Family Dysfunction, British-Style

Did you know that when you’re in the mood for a good view, your library also has you covered!  And if you need help finding something new and interesting to watch, I am here to help . . . at least once a month when I review a TV show or movie on this blog.

One of the great joys in watching television shows about dysfunctional families is enjoying their antics without personally having to deal with the repercussions. They’re fun to hang out with for a few hours at a time, but there is also something immensely reassuring in knowing that you don’t have to deal with these characters in real life.

And that is exactly the appeal of two British imports I recently watched and enjoyed–The Durrells in Corfu and Blandings. Both are about zany British families in 1920s/1930s, and both are delightfully charming and hilarious. Thanks so much to Julie for adding them both to the library collection!

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Old Favorites: Edgar Allan Poe

We’re focusing on newer books, movies, and television shows for 2018, but that doesn’t mean we’re entirely ignoring old favorites! After all, what’s that saying–what’s old may just become new again (or something like that)?

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—

Whilst I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. . . .

I was first introduced to Edgar Allan Poe as a child. I don’t remember how I acquired it, but somehow I got my hands on a collection of his poems and short stories, and they became instant favorites. For many years afterward, when I was feeling stressed out or overwhelmed, I would flip to “The Raven,” and despite the fact that it is not in any way intended as relaxing, I always found it therapeutic.

Well, this week (January 19th) marks his 199th birthday, and there is no better way to celebrate the wonderfully unusual, macabre, and creepy world of Edgar Allan Poe than by revisiting his work.

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Gabrielle Zevin’s Young Jane Young

Young Jane Young

Aviva has a seemingly bright future ahead of her, circa 1999/2000. She’s doing well in her classes at the University of Miami, working toward a degree in political science and Spanish, and has recently been promoted from her position as an unpaid intern to a paid job working for her local congressman. It’s all going so well — until her affair with said congressman is made public. Aviva quickly finds herself with no job, no friends, and no prospects. Years later, she has made a life for herself, far away in Maine under a new name, working as an event planner, when she decides to run for mayor. But in the online age, her old scandal is just a Google search away. . . .

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Books Abuzz: Literary Noir, (Allegedly) Fraudulent Ghosts, and Crooked Saints

Happy New Year! We’re ringing in 2018 with a new feature — “Books Abuzz.” We’ll be regularly profiling recent releases that have been getting attention or deserve to be getting more attention. This week, we’re looking at a unique historical novel, a nonfiction tale of fraud and (maybe) ghosts, and a young adult fantasy.

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Discussion Thread: Holiday Reading

Christmas tree books

Every week, I tell you all about what I am reading and watching, but this week, it’s your turn to tell me what you’re reading and watching!

Tis the time of year to be jolly and–hopefully–read some books and give and receive books as gifts (not that I’m hinting).

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Agatha Christie’s A Holiday for Murder

Hercule Poirot's Christmas

For those looking for a prolific writer whose works are always in season, Agatha Christie should be on the top of your list. You won’t run out of books to read quickly — they are fun to revisit even if you have read them some time ago, and she even has a holiday tale. . . .

Known by several titles since its original publication in 1938, Agatha Christie’s A Holiday for Murder (aka Hercule Poirot’s Christmas or Murder for Christmas) has been delighting fans of classic murder mysteries for decades.

Simeon Lee is an unpleasant old man. He is also a very rich old man, which might explain why his timid son Alfred and Alfred’s long-suffering wife Lydia tolerate his meanness. They’ve lived with Simeon for years, despite his cruelty and the savage way he treated his late wife.

The rest of the family long ago figured out their own escape, whether it was fleeing to London for a political career like stingy George, becoming an artist and renouncing all family ties like the sensitive David, running away to Spain to get married like free-spirited Jennifer, or just absconding to parts unknown like the family’s wild child Harry.

But for Christmas, Simeon has summoned all of his sons (and their wives) back home, as well as the late Jennifer’s daughter Pilar. Also popping in is the son of his former business partner back in South Africa. It almost looks like the old man wants to make amends for the holidays, but anyone who assumes that just doesn’t know Simeon very well. . . .

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