Blog

True Blood. Seasons 1 and 2 (2008-2009)

Vampires have always existed in the shadows of Bon Temps, Louisiana, but with the invention of the artificial blood product “True Blood,” vampires have come out into the open. Some residents welcome them, like heroine Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), but others need a little persuading.

As so often happens when vampires are around, other supernatural creatures make appearances as well. Be prepared for great characters, violence, gratuitous nudity, goofy humor, and a touching love story in seasons 1 and 2 of True Blood. Seasons 3 and 4 are also available on DVD. Based on the novels by Charlaine Harris.

The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks (2005)

The Widow of the South is based on the true story of an unlikely hero from the Civil War era. Carrie McGavock eventually becomes known as the Widow of the South after her house is appropriated for use as a hospital by the Confederate army just prior to the devastating Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, where 9,200 men were killed or terribly wounded in less than a day.

The prose is a bit meandering and I was not always clear where the author was going, but toward the end the story comes together when Carrie makes her courageous stand for the fallen and their families.

The Big Country (1958)

To kick off my trio of westerns starring Gregory Peck, I selected The Big Country at random. I was hooked. In this 1958 old Hollywood Western, Gregory Peck moves west to marry and become a rancher. He finds himself in the middle of a vendetta war over the use of cattle watering rights.

Everything about this movie is big, the scenery, the cast, and Gregory Peck. Burl Ives won an Oscar for Best Support Actor as the head of the opposing clan. The scene where Ives interrupts a fancy dinner is outstanding. Peck faces a dilemma. He must choose between his fiance or his conscience.

Check back next month for the second western in the Gregory Peck series.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (2012)

Rachel Joyce’s first novel –  about a retired Englishman setting off to visit a dying colleague, Queenie Hennessy – sounds excessively sentimental, but it is an inspiring kind of book.  Harold’s need to reconnect with Queenie sends him on a wandertour up England, but his journey becomes one of self-discovery.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is a novel told with humor and charm leading to a powerful climax. I found it to contain insight into the thoughts and feelings we all carry (sometimes buried) within our hearts.

The story is so compelling it becomes a comic and tragic joy and I love it when I find a book that is this funny, wise and charming!
Tags:

We're No Angels (1955)

Looking to spend this Christmas in a nice warm tropical place? OK! How about Devil's Island circa 1895? Join Humphrey Bogart, Aldo Ray, and Peter Ustinov as three escaped convicts at Christmas in the hilarious comedy We're No Angels.

They plan to rob a shopkeeper and use the money to leave the island. Their plans begin to change when they meet Felix and Amelie Ducotel and their daughter. Felix manages, or rather mismanages, a small department store.

The convicts decide to spend Christmas with the Ducotel family. They decorate the house and prepare and serve the dinner. Just when everything is going so well, Felix's cousin Andre and Andre's nephew Paul arrive unexpectedly.

Andre is nasty bit of goods who owns the store managed by Felix. He plans to audit the books and if the store is not profitable, he will fire Felix and put him and his family into the street. Andre is just the sort of man the convicts are looking for.

Join this trio of rogues at Christmastime. There are some very funny scenes, some charming songs, and a great cast. It's a good way to enjoy part of this Christmas and/or any Christmas season.

Check out this TCM article for a behind-the-scenes look at the film. And for other Christmas films at the library, browse our lists of Christmas Movies and Family Christmas Movies.
Tags:

Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures by Emma Straub (2012)

Emma Straub’s debut novel brings the reader back to the golden age of Hollywood and the studios that ran the show. The novel follows Elsa Emerson’s transformation from a simple country girl to the glamorous Laura Lamont. Even though Laura changes her name and her hair, she isn’t able to completely break free of her roots. An enchanting novel that transports you back to old Hollywood and the glamor of the movie stars. Here is an interview with the author.
Check out Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures today.

 
 
Tags:

Revenge: The Complete First Season (2011)

This new dark drama takes getting even to the next level. The show centers on the beautiful Emily Thorne who rents a beach house in the Hamptons for summer. It is revealed through flashbacks that Emily is not there to soak up the sun, but instead to exact revenge for the people responsible for her father’s wrongful imprisonment. Her cold and calculating plan ensures that everyone involved in the plot to frame will suffer, especially the powerful Grayson family. Revenge is a deliciously wicked show that shows how far someone will go for justice.
Tags:

Green Dolphin Street (1947)

This old Lana Turner and Van Heflin movie was worth a second peek. I vaguely remembered being entranced with it in grammar school. The plot, the settings, the costumes and the characters of Green Street Dolphin represent an old Hollywood, not necessarily realistic but very entertaining. Lana Turner as the brave, headstrong and sometimes nasty heroine, faces childbirth, earthquakes, tidal waves, and Maori uprisings with true grit.

A ways into her marriage she discovers her husband had really meant to marry her sister. And there we are. What now?

Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer (2012)

Jonah Lehrer has created a compelling and surprising book. He makes the case that moments of insight are an essential tool of the imagination, and although his science stories seem to overreach, he supports his theories with wonderful anecdotes about poets, artists, surfers, and inventors – like the one about Yo-Yo Ma relating his playing the cello to writing a mystery story “It’s all about making people care what happens next,” he said.

I got a lot out of this book about the creative process but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the controversy surrounding the author’s lack of accuracy on some things he included as factual.

And here’s an opinion on that, which I share:

“The best way to think about Imagine is as a collection of interesting stories and studies to ponder and research further. Use it as a source of inspiration, but make your own careful choices about whether to believe what it says about the science of creativity.” Christopher Chabris (a psychology professor at Union College and a co-author, with Daniel Simons, of The Invisible Gorilla, and Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us)
Tags:

A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd (2011)

Bess Crawford is a nursing sister in France during World War I, but she finds time during leave in England to become immersed with the secretive Ellis family and to take it upon herself to help solve a murder or two when she isn't tracking down a child who looks suspiciously like the long-deceased Ellis daughter.

Read A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd today.

Margaret (2011) R

Margaret is an amazing coming-of-age story and with the extended cut being three hours long, an endurance test as well. The investment of time will be rewarded by the well- acted, interestingly shot, quirky, and engaging story of Lisa (Anna Paquin), a high school student whose life is irrevocably changed in a few seconds during a search for a cowboy hat in Manhattan. None of Lisa’s family members, friends, and teachers emerges unscathed from her relentless efforts to make sense of her role in a tragedy.

For more on the movie's five-year journey from filming in 2006 to release in 2011, read articles from The New York Times Magazine and The Los Angeles Times. Also check out NPR's interview with director Kenneth Lonergan. TIME Magazine reviewed the film.
Tags:

Creole Belle by James Lee Burke (2012)

Gritty and graphic, James Lee Burke again deftly perpetuates his Dave Robicheaux series. Creole Belle explores the darkest corners of crime in Louisiana. Burke's true gift lies in his lyrical style. You can see the Spanish moss and smell the rotting bodies. His main characters are flawed creatures but, oh so interesting. Once I started reading, I savored the excitement and the over the top plot, which is Burke's signature style.

 

I’ve Loved You So Long (2008) PG-13

Kristin Scott Thomas gives an inspired performance in I've Loved You So Long, a French language film about a woman’s release from prison. The story of why she was in prison unfolds rather slowly throughout the film as she resumes her life and her relationship with her sister. The film is a modest, subtle character study and the value of most of it is in Thomas’ handling of the role.

Just a side note: I wondered about the title…it didn’t seem to fit. And found that the phrase doesn't translate very well (original title = Il y a longtemps que je t'aime) but is a line of a French folk song that two sisters played as a piano duet.

In French with English subtitles.

Masters of Atlantis by Charles Portis (1985)

By the author of True Grit, Masters of Atlantis is one of the funniest books I have read in years. The first few chapters are not very funny, but they lay the background for a lot of laugh-out-loud moments later on in the book. Read more books by Charles Portis.
Tags:

Water for Elephants (2011) PG-13

An interesting movie. I believe if you liked Moulin Rouge! (2001), you'll like Water for Elephants as well. It's also based on the novel of the same name by Sara Gruen.

Check out our Water for Elephants Reading Map for related books, movies, music, and more!

 
Tags: