(500) Days of Summer
Synopsis: Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel star in director Marc Webb's wry, nonlinear romantic comedy about a man who falls head over heels for a woman who doesn't believe in love. Tom (Gordon-Levitt) is an aspiring architect who currently earns his living as a greeting card writer. Upon encountering his boss' beautiful new secretary, Summer (Deschanel), Tom discovers that the pair have plenty in common despite the fact that she's seemingly out of his league; for starters, they both love the Smiths, and they're both fans of surrealist artist Magritte. Before long Tom is smitten. All he can think about is Summer. Tom believes deeply in the concept of soul mates, and he's finally found his. Unfortunately for Tom, Summer sees true love as the stuff of fairy tales, and isn't looking for romance. Undaunted and undeterred by his breezy lover's casual stance on relationships, Tom summons all of his might and courage to pursue Summer and convince her that their love is real.
Brooke Says: On the outside, (500) Days of Summer seems to be about a hopeless romantic, awkward guy who falls for the new girl in the office - a plot line told more than a hundred times. However, with such a lighthearted and quirky feel to it, this movie is surely on my list of favorites. Narrated in a not-so-chronological way, every new day in Tom’s world, whether its day 53 or day 397, will keep your eyes and ears glued to the screen. I never came across a dull moment and found myself falling in love with the characters. What I had really gotten myself into as I began this psychological thriller, I found myself unable to put it down. If you’re in the mood for a quick read with some resonation, pick up this chilling debut novel.
Brooke's Past Staff Picks
The Boys in the Boat
Daniel James Brown
Synopsis: Daniel James Brown's robust book tells the story of the University of Washington's 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans. The sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the boys defeated elite rivals first from eastern and British universities and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler in the Olympic Games in Berlin, 1936. The emotional heart of the story lies with one rower, Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not for glory, but to regain his shattered self-regard and to find a place he can call home. The crew is assembled by an enigmatic coach and mentored by a visionary, eccentric British boat builder, but it is their trust in each other that makes them a victorious team. They remind the country of what can be done when everyone quite literally pulls together a perfect melding of commitment, determination, and optimism. Drawing on the boys' own diaries and journals, their photos and memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream.
Donna Says: I don’t usually read non-fiction and would normally select a gothic mystery or a contemporary thriller over a non-fiction title. If the title involves sports, then for me, that is a double no. Brown’s The Boys in the Boat is a delightful exception with the nine young men competing for the opportunity to represent the United States in the 1936 Olympics being held in Hitler’s Germany. It even includes a tidbit about the racehorse, Seabiscuit. Brown’s focus on the life of one of the team members allows you to become vested in the outcome and cheering for the team even though you know the outcome. The book has been out for several years and remains popular among readers and book clubs. Make October 2018 the month you discover why this book continues to inspire high recommendations. Recommended for readers of Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken.
Donna's Past Staff Picks
Victoria: The Queen
Synopsis: When Alexandrina Victoria was crowned Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on 20 June 1837, she was 18 years old and barely five feet tall. She was a tiny, powerful woman who reigned for an astonishing 64 years. By the time of her Diamond Jubilee Procession in 1897, she reigned over a fourth of the inhabitable part of the world, had 400 million subjects, and had given birth to nine children. Suffrage, anti-poverty and anti-slavery movements can all be traced to her monumental reign, along with a profound rethinking of family life and the rise of religious doubt. When she died, in 1901, she was the longest reigning monarch in English history. Victoria is truly the woman who made the modern world.
Elizabeth Says: A fascinating biography of Queen Victoria’s private life and relationships. Can be used in the category of “Book from the Texas Topaz reading list” in the Read More 2018 Challenge.
Elizabeth's Past Staff Picks
The Silent Corner
Synopsis: “I very much need to be dead.” These are the chilling words left behind by a man who had everything to live for—but took his own life. In the aftermath, his widow, Jane Hawk, does what all her grief, fear, and fury demand: find the truth, no matter what. People of talent and accomplishment, people admired and happy and sound of mind, have been committing suicide in surprising numbers. When Jane seeks to learn why, she becomes the most-wanted fugitive in America. Her powerful enemies are protecting a secret so important—so terrifying—that they will exterminate anyone in their way. But all their power and viciousness may not be enough to stop a woman as clever as they are cold-blooded, as relentless as they are ruthless—and who is driven by a righteous rage they can never comprehend. Because it is born of love.
Megan Says: Jane Hawk is divine. She instantly became my new superhero. The Silent Corner takes today’s Nanotechnology to a whole new and terrifying level which Jane Hawk, our heroine, is driven by deep emotional wounds to destroy. The hunt that ensues is packed full of clever and unusual characters, top-tier action scenes and brutal revenge techniques. This tense, taut and foreboding novel is book one in the Jane Hawk Series.
Megan's Past Staff Picks
Synopsis: When Billy, a troubled young man, comes to private eye Cormoran Strike's office to ask for his help investigating a crime he thinks he witnessed as a child, Strike is left deeply unsettled. While Billy is obviously mentally distressed, there is something sincere about him and his story. Trying to get to the bottom of Billy's story, Strike and Robin Ellacott once his assistant, now a partner in the agency set off on a twisting trail that leads them through the backstreets of London, into a secretive inner sanctum within Parliament, and to a beautiful but sinister manor house deep in the countryside. And during this labyrinthine investigation, Strike's own life is far from straightforward: his relationship with his former assistant is more fraught than it ever has been.
Nina Says: Fans had a long wait to finally move on from the cliffhanger at the end of Career of Evil, what with Galbraith’s alter ego, J.K. Rowling, writing the Harry Potter play and spinoff films in the meantime. But patience was rewarded with 650 pages of the finest-tuned mystery of the series yet, and plenty of the interpersonal dynamics among Strike, Robin, Charlotte and Matthew that readers clamor for.
Nina's Past Staff Picks
Synopsis: Humans are tribal. We need to belong to groups. In many parts of the world, the group identities that matter most - the ones that people will kill and die for are ethnic, religious, sectarian, or clan-based. But because America tends to see the world in terms of nation-states engaged in great ideological battles - Capitalism vs. Communism, Democracy vs. Authoritarianism, the "Free World" vs. the "Axis of Evil" - we are often spectacularly blind to the power of tribal politics. On the left, this has given rise to increasingly radical and exclusionary rhetoric of privilege and cultural appropriation. On the right, it has fueled a disturbing rise in xenophobia and white nationalism. In characteristically persuasive style, Amy Chua argues that America must rediscover a national identity that transcends our political tribes.
Randall Says: Chua offers a timely, provocative introduction to group identity politics in the United States. This is recommended reading for anyone interested in politics and government, whatever your persuasion.
Randall's Past Staff Picks