'Me Before You'

Our lives can change in a moment. Seemingly mundane tasks can completely alter who we are, how we perceive the world, and how we live. In JoJo Moyes latest novel, Me Before You, meeting Will Traynor will alter Louisa ‘Lou’ Clark's life immeasurably, taking her out of her meek existence as an ‘invisible’ tea shop waitress in a small English town and thrusting her into Will’s life as a caregiver. It will make Lou question everything she’s always known about herself. Once a wealthy and vivacious young businessman, Will had a run-in with a motorcycle has brought his life of world-traveling adventure to a grinding halt. Now a quadriplegic, Will is angry, feels helpless, and is hell-bent on exercising what control he has left over his life.

Both Will and Lou experience a transformation through their time together. Will loses some of his anger and sees that happiness may be possible, and Lou discovers hidden strengths and depths that have been lurking under her timid shell. Me Before You is a bittersweet tale of two people, opposite in disposition, who come together briefly and change their seemingly stagnant lives through their relationship, their interactions, and their care for one another.

Lincoln: The Man, the Legend

The historical drama Lincoln, starring Daniel Day Lewis as Abraham Lincoln and Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln, is based in part on the book Team of Rivals: the Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. Lincoln was produced and directed by Steven Spielberg, who immediately wanted rights to the film once he heard that Goodwin was planning to write the book.

The film focuses on Lincoln's last months of office in 1865, during a time of war and change, and his efforts to pass the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would abolish slavery. The film depicts the tension and conflict in the United States, while painting a revealing portrait of Abraham Lincoln during a momentous time in American history.

With an all-star cast that also includes Tommy Lee Jones, James Spader, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the critically-acclaimed film was nominated for seven Golden Globe Awards and twelve Academy Awards. Daniel Day Lewis won a Golden Globe and an Oscar for Best Actor for his phenomenal performance as the President. There are still grumbles that Lincoln should have won the Academy Award for Best Picture, but that honor went to another recommended historical drama, Argo.

Skyline High Presents Aida

From April 26-28 Skyline High School will present Aida, Elton John and Tim Rice's pop-rock musical. The story is based on the Verdi opera about the forbidden love between an Egyptian sldier and an enslaved princess. Those working on the Skyline show promise stirring ballads and rousing choral numbers. Times are 7:30 p.m. (Fri. & Sat.) & 2:30 p.m. (Sun.), Tickets $10 (students & seniors, $6; VIP tickets, $25) in advance at showtix4u.com, $12 (students & seniors, $8) and at the door. For more information, call 994-6515.

Pioneer Theatre Guild Presents Shrek: The Musical

Pioneer High School Theatre Guild will present Shrek: The Musical April 27 through May 5. The show is based on William Steig's 1990 book Shrek! and the 2001 DreamWorks film Shrek. Should be a fun show for both kids and adults. More information about the production and tickets is here.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Based on Stephen Chbosky’s popular young adult novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is the story of Charlie (Logan Lerman), an introspective loner who loathes the thought of entering high school. Being a freshman is hard enough without dealing with the suicide of a friend, the ghost of his aunt, and his own mental illness while searching for a place to belong. Eventually, Charlie befriends the beautiful and carefree Sam (Emma Watson) and the flamboyant Patrick (Ezra Miller). They take Charlie under their wing and show him how to live a little as he experiences many firsts: midnight screenings of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," his first school dance and his first love.

Written and directed by Chbosky, the film is a look at the personalities you might find in high school, maybe those hanging out on darker versions of the 1994-95 TV series My So Called Life or the 1985 film The Breakfast Club. In general, high schoolers are just trying to cope and get by day to day, longing for what’s next. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is another genuine high school film. Chbosky tries to get the audience to embrace the now and enjoy moments as they happen, and to let ourselves experience a greater love than we think we deserve.

A Cautionary Tale, Because Teens Need Advice, Too

It didn't sound like a novel I would like, but Panic by New York Times bestselling author Sharon Draper turned out to be gripping and powerful. Written for ages 14 and older, the novel centers on a close-knit dance troupe and bad decisions made by two young dancers -- with horrible, undeserved consequences.

When Diamond goes to the mall with a friend, she leaves, alone, with a stranger who promises to make her a film star. She is kidnapped and held captive
by the man, who makes porn. Meanwhile, the other dancer, Layla, clings crazily to her sexy boyfriend, Donovan, who abuses her physically and emotionally. The story seems alarmingly realistic; once begun, it is hard to put down. Four alternating narrators tell the tale, adding richness to character development and plot.

In an article on Shelf Awareness.com, Sharon Draper allows that her latest book is "a little edgier than anything I've written, but I think it could save a life. . . .We tell our six-year-olds not to talk to strangers, not to talk to a man with a nice dog. We don't tell our teens anything. They think they're smart enough and mature enough to tell the difference between a nice guy and a bad guy."

Wild Swan Theater: “Shipwrecked!”

Wild Swan Theater presents "Shipwrecked!" March 14-16 in Towsley Auditorium in the WCC Morris Lawrence Building. This original play, appropriate for kids in about grades 3-8, was written by accomplished local playwright Jeff Duncan. The story is a coming-of-age drama set during a fierce storm on Lake Huron in 1893. Twelve year-old Aaron Buchanan is sailing with his parents on their small schooner loaded with Christmas trees. Aaron's mettle is tested when a fierce gale hits "Shipwreck Alley," and he helps rescue his family. The play is based on historical accounts of the time and should give young people a good chance to learn some of the history, geography, music and maritime heritage of Michigan and the Great Lakes. For those families who may want to learn more about shipwrecks before going to the play, AADL has some great resources.

Teen Fiction: Boy21

Boy21 is a novel about basketball and so much more, encompassing male friendship, poverty, the Irish mob, grief, and love. I highly recommend this fast read by Matthew Quick, who became one of my favorite teen authors with his 2010 book Sorta Like a Rock Star.

Quick's latest novel, published in 2012, opens in ugly, tough Bellmont, Pennsylvania, where quiet, obedient Finley lives with his wheelchair-bound grandfather and widowed father. Finley -- whose childhood is a mystery until late in the book -- is flourishing as the only white kid on the high school basketball team. When the coach asks him to mentor a hot new -- and very mysterious -- player from California, Finley does, but suddenly luck and life seem to turn against him and toward the new guy. Nonetheless, Finley continues to support his friend, "Boy21," and their friendship grows, until Finley's girlfriend Erin is injured and Finley can't stand it anymore.

This book offers strong characters, action, dialogue, and -- hard to believe with all the bad luck going around -- a semi-happy, if old-fashioned ending. Particularly appealing to me were the threads of responsibility, loyalty and friendship among two extraordinary young men.

The Listen List 2013

Established in 2010 by the CODES section of Reference and User Services Association (RUSA, a division of the American Library Association), The Listen List: Outstanding Audiobook Narration seeks to highlight outstanding audiobook titles that merit special attention by general adult listeners and the librarians who work with them. The Listen List Council selects these 2013 winners. They include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and plays.

Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway. Narrated by Daniel Weyman.
In a gravelly yet gleeful voice, Weyman narrates this swashbuckling genre-blend of spies, gangsters, and a doomsday machine. The lavish and imaginative story of Joe Spork, a clockmaker out of his depth as he attempts to save the world, is brilliantly realized through Weyman’s attention to inflection, characterization and pacing.

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. Narrated by Simon Vance.
In this grim and gripping tale, masterfully told, Vance brings Tudor England to life.
Beautifully accented and paced, his pitch-perfect narration deftly navigates the large and diverse cast and the intricate plot machinations to create a stunning glimpse into a dangerous time when Henry VIII ruled and Thomas Cromwell served as his “fixer.”

The Chalk Girl by Carol O’Connell. Narrated by Barbara Rosenblat.
The discovery of a blood-covered little girl wandering in Central Park draws police detective Kathleen Mallory into an investigation involving long hidden secrets of New York’s elite. Rosenblat’s warmly expressive voice embodies each character effortlessly while adroitly managing the pace of Mallory’s gritty and harrowing tenth case.

The Death of Sweet Mister by Daniel Woodrell. Narrated by Nicholas Tecosky. (on order)
Welcome to the world of Shug Akins, a thirteen-year-old loner coming of age in the Ozarks. Tecosky skillfully demonstrates that the vernacular of this country noir novel is at its lyrical best when spoken aloud. In a youthful detached voice, he authentically captures the violence, poverty, and heartbreaking bleakness of Shug’s life.

The Garden Intrigue by Lauren Willig. Narrated by Kate Reading.
In this lively ninth Pink Carnation romp, Eloise and Colin are beset by a film crew, while in the 19th century, agent Augustus Whittlesby, infamously bad poet, investigates rumors of Napoleon’s plotting and encounters love. Reading’s companionable, husky voice reveals all the humor in the rich banter and bad verse, as well as the passion.

Heft by Liz Moore. Narrated by Kirby Heyborne and Keith Szarabajka. (on order)
This magnificent dual narration illuminates a poignant story of the isolation, family relationships, and new beginnings of two lost souls on a collision course. Szarabajka’s richly sonorous voice captures morbidly obese Arthur’s physical and emotional weight while Heyborne’s quietly expressive voice exposes the desperation of the teenaged Kel.

The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel by Anthony Horowitz. Narrated by Derek Jacobi. (on order)
In a refined, resonant, and delightfully self-aware voice, Jacobi re-creates the world of Sherlock Holmes. His pacing is lovely – leisurely, inviting, and seductive – while his accents are grand and fit the characters perfectly. In this authorized addition to the canon, Holmes investigates a conspiracy linking criminals to the highest levels of government.

The Inquisitor by Mark Allen Smith. Narrated by Ari Fliakos. (on order)
Fliakos’ unflinching depiction of Geiger, an expert in the art of “information retrieval” (aka torture), intensifies this absorbing and disturbing thriller. He sets the mood from the opening line, offering a tormented, affectless but surprisingly sympathetic hero. His skill in creating tone, character and pace enhances the haunting quality of Geiger’s world.

Macbeth by William Shakespeare. Narrated by Alan Cumming.
Cumming makes “The Scottish Play” an electric event, allowing modern audiences a chance to experience it with the same excitement, horror and wonder Shakespeare’s contemporary audiences surely felt. From stage directions delivered in furtive whispers to the cackle of the witches and the grim resolution of Lady Macbeth, Cumming astounds.

Miles: The Autobiography by Miles Davis and Quincy Troupe. Narrated by Dion Graham.
With his raspy, whispery voice Dion Graham inhabits musical genius Miles Davis in this tell-all autobiography that flows like a jazz riff. While setting the record straight about Davis’s career, lovers, addiction and racial issues, Graham channels Davis’s voice and cadence so completely that listeners will believe they’re hearing the master himself.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. Narrated by Ari Fliakos. (on order)
Affectionate and playful, Ari Fliakos’ narration is addictive as he expertly voices full-bodied characters, savoring their eccentricities, in this imaginative work of “geek-lit.” His optimistic wonder and understanding of the subtext bring tension to even the minutiae of this grand quest by a motley crew of book lovers hoping to crack the code of immortality.

The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens. Narrated by David Timson. (on order)
Timson’s irrepressible performance of this rollicking romp through 1830s England in Dickens’s first novel invites listeners along as Pickwick and his crew ramble through the countryside. With broad satire and clever irony, Timson proves a delightful guide through slapdash adventures and a host of eccentric characters.

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. Narrated by Simon Prebble. (on order)
Prebble’s performance is like listening to a full cast production so great is his skill in crafting characters. Navigating memories of both “upstairs” and “downstairs,” dutiful butler Stevens revisits past pains and triumphs. Prebble creates a poignant reflection of a life given to service seen through the eyes of a man finally questioning his purpose.

YPT: "Fiddler on the Roof"

Young Peoples Theater is staging Fiddler on the Roof Jan. 10-13 at U-M Lydia Mendelssohn Theater. The show is based on the book by Joseph Stein with lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and music by Jerry Block. Ticket information is here

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