Friday, March 24, 2017

Seasons (Wildlife Documentary - French)

Seasons (Wildlife Documentary - French)

Noted French wildlife documentarians Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud explore the history of the great forests of Europe showing what life there was probably like until man came and cleared most of the forest. Wild boar, bear, wolves, badgers, deer, birds, bugs, all are there in vivid color and close photography work. It is a lush and beautiful world that in some ways adapts well to the changed landscape, in others not nearly as successfully. There is only a slight sense of doom at the end; the focus lies on the idea that things can still change for the better.

If you have a cat I would suggest bringing this film home only if your television is secure. I had to remove my cat from the television after he started petting the squirrels on screen. Chasing the herds of bison, following flitting birds with this eyes and trying to discover where the bugs went when they seemed to fly off the screen is all fine. I have to draw the line at whapping and petting the screen. However, this is proof that this is a movie that the ENTIRE family can truly enjoy.

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle

It’s the 1990s when video stores still did pretty good business, especially in small town Iowa. Jeremy works at the video store in a town where not much ever happens when customers start complaining about something “else” in the movies they are borrowing. Jeremy brings one of the tapes home and the customer was right, there was something strange spliced into the film; strange and disturbing. Jeremy lets his boss know and soon there are a few people interested in discovering if there is a crime behind the scenes or if it is just some weird home movie. He doesn’t want to get involved, but he finds himself drawn into the mystery anyway.

Thankfully this was a short book. I finished it because it was a good listen (the author reads his own book and held my attention); I probably would have given up on the print. All the reviews talk about the creepy horror feel of the piece. Yes, in the beginning it was. Then it got a little weird (which I appreciated) and then it just got sad. Sad and depressing. I know now that the exploration of loss and grief was the point of the novel but the mood of the book shifted so drastically, and in a direction I wasn’t in the mindset to go in, that I found the experience disappointing. I chalk this one up to being woefully misled by the description and reviews, or maybe I just can’t appreciate the author’s literary style.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough


Louise is a single mom working part time for a group of psychiatrists in London. One night she is out at a bar and meets a great guy, sparks fly, but he leaves the bar and she thinks her life as well. The next day at work she realizes her new boss David is the guy from the bar. Awkward. You’d think this was the start of a romantic comedy; it’s not. He has brought his incredibly beautiful wife Adele to the office to make introductions. Louise hides in the bathroom to avoid the couple and after Adele leaves Lou clears the air with David and all should be well. But it’s not. There is still an attraction there that won’t let go of either of them.


A few days later after dropping her son off at school Lou bumps into Adele and is knocked off her feet. Adele seems lonely and wanting a friend so Lou agrees to go get coffee with her. A friendship blooms but Lou doesn’t tell Adele she knows David nor does she tell David she knows Adele. Over time Lou begins to learn things about their marriage that disturbs her. Who should she believe?


On the surface you have to wonder what kind of person would have a romantic relationship with one spouse while befriending the other, but the way the author crafts the initial encounters you can see it happening, as well as why Lou never comes clean to either about her relationship with the other. Thankfully you like Lou, otherwise this would be an impossible book to read, since by turns Adele or David seem to be the villain of the piece, it’s hard to figure out. That is why is a psychological thriller -- you can never get a grasp on who the evil person is until the very, very end.

This is an unsettling book that delves into the power of sleep and dreams as well as the always creepy feeling of not knowing someone as well as you think you do. I picked this book up because the ending started being tweeted on Twitter under this hashtag: #WTFthatending. How could I not read it after that?! And yes, I thought I had the ending figured out but then there was one final twist that made that hashtag VERY deserved.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

Christina Olsen led what many would call a small life in Maine. Suffering from an illness that makes walking difficult and eventually impossible she is a proud woman living on her own terms. Yet she knew happiness once. Once she was in love. Once she had dreams. Once she left Maine, but then she returned never to leave again. Now she and her brother are all but trapped in the family home yet Christina makes a friend who brings her to the world. Andrew Wyeth falls in love with the farmhouse, and the family, painting many views of the house and its inhabitants including painting Christina’s World; this is the story behind the famous painting.

I’ll admit it, I didn’t know the painting (helpfully there is a small print included in the book), nor am I very familiar with Andrew Wyeth’s work. However, that didn’t prevent me from enjoying this book. Christina’s life is hard, and I questioned some of her life choices, but having close experience with a person living with a debilitating disease I know that sometimes their choices don’t make sense to us, and they don’t have to, because we aren’t the ones living in their skin. This fictional biography was a character study of a strong woman and a glimpse into a time and place that was stark yet beautiful in its simplicity.

If you read this book and want to see the actual painting you’ll need to travel to MoMA in New York City. (Did you know that SCLSNJ has museum passes for MoMA? Click here for more information: http://www.somerset.lib.nj.us/museumpass.htm

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

On this surface this is a legal thriller. Did Ruth Jefferson murder, through negligence or malice, a newborn under her care? Naturally, since this is a book by Jodi Picoult, things are not straightforward. Ruth is an African-American nurse and the baby is the son of White Supremacists who asked (read: demanded) that she not touch their son. Ruth’s orders from her supervisor were not to touch that baby. But when that baby stops breathing, and Ruth is the only nurse on the floor, what is she to do? And does she make the right choice -- legally and ethically?

The story is told in alternating chapters by three characters: Ruth, the accused African-American nurse; her white attorney and public defender Kennedy; and Turk, the baby’s father. If your skin is white you, like me, will probably cringe a bit reading this book and not just the sections told by Turk about how he came to join, and run, a White Supremacist website. This book brings you face to face with racism in all its degrees and makes you walk in the shoes of Ruth and her family. An eye opening, thought provoking book that like all of Picoult’s books has a twist at the end, but unlike most of her books it ends on a high note that makes you feel that things truly can get better.

Read by three different readers, one for each narrator, this is one not to be missed on audiobook.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking



The Danes consistently place as one of the happiest, if not THE happiest place, in the world. Why? The author says it’s the idea of hygge. The Canadians call it hominess to give you a broad stroke of what they are getting at here. Comfort is key. Surrounding yourself with the people and things that mean the most to you. Enjoy cooking and eating simple homey foods. All things I think we all need a nudge to remember every once in awhile.

One of the main concepts of hygge is lighting and how diffuse and flickering light is best which means that would be the ideal way to read this book right? Nope. The print is rather tiny. That aside I found out that I’m pretty Danish! Another big takeaway is that relaxation, living in the moment and play (even as an adult) is very important. Yep, I’m Danish at heart and darn proud to be a hyggespreder!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Train to Busan (Foreign Horror Film - South Korean)

Train to Busan (Foreign Horror Film - South Korean)

A little girl who lives with her father wants to visit her mother for her birthday. He reluctantly takes off work to take her on the train ride to Busan to visit with his ex-wife.  Too bad today was the day of the outbreak and the infected are becoming zombies.  Even worse, the infected got on the train. Worst. Birthday. Ever.

Typically I like my zombie movies with a lot of dark humor (think: Shaun of the Dead, Fido, etc.) but this one was truly scary, with just the right touch of humor at times and dig your nails into your kneecaps at others. These zombies were quick, think World War Z not Night of the Living Dead, and being stuck on a train with the infected, riding through cities of infected, wow. Just wow.