Saturday, March 30, 2013

New Biographies of Celebrated American Women

Sylvia Plath is the subject of two new biographies, both by male authors.  American Isis:  The Life and Art of Sylvia Plath by Carl Rollyson uses some newly accessible files from Ted Hughes’ archives to present a fresh look at the poet.  Rollyson is a professor of journalism and has a particular interest in American popular culture, so his emphasis is on how pop culture influenced Plath and how in turn she has been turned into an icon. Readers looking for an analysis of Plath’s work may be disappointed.

Mad Girl's Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted by Andrew Wilson examines Plath's early life, the loss of her father, her relationship with her mother, and her school years to show the foundations of Plath's writing.  It's an interesting and very readable look at how in this case biography shaped art. Wilson draws on material from Plath's mother as well as interviews with friends and relatives.  As one review noted, this is a book that will appeal to people who enjoy a good biography even if they are not familiar with the subject. 
Nancy:  The Story of Lady Astor by Adrian Fort is a new biography of the brash, outspoken  American woman who made her mark in the UK. Born in Danville, Virginia, she went abroad after a bad marriage ended in divorce.  Her wit and beauty quickly won her a place in society as well as a new husband: the very wealthy Waldorf Astor. She ran for the House of Commons and became the first female in MP, exerting an influence on both the political and social scenes. 
In My Beloved World, Sonia Sotomayor tells the inspirational story of how the child of immigrant parents overcame numerous disadvantages to become the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice. Sotomayor’s father was an alcoholic who died when she was nine years old, one year after she was diagnosed as being diabetic, but she still describes a life made rich by family.  She was encouraged to reach for her dreams, despite the many obstacles that should have deterred her.  Sotomayor’s writing is good reflection of her intelligence and vivacious personality.

The first female Supreme Court justice, Sandra Day O’Connor, is no stranger to the best seller lists, either. She’s the author of The Majesty of the Law, which discusses the way the American Supreme Court has evolved over the years and presents some of her own experiences as a justice.  In Lazy B, she told of her early life growing up on a cattle ranch in Arizona.  It’s a fascinating look at a vanishing way of life, well told with humor and grace.  O’Connor’s newest book just came out this year:  Out of Order is a brief but informative history of the Supreme Court, including some information on justices and important  cases. 

In Marilyn: the Passion and the Paradox, Lois Banner brings to the public new details of the star’s life, fifty years after Monroe’s death.  A well-known scholar, Banner explores Marilyn’s childhood, sexuality, and premature death, paying particular attention to the political and social landscape of the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Topping out at over 500 pages, this new biography also includes sections of black and white and color photographs.  Fans of Marilyn Monroe will likely enjoy this volume.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Live from New York! It's Saturday Night!

Reviewed by Christy Herndon

Being a Saturday Night Live fan can be rough. Generally, whenever someone discovers I’m a fan I am bombarded with statements like “That show is just not as funny as it used to be”, “[This cast] was so much better”, and “It was just better in the [‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, etc].” And on and on and on. People have been saying basically the same thing ever since the second season so I have given up trying to defend it. The truth is the show has always been hit and miss. Even in the early seasons not every sketch was brilliantly hysterical (this seems like an impossible feat to achieve anyway). But that didn’t hamper the show from becoming a pop culture phenomenon for over 35 years.

In Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live authors Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller take on the large task of interviewing the stars, writers, producers, and even hosts of the late night sketch show. The result is a thick volume of dishy oral history. Reading this book was like engaging in some really good gossip with your best girlfriends - if they happened to work for a wildly successful television program on NBC. That’s not a negative criticism; it makes for an interesting and fairly quick read despite its 600+ pages. But it’s important to remember that as the reader, you are getting the facts third hand through the interviewer, who gets them second hand through the interviewee. Not to mention some of the stories that they are relaying happened over 30 years ago. But while a few of the specifics may be off I have no trouble in believing a lot of what’s revealed. A few stand out things that I learned from the book:

•    Chris Farley, although deeply troubled, was revered as a sweet man who would do anything to make someone laugh.

•    John Belushi did not think women could be funny and would refuse to even properly read through a sketch during rehearsal if he knew a woman had written it. (As a big fan of his, this part was a bummer to read.)

•    Chevy Chase was (and by all accounts still is) a jerk, cutting down those he felt beneath him with scathing remarks for no other reason than just because he could.

•    Previously neutral about Jane Curtin, after reading this book I have a whole new respect for her. She didn’t let anyone walk all over her and frequently called out people’s sexism. In fact, all of the original SNL ladies (performers as well as writers) deserve respect simply for being successful, comedic women in the 1970s.

•    Chris Parnell, an underrated cast member, was fired from SNL only to be re-hired mid-season at the urging of fellow cast member Will Ferrell.

Those are just a few of the bite sized tidbits sprinkled throughout the book.

While some cast members did not enjoy, or even hated, their time on the show, many agreed that it was a whirlwind of exuberant joy and terrifying stress. (Years after they left SNL, some writers still experience panic attacks on Tuesday nights - the show’s designated “writing night”). Some even called the show both the most wonderful and horrible experience of their lives. That fluctuation mirrors the show’s popularity with viewers as well. But to paraphrase one writer, if someone likes every single sketch then the show’s doing something wrong. That’s true for Live from New York as well. You certainly won’t like every story that’s shared or maybe the people sharing them, but if you’re an SNL fan you’ll love it nonetheless.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Nevermore: Paleo Living, Bible Culture, Angel's Game, and more

The Cultural Handbook to the Bible by John J. Pilch prompted some lively discussion at the Nevermore Book Club.  The basic premise is that the Bible is often read and interpreted without an historical/social context of the time. Our modern understanding of some concepts is very different.  Even some physical observations of events would have a different meaning for us than it would for those living at the time the ancient texts were recorded.  The writing is lively and accessible.

Similarly, Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us About Sex, Diet, and How We Live by Marlene Zuk examines the currently popular notion that many human problems can be resolved by returning to the ways of our distant ancestors.  Zuk points out that many of the assertions of how humans are meant to live are based on the idea that humans haven’t evolved in thousands of years, but offers evidence to the contrary.  For example, in earlier humans the ability to digest milk was limited to unweaned children.  Adults were all lactose intolerant until changes in a gene enabled adult humans to continue to consume dairy products.  This trait has spread rapidly through the human population. The book will be of special interest to those interested in some of the changes humans have undergone, and who want to read about same in an entertaining way.

Cruel Harvest by Fran Elizabeth Grubb is a heart-breaking memoir of growing up as the abused daughter of a migrant farm worker.  She tells her story in simple terms, but the themes of surviving, overcoming and ultimately forgiving are powerful. Our reviewer found it painful to read but ultimately uplifting.

Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth is another memoir, this one of a young woman’s work as a midwife in London’s East End in the 1950s.  She was one of a group of midwives who worked with the nuns of the area to provide medical and social services to a disadvantaged population.  Worth has a gift for bringing characters and events to life. Our reviewer raved about book, finding it both moving and humorous.  She highly recommended it.  (Note: the book was so successful in the UK that Worth produced several sequels.  It has since been dramatized as a TV series which ran on PBS here.)

Finally, one member wanted to recommend a book she found light and fun:  The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Daniel is a young writer in Barcelona in the 1920s who makes a bargain with a mysterious publisher who wants him to write “a book which will change hearts and minds.”  Before long, he begins to believe that he has made the most dangerous deal of his life.  The book is a gothic fantasy, darker than his first, Shadow of the Wind, to which Angel’s Game is a sort of prequel.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Women's History Month Pick: Her Story

Reviewed by Kristin

Her Story A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America by Charlotte S. Waisman and Jill S. Tietjen

This book provides a light overview of women who have played a role in American history.  Very well illustrated, this is the kind of  book that you can read cover to cover, or just flip through and pick out interesting facts.  After a brief introduction, a timeline begins with Virginia Dare, who in 1587 was the first child of English parents to be born in the “New World.”  Finishing up the timeline is Drew Gilpin Faust, who became the first female president of Harvard University in 2007.  Along the way, the book includes well known women such as Clara Barton (famous for establishing the American Red Cross) and Lucille Ball (who doesn’t love Lucy?)

Just a few of the featured women….

  • Amelia Simmons—in 1796 she published the first American cookbook.  A picture of the title page shows “American Cookery or the Art of Dressing Viands, Fish, Poultry and Vegetables, and the Best Modes of Making Pastes, Puffs, Pies, Tarts, Pudding, Custards and Preserves, and All Kinds of Cakes from the Imperial Plumb to Plain Cake Adapted to this Country and all Grades of Life.”
  • Elizabeth Blackwell—she became the first American female doctor.  She was rejected by several well known schools before attending and graduating from Geneva College in New York in 1849.
  • Annie Oakley—born Phoebe Ann Mosey, she became a sharpshooter in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in 1885.
  • Anna Julia Cooper—published A Voice from the South: By a Woman from the South in 1892.  She was born a slave but earned a Ph.D. degree and spent her life educating African Americans.
  • Dorothea Lange—in 1936 she began traveling and photographing many iconic images of Depression era people in the South.
  • Wonder Woman—she may have been fictional, but she made a big splash after her introduction to the comic book world in 1941.
  • Carol Burnett—this funny lady started on Broadway in Once Upon a Mattress in 1959.  She went on to her own television show known to generations of Americans.
  • Joan Ganz Cooney—in 1969 she started the Children’s Television Workshop, which has brought beloved characters such as Big Bird, Cookie Monster, and Elmo to the American (and worldwide) public.
  • Pleasant T. Rowland—as an entrepreneur, she started a company in 1986 to produce the historically accurate American Girl dolls.

Celebrate Women’s History Month (or celebrate women at any time of the year) by checking out this interesting book!

(Note:  Kristin is our new part time reference person.  Stop by and say hello if you have a chance!)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Death in the Twelfth House: Where Neptune Rules by Mitchell Scott Lewis

Reviewed by Jeanne

The death of one aging rock star wasn’t unusual.  Two might be deemed coincidence.  But when a third is found, the police find themselves on the hot seat.  The most recently departed was Freddie Finger, an egotistical womanizer who had managed to alienate a good number of his fellow musicians and business people, which means there are no end of suspects. 

One person who is definitely not happy with the police investigation is model/actress Vivian Younger, whose interest in the case is personal:  Freddie was her father.  She has the money and the connections to be a major thorn in the investigation’s side, so the lead investigator makes no objection when she wants to  hire astrologer David Lowell.  Lowell has worked with the police before, and Inspector Roland has seen enough to think the astrologer might be on to something.  At the very least, Lowell is discrete and should keep the daughter occupied so the department can investigate in relative peace. Since Lowell is also independently wealthy with his own investigative resources, he can actually be useful to the police as well.

Death in the Twelfth House is the second in Mitchell Scott Lewis' “Starlight Detective Agency Mystery” series, but you need not have read the first to enjoy this one.  While I enjoyed the first book, there were a few rough edges in some of the writing. (You can read the full review here.) This second book is smoother, less self-conscious.  Minor characters aren’t over-explained, for one thing.  The plotting is good and the characters are a bit better developed this time around. Sarah his office assistant gets a bit of a chance to shine, even though she's a bit of a skeptic  Lowell is much less stiff  and even uses contractions on a more regular basis.

 As before, Lowell explains a lot about charts while using concrete examples so that you really don’t have to know anything about astrology to follow along. He makes it all sound fascinating and even easy.  This book does an especially good job of showing how interpretation makes the difference in a reading. There are nuances that take a trained eye to sort out, and to not leap to the easy conclusions, just as a meteorologist needs to know his own specific location to better predict weather based on readings. Lowell's also just a bit less opinionated, or more accurately less apt to lecture people on his views.  This can be seen as either a plus or a minus, depending on one’s politics. 

Personally, I’d had my doubts about this second book because of the rock and roll theme.  It’s not that I have anything against rock and roll or the music business, but I’ve both read and seen this scenario  and it’s just not something that particularly interested me as a plot setting.  I think in part it’s because it seems to be that the authors are sometimes trying to get a sort of reflected glamor among the rich and famous while editorializing about the lifestyle.  Despite Freddie being a sort of stereotypical rock star with the angry ex-wives and band mates, I never felt the story was too tawdry or that the author was using the setting to punch up a weak plot.

Lewis is a professional astrologer who also worked in the music business.   His website is  In addition to information about the books, he also posts a monthly astrological newsletter.

If you have an interest in astrology that goes beyond the daily horoscope in the paper or you like cozy mysteries with a bit of an edge, you might give this series a try!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Laws of Love by Lisa White

Reviewed by Jeanne

Livi Miller loves her job as a lawyer for Hampton Steel.  In fact, she loves it so much that it’s all but taken over her life.  She spends most of her waking hours either at work or thinking about work.  She lives for “the deal”—and she’s a very good deal maker.  It’s obvious to all her co-workers that she’ll be the one to take over as general counsel for the corporation when Robert Matthews retires, which shouldn’t be too long.

And then Jake walks back into her life.

Jake was the boy she loved in high school, the other half of the “perfect couple” they formed.  They’d planned to spend their lives together but once she went off to law school, they’d drifted apart.  The last she heard, he’d been in Iraq.  Now he’s back in Millersville, and she feels just as she did all those years ago.  It’s enough to set her head and her heart spinning.

Then Hampton Steel is threatened and Livi may have to choose between her two loves:  her job and Jake.

Laws of Love is a good romantic story with a bit of mystery/suspense thrown in.  I particularly enjoyed the small town setting of Millersville, named after one of Livi’s ancestors.  She feels a profound connection to the town, with her own family history tied up with the town’s history. White does a nice job of capturing the feel of the place and the people, where people know each other from high school and fishing is a favorite pastime.

I also liked that Livi and Jake don’t make big production out of resisting the attraction: too many authors try to build artificial tension that way. The love scenes are appropriately steamy but not too graphic. The tension in the story comes from a very real threat, one that Livi doesn’t see coming until it’s almost too late.

Lisa White is a lawyer and author who believes in the power of a good story.  Her next book is entitled Discovery and is the first in a trilogy.  It will be available in April. You can read more about White and her work at

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Parrots Prove Deadly by Clea Simon

Melon on the lookout for parrots.

Reviewed by Jeanne

Pru Marlowe has worked with a lot of dogs and cats in her time, but a parrot is something new.  Pru is called after owner Polly Larkin has passed away in a nursing home, and the owner’s daughter isn’t eager to take on a foul-mouthed bird with the almost uncanny ability to use the most insulting phrases possible at the worst possible time.  Pru is hoping her psychic link to animals will help her get Randolph in shape for a new home, but communication with the bird is proving difficult.  He seems agitated, repeating certain phrases and sounds.  Soon Pru begins to wonder about the “accident” that killed his owner, and to ponder if Randolph is a witness to a murder.

If it was a murder, there are any number of suspects:  a down-trodden daughter who might relish no longer having her life dominated by her mother, a son who seems no more interested in his mother dead as he was when she was living, a nosy nursing home neighbor who seems to know quite a lot about Polly’s business, an aide who seems to know more than she’s saying, and a supercilious doctor who likes to pop up unannounced but be unavailable when needed.  Jim Creighton, her police detective friend who would like to be a bit more than a friend, is preoccupied with another situation and doesn’t seem inclined to investigate a seemingly routine death of an elderly person at a nursing home.

Meanwhile, Pru is also dealing with a young raccoon who has gotten himself in deep trouble at a housing development with a bit of breaking and entering of his own.

All our favorite characters have returned for this third book in the series.  Bitsy the Bichon, aka Growler, is still a mighty dog in a tiny body, who tolerates his insensitive owner because he has no other choice.  Frank the ferret is still after his shiny objects, and Wallis the cat is still making her pungent observations.  Pru has grown up a bit, become more comfortable in her own skin, and while still wary of her ability has accepted it and tries to make use of it.  She’s even thawed just a bit toward Creighton, though her skittishness at relationships means there’s still distance between them.  On the other hand, she still has a streak of recklessness that indicates she needs to work on her sense of self-preservation.

As I read Parrots Prove Deadly, it occurred to me that in some ways this is a New Age version of the classic puzzle mystery.  Instead of having a word written in blood or a conveniently torn scrap of paper, Pru receives rather cryptic messages from creatures.  Well, cryptic to humans; to the animals they make perfect sense, and they are sometimes as frustrated as Pru that the message isn’t understood.  That’s one of the things I like about this series:  the animals understand things in their own way, devoid of the layers of trappings that humans tend to add. They also tend NOT to meddle in or spend a lot of time commenting on human behavior.

Another part I enjoy is that Simon does her research so that she knows a bit about the behavior of parrots, raccoons, etc.  Not all authors do, and sometimes I find myself questioning as assumption the character makes; it takes me right out of the story.  I don’t have that problem with Simon’s work.  She’s also even-handed in her treatment of some sticky issues in animal welfare, giving each side a say. Finally, I admire Simon’s restraint.  It would be so easy to make the non-human characters dependent and adorable rather than adult creatures.  It would be easy to ratchet up the supernatural element and jump on the mystic bandwagon.  Instead, she works to make her story fit a realistic setting. The result is a classic mystery with some modern trappings, but one which will also appeal to animal lovers.

If you'd like to read more about Simon and her books, the website is She will be posting an excerpt from Parrots Prove Deadly soon, too.  You can also see photos of the glorious Musetta, model for Esme in Simon's Grey series.

Full disclosure:  I was given an Advanced Reader's Copy of the book, but that did not influence my review.

Melon isn't sure he likes the idea of a bird with firepower.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Beaucoup Arlo & Janis by Jimmy Johnson

Reviewed by Jeanne

It’s no secret that I’m a comic strip aficionado.  Every morning I drink my coffee and take a few minutes to catch up on the doings in my favorites: 9 Chickweed Lane, Rose is Rose, Mutts, Non Sequiter, and others.  Most of the strips I’ve been introduced to via our local newspaper, which is where a strip called “Arlo and Janis” debuted a few years back.  Since I read ALL the comics in our newspaper, even the ones I may not enjoy as much as others, I kept reading A & J. It wasn’t bad, it just didn’t stand out particularly.

At that time the paper also carried a syndicated column by Rheta Grimsley Johnson which I liked.  One column mentioned that she had been married to the A& J artist, so people asked her if she was Janis.  Her answer was, “I used to be.”  This made me pause and look at the strip anew, looking more at characters instead of gags.

Now it’s safe to say that I’m an Arlo and Janis fan.  Thinking back, I’ve wondered why it took me so long to become attached.  Was there really that much difference in the strips?  But short of going back through all that newspaper microfilm there wasn’t really a way to find out, and too much microfilm makes me queasy, as the motion of the film makes my inner ear think my body’s moving too.

The solution arrived just about Christmas time, when Johnson released a compilation of A & J strips.  Beaucoup Arlo and Janis takes the strip back to its beginnings, then continues to the near present.  I was shocked when I saw some of the early strips.  I’m not sure I would have recognized them as being from the same strip.  Johnson’s style changed over the years, both artistically and, to a lesser degree, in content.

I won’t try to describe the differences in the drawings save to say that now some of the faces are less moonlike and are more expressive to me. As for the writing, as the strip progressed the humor tends to be more character specific and less generic.  The biggest change, and the factor which probably drew me to the strip, is when Johnson began to run occasional storylines that took several days to complete.  I do enjoy single day gags, but I don’t really feel attached to a strip unless I find myself anxiously awaiting the next day’s offering to find out what happened next.

Oh, and the introduction of Ludwig the cat didn't hurt either.

The introduction is a lengthy essay in which Johnson muses about his background, his parents, and his childhood.  If you aren’t interested in the background, you can easily skip this section.  I enjoyed it, and it gave me greater insight into the strip itself.  There are some more reminisces at intervals throughout the book.  It’s by no means a complete biography.  At one point, Johnson writes, “I don’t know why people feel compelled to write memoirs.  Maybe they’ve told the same old stories so many times that nobody will listen anymore, so they write them down, hoping to find a new audience. I don’t know why I’m telling you all this, except I think about it more and more. Perhaps it’s just a function of growing older. . . .”

And I think that’s another reason why I like Arlo and Janis.  The characters have grown up, changed, aged.  We've seen their son Gene grow from an elementary school student to a married man and stepfather. Arlo has realized some of his dreams, or else discovered those aren't the dreams he really wants. Janis has loosened up, become more open to possibility. In some ways, we’ve aged together and we all feel the same sort of amazed bewilderment that here we are.

Finally, Arlo and Janis is a love story.  I’d always sensed that, but it was nice have its creator articulate that as a point of the strip.  After all these years, here are two people still in love with each other.  They may fight, they may fuss, but they still love passionately.

If you’re a fan, you’ll really enjoy this book.  If you’re not a fan but enjoy comic strips, by all means give this one a try. On the other hand, if you don’t like comic strips but are 50-something and feeling nostalgic, you’ll enjoy the essays. You can check out Johnson's website at

"Where are the strips with Ludwig?"

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Love Saves the Day by Gwen Cooper

Reviewed by Jeanne

We’ve all heard the old adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”  I’d like to add, “or its title” to that saying.  The case in point is Love Saves the Day by Gwen Cooper.  Just looking at the cover, with its adorable cat, seemingly gazing up at the reader and a star-lit city in the background, I figured I could write out the plot without even reading the book.  Lonely single person with cat meets another single, for some reason they bond over cat, fall in love and promise to love, honor, cherish and scoop litter boxes for the rest of their lives.

Only that’s not what the book is about.

The book opens with Prudence the cat waiting for her person, Sarah, to come home.  She’s been gone longer than usual, and Prudence is a bit put out.  Then Sarah’s daughter, Laura, and Laura’s husband Josh show up and start taking Sarah’s things away.  Prudence is upset by this; and by the fact that Laura and Josh have no idea of proper behavior or the correct way to do things. Prudence is as prim and proper as her name suggests, but she’s also an acute observer of human nature and body language.  She’s especially adept at realizing when someone is saying something not true, though Prudence has distinctions for that:  saying that Prudence has socks on when talking about her white feet is an obvious untruth but humans also say other untrue things, sometimes for no reason Prudence can discern.  The reader quickly realizes that Sarah and Laura had become estranged, but Prudence doesn’t mediate on this puzzle.  That’s not something a cat would do. Instead, she’s trying to deal with the here and now, especially all these changes she doesn’t understand.  Just when she’s starting to become less uncomfortable, other new changes threaten what little stability Prudence knows.

So what is the book about? It’s about the relationship between a mother and daughter, once close, who somehow became estranged.  It’s about the baggage we carry with us from our childhoods and how that can affect our present lives.  It’s about how we relate to those we love, both human and nonhuman, and handling change and loss.  Prudence the cat narrators a good portion of the book, but we also hear from Laura and finally from Sarah herself as each tells a part of the story from her point of view. The result is a poignant, often funny, very charming story. The personalities of the three characters really shine through: Sarah the single mother who worked as a DJ and owned a record shop while trying to raise her rebellious daughter; Laura the button-down attorney who tries to keep everything under control; Josh the music-loving husband trying to get his wife to come to terms with a lot of pent-up emotions; and of course Prudence.

And by the way, "Love Saves the Day" is the name of a store where Sarah and Laura shopped.

Of course, being me I particularly enjoyed Prudence’s point of view, and I liked her practical, no nonsense approach.  A couple of times some of the text verged on the precious, but for the most part Cooper allowed Prudence to be a mature, adult character.

Finally, I’d say that while this is indeed a book for cat lovers, it’s also a good story about love, loss and coming to terms with your past.

Gwen Cooper is also the author of a fine non-fiction book Homer's Odyssey, about her blind wonder cat.  Here's a link to a review of that book

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Based on a True Story: Nonfiction Books into Movies

Monuments Men:  Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel recounts the story of a little known aspect of World War II history.  When the Nazis swept through Europe, they quickly swept up as many works of art as they possibly could, with orders to destroy those items seen as “degenerate art”—anything deemed anti-German or modern.  Works by Picasso, Klee, and others were actually burned.  A group of specialized recruits, people who were museum curators, art historians or art collectors, had the task of trying to recover as many works as possible before they were destroyed, sometimes at the risk of their own lives.  The book is as exciting as fiction. The movie is currently filming and stars George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damien, and Daniel Craig.  (Downton Abbey fans:  Hugh Bonneville, Lord Grantham himself, has a role in the film.) It'll be a bit of a wait, though:  the movie isn't scheduled to be released until December 2013.

jOBS is a movie about the life of Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple.  While this movie is based more on magazine articles and interviews, I don’t think you could go wrong by reading Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson.  The author not only interviewed over 100 of Jobs’ friends, business partners, and family, but he had more than 40 interviews with Jobs himself.  Isaacson is an excellent biographer. The movie stars Ashton Kutcher and should be in theaters in April.

Back in 1947,  six adventurers tried to prove that ancient peoples from South America could have sailed to Polynesia.  They constructed a traditional raft and set sail, battling the elements, storms, sharks and other dangers.  The movie Kon Tiki  is based on the book of the same name by Thor Heyerdahl, and is scheduled for a limited release in April.

Unbroken:  A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand is the incredible true story of Louis Zamperini, a young Italian American bombardier who was shot down in the Pacific during World War II.  He was captured by the Japanese and spent 2 ½ years as a POW under horrific conditions. The story of his unquenchable spirit is wonderfully told by Hillenbrand, who enthralled us all with her story of a horse named Seabiscuit.  A film version is in development now, with some hig profile interest from Angelina Jolie and the Coen Brothers. However, even with big names attached, I wouldn’t hold my breath; some projects are “in development” for years.