international

Cover for Decision to Leave

Decision to Leave

By Park Chan-wook
Star Rating
★★★★★

Rated by Zachary C
Jan 9, 2023

A man is found dead at the base of a mountain peak.  Was it a suicide?  Could it be murder?  With the deceased's wife as the prime potential suspect, the investigator in charge of the case begins to tumble down a rabbit hole of obsession as he investigates her.  

The thing that makes Park Chan-wook's films so special, for me at least, is while other films employ dream sequences, or visions, or flashbacks, no other filmmaker uses them in a story without feeling a separation between real and unreal.  Using picture and sound, he somehow harnesses the subconscious in a visceral way.

Comparisons

Cover of The Cafe By the Sea: shows scene of outdoor cafe seating in European village

The Café By the Sea

By Jenny Colgan

Rated by Emily D.
Oct 13, 2020

London based paralegal, Flora, has desperately pined over her American boss for years. He doesn’t know she exists. Flora has all but resigned herself to unrequited love, until one day he calls her into his office. But the love affair of her dreams doesn’t start there, instead she is sent on assignment to the island of her origins, Mure. The Scottish island is not somewhere she planned on returning, but maybe she’ll get a love affair after all.  

Continue Flora’s story along with her brothers and friends in Colgan’s sequel: The Endless Beach. The story just gets sweeter in this follow-up to Th

The Good Karma Hospital

By Amanda Redman
Star Rating
★★★★

Rated by Helen H.
May 8, 2020

Are you growing frustrated hearing about films and series you simply must watch, only to find they are on yet another streaming platform that will come with yet another monthly fee? Me too. That’s why I finally decided to give Acorn TV: the Best British TV and Film, a try. It’s free with your Johnson County Library card!

In The Good Karma Hospital, young Dr. Ruby Walker, flees a failed relationship at home in London, thinking she is signing on at a swanky hospital in India. When she arrives, the hospital is not quite what she had envisioned. She stays on, learning how to work with limited

Pachinko

By Min Jin Lee
Star Rating
★★★★★

Rated by Caitlin P
Apr 24, 2020

International historical fiction is not my typical genre, but Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko swept me off my feet. This epic Korean family story starts in the late 1800’s and spans all the way to the late 1980’s. The unifying thread of the tale is Sunja, a resourceful and headstrong woman who has to repeatedly prove her convictions and loyalties through life’s many tests.

Born to a disabled father in Korea, society held low expectations for Sunja. As a teenager, she finds herself falling for the genuine affection of an older, well-off Japanese businessman who she thinks intends to marry her. When she

A Swedish Cinematic Journey

Star Rating
★★★★

Rated by Bet M
Sep 12, 2019

Have you ever stumbled upon a book or movie that led you on a journey to a treasure trove of stories you would've otherwise missed? Let's just say what happens in Swedish film shouldn't stay in Sweden.

Red Land, Black Land

By Barbara Mertz
Star Rating
★★★★

Rated by Sam S.
Jul 12, 2018

Red Land Black Land is a historical exploration of ancient Egyptian civilizations that discusses religion, rulers, and artifacts, but also focuses on the daily lives and experiences of ancient Egyptians – peasants and pharaohs alike. Some of the topics I found most interesting centered on the smaller details of life, like how people viewed pets, how clothing was made, what foods were popular, and what people did in their spare time. 

Mertz uses a conversational tone for this title, making it feel far from a textbook and much more like an interesting story being told by a friend. It's easy to

A Year in the Merde

By Stephen Clarke

Rated by Megan C.
Jan 8, 2017

Need a break from American foibles? Here is a perfect chance to laugh at both the English and the French instead.

I loved A Year in Provence, by Peter Mayle, about an expat making a home in the French countryside. His account is filled with plenty of humor and not a little exasperation, but ultimately the author showcases the beauty of the belle vie. Stephen Clarke follows suit with his congenial lambast of French and Parisian culture. His novel (or thinly-disguised tell-all?) takes us away from provincial life and explores the inner workings of professional and urban scenes, with not so much

Love in Lowercase

By Francesc Miralles
Star Rating
★★★★

Rated by Megan C.
Dec 30, 2016

For lovers of The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Love in Lowercase, by Francesc Miralles, shares many of the same elements, but with a lighter touch; philosophical, humorous, it is a story of loneliness and love, coincidence – and cats.

Samuel, a rather solitary professor, begins a new year with the appearance of a surprise visitor, which sets off a chain of events that draw him out of his stagnant routine and into relationships with some colorful characters. The story takes place in Barcelona, which is sure to charm lovers of that city, as Samuel wanders through many of its well-known streets on

In Other Words

By Jhumpa Lahiri
Star Rating
★★★★★

Rated by Sarah As
Aug 13, 2016

It’s pretty daunting to even attempt to recommend something written by the Pulitzer Prize winning author, Jhumpa Lahiri (Interpreter of Maladies) and try to do it justice. She has presented us a beautifully written memoir in which she soulfully expresses the reasons why she feels compelled to master the Italian language – not only to speak it fluently as one who wants to live in the country, but to write it, one who yearns to express herself in another way, through a foreign language. Foreign as not just of another land, but foreign as unknown and unfamiliar and uncomfortable. She actually

The Lunchbox (DVD)

By Ritesh Batra
Star Rating
★★★★

Rated by Caitlin P
Apr 30, 2016

Director Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox is a must-see movie for food enthusiasts. Ila, played by the stunningly beautiful Nimrat Kaur, is a lonely housewife in Mumbai, India who desperately wants to please and attract her emotionally distant husband. Every day she takes great efforts to prepare his lunch in a unique (at least in our western culture) stacked tin lunchbox which is picked up by a local delivery system and brought to him at work. Our story opens with this lunchbox being delivered to the wrong person, a Mr. Saajan Fernandez, played by Irrfan Khan. Saajan is an equally lonesome man on

The Red Notebook

By Antoine Laurain
Star Rating
★★★★

Rated by Sarah As
Apr 17, 2016

I read a good review of The Red Notebook on the Brit blog, We Love this Book and decided to give it a try. A Parisian woman, Laure, is mugged outside her apartment and her expensive leather bag is stolen. The assailant disposes of the bag in a nearby dumpster and it is found by a neighborhood bookseller, Laurent. With the wallet and any other identifying items taken, Laurent is intrigued with the remaining contents of the bag, including a little red notebook and is determined to find the owner. Francophiles and fans of The Little Paris Bookshop and The Elegance of the Hedgehog will want to

Unwanted

By Kristina Ohlsson
Star Rating
★★★★★

Rated by Hilary S.
Jan 8, 2016

A mother has missed getting back on her train, leaving her sleeping child alone onboard. Now someone has taken the child off of the train near Stockholm, snatched from under the nose of the train staff, who were supposed to be looking out for her. What caused the mother to leave the train for so long in the first place, and how could the staff have missed the girl leaving?

Frederika Bergman is relatively new to the Stockholm police force. She is an analyst who has joined the special investigative team of star detective Alex Recht. No one is sure if Frederika is cut out for police work

Kafka on the Shore

By Haruki Murakami
Star Rating
★★★★

Rated by Megan C.
Jan 5, 2016

Haruki Murakami is not for everyone, but he’s one of my favorite authors. His indescribable blend of post modernism, magic realism, and surrealism set in his native Japan never fail to provoke rumination on topics ranging from existential to mundane. This novel is translated by the prize-winning J. Philip Gabriel.

Many of Murakami’s protagonists are shy, inward-turning souls seeking something beyond their present circumstances. Kafka on the Shore centers around Kafka Tamura, a 15-year-old who has decided to abandon his home and make it on his own. He is warned by a sort of alter ego, a boy

The Honorable Woman

By Hugo Blick

Rated by Library Staff (not verified)
Dec 10, 2015

Change is a difficult process for anyone, but imagine if you were trying to change your father's munition company, which historically provided bombs for Israel against Palestine, to a firm focused on assisting with stability in the Middle East. Impossible, right? Nessa and Ephra Stein are attempting to do just that in this intense mini-series that follows their lives after a Palestinian businessman, whom they have selected to win a major project with their company, commits suicide. Nothing is as it seems--including, most importantly, everyone's relationships with each other. Secrets are

Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life

By Frances Mayes
Star Rating
★★★★

Rated by Sarah As
Aug 11, 2015

If you’re a fan of Frances Mayes and  her Tuscan adventures, and even if you read this one when the book came out in 2010, I recommend listening to it on audio. In her southern Georgia drawl, Mayes narrates the third installment of her life in Italy after buying and renovating a dilapidated Italian farm house. Every Day in Tuscany is the third of her Cortona tales, following the ever popular Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany.

Here, she shares stories of the Italian countryside and the people she has grown to love, the food, wine and art she has enjoyed, and the home and garden that have

A Fine Romance - Falling in Love with the English Countryside

By Susan Branch
Star Rating
★★★★★

Rated by Sarah As
Apr 29, 2015

Anglophiles listen up – this book is for you! Talented artist, writer, and blogger Susan Branch has put together a charming travel journal of her two month long trip to England. A Fine Romance is chock full of wonderful photos she and her husband took on their trip interspersed with the colorful drawings and lettering that have set apart her work and style as distinctly her own.

The trip starts off with a six day ocean voyage, onboard the Queen Mary 2, from New York to Southampton, England. This dream trip is divided into mainly three areas – the Southwest of England, the Lake District and

The Laughing Monsters

By Denis Johnson
Star Rating
★★★★

Rated by Michelle H.
Mar 30, 2015

Roland Nair is a NATO operative traveling in Africa. He’s assigned to follow Michael Adriko, a Congolese who happens to be his close friend.  Michael has a plan that involves a rock disguised as processed uranium, and Nair is both horrified at the madness of the idea and attracted to the cash it might promise.

Africa isn’t good to either of these men, and they’re not especially good to each other or even anybody else. They’re struggling with something none of us could get right – a malaise so deep that their judgment is wrecked in every direction.  If anyone has low standards, it’s these guys

Snowpiercer (DVD)

By Bong Joon Ho, Director
Star Rating
★★★★

Rated by Jed D.
Mar 7, 2015

Snowpiercer is South Korean director Joon-ho Bong’s over-the-top action movie that will leave few viewers without strong opinions.   Set in 2031, an environmental catastrophe has frozen Earth and the few surviving humans live on a train.  One percent of the train’s population lives in luxury near the engine, while the remaining humans are essentially slaves, working to ensure the survival of the entire train.  The starving, brutalized, and scared workers plan and execute a revolt after many of their children are taken to the front of the train for mysterious reasons.  Can the passengers in the

The Tudors, the Complete First Season

By Michael Hirst
Star Rating
★★★

Rated by Megan C.
Dec 3, 2014

My original reaction to this series was acerbic (see below). But now that I have watched all 4 seasons of The Tudors, I believe it’s worth sticking it out. It grows on you. The characters grow deeper and more complex. I actually learned a lot about the period, especially what turns out to be the very significant religious clashes of the time. The series does well in showing how each queen made her mark in history. So despite my original review, I’ve decided it’s worth some eye rolling to see the history of King Henry VII’s reign come alive.

Original Review:

Although I’m a fan of many of the

The Silkworm

By Robert Galbraith
Star Rating
★★★★★

Rated by Hilary S.
Nov 17, 2014

Private Detective, Cormoran Strike gets roped into taking a case by Leonora Quine to locate her missing husband, with a somewhat dubious promise of payment by Quine's editor. In pondering why he's taken on such a ridiculous case, Strike comes to realize that he did it out of sheer boredom. Coming off the fame of solving the headline grabbing murder of Lula Landry (see: Cuckoo's Calling), Strike has made a bit of a name for himself amongst the rich and want-to-be famous. Trouble is, the only investigative needs they have are following philandering spouses and girlfriends. When what appears to

Life in a Day

By DVD - 2001
Star Rating
★★★★★

Rated by Megan C.
Jul 15, 2014

This film is the perfect antidote to the evening news. Rather than dwelling on the grim or sensational, it magnifies the beauty of the quotidian as it follows a single day in the life of people all over the world. Not only visually stunning, it is also emotionally impacting to see the human race in all its variety and realize how different, and how very much the same, people can be.

Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail

By Malika Oufkir
Star Rating
★★★

Rated by Megan C.
May 21, 2014

This memoir recounts the story of Malika Oufkir, whose father was the closest aide to the King of Morocco. We follow Malika from the age of five, as she is raised in the palace as the princess’ companion. While life in the harem is a kind of imprisonment itself, it is nothing compared to what awaits her, her mother, and her siblings after her father is executed for an attempt to assassinate the King.

She and her family spend the next 20 years in prisons. Sixteen years into their ordeal, sickly, starving, and desperate to the point of suicide, Malika and some of her siblings manage to dig a

Nothing

By Janne Teller
Star Rating
★★★★★

Rated by Kate M.
Aug 12, 2011

I have been thinking a lot about writing lately. Sometimes it can be easy to get caught up in a story, so much that you don't even know notice if it is well or badly written. I was talking to a friend about Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins yesterday, and I admitted that the first time through, I probably only read about 1/3 of the words. I was flipping pages at a frantic rate to find out what happened, who would live, and who wouldn't make it to the last page. There wasn't time to read descriptions or dialogue when lives were at stake! Of course, I went back and reread the book (every word) and