July 2012 Red Feather Reads

The Claimed book coverEven though there has been a drought that has hit most of the country I can safely say that there is no lack of excellent romance titles to quench your thirst.  Read on for the good the bad and the ugly.

The Claimed  by Caridad Pineiro
Interesting twist on vampires—they feed on dark & light energy. Intimacy on the 1-10 scale was maybe a 2. Book was all about bonding. But, it’s book 2 in the series. Surprisingly well written. Wallbanger at the end—spoiler alert………………… No closure because they’re continuing the series.

How to Woo a Reluctant Lady  by Sabrina Jeffries
Reader finished two of them in the series and loved both books. Grandma’s edict: marry or else. Loved the VERY strong no-nonsense character. It is always a pleasure to go back in time with this author.

When Beauty Tamed the Beast  by Eloisa James
Beauty is exiled to marry the “Beast” who refuses to marry. But he keeps her around so that his divorced (the scandal!) parents can develop their romance again. In the process of teaching Beauty to swim, they develop romantic feelings for each other (OK, they have relations). Hero and heroine have great verbal exchanges. They fall in love gradually, which makes the story very believable.

Glitter Baby  by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Heroine falls for an older guy, but she suffers a traumatizing event that sends her into seclusion for six years. After she leaves, the actor can’t write any decent work. He signs on to “write only” with her. However, the relationship can’t help but develop. It's a blast from the past since it was from the 80’s, but so well written that it works even today.

The Fireman Who Loved Me  by Jennifer Bernard
Grandma decides the heroine needs a REAL guy so she bids on a fireman. There is a bait and switch where the hero substitutes for the auctioned fireman. Heroine goes on that date, but she doesn’t treat him well (big reader disappointment). Whole side story that doesn’t need to be there. Grandmother has to set the house on fire to get the h/h together again. But, the steamy scenes are really good.

Dark Sins and Desert Sands  by Stephanie Draven
She’s a Sphinx. She has a tremendous power that can destroy. He’s been tortured and turned into a Minotaur. Hero needs the heroine to help him find who branded him as a traitor. Reader was surprised by how good the book was to read. Has meaty issues (betrayal, honor). Love scenes were HOT. Very impressed.

Lawe's Justice  by Lora Leigh
Crazy experimenting created the Breeds. Lawe is one of them, and his group is trying to find and protect others like him. Heroine is human, and he recognizes she’s his mate. He wants to own her, protect her (he’s part wolf). She doesn’t want to be owned. Bedroom scenes were really good. Loved how they fought. But other readers said read the first few books in the series to get the really juicy stuff.

Thief of Shadows  by Elizabeth Hoyt
Of the four books in the series,  reader felt this was the weakest one. When hero is around other adults, the stick goes up his back side. He has no people skills. Roles are reversed: heroine is sexually experienced, hero is still a virgin (!). Readers loved this part. Ends in a very satisfactory way.

American Vampire  by Jennifer Armintrout
Heroine is slutty. Hero is looking at how soon he can eat her (but he’ll kill her, so how will he hide the crime?). Both are flawed characters, but you can’t stop reading the book. Ending is soft, but writing is really good.

24 Essential Back to School Items

School is horrible, but if you have to go, here are 24 essential items to make you life easier and maybe even more fun.

Scissors - Anything for coloring - Highlighters - Binders - Unlimited supplies of funky pencils - Duct tape in cool colors = Backpack, no single strap bags allowed - Reusable water bottle so you don't kill the environment - Colorful pens - Post-it notes and tabs - Note cards = Locker shelf - A good book to look like you're reading something important - Funky outfits to intimidate your enemies -A hobby like knitting or making friendship bracelets - A Google translate app just in case - Cellphone & iPod - A cute purse or wallet - A good lanyard for your student ID - Flash drives - An awesome planner to stay organized A creative lunch box, bento, tin, or funky - A really good pencil sharpener

When Boredom Beckons...

So often, we complain about having nothing to do. Conversations with our friends usually go like this: “What do you wanna do?”, “I don’t know, what do you wanna do?” Well, here’s a bunch of answers to that question! We composed a list of the coolest places we know in and near Chicago. They’re all fun, safe, and totally available to you!

Cascade Drive In (Summer) 1100 E. North Avenue, West Chicago, IL 60185
Sit under the stars and watch 2 newly released movies for the price of one! Admission for ages 11 and up is $8.50, and the movies start as soon as it gets dark. Bring a blanket!

Chicago Pizza & Oven Grinder (Year Round) 2121 N. Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614
Test your appetite by trying one of the unique ½ or 1-lb Pizza Pot Pies; these mushroom look-alikes appear in a bowl and resemble upside-down pizzas. Right by Lincoln Park Zoo!

Chicago Lakeview Shopping (Year Round) 3200 block of Clark, near Belmont Ave, Chicago, IL
Eclectic boutiques, ethnic restaurants, and wild thrift stores line the streets for a truly off-the-beaten-path shopping. Ragstock (812 W. Belmont) caries ‘50s style clothing all the way to modern attire. The Alley (3228 N. Clark St) is full of punk and goth clothes as well as funky boots, snazzy jewelry, dresses, incense, and all sorts of knick-knacks. Don’t let the Belmont Army Surplus (855 W. Belmont) fool you: they carry very little actual army gear. Instead, the store is full of cool designs for the most adventurous trendsetter; here, you’ll find nothing you need but everything you want.

Chinatown (Year Round) Near intersection of Cermack Rd and Wentworth Ave
Stroll around the nation’s 2nd largest ethnic-Chinese neighborhood, stop at a restaurant to eat some authentic food, and admire the exquisite architecture. It’s a really cool place to take some pictures and get a little feel for the Far East. Parking is relatively easy on weekdays, but on weekends, consider taking the Red Line and getting off at Cermack/Chinatown, directly in front of the main gate.

How to write an Exquisite Corpse! (The Writers favorite writing game)

Ever heard of an Exquisite Corpse? It’s not what you might think. An Exquisite Corpse is an old game in which people write a phrase on a sheet of paper, fold it over to conceal part of it and pass it on to the next player to do the same. The game ends when someone finishes the story, which is then read aloud.

The Anonymous Writers!

Meet us in the Conference Room every Thursday from 4 to 5 p.m. for our Anonymous Writers writing group! Please bring a piece of writing (poetry, short stories, creative non-fiction, or anything else, really) to share with the group and be ready to talk about everyone’s work! Grades 7 and up.

Note: If you can’t find us talk to the lovely ladies and gentlemen at the circulation desk and they will gladly direct you to our location!

(Check out this picture of the current Anonymous Writers and their Leader. Come join them next Thursday in all the literary fun!)

The Princess Bride (PG, 1987)

True love is never easy, but you get the feeling it’s never faced quite as many obstacles as in The Princess Bride. Directed by Rob Reiner, based on William Goldman’s book of the same name, and adapted for the screen more or less faithfully by the author himself, the movie features Cary Elwes (Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Ella Enchanted) as Westley, a young man who must do battle with Rodents of Unusual Size, scale the Cliffs of Insanity, take on a giant (Andre the Giant, that is) in a wrestling match, and more to save Buttercup (Robin Wright Penn), his one true love, from being forced to marry the evil reigning prince. Add in the swashbuckling efforts of Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya and appearances by Fred Savage, Peter Falk, Christopher Guest, Mel Smith, and Billy Crystal, and you have an action/adventure/comedy/romance/fantasy to please all audiences.

Mostly Martha (Bella Martha) (PG, 2001)

Mostly martha poster - man and women in chef's attire, looking intently at each other as man holds up small pan and spoon laden with food, leaning in to offer to womanMostly Martha was the inspiration for 2007’s No Reservations, but don’t hold that against it. The German original is set in contemporary Köln, and features The Lives of Others’ Martina Gedek as Martha, the neurotic, workaholic head chef of a high-end restaurant. When her boss forces her into therapy, Martha just cooks for her shrink. When her new downstairs neighbor flirts with her, she’s awkward and terse. As lonely as she is a loner, Martha must readjust everything when she becomes the guardian of her niece, Lina (Maxime Foerste), and her boss hires a playful Italian sous-chef (Sergio Castellitto, most recently of Paris, je t’aime and Prince Caspian) to split her duties in the kitchen. By turns tragic, comic, and romantic, Mostly Martha is not only a great story, but a foodie’s dream to watch.

A Very Long Engagement (Un long dimanche de fiançailles) (R, 2004)

Fans of Amélie (Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain) will recognize A Very Long Engagement as the work of an old friend. Still, though directed by Amélie’s Jean-Pierre Jeunet and featuring many of the same faces as that 2001 effort, Engagement is a decidedly different love story. Audrey Tautou’s  assertive and heartsick Mathilde is anything but the shrinking flower of her scheming and heartsick Amélie, though her comic timing and moments of poignant vulnerability are just as good. The tone is set by quick shifts between violent scenes of World War I trench warfare and gleeful 1920s Paris, both a far cry from contemporary Montmartre. And though Amélie features a fairly tangled web of mystery and love, neither quite reaches the epic proportions of Mathilde’s stubborn refusal to believe the official story of her fiancé Manech’s death in No Man’s Land and determined detective work to uncover the truth. Along the way she delves into the lives of several other characters, superbly played by the likes of Jodie Foster and Marion Cotillard. If Manech were dead, Mathilde says, she would know. Do you believe her?

The Secret Agent—Joseph Conrad

With apologies to Messrs. Conrad and Kurtz, this is the book for all of us who find it harder to read Heart of Darkness than Herodotus. Based on a real attack in London’s Greenwich Park in 1894, the novel follows Mr. Verloc and a group of anarchist terrorists as they plan a dynamite outrage in newly-industrialized 1886 London. The Secret Agent also details Verloc’s domestic life, complete with a younger wife, a mentally disabled brother-in-law, and a mother-in-law who wields guilt to greater effect than the terrorists’ explosives. Conrad’s Dickensian bent toward caricature lends this early narrative of modern terrorism, beloved by the Unabomber, some much-needed (though still undeniably dark) levity.