

In this short talk,TED Fellow Sarah Parcak introduces the field of "space archaeology" — using satellite images to search for clues to the lost sites of past civilizations. 

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American Folklore and Legend by the editors of Reader’s Digest
An anthology of popular American stories, poems, songs, and lore that have become part of the folklore of the United States.

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Ain’t Nothing but a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry by Scott Reynolds Nelson and Marc Aronson
Who was the real John Henry? The story of this legendary African-American figure has come down to us in so many songs, stories, and plays, that the facts are often lost. Historian Scott Nelson brings John Henry alive for young readers in his personal quest for the true story of the man behind the myth. Nelson presents the famous folk song as a mystery to be unraveled, identifying the embedded clues within the lyrics, which he examines to uncover many surprising truths. He investigates the legend and reveals the real John Henry in this beautifully illustrated book.

Nelson’s narrative is multilayered, interweaving the story of the building of the railroads, the period of Reconstruction, folk tales, American mythology, and an exploration of the tradition of work songs and their evolution into blues and rock and roll. This is also the story of the author’s search for the flesh-and-blood man who became an American folk hero; Nelson gives a first-person account of how the historian works, showing history as a process of discovery. Readers rediscover an African-American folk hero. We meet John Henry, the man who worked for the railroad, driving steel spikes. When the railroad threatens to replace workers with a steam-powered hammer, John Henry bets that he can drive the beams into the ground faster than the machine. He wins the contest, but dies in the effort.  Nelson’s vibrant text, combined with archival images, brings a new perspective and focus to the life and times of this American legend.

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Curious Myths of the Middle Ages by Sabine Baring-Gould
First published in 1866, Curious Myths of the Middle Ages became a highly popular work and went through many editions. Edward Hardy has skillfully edited the original lengthy text into more concise form while carefully preserving Baring-Gould’s style and manner in the telling of these strange and compelling myths and legends that are so much a part of the Middle Ages. This edition is illustrated with numerous woodcuts by Albrecht Durer.

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Since its original publication by Little, Brown and Company in 1942, Edith Hamilton's Mythology has sold millions of copies throughout the world and established itself as a perennial bestseller in its various available formats. Mythology succeeds like no other book in bringing to life for the modern reader the Greek, Roman, and Norse myths and legends that are the keystone of Western culture - the stories of gods and heroes that have inspired human creativity from antiquity to the present.

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The justly famous Mythology by Thomas Bulfinch contains three volumes: The Age Of Fable -- The gods and goddesses of Greece and Rome, as well as the mythology of the Germanic tribes, England and the Near East; The Legend Of Charlemange -- Accounts of the reign of the first great French Emperor, his wars and conquests; and The Age Of Chivalry -- King Arthur and his court, Lancelot and Guenever, and the death of Arthur.

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Legend (DVD)
A peasant hero battles a demonic underworld prince who seeks to plunge the world into an ice age. When the evil prince captures a fair maiden, the hero rallies an army of elves to save her, and defeat his diabolical foe once and for all.

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This film is a '90s version of the classic Robin Hood story, with Kevin Costner starring as the good-guy thief. Costner is joined in his efforts against the murdering Sheriff of Nottingham (Alan Rickman) by Morgan Freeman who plays a philosophizing Moor, and by Nick Brimble, who plays Little John (anything but little). After Robin barely survives a watery skirmish with Little John, the two become allies and Robin joins forces with Little John's band of robber thieves to overcome the evils of the dastardly Nottingham sheriff. 












GENERAL DISCUSSION – Willow (DVD):  Though Willow was one of director Ron Howard's few box-office disappointments, it definitely deserves a second look. At once an epic celebration and a gentle spoof of the sword-and-sorcery genre, the film concerns the efforts by little person Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis) to protect a sacred infant from the machinations of a wicked queen (Jean Marsh). Incidentally, this is the film where co-star Val Kilmer met his future wife Joanne WhalleyLadyhawke (DVD):  In medieval France, a young, nebbishy pickpocket befriends a knight who has fallen under a strange curse. It is soon up to the pickpocket to help reunite the knight and his lady love and defeat the evil bishop behind the curse in this romantic fantasy film.

What are YOU reading/watching?



Wednesday, August 31, 2016

first fiction

The next Genre Reading Group meeting will be Tuesday, September 27th at 6:30 pm and the topic up for discussion will be “Myth & Legend.”  The display is up at the 2nd floor Reference Desk and is of…mythic proportions (see what I did there?). 

We have a Poetry & Yoga series with Marie Blair coming up September and October!  What do poetry and yoga have in common? A call to pay attention, an exploration of self, and invitation to notice.  Yoga teacher and librarian Marie Blair brings movement and words together in a four-week series. Bring your curiosity and wear comfortable clothes!  September 17 & 24, October 8 & 29, 10am-12:30pm FREE

Also, if you and your friends/family are wine connoisseurs, you DEFINITELY don’t want to miss the Western Supermarkets Fall Wine & Food Festival on Friday, September 30th 6-9pm at the Birmingham Zoo.  Tickets are available at the Library, Western Supermarket locations, and online at http://westernsupermarkets.tixclix.com/2262.  Proceeds from the event benefit Emmet O’Neal Library, Birmingham Zoo, East Lake Initiative, and Junior League of Birmingham

This week, GRG met to discuss debut novels!  There’s something fresh and untried about an author’s first book.  Stephen King started with Carrie, Khaled Hosseini with The Kite Runner, John Grisham with A Time To Kill, and Harper Lee with To Kill a Mockingbird.  Some of the authors we discussed went on to multi-book deals, while some stuck with one (or two) or are just starting out in their careers.  It was a great discussion!

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Security by Gina Wohlsdorf
Manderley Resort is a gleaming, new twenty-story hotel on the California coast. It’s about to open its doors, and the world--at least those with the means to afford it--will be welcomed into a palace of opulence and unparalleled security. But someone is determined that Manderley will never open. The staff has no idea that their every move is being watched, and over the next twelve hours they will be killed off, one by one.

Writing in the tradition of Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King, and with a deep bow to Daphne du Maurier, author Gina Wohlsdorf pairs narrative ingenuity and razor-wire prose with quick twists, sharp turns, and gasp-inducing terror. Security isgrand guignol storytelling at its very best.

A shocking thriller, a brilliant narrative puzzle, and a multifaceted love story unlike any other, Security marks the debut of a fearless and gifted writer.

Image result for you should pity us instead book coverYou Should Pity Us Instead by Amy Gustine
You Should Pity Us Instead explores some of our toughest dilemmas: the cost of Middle East strife at its most intimate level, the likelihood of God considered in day-to-day terms, the moral stakes of family obligations, and the inescapable fact of mortality. Amy Gustine exhibits an extraordinary generosity toward her characters, instilling them with a thriving, vivid presence.

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Once a Crooked Man by David McCallum (YES! Ducky from CSI!)

Crime pays. And pays well.
Sal, Max and Enzo Bruschetti have proved this over a lifetime of nefarious activity that they have kept hidden from law enforcement. Nowhere in any file, on any computer is there a record of anything illegal from which they have profited. But Max has a problem. His body is getting old and his doctor has told him to take it easy. Max has decided that the time has come for the family to retire.
But when young actor Harry Murphy overhears the Bruschetti brothers planning changes to their organization, including the murder of a man in London who knows too much, the Bruschetti's plans begin to unravel.
After Harry makes the well-intentioned if egregious mistake of trying to warn the Bruchetti's intended victim he finds himself alone in a foreign country, on the wrong side of the law, with a suitcase full of cash and a dangerous man on his trail. And while his good looks, charm and cheerful persistence may prove assets in the turbulent events that follow, none of Harry's past roles have prepared him for what happens next.
At turns tense and funny, Once a Crooked Man is infused with the infectious charm that has made David McCallum one of television's longest running, most-beloved stars.

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The Tale of Genji by Lady Murasaki
Written in the eleventh century, this exquisite portrait of courtly life in medieval Japan is widely celebrated as the world’s first novel. Genji, the Shining Prince, is the son of an emperor. He is a passionate character whose tempestuous nature, family circumstances, love affairs, alliances, and shifting political fortunes form the core of this magnificent epic. Royall Tyler’s superior translation is detailed, poetic, and superbly true to the Japanese original while allowing the modern reader to appreciate it as a contemporary treasure. Supplemented with detailed notes, glossaries, character lists, and chronologies to help the reader navigate the multigenerational narrative, this comprehensive edition presents this ancient tale in the grand style that it deserves.

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Ecko Rising by Danie Ware
In a futuristic London where technological body modification is the norm, Ecko stands alone as a testament to the extreme capabilities of his society. Driven half mad by the systems running his body, Ecko is a criminal for hire. No job is too dangerous or insane.

When a mission goes wrong and Ecko finds himself catapulted across dimensions into a peaceful and unadvanced society living in fear of 'magic', he must confront his own percepions of reality and his place within it.

A thrilling debut, Ecko Rising explores the massive range of the sci-fi and fantasy genres, and the possible implications of pitting them against one another. Author Danie Ware creates an immersive and richly imagined world that readers will be eager to explore in the first book in this exciting new trilogy.


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Somnium (Latin for “The Dream”) by Johannes Kepler
According to Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov, Kepler´s "Somnium" ("The Dream"), written around 1611, should be considered the first science-fiction novel ever. The eminent astronomer Johannes Kepler imagines a trip to the moon and speculates about its inhabitants and astronomy.

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The Headmaster’s Darlings: A Mountain Brook Novel by Katherine Clark
The Headmaster's Darlings is a satirical comedy of manners featuring the morbidly obese Norman Laney, an unorthodox, inspirational English teacher and college counselor for an elite private school in Mountain Brook, a privileged community outside of Birmingham. A natural wonder from blue-collar Alabama, Laney has barged into the exclusive world of Mountain Brook on the strength of his sensational figure and its several-hundred-pound commitment to art and culture. His mission is to defeat "the barbarians," introduce true civilization in place of its thin veneer, and change his southern world for the better. Although Laney is adored by his students (his "darlings") and by the society ladies (also his "darlings") who rely on him to be the life of their parties and the leader of their book clubs, there are others who think he is a larger-than-life menace to the comfortable status quo of Mountain Brook society and must be banished.

When Laney is summoned to the principal's office one day in November 1983, he expects to be congratulated for a recent public-relations triumph he engineered on behalf of the school. Instead his letter of resignation is demanded with no explanation given. Faced with an ultimatum and his imminent dismissal, Laney must outflank the principal at his own underhanded game, find out who said what about him and why, and launch his current crop of Alabama students into the wider world--or at least into Ivy League colleges.

In her debut novel, Katherine Clark casts a comical eye on southern society and celebrates the power of great teachers and schools to transform the lives of young people and lift up their communities. Surrounded by a colorful cast of his colleagues, his young protégés and Mountain Brook's upper echelon, Laney emerges as a heroically idiosyncratic character with Falstaffian appetites, an inimitable wit and intellect, and a boundless generosity toward his students that reshapes their lives in profound, unexpected ways.

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GENERAL DISCUSSION: Clark’s second novel, All the Governor’s Men, is also available.
It’s the summer of George Wallace’s last run for governor of Alabama in 1982, and the state is at a crossroads. In Katherine Clark’s All the Governor’s Men, a political comedy of manners that reimagines Wallace’s last campaign, voters face a clear choice between the infamous segregationist, now a crippled old man in a wheelchair, and his primary opponent, Aaron Osgood, a progressive young candidate poised to liberate the state from its George Wallace–poisoned past. 

Daniel Dobbs, a twenty one-year-old Harvard graduate and South Alabama native, is one of many young people who have joined the campaign representing hope and change for a downtrodden Alabama. A political animal himself, Daniel possesses so much charm and charisma that he was nicknamed “the Governor” in college. Nowhe is engaged in the struggle to conquer once and for all the malignant man Alabamians have traditionally called “the Governor.” 

This historic election isn’t the only thing Daniel wants to win. During his senior year, he fell in love with a freshman girl from Mountain Brook, the “Tiny Kingdom” of wealth and privilege, a world apart from his own Alabama origins. A small-town country boy, Daniel desperately wants to gain the favor of his girlfriend’s family along with her mentor, the larger-than-life English teacher Norman Laney. Daniel also wants to keep one or two ex-girlfriends firmly out of the picture. In the course of his summer, he must untangle his complicated personal life, satisfy the middle-class dreams of his parents for their Harvard-educated son, decide whether to enter law school or launch his own political career, and, incidentally, help his candidate defeat George Wallace, in a close and increasingly dirty race.
 
All the Governor’s Men is a darkly comic look at both the political process in general and a significant political chapter in Alabama history. This second novel in Katherine Clark’s Mountain Brook series depicts the social and political landscape of an Alabama world that is at once a place like no other and at the same time, a place like all others.

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Neuromancer by William Gibson
Case had been the sharpest data-thief in the business, until vengeful former employees crippled his nervous system. But now a new and very mysterious employer recruits him for a last-chance run. The target: an unthinkably powerful artificial intelligence orbiting Earth in service of the sinister Tessier-Ashpool business clan. With a dead man riding shotgun and Molly, mirror-eyed street-samurai, to watch his back, Case embarks on an adventure that ups the ante on an entire genre of fiction.

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GENERAL DISCUSSION: Pattern Recognition is another great Gibson novel.
Cayce Pollard is an expensive, spookily intuitive market-research consultant. In London on a job, she is offered a secret assignment: to investigate some intriguing snippets of video that have been appearing on the Internet. An entire subculture of people is obsessed with these bits of footage, and anybody who can create that kind of brand loyalty would be a gold mine for Cayce's client. But when her borrowed apartment is burgled and her computer hacked, she realizes there's more to this project than she had expected. 

Still, Cayce is her father's daughter, and the danger makes her stubborn. Win Pollard, ex-security expert, probably ex-CIA, took a taxi in the direction of the World Trade Center on September 11 one year ago, and is presumed dead. Win taught Cayce a bit about the way agents work. She is still numb at his loss, and, as much for him as for any other reason, she refuses to give up this newly weird job, which will take her to Tokyo and on to Russia. With help and betrayal from equally unlikely quarters, Cayce will follow the trail of the mysterious film to its source, and in the process will learn something about her father's life and death.


The Bronte sisters all published their first novels at the same time, under pseudonyms

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Emily Bronte = Ellis Bell: her only published novel was Wuthering Heights
Lockwood, the new tenant of Thrushcross Grange, situated on the bleak Yorkshire moors, is forced to seek shelter one night at Wuthering Heights, the home of his landlord. There he discovers the history of the tempestuous events that took place years before; of the intense relationship between the gypsy foundling Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw; and how Catherine, forced to choose between passionate, tortured Heathcliff and gentle, well-bred Edgar Linton, surrendered to the expectations of her class. As Heathcliff's bitterness and vengeance at his betrayal is visited upon the next generation, their innocent heirs must struggle to escape the legacy of the past.

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Charlotte Bronte = Currer Bell: her first novel was Jane Eyre
Having grown up an orphan in the home of her cruel aunt and at a harsh charity school, Jane Eyre becomes an independent and spirited survivor-qualities that serve her well as governess at Thornfield Hall. But when she finds love with her sardonic employer, Rochester, the discovery of his terrible secret forces her to make a choice. Should she stay with him whatever the consequences or follow her convictions, even if it means leaving her beloved?

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Anne Bronte = Acton Bell: her first novel was Agnes Grey
The novel follows Agnes Grey, a governess, as she works in several bourgeois families. Scholarship and comments by Anne's sister Charlotte Brontë suggest the novel is largely based on Anne Brontë's own experiences as a governess for five years. Like her sister Charlotte's novel Jane Eyre, it addresses what the precarious position of governess entailed and how it affected a young woman. The choice of central character allows Anne to deal with issues of oppression and abuse of women and governesses, isolation and ideas of empathy. An additional theme is the fair treatment of animals. Agnes Grey also mimics some of the stylistic approaches of bildungsromans, employing ideas of personal growth and coming to age, but representing a character who in fact does not gain in virtue.

GENERAL DISCUSSION: There are several great museums dedicated, or holding collections dedicated, to the Bronte sisters. The Morgan Library & Museum and the Bronte Parsonage Museum.  

A Wuthering Heights musical tribute


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Nelly Dean: A Return to Wuthering Heights by Alison Case
Young Nelly Dean has been Hindley’s closest companion for as long as she can remember, living freely at the great house, Wuthering Heights. But when the benevolence of the master brings a wild child into the house, Nelly learns she must follow in her mother’s footsteps, be called "servant" and give herself over completely to the demands of the Earnshaw family.
But Nelly is not the only one who finds her life disrupted by this strange newcomer. As death, illness, and passion sweep through the house, Nelly suffers heartache and betrayals at the hands of those she cherishes most, tempting her to leave it all behind. But when a new heir is born, a reign of violence begins that will test even Nelly’s formidable spirit as she finds out what it is to know true sacrifice.
Nelly Dean is a wonderment of storytelling and an inspired accompaniment to Emily Bronte’s adored work. It is the story of a woman who is fated to bear the pain of a family she is unable to leave, and unable to save.

What are YOU reading?