User Reviews

Reviews by Staff Member
At the beginning of every school year, I am inspired to start anew and search for different ways to connect with my children. After all, we just spent every waking moment together for the past two and half months and now I will not see their darling little faces for six hours each day. I picked this book up hoping to make my short time with them more meaningful and provide a little “mom wisdom” throughout their day. From the very first word, this eye-opening memoir sucked me into a reality that I could never imagine living. The author, Garth Callaghan’s personal struggles, triumphs and inspiring words gave me a new sense of what life can bring you and so easily take away. This book belongs in the home of every family as a simple reminder to slow down and take the time for the little things in life. I have recommended this book to several friends, I will share this book with my children when they are adults and now I am recommending this book to all of you. Go ahead and pick this book up, give it a read and then share it with others as I am sharing it with you.

Napkin Note 1: Make it a great day, truly make it great!
How far would you go to help a stranger? On his way to work one day author Steve Lopez stops to listen to a disheveled, homeless man playing a battered violin on a busy, noisy city street corner. After introducing himself as a columnist for the Los Angeles Times to Nathaniel Ayers, he recognizes that this man is also suffering from mental illness. Despite this, there is a rumpled elegance to the man and a refinement to his playing. Lopez discovers Ayers was once a student at Julliard School of Performing Arts.

Lopez struggles with how much he can or should do. Over time Lopez writes several articles about Ayers. The publicity brings an outpouring of support from readers, donations of instruments, offers of music lessons and some accusations of exploitation.

This is a memorable story that began with a chance encounter and develops into a friendship between two very different men. It shines a spotlight on mental illness, on vulnerable members of society, our responsibility to them and is a tribute to the human spirit.
Sometimes Life Begins with Sad Endings
Sometimes life begins with sad endings. Eva Thorvald is the central character of Kitchens of the Great Midwest. She is the daughter of chef Lars Thorvald, a man who learned to bake and to make traditional Swedish Lutefisk at his father’s side in Minnesota. Eva grows up precocious and with her father’s love of cooking filtering down through her genes. She never knows her biological father and mother as the family who raises Eva does not tell her about them. They love Eva but do not share her budding interest and talent in gastronomy.

Chapters continue with new beginnings that lead to other endings; humble origins lead to lofty goals; unusual pairings in both food and relationships are showcased as people move in and out of each other’s lives. I feel that the book often changes directions and I was left a little befuddled with how it would conclude as the narrative jumps ahead a few years, introduces new characters, twines around, diverges and comes back to its center again. There is humor and sadness, some vengefulness and cunning, longing, relocation; all with a sense that we make what we will out of our lives, often through some tough struggles but with a sense of Midwestern fortitude.

The payoff I was waiting for delivers in the end. People who enjoy a story told in an offbeat, unconventional manner will enjoy reading author J. Ryan Stradal’s debut novel.
Drama, Romance and Science Fiction
What would you do if you were suddenly taken back in time 200 years?

Such is the dilemma for Claire Randall, the main character in Diana Gabaldon's epic novel, Outlander, published in 1991 and recently adapted into a TV mini-series. Claire is a WWII nurse in England who reunites with her husband, post-war, for a second honeymoon in Scotland. While visiting a historic hilltop, Claire is mysteriously transported back to 1743, where she must worry for her life, find the secret to her journey into the past, and somehow overcome immense odds to return to her husband, who is determinedly searching for her in 1945.

This series is well-written, keeping true to Gabaldon's suspenseful plot. The scenery is breathtaking and the soundtrack perfectly underscores the drama of the period. This series should be the first choice you make for date night with that someone who is special. It has a little bit of everything: action, romance, humor, history, and grown men in kilts!
Transgender Identity
Transgender identity is currently a conspicuous subject in the media. There is a wave of individuals, famous or not, who are choosing to reveal their struggles and live their lives free from the veil of deception.
Laurence Anyways, the 2012 Canadian film directed by Xavier Dolan, tackles this complex subject with grace, dignity and humor. The story is set in Montreal in the late 1990's.We observe Laurence as he discloses his lifelong desire to be a woman to his girlfriend, family, friends and colleagues, and the ensuing chaos this creates. As if that was not enough, he endures the bigotry and ignorance of the community as he navigates his path to femininity in a very public way.
The misunderstandings he bears are tempered by the wonderful moments of compassion and enlightenment that sometimes come from the most unlikely sources in this film. Humankind's adaptability to change is impressive. Remarkable performances by the two lead actors, Melvil Poupaud as Laurence Alia and Suzanne Clement as Frdrique "Fred" Belair bring these characters into focus as people we know or want to know. Check out this superb film about a very timely subject. (In French with English subtitles)

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