Shelfish: The Blog of Answers

The Monkees Good Times!

Monkees "Good Times" CoverThe surviving members of the classic 1960s, made-for-TV pop band, The Monkees are back with a surprisingly great new record. Just like in the old days, the band has recruited some of the best songwriters available to help out. Look for tracks written by Andy Partridge (of XTC), Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie), Rivers Cuomo (Weezer), Paul Weller (The Jam, Style Council), and others. Producer Adam Schlesinger from Fountains of Wayne has created a sound reminiscent of the Monkees we all remember without making it just a nostalgia record. The songs all sound fresh, modern, and current while still having the 60s flavor you'd expect. You're going to love it.

Download or stream Good Times! at

Roger Ebert Hated, Hated, Hated These Movies

Battlefield Earth PosterOn today's date in 1942, Roger Ebert was born in Urbana, Illinois. 25 years later, he became the film critic for the Chicago Sun Times, a job he held until the end of his life in 2013. His reviews were syndicated to more than 200 newspapers and collected in dozens of books. Along with Chicago Tribune critic Gene Siskel, Ebert co-hosted the pre-eminent film review television shows Sneak Previews and At the Movies. In 1975, Ebert became the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize.

His opinion mattered. When he loved a movie, Ebert could make the career of a new filmmaker. With a thumbs down, he could destroy dreams. And sometimes he did. One of Ebert's most successful books, I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie, collected reviews of films that Ebert, well, hated. Ebert had no patience for bad movies and didn't hold back when discussing those he considered the worst. In celebration of his life, today, let's take a look as some movies he rated at less than one star.

"Wolf Creek is more like the guy at the carnival sideshow who bites off chicken heads. No fun for us, no fun for the guy, no fun for the chicken."
Mad Dog Time
"Mad Dog Time is the first movie I have seen that does not improve on the sight of a blank screen viewed for the same length of time. Watching “Mad Dog Time” is like waiting for the bus in a city where you're not sure they have a bus line."
"Charlie's Angels is eye candy for the blind. It's a movie without a brain in its three pretty little heads."
Freddy Got Fingered
"This movie doesn't scrape the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't below the bottom of the barrel. This movie doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels."
"A lot of bad movies are fairly throbbing with life. Mannequin is dead. The wake lasts 1 1/2 hours, and then we can leave the theater. Halfway through, I was ready for someone to lead us in reciting the rosary."
"Josie and the Pussycats are not dumber than the Spice Girls, but they're as dumb as the Spice Girls, which is dumb enough."
"I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it."
"Battlefield Earth is like taking a bus trip with someone who has needed a bath for a long time. It's not merely bad; it's unpleasant in a hostile way."

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

Sleeping Giants Book CoverFor a few days, when she was 12 years old, Rose Franklin was at the center of a major scientific discovery. While riding her bike near her home in the Black Hills of South Dakota she saw an eerie blue light. As she went to investigate, the ground gave way beneath her feet, dropping her into a deep hole. A hole with a giant metal hand at the bottom. Testing revealed the hand to be at least 5,000 years old but no more could be learned. The hand was put into military storage.

Decades later, Rose, now a top physicist, is given a new assignment. Find out what the hand is, who put it there, and, most importantly, if it's a weapon. Despite unlimited resources and a team of experts, the task is nearly impossible. Then, a metal forearm is discovered in Syria. Then anoher part, and another.

The book has a lot on its mind: Are we alone in the universe? What are the origins of humanity? How much sacrifice can be justified by scientific progress? Will we ever learn to get along with our neighbors? Can our personal happiness be weighed against the common good of humanity?

Told in a series of classified reports and interviews conducted by an unnamed operative of some shadowy, clandestine agency, Sylvain Neuvel's Sleeping Giants owes a lot to similarly constructed sci-fi bestsellers, Robopocalypse and World War Z. Rejected by dozens of publishers, Neuvel had enough faith in his book to publish it himself. Thanks to a little good fortune, the book was reviewed in Kirkus, leading to a movie deal, and ultimately, a bidding war between traditional publishers. It is now being called the first in an ongoing series.

As a debut novel, Sleeping Giants is pretty audacious. It's a compelling read, certainly worthy of some late-night read time.

Find and place a hold on Sleeping Giants in the library catalog.

The Audie Awards

Furiously Happy CoverA couple of weeks ago, the Audio Publishers Association (APA) announced its winners for the 21st annual Audie Awards recognizing distinction in audiobooks and spoken word entertainment. Since June is Audio Book Month, now seemed like the best time to tell you the winners. Below you'll find links to selected titles. Winners of all the categories as well as audio samples can be found at

Many of the award winners are available at Eisenhower on compact disc and in downloadable digital formats for your computers or smart phones.

Audiobook of the Year
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. Read by Clare Corbett, Louise Brealey & India Fisher.
Compact Disc | Media on Demand

Best Autobiography or Memoir
Ghost Boy by Martin Pistorius. Read by Simon Bubb.
Hoopla Digital

Business/Personal Development
Wake Up Happy by Michael Strahan & Veronica Chambers. Read by Michael Strahan.
Compact Disc

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. Read by Polly Stone.
Compact Disc | Media on Demand

The Man on the Moon by Andrew Chaikin. Read by Bronson Pinchot.
Compact Disc

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson. Read by Jenny Lawson.
Compact Disc | Media on Demand

Middle Grade
Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan. Read by Mark Bramhall, David de Vries, MacLeod Andrews & Rebecca Soler.
Compact Disc | Hoopla Digital | Media on Demand

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith. Read by Robert Glenister.
Compact Disc | Media on Demand

Young Listeners
Little Shop of Monsters by R.L. Stine & Marc Brown. Read by Jack Black.

The Assistants by Camille Perri

The Assistants book coverDespite having trouble paying her bills, Tina Fontana takes pride in her work and has the utmost respect for her boss Robert Barlow, the head of the Titan Corporation, a multimedia news conglomerate. Think Ted Turner meets Rupert Murdoch. So when an accounting error leaves Tina with an unearned check for $20,000 (almost the exact amount of her student loan balance) she feels guilty about deciding to keep it. Executives at Titan spend more than $20,000 on lunches, and cab rides, and tropical fish. It's just pocket change for Robert, she justifies. Why shouldn't she get a little taste of financial freedom?

But then Emily, another assistant, uncovers Tina's accidental crime. She has student debt, too and wants Tina's help to pay it off. Then, another assistant comes along. And another. And another. Soon, Tina's ethical misstep turns into a fully-fledged movement, stealing from the rich to give to the poor.

I thought I saw the ending coming, but a slight twist on my expectations made the story richer, revealing broke Tina and rich Robert to both be real human beings, neither a hero nor a villain. In a time when income inequality is so prevalent in the public consciousness, The Assistants has a lot to say to the disenfranchised about taking back power. Plus, it's a great read, moving at a breakneck pace. It's the perfect book for the Bernie Sanders crowd.

Click here to place a hold on The Assistants.

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang CoverThis weekend I'll be going to the theater. My expectations are high for The Nice Guys, the story of a mismatched pair of private eyes (played by Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling) investigating an apparent suicide in 1970s Los Angeles. The trailers have looked great, funny and sad and exciting. But I was looking forward for The Nice Guys because of the movie's writer and director, Shane Black.

At the end of the 80s, Black hit a homerun with his first movie, Lethal Weapon. That success led to the writing of some of the biggest action movies Hollywood had to offer. Last Action Hero, The Last Boy Scout, and Lethal Weapon 2. His movies were making a lot of money but Black wasn't getting any respect. His application to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was rejected. And then, The Long Kiss Goodnight. Black sold the script for an unheard of amount of money. $4 million. But his original script was butchered by director Renny Harland, the movie bombed, and Shane Black basically faded away from Hollywood for the next ten years.

Then came Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. Black brought the script to his old colleague, Joel Silver who had produced Lethal Weapon, and the two hatched a plan. If they could keep the budget low enough, the studio would stay out of the way. They hired waning celebrities Robert Downey Jr, and Val Kilmer to star alongside the up and comer Michelle Monaghan and got busy making the best movie of 2005.

The plot of the film is willfully convoluted. A small-time crook gets mistaken for an actor and is assigned to research his role by tagging along with an openly gay private detective. He runs into his childhood crush, witnesses a murder, and finds himself dodging bullets. But the plot is largely beside the point. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is solely concerned with character interaction and development. Shane Black shows a love of the outsider, the screw-up who wishes he could save the day, but Harry (Robert Downey Jr.) can't even get his film noir-esque narration right. Despite being a criminal, Harry's intentions are good and he aspires to the heroic ideal. Perry (Val Kilmer) is a primping egotist, but he stands up for the little guy, doing whatever it takes to punish those who abuse women and children. All of the characters are looking for their second chances.

The filmmakers were looking for second chances, too. Robert Downey Jr. needed a career boost after years of public drug issues. Shane Black needed a way back in after a decade in exile. Although Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang wasn't a huge commercial success, it proved to Hollywood that these guys were capable of working at the top of their game. A couple of years later, Downey was back on top with Iron Man, the cornerstone of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with that new power that he leveraged to bring his friend and redeemer, Black, to the helm of Iron Man 3.

So if you like the Marvel movies, and if you like The Nice Guys, you're probably going to love Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.

Click here to place a hold on Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.

The Nebula Awards

Binti CoverTonight the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America announced the winners of the annual Nebula Awards, recognizing the best works of science fiction or fantasy published in the United States. This year, women writers virtually swept the awards. 

Best Novel
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Best Novella
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Young Adult
Updraft by Fran Wilde
Outstanding Dramatic Presentation
Best Novellette
"Our Lady of the Open Road" by Sarah Pinsker (Published in Asimov’s Science Fiction, June 2015)
Best Short Story
"Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers" by Alyssa Wong (Published in Nightmare Magazine, October 2015)

Einstein's Book Club

the members of the Olympia AcademyOn May 29th, 1919, on the island of Principe off the west coast of Africa, one of the longest solar eclipses of the 20th century lasted for nearly seven minutes. Astronomer, physicist, and mathematician Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington was there to witness it. His observation of light bending around the sun provided one of the earliest confirmations of General Relativity, Albert Einstein's gravitational theory that introduced a new framework for all of physics, proposed new concepts of space and time, and propelled Einstein into the pantheon of science's greatest thinkers.

Today, it's hard to think of Einstein without imagining a genius scientist. But before he developed his theory of relativity, devised the world's most famous equation (E = mc²), or was awarded the Nobel Prize, Einstein increased his intellect with a humble book club.

In 1901, at the age of 23, while working for minimum wage as a patent clerk in Switzerland, Einstein hoped to earn some extra money as a physics tutor. His first pupil was Maurice Solovine, a philosophy student. The two quickly gave up their studies, preferring instead to have a few drinks, smoke cigars, and discuss books. With the addition of Einstein's friend, mathematician Conrad Habicht, the Olympia Academy, as they called themselves, was complete.

For the next three years, the men regularly met to read and debate books such as The Grammar of Science by Karl Pearson, A System of Logic by John Stuart Mill, Treatise of Human Nature by David Hume, Ethics by Baruch Spinoza, and even Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes.

Despite the brief lifespan of the Olympia Academy, it had a lasting effect on the three men. They remained in touch throughout their lives and Einstein credited their discussions with the successes of his later scientific career.

Remembering Darwyn Cooke

The New FrontierToday the comics industry lost one of its greats. Writer, artist, and animator Darwyn Cooke died at the age of 54 following a battle with cancer.

After a decade and a half as art director and graphic designer for Canadian magazines, Cooke returned to his first love, the world of comic books. By replying to an ad placed by Warner Bros Animation's Bruce Tim, Cooke became a storyboard artist on the seminal Batman: The Animated Series in the early 90s. That job advanced to animator on the Batman spinoff series Batman Beyond.

His growing reputation in animation allowed Cooke, one of the rare mainstream comic creators capable of writing and illustration his own work, to publish the graphic novel Batman: Ego followed by a revamp of Catwoman with writer Ed Brubaker. Their Catwoman redesign is considered by many to be the definitive modern version of the character and one of DC's most significant comics, commenting on the state of women in comics and offering a strong female lead.

Cooke's legacy as comic creator was cemented in 2004 when he mined DC Comics long history to bridge the gap between the Golden and Silver Ages. Set in the 1950's, The New Frontier introduces dozens of DC's A-list heroes, bringing them together to battle a world-wide crisis while growing Cold War uncertainties bring about political cynicism. Inspired by the movies, comics, and design of the story's time period, Cooke presents Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern as the embodiments of all that is hopeful and good about humanity.

Recently Cooke, has been writing and drawing graphic novel versions of the hard-boiled crime novels featuring Parker, the only adaptations wholeheartedly approved by Parker's creator Richard Stark.

As an artist, Darwyn Cooke was celebrated for his simple, vibrant style, a throwback to mid-century graphic arts, and his ability to lend a touch of humanity to larger-than-life characters. He will not soon be forgotten. The family indicated that donations in Cooke’s name can be made to the Canadian Cancer Society and Hero Initiative.