Have You Heard

Post date: Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 12:45am

Have You Heard About... The Outpost

… one of the deadliest battles for US forces in the Afghan War? I recently read, or should I say recently couldn’t put down The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor by Jake Tapper.

The book is big on details and a nice lengthy read (614 pages), but trust me on this, you will finish it in like three days. I was interested in President Obama’s recent presentation of the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant Clint Romesha. This book is all about the events that led up to the creation of Combat Outpost Keating in the Hindu Kush mountain range in Afghanistan and the eventual total destruction of that base. It is equally about all the men, including Sergeant Romesha, who were deployed there. Many did not make it back, and for those who survived, their lives were changed forever after. This will book will have you missing meals and staying up late just to find out what happens next. Jake Tapper is a very talented writer and writes a masterful chronology of events.


Reviewed by Richard (staff)

Post date: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 12:36am

Have You Heard About... An Original DUCKumentary

… a species of bird that can glide, dive and dabble, look dazzling and funny all at the same time? You have got to check out An Original DUCKumentary.

Did you know that there are 120 different species of ducks in the world? In this amazing DVD you will follow the story of the common Wood Duck, when mom duck hatches her brood in a very tall tree. Yep, a tree. Sixty to seventy feet off the ground no less, as duck eggs are a delicacy for a lot of predators. It takes just over a month for ducks to hatch, and of course, mom does all of the work. Daddy duck just keeps watch until everyone is safe in the water and then goes on about his business. Mom flies out of the nest to the water and calls to her darling little duckies to follow her. Ducks are born instinctively knowing what to do, so once the newly-hatched ducklings tumble to the ground (yes it’s a long, long fall, but they know just how to land without hurting themselves), they follow their mom’s call to the water where they immediately glide in, take a few looks around their new world and start to eat. Ducks don’t have to be taught to swim or how to eat or even where to find food or where to go in the winter, they just know. Ducks are very smart. In just a few short weeks, these cute little duckies are teenagers and starting to grow feathers. In the fall, ducks start to find a mate, and if the female finds the right male to protect her throughout the winter, in the spring, if they are still “talking” to each other, they will finally mate. There is no hanky-panky during the winter; it’s all about protection. Then the cycle starts all over again.

While the Wood Duck story unfolds throughout the film, you will get to meet at least fifteen other different species of ducks, each more fascinating and colorful and entertaining than the last. The Redhead is fickle and lays her eggs in several of her neighbors’ nests, so you have a foster-care mom scenario. The South American Torrent Duck is like a white water rafting junkie. You have to see this to believe in how they survive. Buffleheads, Pintails, Shovelers, Goldeneyes and Green-winged Teal are just some of the interesting ducks you will get to meet in this short family DVD. In the spring, head on over to the Waukegan Public Library’s Hinkston Park Branch, located in the Field House, and see our annual flock of ducklings as they grow up.


Reviewed by Terry (staff)

Post date: Thursday, March 21, 2013 - 12:12am

Have You Heard About... Because I Said So

… the dangers of swallowing gum or looking in the microwave? Ken Jennings looks at many of the things our parents warned us about in Because I Said So! The Truth behind the Myths, Tales & Warnings Every Generation Passes down to Its Kids. Parents all over the world tell their children to do or not do certain things, often things they learned from their own parents or friends and family members with children. However, over generations that information can become outdated or misremembered, so Jennings collected dozens of common sayings from the United States and looked into the truth behind them.

Each of the warnings in this book is followed by a brief explanation of the author’s research and his conclusions. Scientific and medical studies are cited, where appropriate, and summarized in everyday English. In some cases, Jennings has been able to provide a history of how the warning was started. At the end, there is a simple bar with a rating from completely false to completely true. Not surprisingly, most of the sayings fall somewhere in the middle — true in some circumstances but not always, or not completely true as they are usually stated. Fortunately, the book includes an index, in case you want to start with your parents’ favorite warnings (or the one you’re about to use with your own child).

By the way, swallowed gum is safely passed through the digestive system (unless you are swallowing several pieces every day for a long time) and looking into modern microwaves should be safe, although the FDA recommends against standing against one for “long periods of time” while it is running.


Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - 12:09am

Have You Heard About... Popped off

… the scum-bag who stole the youth soccer associations’ money? Moises Huber has a few gambling debts that he needs to pay in Jeffrey Allen’s Popped off*. He not only steals the money but also the trophies that each kid is supposed to receive at the end of the season. Deuce Winters is a stay-at-home dad, youth soccer coach of his 5-year-old daughter Carly’s team, the Mighty, Fightin’ Tiny Mermaids, and a part-time private investigator in Rose Petal, Texas. Being a stay-at-home dad is a novelty in Rose Petal. Deuce gets teased a lot, but he and his lawyer wife Julianne wouldn’t have it any other way. Deuce is asked to track down Moises and get the money and trophies back with the help of his partner Victor, who happens to be a dwarf.

The soccer scenes are hilarious. The banter between Deuce and Victor as they try to figure out where Moises is, is very politically incorrect and even more funny. The short chapters make this a very easy and fast read, but you need to really pay attention to all of the misconceptions and double talk while you are laughing, or you’ll miss the confusing yet satisfying ending. I enjoyed this book immensely.

* The previous book in this series is Stay at Home Dead.


Reviewed by Terry (staff)

Post date: Thursday, March 14, 2013 - 12:49am

Have You Heard About... Midnight Encounters

… the shamelessly sexy and fun story of Maggie Reilly, the woman who thinks she has no time for love? Fans of Fifty Shades of Grey who are hungry for another story of a relatable female protagonist and powerful male hero with a dark side will devour Midnight Encounters by Elle Kennedy.

Maggie is a busy student, waitress and volunteer worker with no time for love; the only concession she makes to her needs is the occasional weekend tryst with her “special friend” Tony. Maggie bounces into a hotel room she believes belongs to Tony only to be shocked by the presence of another man: Ben. Ben is a bad boy Hollywood movie star who thinks that love has no place in his life, just like Maggie. Can you see the writing on the wall? There’s no doubt about the novel’s outcome, but the inevitability doesn’t detract from the fun read. Rather, it gives Midnight Encounters the feel of a fairy tale, modern-style.


Reviewed by Sara (staff)

Post date: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 12:46am

Have You Heard About... Katie’s Way

… the quilt shop that brings trouble to the community? In Katie’s Way, a recent installment of the Pleasant Valley series* by Marta Perry, we meet Katie Miller who has just opened a quilt shop in Pleasant Valley. Katie was jilted by her intended when he married her best friend. Katie can’t face life in her hometown, so she moves to Pleasant Valley to open a quilt shop. It’s a very slow start to get her new business to make money. The Amish make quilts, so they don’t need to buy them, and tourists are few and far between in this small community. Her next door business neighbor, Caleb, has his doubts about a quilt shop being next to his furniture business. Caleb has a secret past.

One of Katie’s younger sisters is in her rumspringa and is causing problems at home, so she is sent to Katie to help out. Caleb has heard of this problem. He has his doubts about Katie and her sister when bad things start to happen in the community. With the Amish and Englisch businesses in the area, Katie and her new friend Lisa hatch a plan to bring more business into the community by sponsoring Pennsylvania Dutch Days. Some people don’t want the hordes of tourists invading even though they want to see their businesses increase in sales. Can a friendship between Katie and Caleb develop when vandalism increases and Caleb thinks the worst of Katie and her sister? This has a somewhat surprise as to the vandalism angle but a very nice, feel good ending.

This is a standalone book with enough backstory into the characters of the previous books. It is the first book that I have read in this series, and I didn’t feel as if I was missing anything, although I do plan to check out the other residents of Pleasant Valley.

* Other books in the series include Leah’s Choice, Rachel’s Garden, Anna’s Return, Sarah’s Gift and Hannah’s Joy.


Reviewed by Terry (staff)

Post date: Thursday, March 7, 2013 - 1:38am

Have You Heard About... Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

… the all-night bookstore in San Francisco? Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan, tells the story of Clay Jannon and how he stumbles upon a secret society that has been pursuing immortality since the earliest days of the printing press. Along the way, he’ll visit the fabled halls of Google, an underground library in New York, and the California Museum of Knitting Arts and Embroidery Sciences.

I first heard about Mr. Penumbra and Clay Jannon on an Escape Pod podcast, and I recommended it to the library as soon as I learned that it was being published as a book. The book expands considerably on the initial story, taking Clay (and the reader) on a long, somewhat surreal journey to discover the truth behind the origins of the Unbroken Spine. A host of odd characters join Clay — puzzle-obsessed members of the secret society, an old friend who made his fortune designing CGI breasts for videogames, a roommate who is building a miniature city in their living room, and many others. All in all, this is a fun, although utterly bizarre book.


Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Tags: book, fiction, review
Post date: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 - 1:14am

Have You Heard About... An Invisible Thread

…an incredible story that brings together two people from such totally different ways of life, that they form a bond that will touch you in ways that will tug at your heart? A friend of mine recommended that I read An Invisible Thread by Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski. This is a non-fiction book that, while it sounded intriguing, I wasn’t really sure that I liked the subject it dealt with. Once I got started reading though, it only took me about six total hours to read, as I just couldn’t put it down.

Laura is a sales executive, single and white. Maurice is a very young, streetwise African American boy panhandling  to stay alive.  A chance meeting keeps these two people coming back together, and they form a bond that is hard to understand. Laura’s past deals with an alcoholic father. A lot of the story is about her. Maurice is from the lowest, meanest projects of Manhattan, New York. The glimpse into this life style is at times harrowing and confusing for those who have never experienced it. Laura finds it unbelievable that Maurice doesn’t know how to set a table and has never baked cookies. He doesn’t know how to use a knife to cut his meat. Somewhere in his past though, he has learned to be polite and enthusiastic about life.

Maurice tries to shield Laura from the harsh world of his drug-addicted mom and dysfunctional family. Laura persists in helping him, and through the ups and downs of weekly meetings, these two gradually learn to trust each other. As Laura and Maurice age, they lose contact with each other for a while, but when they finally get back together, you’ll be amazed at the changes in Maurice’s life.  There is nothing sentimental or even earth shattering about this book, but as you read it and even cry through it, you’ll get a glad feeling in your heart.


Reviewed by Terry (staff)

Post date: Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 1:54am

Have You Heard About... Green River, Running Red

… the Green River Killer, America’s most prolific serial murderer? In her book Green River, Running Red, renowned true crime author Ann Rule chronicles the murder of over fifty women in the Seattle area, as well as the police department’s agonizing search for their killer – a search that began in 1981 and ended 20 years later in 2001, with the arrest of Gary Ridgway.

Green River, Running Red is both a fascinating insight into a high-profile murder investigation, as well as a horrifying portrait of a real-life serial killer that goes beyond anything I’ve ever seen in the movies. In the last part of the book, Ann Rule also includes transcribed portions from Ridgway’s confession, when he explains why he killed all those women. It’s guaranteed to send chills down your spine.

I might even go so far as to say this was one of the most unsettling books I’ve ever read. The book contains photographs of many of the victims, as well as photos and mug shots of Ridgway himself, which made the story that much more realistic for me. As a true crime novel, this is one of the best, and I guarantee that if you read Green River, Running Red, you will never look at your friends and neighbors the same way again.


Reviewed by Katie (staff)

Post date: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 1:50am

Have You Heard About... Lifted

… sacrifice, struggle and yet being lifted by the end of a movie? In the DVD Lifted, you will meet Henry, a really talented kid with a singing voice so powerful it will have you crying by the end of the film. Henry’s dad is a military reservist and is recalled to Afghanistan. This movie starts out really slowly, and you might feel that it is not worth your time, but hang in there to the end, because it just could change how you look at life.

Most families in tough economic times struggle with daily life, but for the military family, it’s even harder. If you are a single civilian parent, yes it’s really hard to keep things together, but in the military, it’s doubly hard. One or both parents could be called to serve at any time or even the same time. If you are a reservist, never knowing when you might be called to active duty can be frustrating for any type of plans you might make. Civilians don’t seem to understand the attitude or need to be consistently organized, the “do it now” feeling, and the constant fear a military family goes through. You never lose this feeling. You try to prepare for the worst and hope it doesn’t happen.

Can or could you cope? Back in the early 70s, military pay was about $1.25 per hour. You were “on call” 24/7. Do the math for a one-month period and then look at your life now. Military pay is still less than the minimum wage. While Henry’s Dad is in Afghanistan, his mom struggles to pay the mortgage, no easy feat on a military salary. Henry’s mom is a drug addict who goes to meetings, but when things start to fall apart, Henry and his mom go to live with his redneck grandfather who doesn’t approve of Henry’s singing or the way he dresses. A phone call from Henry’s dad is joyous, but a loud noise in the background disrupts the call. It’s not until much later in the film that you realize what actually happened, when a flashback shows the scene in Afghanistan during the phone call. When Henry is bullied by kids in his school, he takes refuge in a church. Henry meets the local preacher, played by Ruben Studdard, who takes an interest in his singing and encourages him to enter a singing competition. Henry expects his dad to be there.

Henry’s mom knows what happened with the phone call. She can’t cope and goes back on drugs, leaving Henry to his own devices and his grandfather’s mean streak. With determination, Henry makes it to the singing competition, and he does well with the help of his father. However, his father really isn’t there. (This is where you will need a tissue – possibly several.) Henry is eliminated from the competition, but when one of his fellow contestants drops out gracefully with an explanation that leaves you in tears, you will understand why Henry is back in the competition. As a tribute to his dad, Henry belts out Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door by Bob Dylan with such raw emotion it will leave you breathless. The ending is about everyday life and military “angels.”

Male or female, you will enjoy this movie despite the slow start, even with the tears at the end. It is well worth your time to watch this film and not fast forward through it.


Reviewed by Terry (staff)

Tags: drama, DVD, review