The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando

Cover image of the book The Best Night of Your Pathetic Life with four teens stand next to a car with the sun setting behind them“I knew guys got erections. I was perfectly prepared to deal with it. When the right guy and the right erection came along.”

Mary has spent four years of high school as a nerdy good girl. Mary's last hope to do something memorable in high school is to win the Oyster Point High Unofficial Senior Week Scavenger Hunt. After a fiasco at prom and losing her spot at Georgetown to a football jock, she is determined to take first place. She cobbles together a squadron of her best friends in a race against the clock to chase down clues and strange objects sent via text. All throughout the race, Mary must confront her best friend Patrick’s raging crush and the feelings that she can’t quite return along with her own unrequited love for bad boy Carson. With the finish line in sight, Mary has to decide what's more important—her friends or winning.

The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life is an angsty humor laden rollercoaster that will have readers laughing at every turn. With each emotional turn and setback, Mary dishes out quick-witted commentary tinged with sarcasm. At times it is difficult to sympathize with Mary, but ultimately this keeps her human – and you’ll like her in spite of her flaws. Many flashbacks explain the events leading to the night in the book, while the issues the characters deal with fill in gaps.

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Kathleen, Reference Services

Starstruck by Rachel Shukert

If you’re interested in the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, as well as the sordid, seamy side, this is your book. It’s the early 1940s and Margaret Forbisher, from perfect and rich Pasadena, wants nothing more than to star in her own movie. She even knows who she wants for her leading man – Dane Forrest, the impossibly handsome, brooding actor who’s been linked to gorgeous Diana Chesterfield. Then Diana disappears and Margaret, who looks a lot like her, is “discovered” by Olympus studios. She signs a one-year contract with them, giving up everything from her previous life. But Hollywood isn’t quite what she thought it would be. Or is it?

First in a trilogy. Celebrity watching at its best. For grades 8-12.

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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.