Thursday, November 8, 2012

Call the Midwife

"In the East End, I found grace and faith and hope hidden in the darkest corners. I found tenderness in squalor and laughter amid filth. I found a purpose and a path and I worked with a passion for the best reason of all; I did it for love." -Nurse Jenny

One of my regular patrons came into the library couple of days ago, and she was so excited to tell me how much she loves Downton Abbey. I had recommended that she watch it the week before because I can smell a soon-to-be Masterpiece junky a mile away. (It’s my superpower.) As she handed over season one in exchange for season two, she says to me, “Everything you recommend is so good. What am I going to do when you’re gone?” (Oh yeah, did I mention I moved to Chicago? We’ll get to that in a second.) In answer to my patron’s question, I gave her the web address for my recommendations blog. I told her that I sometimes write about my favorite things on Masterpiece Theater. Then it dawned on me… when was the last time I updated said blog?? The answer: May. Yes, it’s been a while.

I’ve just been incredibly busy. I moved this summer, and since the move I’ve been commuting to Kankakee every week and sort of living in two places at once. Hopefully, my continuous job hunting will pay off soon because my life is completely crazy right now!

BUT, I’ve still managed to make time for PBS on Sunday nights. (Of course.) Originally, I was really excited about the second season of Upstairs Downstairs that started this fall, but it was a new show, Call the Midwife, that I was most impressed with. That’s not to say the new season of Upstairs Downstairs has been completely awful, but Call the Midwife has been so wonderful, it’s managed to greatly overshadow Upstairs.

Call the Midwife is based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, a nurse who moved to the East End of London in the 1950s to work in a convent as a midwife. She had no idea what she was getting herself into. She didn’t realize the kind of poverty she’d be exposed to. But she forms relationships with the people she cares for and overcomes her fear and prejudice.

I have fallen in love with this show. If I were telling you about this in person, I’d be holding my hand over my heart and sighing. It’s just that kind of show. I love all the colorful characters and the beautiful costumes and every episode makes me cry. (In a good way.) It’s not technically a Masterpiece drama, but it could be. So if you love Masterpiece as much as I do, you’ll love Call the Midwife. And the episodes are still available on, so you should definitely check it out!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Summer Reading 2012

I decided to make another summer reading list this year. Currently, I'm reading Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy, and that's put me in the mood to read other classics that I've always meant to but haven't gotten around to reading yet.

1. A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway. I've been meaning to read this since watching the film Midnight in Paris. Plus, I haven't read much Hemingway, so I figured it's about time I did so.
2. Wives and Daughters, by Elizabeth Gaskell
3. Middlemarch, by George Eliot
4. Little Dorrit, by Charles Dickens
5. The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton
6. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I've decided to read this again because the new movie is coming out soon, and it looks amazing! Past adaptations have never come close to living up to the book, but I'm really excited about this one. This book was the reason I decided to study English in college. It's one of my favorite stories, and it's time I read it again.

I'm also going to read a few graphic novels this summer:

1. Sweet Tooth, by Jeff Lemire. My brother got me interested in reading this one. I like to read what he's reading, so we can talk about it. Plus it just looks really quirky and fun.
2. Blankets, by Craig Thompson
3. The Complete Maus, by Art Spiegelman
4. V for Vendetta, by Alan Moore. I saw this movie on a plane once, but I was so jet-lagged, I don't remember much of it. So I decided before I watch the movie again, I'm going to read the graphic novel.

Addition to blog made 5/30/2012: I decided to make some additions to my summer reading list because I found a couple Doctor Who and comic related books that seem quirky and fun.

1. Doctor Who and Philosophy: Bigger on the Inside, edited and compiled by Courtland Lewis and Paula Smithka
2. Chicks Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the Women Who Love It, by Lynne Thomas
3. Chicks Dig Comics: A Celebration of Comic Books by the Women Who Love Them, also by Lynne Thomas

That's all I've got, so far! I hope everyone is gearing up for a good summer of great reads!! :)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Over the weekend, I noticed the Paramount Theater was playing Salmon Fishing in the Yemen and got really excited about it! I wanted to see it on it's first run, but it had a really limited release, and the small town I live in doesn't usually get limited release films. So when it finally came to Kankakee, I jumped on the chance to see it! And I'm glad I did. It was a wonderfully sweet film that made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is exactly what it sounds like it would be. It's a film about a branch of the British government that attempts to bring the sport of Salmon Fishing to the Yemen. Of course, there are many obsticles to overcome: a hot, dry climate and civil unrest to only name a couple. But what struck me about the story, was not all the fishing. What I was drawn to was the budding romance between the two leads.

Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor give outstanding performances as the two government officials who are teamed up--rather reluctantly, at first--on this seemingly impossible fishing project. But as they slowly get to know one another, they realize what a wonderful team they make, and of course they begin to form an attachment.

The film is beautifully filmed and made me want to travel to the Yemen. (Of course, almost everytime I see a movie that takes place overseas, I immediately want to visit that place.) I wanted to put on a pair of khakis and a light linen shirt, and go out into the desert.

So if you're in the mood for a sweet, feel good film about determination and hope, see Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Classics: Shakespeare and Dickens

Over the past few days, I've had the chance to watch a couple of excellent new adaptations of two of my favorite stories. Shakespeare's Hamlet and Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens. I loved them so much, I wanted to write a little something about them both, and recommend them to whoever might be reading this.

I finally watched the latest version of Hamlet (I believe it's the latest) over the weekend, and I was enthralled! I don't know what it is about Shakespeare that keeps me coming back for more, but I can watch his plays over and over again, and never grow tired of them. Especially, Hamlet. I was drawn to this version because Hamlet was played by David Tennant and Claudius by Patrick Stewart. The first thought that went through my head was, The Doctor and Captain Picard starring in a production of Hamlet!? I have to see this! And so I did, and it was wonderful! I've loved David Tennant ever since he captured my heart in Doctor Who, and now I love him even more! I mean, how awesome is it that right after he finishes out his time as The Doctor, he turns around and plays Hamlet with the Royal Shakespeare Company?? That's pretty amazing.

Great Expectations
Last night, I took home the latest Masterpiece Classic mini-series of Great Expectations and watched all three episodes! I couldn't stop once I'd started. It is beautiful. I'm not sure how else to describe what they accomplished with this new version. Everything from the costumes, to the houses, to the tiny forge were beautifully crafted and beautifully filmed. Gillian Anderson played the insane, broken-hearted Miss Havisham, and did a wonderful job. Her performance was perfection. And of course, the rest of the cast was also spectacular! Especially, Douglas Booth as Pip. Like Shakespeare, the stories of Charles Dickens never get old. I get swept away in them every time I read one or watch a film adaption.

So I hope you have a chance to watch one or both of these because they are both timeless classics!

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Season two of the Masterpiece series Sherlock will be starting very soon, and I'm really excited about it! And even though I just posted a blog yesterday, I felt like I really wanted to write about this show and encourage people to watch it because it's wonderful and amazing! (But I have other things to do tonight, so I will keep it short.)

First of all, Sherlock has some wonderful writers, Steve Moffat and Mark Gatiss (probably best know for their work on Doctor Who) are two of the best television writers. Period. I love their work! Second, the cast. Move over Robert Downey, Jr. because Benedict Cumberbatch was made for the role of Sherlock Holmes. He is perfect! And Martin Freeman (who I've always had a soft spot for since his adorable role in Love, Actually) is such an amazing Dr. Watson. I honestly can't imagine a better pair to play these roles!

But I think what I love most about this show is that they follow the original stories but set them in 21st century London. It makes my literary heart flutter. :)

So go to your library, and check out Sherlock season one, and then tune in to PBS May 6th for the premiere of season two! You won't regret it!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Fault In Our Stars

"I wanted to write a story that grappled with the reality of teenage mortality and the unfairness of that and the injustice of that, and what was angry about it, but at the same time was hopeful and that argued that it is possible for a life to be a good and full life even if it isn't a long life." -John Green, on The Fault in Our Stars

John Green. Sigh. I love this man's books, and I love the video blog project he created with his brother, Hank, and I love Nerdfighters! (If you want to know what I'm talking about please go here: Vlogbrothers Channel) But I'm not here to talk about his videos, I'm here to recommend his latest book, The Fault In Our Stars.

The Fault In Our Stars is the very first book John has ever written from a girl's perspective. John did such a wonderful job capturing a female voice, it honestly blew me away a little. Said female voice belongs to a young girl, Hazel Grace, who has a terminal form of cancer.

I know what you're thinking, Oh man, not another book about terminal illness! That's such a bummer! But this isn't that kind of book. (Well, sort of, but not really.) John's book is full of humor and sadness, happiness and tragedy; he strikes this wonderful balance between light and dark, and the book is so honest about what it's like to live with a disease.

Hazel is a really bright and interesting young girl who loves reading poetry and watching bad reality television. Her life is pretty routine; school, support group, TV and parents. Until she meets Augustus Waters. A young handsome boy who shows up to support group one day and changes her life. He introduces her to new experiences and teaches her it's okay to let people in, even if that means they might lose you someday.

I really loved this book!! I couldn't put it down. The week I started reading it, I went home every night after work, ate a quick bowl of cereal and got back to reading. By the end of the week, I had a sink full of bowls and spoons that desperately needed washing, but I couldn't stop reading until I'd finished the book. (That happened to be early Sunday morning, since I stayed up all night Saturday just to finish it.)

So I highly recommend this and ALL of John Green's books. His work is always so funny and thought-provoking. So go to his website and peruse his books: John Green Books, and then read The Fault In Our Stars. Happy reading, and don't forget to be awesome!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Name of the Star

I don't normally like ghost stories. Yes, they scare me. I'm a child when it comes to scary things. I went to see The Blair Witch Project when I was 17 years old, and afterward I laid wide awake in bed for four nights in a row. But this particular ghost story had some things I just couldn't resist.

First of all, it was written by Maureen Johnson. She's a friend of another favorite author of mine, John Green, (I absolutely adore him and his books) so I've been meaning to read her books for quite some time. Second, my brother got around to reading her before I did, and gave her books two thumbs up! (And he's kind of particular, so I thought this was a good sign.) Third, a friend of mine who I recently convinced to start watching the amazing Doctor Who series said, "You need to read The Name of the Star because there's a reference you'll appreciate." Spoiler alert: It's a Doctor Who reference. So basically, how could I not read this book? Oh, and it takes place in London, and I'm a little obsessed with British culture, so of course I was going to read it.

The story begins with Rory, our main character, an American teenager who moves to London to do a year of school overseas at a British prep school. When she arrives at her new school, she begins hearing about these murders that are happening in the city. Apparently, someone has been copycating all the Jack the Ripper murders of 1888. As the book progresses, she finds out she has this crazy ability she never knew about, and befriends a secret society of ghost hunters.

Yes, it's definitely a YA novel, but I really loved it! It was a little creepy at times, and suspenseful, but Maureen Johnson is really good at creeping you out and then making you laugh out loud. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who likes YA fiction or anyone who is a fan of John Green's work. You can tell that Maureen Johnson and John Green have a similar sense of humor. And I think they are two of the funniest people on the planet. So read it and enjoy!

Saturday, March 17, 2012


I took over the book club at work rather reluctantly. Since finishing college, I really have a hard time when people tell me what to read and when to read it. Hey, I think, I studied literature for four years, please give me a break. I'll get to it when I get to it. (That's not to say I didn't love my literature classes because I did.) So when I was approached about leading book discussions at work, I almost said no. So that would mean I have to read all the book club books whether they interest me or not, right? Hmmm... I'm not so sure about this.

But I've been in charge of book club for several months now, and I'm glad, in the end, that I said yes. Because I've had the chance to read some wonderful books that I never would have chosen for myself. And one of those books was Room, by Emma Donoghue. The book is narrated by a five year old boy who lives in a small room with his mother. You find out the mother was taken against her will and trapped in this shed in her capture's backyard. And even though her son, Jack, was the product of continuous rape, she loves Jack and does everything she can to protect him from her kidnapper.

She also creates this routine to keep the two of them from going crazy. She teaches him as much as she can with the little resources she's been given, and she comes up with the most creative games to play and projects to work on during the day. I think that's what stuck out to me the most. She realized early on in her captivity that she would lose her mind, if she didn't break up her day with a schedule of sorts.

I don't want to say anymore about the plot because the twist is so surprising! But this was a wonderful book, and great for a discussion group. If you have a book club of your own, I would highly recommend reading it. There are a lot of great talking points. It's just a great read all around, so next time you're at your library, ask your librarian about it!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

So You're Having Downton Abbey Withdrawals...

I've been talking to a lot of people about Downton lately, and everyone agrees that it's wonderful! But now, after the end of second season, we are beginning to feel it's absense, and what my patrons and coworkers keep asking is, "How are we supposed to wait until next January to watch season three?" Yes, it's going to be quite a wait, so I thought I'd make some recommendations that might help you power through the withdrawals, and keep you entertained in the meantime.

Solution #1: Watch more Masterpiece.

Upstairs Downstairs: This started as a British drama in the 1970s, but in 2010, Masterpiece decided to continue the story. They made a three part mini-series that picked up the story of 165 Eaton Place with a new family and new servants, but great drama all the same! The new story takes place in the 1930s, and stars Keeley Hawes and Ed Stoppard, and Jean Marsh returns as Rose Buck.

Sense and Sensibility: Most people have probably seen the film version of Sense and Sensibility starring Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant. But in 2008 Masterpiece made a new mini-series that has an outstanding screenplay written by Andrew Davies. Plus, Edward Ferrars is played by Dan Stevens. Remember him? Do this words Cousin Matthew ring a bell? He is phenomenal as Edward!

Solution #2: Also written by Julian Fellowes

Julian Fellowes, who wrote Downton, has written for a lot of films and TV Shows. So if you enjoyed the excellent writing in Downton, you're bound to like these as well:

Gosford Park: This is a murder mystery set in the 1920s, and you'll like it, even if you're not a huge fan of murder mysteries. Because it's not really about the murder. Much like Downton, there are servants and masters, and it's fascinating to see their worlds collide. It's also very funny, and of course well written!

Vanity Fair: Based on the novel by William Makepeace Thackeray. Reese Witherspoon plays Becky Sharp, a woman ahead of her time who tires of being a governess, and decides to try climbing the social ladder in 19th century England.

Young Victoria: This is one of my favorite movies of all time. I'm a sucker for a good love story, and Julian Fellowes writes the love story between Queen Victoria and Prince Albert so beautifully! Both Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend give wonderful performances, as well! It's a good one, for sure!

So I hope these will tide you over for a little while at least. Just keep watching Masterpiece. Great Expectations starts April 1st, and it promises to be fantastic!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Doctor Who

I know. I’m a little late to the Doctor Who party, but I’m catching up quickly. Oh, Doctor, I think I might be falling in love with you, just like one of your companions….

Okay, let’s back up a little. A couple summers ago, I was in Michigan at my Cousin Aubrey’s wedding reception talking with a couple of relatives about the TV show Lost. It had just finished its last season, and I was saying something really melodramatic like, “No more Lost. What am I going to do now without Lost?”

Then my Cousin Heather’s husband said, “Start watching Doctor Who.”

Doctor Who. Yes, I’d heard the buzz surrounding this updated version of the British classic, and I was a little curious, so when I got back home, I put the first season on hold at the library. I watched the first three episodes and thought, “I don’t think this is for me.” I took is back to the library the next day.

Then, my friend Jeremy told me I just needed to get through the first season. “Season two gets so much better. You need to keep watching,” he said. I was still pretty skeptical.

A girl even came into the library about a month later raving about Doctor Who, asking me if I watch it. “I saw the first few episodes,” I said, “It wasn’t really my thing.”

“Oh no, you need to keep watching!” she said, in almost hysterics, “It’s the BEST show EVER!”

I thought she was crazy, but I just started season three last night, and I’m afraid I’ve turned into her. I even switched the desktop background on my computer at work to a picture of The Doctor with his sonic screwdriver in hand and a single sentence that reads, “Have you hugged your Time Lord today?” (I wish I could hug my Time Lord! Seriously.)

So Trust me on this: By time you get to the end of season one, you will want to go on to season two. Once you get to the end of season two, you’ll be hooked. This is a great show full of humor and insane adventure. I mean, come on, a time traveling genius saving the world armed only with a sonic screwdriver?? What’s not to love?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Dovekeepers, by Alice Hoffman

I came across The Dovekeepers the same way I come across a lot of books and that was over the processing table at work. The cover intrigued me. And while I know full well what the old saying says about books and their covers, this cover did not lie; it promised an interesting read, and the book followed through.

The second thing that intrigued me to read this book was a quote from Toni Morrison, “Beautiful, harrowing, a major contribution to 21st-century literature.”After reading that, I thought, “Okay, now I have to read this book.” And I’m so glad I did!

The book begins in 70 C.E. in Jerusalem and is based on true events. At this point in our story, the Romans are raiding the holy city, and droves of Jewish people are fleeing to the desert with their families, in search of Masada; a fortress built by Herod the Great around 37 B.C.E. as a refuge for himself. But in The Dovekeepers, this great fortress becomes a refuge for numerous Jewish families and a group of Jewish extremists called the Sicarii.

The story is narrated by four women who are all equally fascinating and unique. They work side by side, everyday in the dovecotes together at Masada. They all have darkness in their past and secrets to share, and have to lean on each other through the difficult time of what later becomes known as the First Jewish-Roman War.

This was a wonderful read! Every sentence is beautifully crafted. Alice Hoffman’s vision of what it would have been like to hide-out in Herod’s great fortress is astounding. I wanted to crawl inside the book and experience it for myself (aside from the whole mass suicide thing, of course.) Seriously, read this book! You won’t regret it!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Downton Abbey

Today one of my library patrons reminded me how long it's been since I've updated my blog. Yes, it's been a long time since I've made any recommendations, and even longer since I recommended something from Masterpiece. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I love Masterpiece, and I'm so excited that the 2012 season is kicking off with season two of Downton Abbey!

I absolutely fell in love with this show last season and was blown away by the major cliff hanger in the last episode! I couldn't help but draw comparisons between Downton Abbey and the original Upstairs Downstairs series. Downton begins just before WWI and is set on a large estate where a wealthy family and all of thier servants live under the same roof. We see all the major events unfold from the perspective of both the privileged upper class and the myriad of servants down in the kitchen. It was such an exciting time in history with all of the social, economic and technological changes that seemed to happen over night. And to witness it all through the eyes of such colorful characters is just a bonus!

I would highly recommend watching this show, if you haven't already. The first season is out on DVD which you should be able to obtain through your local library. You can also watch episodes online at the Masterpiece website. The new season begins January 8th (THIS SUNDAY!) on PBS. For more details visit: Downton Abbey is British drama at it's finest, so be sure to check it out!!