Tuesday, November 25, 2008

We Have Books About TV

Brought to You in Living Color: 75 Years of Great Moments in Television & Radio from NBC / by Marc Robinson; w/ foreword by Tom Brokaw
Beautifully illustrated with digitized photographs and footage stills from some of TV's most memorable programs, this book looks back at some of the greatest moments in the NBC network's illustrious 75 year broadcast history. Like with television, Robinson as much as lets the pictures do the talking, merely supplying filler material in between the tell-it-all photos. Still, his colorful captions and behind-the-scenes tidbits on some of the most popular and long-lived shows provide this coffee table book with some gloss to go with its well-preserved glamour.

The PBS Companion: A History of Public Television / by David Stewart
From its inception in 1969 until the present day, America's public network has hosted some of television's most beloved series. Renowned for children's programs like "Mr. Rogers Neighborhood" and "Sesame Street", this member funded station has succeeded in virtually all demographics, even generating sizable ratings shares for shows like "Masterpiece Theatre" and "NOVA". Additionally, PBS has flourished for its ability to facilitate broadcast listings for local markets, long-providing it with a decided edge over national and private sectors in that regard.

TV Guide Book of Lists / by the Editors of TV Guide Magazine
So just what are the 50 greatest shows ever? What about the funniest TV characters? The top female leads? This is the 'list book' to trump all other list books--and blogosphere pundits--when it comes to nailing down just who was the best TV dad, the most colorful sports analyst or the roguest detective in a police drama. Written and annotated by the best critics (in the magazine business) to ever review the not-so-silver screen, this is a fun and informing read for anyone wishing to see just who cracked what list.

Get on TV!: the Insider's Guide to Pitching the Producers and Promoting Yourself / by Jacquie Jordan; w/ foreword by Donny Osmond
With winning candor, this shameless how-to book by a veteran TV producer lays down some can't miss tips on promotional marketing for all the small screen wannabees out there. Jordan states that while looks and talent certainly help, they aren't always what producers look for when auditioning for a potential role or reality TV spot, nor are they always the necessary qualities which can launch a budding career in the right direction.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread / by Don Robertson

On an ordinary day in an ordinary American city, spunky 9-year-old Morris Byrd III sets out with his red wagon and little sister en route to a friend’s home across town. Morris may only be a fourth-grader, but he’s well aware of the War currently being waged in this the year 1944, the implications of which have indirectly affected life at home. After all, it would be hard to ignore the day-to-day bustling industry in his hometown of Cleveland, to say nothing of similarly echoed sentiments on bravery and patriotism issued by his teacher. Not so much concerned with the grown-up world at the moment, Morris is more interested in reaching his friend Stanley Chaloupka's house in time for dinner.

Things change in a hurry, however, when an accident of historical proportions occurs right in front of Morris’ eyes, exposing the young boy to a terror seldom experienced by soldiers much less underage civilians far from the front lines. Those familiar with the localized 1947 incident won’t be so much the same concerning the Cleveland Gas Explosion of 1944 which, prior to Texas City’s own infamous disaster, was the largest-scale industrial accident of the twentieth century. A native Clevelander, Robertson delivers a trademark novel depicting an altogether more serene time and place prior to a immensely violent event ruptured the lives of not only those directly involved in it, but an entire city which was irrevocably altered and a generation forever changed thereafter. (FIC ROBERTSON)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory

Betrothed at the age of three, Catalina has been groomed since birth to be Queen of England. Raised by her parents Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain, to always place duty and country first, Catalina comes to England at the age of 15 to marry Arthur, Prince of Wales. Catalina is confident, ambitious and highly intelligent, and is herself a master of intrigue and political expediency. But soon, widowhood at young age of sixteen, she finds herself alone in the labyrinthan Tudor court of Henry VII, mocked and penniless, and a pawn caught between two countries. Now she must rely on her own intelligence, skills, and ambition, to survive the intrigues of her parents, her court and even her husband to become Queen Katherine of Aragon.

This book provides an intriguing and detailed look at the Tudor monarchy amid the geopolitical realities of Europe in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. The author combines extensive research with a clear and captivating writing style to create a superb picture of this amazing and extraordinary woman.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Flying Troutmans / Miriam Toews

Ever wished you could just run away from it all? Hattie Troutman does, but unfortunately, it all -- in particular, her family -- just seems to keep following her. Hattie's living in Paris and is recently homeless, recently boyfriend-less, and just a bit directionless when she receives a call from her 11-year old niece that she's urgently needed back home in Canada. She arrives to find her older sister deep in the throes of a serious depressive episode and her niece and nephew trying valiantly to fend for themselves and their sick mom.

Although I know that librarians are supposed to be immune to this, I was totally attracted to this book because of the cover. I don't know if the kid on the front is supposed to be Hattie's niece, Thebes, who has a mild obsession with art projects (especially creating giant checks out of posterboard to give to people she thinks need a little boost to their day) or if it's supposed to be a representation of Hattie herself -- who, although in her late 20's, is just a bit immature for her age and feels moderately to totally overwhelmed by the responsibility of suddenly being the primary caretaker of her sister's family. Regardless, the kid covering her eyes in the funny hat is a perfect representation of the mood of this book. A little wacky, a little serious.

At its heart, this book is a road trip book with literary underpinnings that are pretty well disguised by the book's quick pacing. After putting her sister in the hospital, Hattie and the kids embark on an epic journey in a marginally operational minivan across the United States to search for the kids' elusive artist father. They have some adventures and meet some nutty characters. More often than not, they ARE the nutty characters.

Hattie's niece and nephew are such appealing characters, by turns vulnerable and funny, wise and silly, that you can't help but be drawn into their voyage. Hattie has a complex relationship with her sister that the author gives us little glimpses of through flashbacks throughout the storyline. Hattie herself is tired of cleaning up her sister's messes, but she loves her family despite their flaws. She has to make an uncomfortable decision: what is she willing to give up for the ones she loves?

This book is has a wacky sense of humor and a streak of irony. While some of the characters are kind of out there in the zaniness realm, it does deal in a sensitive way with the effects of having a person with mental illness in the family and the unpalatable choices that family members are forced to make.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Michael Crichton

Little intro is needed into the career of the late Michael Crichton. Long one of America's brand-name authors, his uber-popular Sci-Fi/Adventure books have planted him securely among the Grisham-King-Steele-Clancy circle of defacto mainstream novelists. As with many of his contemporaries, accessibility is the clutch; Crichton's writing style (withstanding a good dose of formidable techie-speak) allows multiple ages and genre-likes to easily tap into his stories. While one could argue it was Jurassic Park which made him a household name, he's been on the radar since The Andromeda Strain was published in 1967, never not having a bestseller every three to five years or so.
Congo (1980)
On a specialized mission in the deepest African jungle, an American research team and their Congolese guide suddenly vanish without a trace. All communication between the 11-man team and their California base is permanently lost; the only evidence being a replay from the team's onsite camera filmed just prior to the signal's disconnection. Vaguely, amidst horrifying cries of terror and scrambled background noise, the image appears to show a peculiar subspecies of mountain gorilla roaming in the vicinity of the ruined encampment. When airborne surveillance and rescue efforts prove unsuccessful, it's decided that a new team--this time heavily armed and reinforced--will re-attempt the operation, simultaneously seeking answers to the previous team's demise. Surely, now all of their advanced technology and superior weapons will withstand any potential aggression. Right?

Jurassic Park (1990)
When extracts of Saurian (pre-historic reptilian) DNA are found in a remote region of Central America, a bold new vision forms in the mind of billionaire-scientist John Hammond. Kept strictly confidential, Hammond's new "theme park" is swiftly engineered, erected and made (theoretically) operational on the tiny Isla Nublar west of Costa Rica. Awaiting only the cooperation of reluctant investors, Hammond summons some of his closest friends, scientific experts and legal advisors for a sneak-peek, intending to reveal all the unique park has to offer in the way of "natural" fascination. But how can anyone, even Hammond himself, be sure that modern science will so easily prevail over such a "resurrected" species, especially one of "tyrannical" proportions never before encountered by humans?

Eaters of the Dead (1976)
In 10th century A.D., Ahmad Ibn Fadlan, a scholar under the Muslim Caliph al-Muqtadir was sent on an expedition to recently conquered territories in the North. Intent upon learning and interpreting details pertaining to the nomadic tribes of that region, Ibn Fadlan arrives at his destination only to have his party raided and slaughtered by Vikings. Though eager enough to kill off his companions, the barbarians take Ibn Fadlan captive, indicating his presence in addition to their 12-man group a "good luck" charm for the journey home. Gradually with time, Fadlan is integrated into the Norse tribe, essentially their "13th Warrior" accompanying them in their travels and ultimately battling alongside in the fight against their deadliest enemy--the 'wendol', or 'monsters of the mist'.

Sphere (1987)
Prof. Norman Johnson little suspected that his long-ago written magazine article on a potential alien encounter would land him and a 7-man research team at the bottom of the Pacific ocean where a sunken spacecraft of preternatural proportions has prompted a top secret investigation. Soon things become less a realm of the scientific and more a domain for the unimaginable as the ship--seemingly absent of any marine capabilities--proves to be more than just an interesting find with peculiar technology and nomenclature. Traumatic occurrences in form of a giant squid attack and jellyfish shock-currents soon force Norman and his team to reconfigure analysis concerning the mystery vessel; focusing not just on its origin, but on the singularly entrancing sphere-shaped artifact contained within. Now with time running out inside their underwater biodome, the team must solve the mystery of Sphere not just to satisfy curiosity, but to save their very lives.

The Great Train Robbery (1975)
The 1853 outbreak of the Crimean War between Russia, France and Britain indirectly resulted in large sums of money having to travel long distances (over land) from the London banks to troops in the Caucasus. What more fortuitous occasion could there be for exhibiting travel by Railroad than to safely transfer funds across the continent via locomotive? So was the thought prior to the Great Train Robbery of 1855 in which 12 million pounds (approx. $10,000,000 today) was successfully stolen from a heavily guarded and securely bulwarked train en route from London to Southampton. In this fictionalized rendition of the heist, Crichton recounts--in riveting fashion, though with obvious liberties taken--the details, circumstances and planning of just how the operation was carried out; and, ultimately how the money was eventually recovered.
Rising Sun (1992)
The murder of a beautiful woman atop an LA skyscraper attracts more than just routine attention, it unleashes a powderkeg of international drama as the American investigating authorities clash with an emerging Japanese business conglomerate. After being jerked around by faulty leads and more than a few desperate characters, amateurish Detective Peter Smith reluctantly relies (solely) on direction from former LAPD Officer John Connor, Smith's roguish Japanese translator and partner. Together they claw through a web of misinformation, deceit and cultural divide to find not only a murderer, but a far more grisly culprit undermining the very backbone of the global business infrastructure.

Friday, November 7, 2008

College Football

100 Years of Texas Longhorn Football / by Gene Schoore; w/ foreword by Darrell Royal
Burnt Orange Nation can’t go wrong with this comprehensive and very-well illustrated book commemorating a century of Longhorn football. All aspects of the program are touched on as notable players, coaches and games fill this book with all a gung-ho gridiron fan could want concerning UT football. Legendary coach Darrell Royal talks about the Big 8 years while Schoore does a good job well-representing the team that’s become a stamp of the Lone Star State.

The Last Coach: the Life of Paul “Bear” Bryant /
by Allen Barra
Deified by fans of Alabama football, Bryant was the legendary Crimson Tide coach of the 60’s/70’s glory years during which the program routinely clamped down on SEC competition and was never out of the national title picture. See why Bama crazies continue to pay homage, erect shrines, and devote rooms in their houses to the coach who’s been dead over two decades but still lives on.
A Fire to Win: The Life and Times of Woody
Hayes / by John Lombardo
‘Three yards/Cloud of Dust’ coach Woody Hayes may not be too pleased with the way the game has assumed a more airborne mode of moving the ball. Offensive schemes haven't just deviated from tradition; old ideologies are routinely tossed out the window as teams undergo full-on transformations practically overnight. Fans nostalgic about the olden days of limited forward passing and simpler playbooks will like this unique insight into the former Ohio State Buckeyes legend.

Runnin' with the big dogs : the true, unvarnished story of the Texas-Oklahoma football wars / by Mike Shropshire
Shropshire recounts the origins of the Red River Rivalry/Shootout with exceptional intuition; stating the case for why this particular “border war” inhabits the American spotlight on a yearly basis. Both teams, both states, both fan-bases and all those caught in the cross-hairs are accounted for as this is a great read for anyone wanting more of the Big XII’s most intense rivalry.

Rammer, Jammer, Yellow Hammer: a Journey into the Heart of Fan Mania / by Warren St. Johns
Ever wonder why fans willingly shed their clothes, write numbers/letters on torsos, and don face paint in the coldest weather imaginable? For all those bewildered over the reasons behind such antics and anyone just looking for a good read, here is a book to satisfy curiosity. Author St. Johns divulges some of the awkward reasons why college football’s die-hard fans routinely exhibit the most extreme and often peculiar rituals when rooting on their favorite schools and teams.
Still Kicking: My Dramatic Journey as the First Woman to Play Division One College Football / by Katie Hnida
A true American success story, female place-kicker Katie Hnida recalls her time as a Division 1A college football player first with the Colorado Buffaloes and later at the University of New Mexico. Acquainting the reader with hardships endured with first garnering serious attention for her abilities and then persevering amid discrimination and abuse, Hnida delivers a breakthrough testimony about becoming the first ever female to compete at the highest amateur level of the male-dominant sport.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron (with Bret Witter)

This book is famous in publishing circles for its hefty advance, of $1.25 million. Whether the book will live up to its expectations is anybody’s guess. I read the book and am left none the wiser, although I enjoyed reading it. The cover is a real winner, showing Dewey’s soulful gaze. Dewey is the library cat who was found in the book drop of the Spencer, Iowa town library one freezing January morning. He was adopted by the library, and the rest is history. The director who saved Dewey writes the story (with help from Bret Witter) and chronicles his life at the library along with her own family saga and some information about life in Iowa. When Dewey arrived in 1988 the family farms were in deep trouble, going into foreclosures and being bought up by big conglomerates. The director, Vicki Myron, believes that having Dewey around really helped brighten up people’s days, and it sounds like he did. He was a particularly “people-oriented” kind of cat (unfortunately he’s not still around, but his final resting place can be seen on library grounds), heading for people’s laps regardless of newspapers or books getting in his way. He helped Vicki connect with her teen-aged daughter, and he gave her a warm welcome each cold and dark morning. He was an inside cat, and some of the physical details of his bouts with sickness may not deter the cat-loving reader, but hearing about his finicky diet (offered as many as six different flavors on a given day) was a bit much for me. If this book is going to compete with John Grogan’s book about Marley, you have to swallow that unlike Marley, this is not about a cat in a natural state. But so many cats in this country live indoors, that may pass unnoticed.