Check It Out!

Staff recommendations and reviews from the Plainfield Public Library

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Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

On the surface, the small village of Beckford is just a sleepy little town beside a river. But the river has always held some secrets, and has long been the source of a strange fascination for Nel Abbott. Nel is a single mom who grew up in the village, and she’s been working on a book about the river and its sordid past – the drowning of witches, the Drowning Pool, the suicides. When Nel herself is found in the river,  her estranged sister Jules returns to the village to care for Lena, Nel’s teenage daughter, whose best friend was also recently found in the river.  Jules finds herself caught between her duty to Lena and her memories of the past, as the mysteries of the two women’s deaths are unraveled.

In Beckford, Ms. Hawkins has created a creepily atmospheric little village where virtually everyone could have “done it”.  Although uneven in spots, there’s enough intrigue in the story to keep you reading. You might need a character chart though. There are a lot of people in the story – all of them unreliable, and it gets tricky at times to keep track. Definitely well worth reading if you enjoy the psychological genre.

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The Take

Michael Mason (Richard Madden) is a con artist, currently working in Paris. He makes his living picking pockets, taking special orders from his clients. When he steals a bag containing a teddy bear, and not much else, he tosses it. Moments later, the bag explodes, leaving 4 people dead. The next day, Michael’s face, captured on CCTV, is all over the news as a suspect. The CIA assigns agent Sean Briar (Idris Elba) to the case. Briar, never one to play by the rules, captures Michael, but instead of taking him in, takes him to a secret interrogation spot, where he finds out that Michael is indeed telling the truth. Now, they’re not only on the run from the group responsible for the attack, but they’re also trying to track them down before they strike again.

As far as action and suspense go, this movie was pretty good. And while I love both Idris and Richard, unfortunately, as hard as they tried, the chemistry just wasn’t there. I just wasn’t buying into their comic/straight guy routine. Other than that though, definitely worth watching. Rated R. Also featuring Kelly Reilly and Charlotte Le Bon.

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As Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) parachutes into the Sahara desert for an assignment, he’s probably not thinking that he’d meet the love of his life today. In fact, when he meets Marianne (Marion Cotillard), a member of the French Resistance and his partner for their top secret mission, he’s not quite sure what to make of her. But, as they play the roles of man and wife for their mission, they get to know each other well, and by the end, they’ve fallen in love. Once back in England, the two marry, and Max continues to work for the military. Despite the war raging all around them, everything seems to be going well for the young couple – a beautiful home, a new baby. And then Max receives a phone call that may change all of their lives forever – Marion is suspected of feeding information to the enemy. Now, in a mad rush for time, Max becomes desperate to prove her innocence.

I really wanted to like this movie much more than I did, but it really fell flat for me. The story line was good, but it felt rushed at times, and I just wasn’t feeling any chemistry between Pitt and Cotillard. It seemed like the director was trying (and failing) to capture the look and feel of an older classic film, but with modern special effects. It’s not a horrible movie – the story is compelling, but overall the movie is just kind of blah. Rated R.


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Maybe Something Beautiful by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell. Illustrated by Rafael Lopez.

Mira is a little girl who loves to doodle, draw, and paint, and she fills her room with the colorful pictures that she has created. Mira also likes to give her pictures away and brightening someone else’s day. One day, she tapes a picture of the sun onto the wall of a building to make it a bit brighter. The next day, Mira meets a man with a pocket full of paintbrushes, looking at her picture and the wall. Mira asks him what he sees, and he replies “Maybe…something beautiful.” With that, the artist begins painting on the wall, inviting Mira to join in. Soon, the whole neighborhood has joined in, and there’s music and dancing and laughter as they paint walls, benches, and utility boxes, and decorate the sidewalks with poetry. “Together, they created something more beautiful than they had ever imagined”.

This beautifully illustrated book tells the story of how Rafael Lopez and his wife Candace brought people together in their urban neighborhood to create art and to make their neighborhood a more beautiful place to live. With the help of volunteers from all walks of life, the Urban Art Trail was created, and their East Village neighborhood in San Diego was revived through art. Communities all over the U.S. (including Chicago) have commissioned murals by Lopez, and many have implemented the model of community-based art. For more info on the Urban Art Trail, visit

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Collateral Beauty

Advertising guru Howard (Will Smith) is at the top of his game, and then, tragedy strikes. He loses his 6-year-old daughter to an inoperable brain tumor. Over the next couple of years, Howard retreats further and further away – from his marriage, his job, his friends, and life. He rages at Life, Time, and Death, sending them letters. Now, with the company in jeopardy, his three closest friends stage an unusual intervention, in the hopes that Howard will be able to see that life is still worth living, and that there can be beauty even in loss.

You may not agree with some of the motives of some of Howard’s friends, but there’s no question that this is a beautifully told story with a great cast. Be sure to bring your box of tissue though, because there will be tears. Rated PG-13.  Also starring: Edward Norton, Helen Mirren, Kate Winslet, Michael Pena, and Keira Knightley.


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Why Him?

Ned Fleming (Bryan Cranston) is a hard-working mid-western family man who owns his own company, and hopes to pass it on to his children someday. He’s so proud of his daughter, Stephanie (Zoey Deutsch), who’s attending Stanford. And then Stephanie invites the family out to California to spend the holidays and to meet her boyfriend Laird (James Franco). Laird is a free-spirited billionaire who runs his own video gaming company. And by free-spirited, I mean Ned’s worst nightmare. Laird means well, but as a former computer child prodigy, he’s pretty awkward socially, and he tends to take most things to their extreme. When it becomes apparent that Laird intends to propose, Ned goes into panic mode, and the two end up taking their rivalry over Stephanie too far.

Even though there’s nothing new as far as the plot goes, this movie was actually pretty funny. Cranston stands up well against all the “hey, let’s make fun of the old guy” jokes, and the whole cast has great chemistry – I’d love to see Cranston and Megan Mullally do some more stuff together. Rated R. Also featuring: Cedric the Entertainer and Keegan-Michael Key.

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Find Her by Lisa Gardner

As a young college student, Flora Dane was kidnapped and held for 472 days. Locked in a box and completely broken down, Flora has worked hard after her release to take back control of her life – taking self-defense classes, learning everything she can about personal safety. But even with the support of her loving family and her FBI victim advocate, Flora knows she’s not the same girl she used to be. There are just some things she can’t let go…

Boston Detective D.D. Warren meets Flora at the scene of a crime – a dead man and Flora, who killed him. But was it self-defense or vigilante justice? As D.D. tries to track down the answers, the answer to this question becomes less clear. And when Flora herself goes missing, the investigation takes another turn – is Flora on the run or has she been taken? What is her connection to another missing woman?

The latest in the Det. D.D. Warren seriesFind Her is perfect for you if you like your suspense dark and twisty. It will definitely keep keep you up late – I didn’t want to put it down! And even though it’s part of a series, you don’t need to have read the others to enjoy the book – although after you finish it, you’ll probably want to back and read the rest. Lisa Gardner is a new author for me, and I can’t wait to do just that!