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Staff Recommendations – March 2020

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March 2020 Recommendations

Fruit of the Drunken Tree
by Ingrid Rojas Contreras (downloadable audio)

This story is told through the eyes of Chula, a seven-year-old girl growing up in Bogota, Colombia. Her youth and the gated community where she lives partly shield her from the political unrest of the time. However, when her mother hires Petrona, a young maid from an impoverished area of town, her life expands and intertwines with Petrona’s. Petrona and Chula take turns narrating their worlds, which begin a steady spiral into uncertainty, fueled by violence and the gangs and poverty that reign in Petrona’s home and neighborhood.

The combination of a young narrator plus a female-dominated cast of characters gives the reader a sympathetic, intimate look into how innocent people live in times of upheaval. At many points the book read like a subtle thriller — throughout the entire story the author conveyed a sense of foreboding that floated above the heads of the younger characters; a paper-thin line that separated them from disaster. I listened to the audio version of this book (which was well done) and it enhanced the realness of each character.

Fruit of the Drunken Tree is notable because it tells about a time and place that many Americans (myself included) know little about. The novel is semi-autobiographical, which lends another layer of realism and credibility. This is the best kind of historical fiction — the reader is invited to empathize deeply with the characters while receiving a personal and detailed account of history that no textbook can provide.

( official Fruit of the Drunken Tree and Ingrid Rojas Contreras web site )


Recommended by Laura N.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Brewed Awakening
by Cleo Coyle (Coyle)

I love mystery series, but often find that the author gets bored or lazy and the quality of the stories decline. I was surprised to find that this book was an exception. Clare Cosi wakes up in Washington Square Park and doesn’t know why she’s there. In fact, she doesn’t remember the last 15 years. Matt, Mike and Madame all help Cosi to not only regain her memory, but to solve the mystery of a missing heiress as well!

I like that the author puts Clare in a new situation, we learn some new insight into Matt Allegro’s character and of course we get great recipes to try!

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Creature Discomforts: A Dog Lover’s Mystery by Susan Conant, or A Catered Tea Party by Isis Crawford.)

( official Brewed Awakening web site ) | ( official Cleo Coyle/Coffeehouse Mystery web site )


Recommended by Marcy G.
South Branch Library

The Big Kahuna
by Janet Evanovich with Peter Evanovich, narrated by Scott Brick (Compact Disc Evanovich)

After a three-year gap, the fast-paced Fox & O’Hare series returned in 2019, still written by Janet Evanovich, but her co-author has changed — from Lee Goldberg, who co-wrote the first five, to Peter Evanovich, Janet’s son.

Unfortunately, you can tell. The Fox & O’Hare novels were fun character-driven adventures, but I always felt like the events — outlandish though they might be — could actual happen. But this time, everything that happened seemed completely unbelievable and over-the-top, instead of potentially plausible.

Nick Fox is an international con man, and Kate O’Hare is the obsessed FBI agent who tracked him for years until she finally caught him. After he was in custody, Nick struck a deal with Kate’s superiors, to work for the FBI by setting up big-name targets for con jobs that would allow the FBI to sweep in and arrest them. The earlier books in the series took on an almost Mission: Impossible-like tone, as Nick (and Kate, who became his handler) set up a big con/sting, using a variety of colorful supporting characters, and something would invariably go wrong, forcing Nick and Kate to improvise to salvage their mission. And always, in the background, was Nick and Kate’s increasing romantic and physical attraction to each other, never quite fulfilled.

In The Big Kahuna, Nick and Kate are saddled with an annoying and officious new FBI partner, assigned to help them rein in their expenses. As they investigate the mysterious disappearance of a Silicon Valley billionaire inventor, they encounter Czech mobsters, a cybernetics inventor who’s gone “off the grid” into the wilderness, internet “influencers” and self-obsessed Instagram Supermodels. But both the fun and the charm are surprisingly absent. And what little “con artist” business comes up later in the story seems perfunctory. The supporting characters are either too idiotic or too crass, and although Kate’s retired military vet dad is a fun character (he loves blowing things up), having him along for the entire mission became tiresome.

For me, this was a significant disappointment. I absolutely loved the first five volumes in the series, especially the audiobooks as narrated by my favorite audiobook voice, Scott Brick. But this felt flat, and I didn’t have any emotional investment in Nick and Kate’s relationship. In fact, Kate felt like she’d taken several steps back as a character. I’m hoping things will improve in the 7th volume, due in 2020, in which we finally meet Nick’s father, also a world-class grifter. But, I caution anyone who had been following this series, that it has noticeably changed in tone and quality with this 2019 entry. Your mileage may vary…

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the five earlier novels in the Fox & O’Hare series, by Janet Evanovich with Lee Goldberg, preferably the audiobooks, narrated by Scott Brick!)

( official The Big Kahuna page on the official Janet Evanvovich web site )

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators
by Ronan Farrow (Compact Disc 331.4 Far)

Ronan Farrow won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for his story on Harvey Weinstein and the multiple allegations of sexual assault, abuse, and retaliation.

This is the story of that investigation. Halfway through this book, Farrow realized he was being stalked by unknown persons for unknown reasons. In the end, NBC fired Farrow in an attempt to keep misconduct allegations against former “Today” show host Matt Lauer from becoming public after Weinstein and his attorneys learned about the complaints. NBC was desperate to keep the Lauer story quiet and Weinstein’s silence on the matter required Farrow’s story on Weinstein to never see the light of day.

Ultimately, Farrow went to The New Yorker for publication of this story, and ended up winning a Pulitzer.

I wasn’t aware he’s the son of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen until his family history became embroiled in Weinstein’s subsequent attacks on him (Farrow’s sister, Dylan, accused Allen of molesting her when she was 8 years old).

Read by the author, this was an engrossing story and I was sorry when it ended.

If you want to read the actual articles, you’ll find them in a collection of award-winning stories in The 2018 Best American Magazine Writing edited by Sid Holt and published by the Columbia University Press. Available from the libraries through our Hoopla digital service.

( publisher’s official Catch and Kill web page ) | ( Wikipedia page for Ronan Farrow ) | ( Ronan Farrow on Twitter )


Recommended by Charlotte M.
Bennett Martin Public Library

When Life Gives You Pears
by Jeannie Gaffigan (Biography Gaffigan)

Every time I think I have it bad, I find out I don’t have it so very bad compared to a lot of people. Take Jeannie Gaffigan, for example. The actress/writer/producer/director is married to award-winning comic Jim Gaffigan. Her life with her husband and their five children was going along quite busily but wonderfully for the most part, until she noticed she was losing the hearing in one ear. And she felt like she had a cold she couldn’t get over. And she was suffering from a lot of bad headaches. She put off making an appointment for herself but when she took her children in for their checkups the family physician referred her to get some hearing tests. From there, the chain of diagnoses that followed revealed that a tumor which was roughly the size and shape of a pear was pressing against her brain stem!

Through everything she experiences after that, she maintains a healthy faith and unfailing humor. I thoroughly enjoyed learning her story and I laud her coping mechanisms and her willingness to share so much of her personal life with the rest of us.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Unstoppable by Nick Vujicic, Tough as They Come by Travis Mills or The Great Eight, by Scott Hamilton.)

( publisher’s official When Life Gives You Pears web page ) | ( Jeannie Gaffigan on Twitter )


Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library

True Fiction
by Lee Goldberg (Goldberg)

I’ve enjoyed the writing of Lee Goldberg ever since the 1980s, when he was a writer/producer on such popular television shows as Murphy’s Law, The Cosby Mysteries, SeaQuest 2032, Diagnosis Murder, Monk and Psych. His writing tends to capture the “snappy” back-and-forth patter that I’ve enjoyed in TV action-adventure dramas.

In addition to writing 15 “Monk” novels, 8 “Diagnosis: Murder” novels, and co-authoring the first five “Fox & O’Hare” novels with Janet Evanovich, Goldberg has had five series of original novels (so far), and True Fiction is the first in one of those series. It came out in 2018 and it already has a sequel, and a third volume coming later in 2020.

In True Fiction, the central character is depressed thriller writer Ian Ludlow, creator of the “men’s adventure” series featuring ultra-heroic Clint Straker. After having survived two recent accidents that left him with an destroyed home and a broken arm, Ludlow is on a book-signing tour in Seattle for his latest Straker novel. A terrorist attack occurs, involving a civilian airliner crashing into a Hawaiian resort, leaving hundreds dead and thousands injured. Ludlow recognizes the events as a plotline he had suggested when working temporarily for a government security think tank. When he discovers that all the other authors who had taken part in the think tank are now dead, all under mysterious circumstances, he believes the CIA is trying to kill him to cover up his involvement in the terror attack’s true origins.

Ludlow goes on the run with Margo French, the young woman who was supposed to escort him to all his bookstore appearances. Margo’s not happy about it, but she’s now being targeted by the same sinister forces after Ian, so she doesn’t have much choice. Eventually, they team up with an eccentric former actor — the star of one of the TV shows Ian used to write for, Hollywood & Vine. Together, they have to figure out how to stay alive and take the fight to the people who are after them. Will mild-mannered, out-of-shape Ian Ludlow take on the persona of his tough-guy novel’s main character? Tune in to find out.

I enjoyed True Fiction, but the juxtaposition of a 9/11-like event and the comical, cheesy dialog of most of the characters made this a completely silly novel in the end. If you’re looking for some mindless action-adventure with some witty banter…you’ll probably enjoy this. If you’re looking for a serious, complex thriller…you probably won’t.

I’m also a fan of the types of TV shows that Ian Ludlow wrote for (“Hollywood & Vine” – featuring a cop that’s half-man/half-plant) — cheesy, high-concept silliness, like Manimal, The Sentinel, Cop Rock or Mann & Machine. So, seeing Goldberg poke merciless fun at that genre was great.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the TV series Castle. I was reminded of that series, featuring a mystery/thriller writer assisting the police, as I read this. Although — “Richard Castle” was a charismatic and confident character, and Ian Ludlow is more of a flustered “every-man”. Still, the concept of a mystery/thriller writer involved in a real-life mystery/thriller plot is similar.)

( official True Fiction page on the official Lee Goldberg web site )


Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland
by Patrick Radden Keefe (364.152 Kee)

This is non-fiction but reads like a mystery/thriller. It describes the three decades of the Troubles in Northern Ireland better than any book I’ve read, giving just enough earlier history of the 1916 Easter Rising to help the reader understand the resentments between groups who do/don’t want Ireland and Northern Ireland to be united & free from British rule. A reoccurring real-life mystery is about Jean McConville, a young widow and mother of 10 children, who “was disappeared” from her Belfast home in 1972.

If you’ve wanted to understand the tension in Northern Ireland, and have context about the roughly 3,500 lives lost during The Troubles, this is the book. The author even surprises the reader at the end by naming Jean McConville’s most likely murderer. Winner of the 2019 Orwell Prize for Political Writing

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Milkman by Anna Burns.)

( publisher’s official Say Nothing web page ) | ( official Patrick Radden Keefe web site )


Recommended by Jodi R.
Anderson and Bethany Branch Libraries

Arrows of the Queen
by Mercedes Lackey (Lackey)

Have you ever felt like you don’t belong?

Here is a story about friendship, both normal and magical that will reassure readers of the everlasting power of horses and community. Talia, a hold-born (think backwards, small rural community) girl never thought she would find herself with a Companion, a magical horse that is not a horse. Through her Companion, Talia finds a circle of friends that are willing to risk it all for her, just because she is a Herald.

I first read this book as an awkward young woman, trying to find ways to relate to my peer group. This book helped cement the idea that we need to find our own tribe of people to be friends with, that match our level of weird.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Arrow’s Flight and Arrow’s Fall, both by Mercedes Lackey, Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey or First Test, part of the Protectors of the Small series by Tamora Pierce.)

( official Arrows of the Queen page on the official Mercedes Lackey web site )


Recommended by Rio B.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Dear Edward
by Ann Napolitano (Napolitano)

Twelve-year-old Edward is the only survivor from a massive plane crash. Besides being a coming-of-age book, this delicately explores the impact of people violating the Edward’s privacy and very small comfort bubble by writing to him, and taking pictures of him and posting them to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.

If you’ve ever asked yourself “how would you survive something that bad that happened to you” you’ll get some intimate answers as you read about Edward trying to be comfortable in his own body, find his way through a school day, and encounter people who feel like he owes them answers about their loved ones he was the last person to see. He does not feel lucky, despite the label of “the lucky one” thrust upon him. There are two timelines: people boarding the ill-fated flight, and Edward’s recovery moving forward.

( official Dear Edward page on the official Ann Napolitano web site )


Recommended by Jodi R.
Anderson and Bethany Branch Libraries

Becoming Unbecoming
by Una (741.5 Una)

Something about the cover of this graphic novel caught my attention and convinced me to read it, and I’m very glad I did. Most of my graphic novel reading tends to focus on narrative-driven adventure stories, so this autobiographical and philosophical look at rape culture, survival/recovery and societal trends related to the treatment of women, was a powerful and thought-provoking change of pace.

Author/artist Una was the victim of sexual assault relatively early in her life, and it was a defining experience for her — one that colored the rest of her life and affected both her interactions with others and how she viewed the world around her. She tells her own story, interspersed with facts, figures and statistics about sexual assault, and interwoven with observations on a famous case about a British sexual serial killer and how he got away with multiple killings or sexual assaults and was not identified or arrested for decades.

Una’s artwork has elements of extreme simplicity, but also features moments of detailed and compelling beauty. Pages can be jam-packed with intricate artwork, or can have one small image surrounded by oppressive white space. She approaches the horrors of her own assault, societal shaming, and the assaults on other women with stark and often emotionless realism. But her story is powerfully moving. The Kirkus Reviews quote on the cover — “A graphic manifesto for female empowerment and a punch to the gut of predatory males” sums up the content of this book with precise and accurate sentiment.

I particularly appreciated the way she ended the book — artistically representing what 13 fatal victims of male-on-female violence might have looked like decades after their assaults, if they’d survived.

This is not a “feel good” story, but it is definitely one that makes you think about the world around you. If you don’t feel a sense of outrage by the end of the book, you may need to re-evaluate your personal capacity for empathy.

( publisher’s official Becoming Unbecoming web page ) | ( official Una web site )


Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Screening Room

formatdvdThe Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Their Friends – The Complete Series
(DVD j Adventures)

I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed “The Bullwinkle Show” (packaged here as The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Their Friends) as a kid growing up in the mid-1960s. The series actually premiered in November 1959, and continued for five long seasons and a total of 163 episodes, then continued in re-runs. The central figures were Rocky the Flying Squirrel (voiced by June Foray), and Bullwinkle J. Moose, a dimwitted, curious and lovable figure voiced by Bill Scott, who both lived in Frostbite Falls, MN. They constantly got into wild and improbable adventures, told in a serialized format, which often put them in opposition to foreign spies Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale, and their boss Fearless Leader of Pottsylvania.

Interspersed between Rocky and Bullwinkle’s wild and crazy adventures were other ongoing characters and their stories. These included: the adventures of intrepid Canadian Mountie Dudley Do-Right, constantly rescuing his would be love, Nell Fenwick, from the clutches of Snidely Whiplash (a loving parody of old silent movie melodramas — in fact, then used only a single piano as their musical accompaniment; Aesop & Son; Fractured Fairy Tales – featuring absurdly comical takes on traditional fairy tale stories; and Peabody’s Improbable History — featuring the genius dog Mr. Peabody and the boy he has adopted, Sherman, and their adventures in Mr. Peabody’s “Wayback Machine” (time travel machine) as they revisited various events throughout history.

All these series features wry, satirical humor, outrageous puns, over-the-top action sequences and healthy doses of cornball silliness. But in the midst of the tongue-in-cheek humor, the writers managed to slip in quite a bit of actual educational content for the “kiddies” who’d be watching. Some of the content holds up well today, over 50 years after they originally aired, but some are painfully dated. Fortunately, cornball humor usually stands the test of time. The Bullwinkle stories would always end with actor William (Cannon, Jake and the Fat Man) Conrad’s voice-over narrator giving hints and possible titles for the next installment — and frequently engaging in verbal sparring with Rocky and Bullwinkle — the series regularly “broke the fourth wall”, with characters acknowledging the viewers and talking directly to us. There were occasional appearances by Bullwinkle in a short feature called “Mr. Know-It-All”, in which the unflappable moose claimed to be an expert on a variety of topics — with hilarious results.

This massive DVD collection includes several special features, including an interview with Rocky’s voice, June Foray, some classic TV commercials, a highlight on Bullwinkle’s songs, examples of some early Bullwinkle puppet introductions to the cartoons, and more. This series has been adapted into live-action feature films twice (Boris & Natasha — 1992 — in which Rocky & Bullwinkle do not appear, and The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle — a 2000 mix of live-action and computer animation); Dudley Do-Right was adapted into a single 1999 live-action film (which flopped); and Mr. Peabody and Sherman became a successful animated full-length film in 2014. None of those hold a candle to the originals — even though the originals had substandard animation, the writing and voice work was top notch.

Highly recommended.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try to track down the original animated Underdog series, from the same approximate time period.)

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film ) | ( Wikipedia page for the original Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Their Friends television series )


Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

formatdvdHail Satan?
(DVD 261.72 Hai)

Meet Lucien Greaves, co-founder of the Satanic Temple. He’s rallying for religious pluralism. The First Amendment provides for the separation of church and state, but too often Greaves encounters otherwise. “…(of) my deeply-held beliefs (that) there is a distinct need for a counter balance against the dominant religious privilege in America today.” In other words, don’t impose your beliefs onto others.

Toward that end, he’s essentially become an activist.

So we follow the Temple as they protest against Westboro Baptist. As they argue that if a community has a Christian prayer before the city council meeting they must accept a Satanic prayer as well. A Ten Commandments monument placed on government grounds? Include a Satanic monument as well.

The Temple members also involve themselves in their communities as many Christian organizations do. In one location they are part of Adopt a Highway and pick up litter — using little pitchforks. They collect socks, tampons, and clothing for the homeless — just like any other religious organization.

I heard Greaves gives a 5-min interview on one of my podcasts, and I have to say that five minutes was more entertaining that this documentary, but I got a broader background here on him and the Temple, and their push for recognizing religious diversity.

Only 94 min so grab your popcorn and beverage, and watch a documentary about an unconventional small group fighting for equal rights for everyone.

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film ) | ( official Hail Satan? web site )


Recommended by Charlotte M.
Bennett Martin Public Library

formatdvdHeat of the Sun
written by Russell Lewis (DVD Lewis)

Another excellent program from WGBH Boston for the “Mystery!” series arm of PBS’ “Masterpiece Theatre.”

Albert Tyburn was a Scotland Yard detective in 1930’s London. In a two-minute flashback we learn he shot and killed an “untouchable” member of British society — either someone with a lot of money or part of the aristocracy — who was a pedophile suspect. Even as Tyburn caught the man with the young boy, Tyburn was still given the choice of prison, or transfer to Kenya in Africa. So he headed to Nairobi.

There we meet the entitled, British ex-patriates. Again, some with titles, others are wealthy businessmen or both. This is during the times of British colonialism so the natives are not treated well, and it’s between the two world wars. Tyburn is constantly being reprimanded for not wearing his uniform, for using a German doctor for the autopsies – not to mention the doctor is Jewish — and for treating the natives as human beings. But his skill at solving murders cannot be denied.

Sadly, only three two-hour episodes were made but on the other hand you can binge watch these in an afternoon. Great characters, good mysteries, and as any good series does, you continue to see the same characters throughout – except those that were murdered of course.

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film ) | ( Wikipedia page for the Heat of the Sun mini-series )

See Scott C.’s earlier review of Heat of the Sun in the January 2010 Staff Recommendations


Recommended by Charlotte M.
Bennett Martin Public Library

formatdvdKnives Out
(DVD Knives)

If you have been looking for a film that is a Clue! board game come to life, look no further than Knives Out. This is the ultimate stylized whodunit, chock full of mystery, misleads and mayhem. Detective Benoit Blanc, played by Daniel Craig, is a more-luck-than-wit detective, trying to uncover the truth of how a wealthy patriarch and mystery writer extraordinaire met his untimely demise. The list of suspects: all of his relatives who were at his 85th birthday bash the night of his death. Detective Benoit Blanc, with the help of Harlan’s nurse, Marta, slowly untangles family secrets and hidden motives. This film is chock full of hilarity as well as intrigue.

I love it when films throw together a bunch of odd, larger-than life characters played by actors with theatrical panache. From Daniel Craig donning a southern accent to the energetic Jamie Lee Curtis and smart aleck Chris Evans — This film is a quirky Whodunit that fits the bill!

Directed by Rian Johnson, Knives Out stars an eclectic blend of long-time heavy hitters such as Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, and Christopher Plummer.

The characters, alone, are eccentric and delightful to watch. The plot is captivating and definitely has you guessing until the very end. Can you unravel the mystery before detective Benoit Blanc does? Watch Knives Out to find out!

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film ) | ( official Knives Out web site )


Recommended by Monica K.
Bennett Martin Public Library

formatdvdLeap Year
(DVD Leap)

I had to watch this one again on February 29th, 2020, as another Leap Day came and went. It’s a charming romantic comedy film, focused on the “opposites attract” concept. Anna (Amy Adams) is from Boston, where she’s a successful “stager” — staging homes or apartments for potential buyers. She’s in a long-term relationship with cardiac physician Jeremy (Adam Scott), who gives her a pair of diamond earrings on a night that she anticipated him proposing to her. They’ve been angling to get a flat in one of Boston’s most prestigious condominiums, which caters mainly to married couples. When Jeremy has to fly to Dublin, Ireland, for a medical conference, Anna decides to take a leap of faith and follow him — planning to take advantage of an old Irish tradition that women can propose to their beaus on February 29th in a Leap Year.

Unfortunately, her plane is redirected, and through a series of travel misadventures, she finds herself in a small seaside Irish community at a quaint but struggling bar/inn run by Declan (Matthew Goode). They both rub each other the wrong way, but against each of their better judgments, Declan agrees to drive Anna to Dublin, to meet her Leap Year deadline in two days. More misadventures ensue and Anna and Declan are both forced to reassess their impressions of each other. There’s lots of funny and romantic bits and pieces over the course of two hours in this film, including some humorous supporting roles — the gents who hang out in Declan’s bar and get into heated disagreements were a hoot. Sadly, John Lithgow as Anna’s ne’er-do-well father is under-used — in fact, he shows up in the “deleted scenes” special features in a couple of great scenes that would have worked really well in the film, and makes one wonder why the editor cut them.

Overall, Leap Year is a fun and satisfying rom-com, with two stars that actually have great chemistry together. And a charming film to watch during a year that actually is a Leap Year!

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film ) | ( official Leap Year movie Facebook account )


Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

formatdvdTable 19
(DVD Table)

This quirky-character dramedy stars the multi-talented Anna Kendrick as a woman who has been relegated to the “losers” table at her friend’s wedding reception, demoted from Maid of Honor due to a bad breakup with the Best Man. There, she joins the bride’s childhood nanny, a bickering couple, an awkward male relative of the groom, and a teen who’s looking for some action. Lest I give too much away, I’ll just say that complications are present from the beginning, a mystery man appears when Kendrick needs him, a big secret comes out and, sometimes, the misfits prove to be the most “together” people at the party. Kendrick always gives a solid performance, which is enhanced particularly by Lisa Kudrow as the unhappy wife and Craig Robinson as the unaware husband in the middle-aged couple, June Soubb as the mature former nanny, and Stephen Merchant as the very tall and very oddball relation. (He recently put in a hilarious turn as a concierge at an exclusive apartment complex on Modern Family.) There is some bad language and some light drug use, but it’s a story with charming humor and ultimate heart.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try 27 Dresses, Isn’t It Romantic? or Bride Wars.)

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film ) | ( official Table 19 web site )

See Carrie R.’s earlier review of Table 19 in the September 2017 Staff Recommendations


Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library

(DVD Trumbo)

One of the travesties of US history involved the House Un-American Committee (HUAC). Countless careers were ruined as Wisconsin Senator Eugene McCarthy and his group, including attorney Roy Cohn (before he was Trump’s attorney), began their purge of Americans from government jobs, Hollywood, and elsewhere if at any point in their lives they were associated with the Communist Party, or attended a meeting, or refused to name those they even suspected of being a Communist Party member.

Dalton Trumbo was an award-winning writer who believed in unions to protect the average worker and as such was an active member of the Communist party in the US. He and nine other Hollywood producers and screenwriters objected to the tactics of the HUAC and refused to cooperate with the HUAC investigations denouncing the hearings as a violation of their civil rights to belong to any political organization they chose. They were found guilty of contempt of Congress and each served a year in federal prison.

Hollywood, afraid of being associated with any radical organizations, then blacklisted the Hollywood 10 from ever again working in the film industry.

As a result, Trumbo and other screenwriters were forced to secretly write using aliases. Several even won academy awards under those aliases. Eventually, rumors of this work-around began to circle in Hollywood. Finally, in the early 1960’s Trumbo’s name appeared on the movie credits for Kirk Douglas’ “Spartacus” and Otto Preminger’s “Exodus.” This effectively broke the Blacklist.

Based on the book Dalton Trumbo by Bruce Cook (available as both a book and downloadable ebook from the libraries), this is the fascinating, fast-paced, emotional story following Trumbo from the trial to his finally being recognized for his writing under his actual name, and how the group struggled to provide for their families. Bryan Cranston deserved his Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Dalton Trumbo, and Helen Mirren was deliciously nasty as Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper.

For those who know old Hollywood and know the story of the Hollywood 10, this is a satisfying story especially when Trumbo’s work is finally acknowledged. It was fun to try to figure out who of the old-time Hollywood stars were being portrayed. The actor who portrayed Kirk Douglas not only looked like him, but had his mannerisms down pat. A very enjoyable 2-hours and 5 minutes. Be sure to watch the special features.

( Internet Movie Database entry for this film ) | ( official Trumbo web site )


Recommended by Charlotte M.
Bennett Martin Public Library

last updated June 2023
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