International

The Good Karma Hospital

By Amanda Redman
4
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
5
Rated by Caitlin T.
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

May 22, 2019

What do you think of when you imagine Scotland? Do you picture the rolling, verdant fields of the Highlands? Maybe you think of the craggy, stony mountains or the foggy moors filled with sheep. How about 6,000 miles of windswept coastline? Scotland sounds like a dream but what should I really expect? The perfect way to discover a place is through reading!


There are so many resources at the library to help prepare for my trip. It’s always nice to feel like you know a place before you get there. I need to have great theme music wherever I go. There are so many amazing CDs in the library

Red Land, Black Land

By Barbara Mertz
4
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

Jun 24, 2018

In her immigrant's memoir told in graphic novel form, Thi Bui explores the saga of her family's escape from Vietnam in the 1970's to the United States.


Her debut opens with the birth of her first child in 2005. Will she be a good mother? How is she different from her mother? What was her mother's experience? How was her mother shaped after losing family, her country? How did her father's childhood shape his fathering abilities? And how has her own experience as a refugee, coming to a country she had to assimilate into that she was culturally so different from, as well as being confronted

The Handmaiden

By Park Chan-wook
5
Rated by Zachary C
Jun 8, 2018

The Handmaiden, a Korean film adaptation of the novel Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, is the newest film from one of the most daring directors in cinema.


The plot follows a Korean woman hired as a handmaiden to a Japanese heiress as part of a plot to defraud her of her wealth. It is a classic con, but is subject to a bevy of twists and turns, as the handmaiden develops feelings for her mark and everyone has their own designs on the situation.


Misdirection is accentuated as the movie replays many of the major plot points from alternating perspectives: the heiress, the handmaiden, and the con

The Portrait

By Antoine Laurain
3
Rated by Maryana K.
Nov 17, 2017

The Portrait follows the journey of Pierre-François Chaumont, a married Parisian attorney. As a boy, Pierre is influenced by his uncle to become a collector of objects. He begins with scented erasers, but quickly raises the level of sophistication and moves on to antiques. By the time the reader finds Pierre in present day, his collection is massive and a point of contention between him and his wife. It is his latest purchase, a portrait of a man, which really puts their marriage on shaky ground. As a result of a heated auction bid, Pierre pays way too much for the piece, but he has to have it

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

By Stieg Larsson
5
Rated by Amanda C.
Jul 17, 2017

Mikael Blomkvist is an investigative reporter and co-owner of a magazine, Millennium, in Stockholm, Sweden. A bygone behemoth of Swedish industry hires him to solve the 36-year-old mysterious disappearance of Harriet Vanger. Lisbeth Salander is the 24-year-old genius computer hacker (complete with tattoos, piercings, and black lipstick) who aids Mikael in his search for the answers. In uncovering what happened to Harriet, they discover a much bigger secret in Sweden.


This story is well-written and creative. Stieg Larsson creates a world where everything is possible and nothing is

A Year in the Merde

By Stephen Clarke
4
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

Love in Lowercase

By Francesc Miralles
4
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

Me, Who Dove into the Heart of the World

By Sabina Berman
4
Rated by Amanda C.
Dec 20, 2016

Isabelle comes back to her family home after the death of her sister to find an autistic savant growing up in her sister's home. She teaches the girl, Karen, how to function in the world. Karen learns how to interact with the whole, not only through her aunt's patience, but also through the animals with whom she shares a special connection. Me, Who Dove into the Heart of the World is Karen's story. She goes out into the world to gain the knowledge to, eventually, take over the family's failing tuna cannery. Her intelligence and her connection with animals leads her to create the first "humane"

In Other Words

By Jhumpa Lahiri
5
Rated by Sarah A.
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

Japantown

By Barry Lancet
3
Rated by Don M.
Aug 3, 2016

Jim Brodie conveniently runs an antique business in San Francisco and a security company in Tokyo. He also speaks Japanese and is a martial arts expert. When a family is gunned down in San Francisco, Brodie is hired by the brother of the victim to find out who did it. The reader learns that Brodie lost his wife, who was Japanese, in a suspicious fire and that the same kanji (Japanese language character) was left at the scene of each crime. When the Japanese linguist he hired to research the kanji doesn’t return, Brodie and his assistant follow his path to a certain village where death and

The Lunchbox (DVD)

By Ritesh Batra
4
Rated by Caitlin T.
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
4
Rated by Sarah A.
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

The Cartel

By Don Winslow
4
Rated by Don M.
Jan 27, 2016

If you ever wanted to know what it would be like to be in the middle of a drug war, then pick up The Cartel. Art Keller is a DEA agent living in Mexico and trying to bring down the drug barons. The reader is slowly drawn into the political and economic landscape of Mexico and the reality of the effects of the “war on drugs” on Mexicans. While educating the reader about this conflict, the author entertains with a sizzling plot that is full of violence and pathos. Particularly, the author delves into what the drug war between the factions in Mexico has done to Juarez and the surrounding area

Unwanted

By Kristina Ohlsson
5
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
4
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
4
Rated by Katie S.
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

Aug 17, 2015

Published in 2014 this book is an updated version of Kathleen Peddicord’s How to Retire Overseas: Everything You Need to Know to Live Well Abroad. The two authors have extensive experience living in Latin America, as they moved there to work for International Living magazine in 2001. This edition does a good job of going over all of the basics of moving abroad, including the factors you should seriously consider before making a move.  It is very detailed when it comes to the Central and South American countries that offer the best options for expats.  Each of these countries gets its own

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

Night Heron

By Adam Brookes
3
Rated by Don M.
Jul 21, 2015

This novel reminds me of early LeCarre, which is a good thing, because that is when he did his best work. Philip Mangan, a British journalist working in China, is approached by a man who tells him, "the night heron is hunting." Mangan mentions this encounter to a “friend” who works in the British Embassy.  The “friend” then communicates this to his bosses in London who are definitely interested in pursuing contact. Mangan then becomes the contact for British Intelligence to the man who approached him. Everything goes nicely and then everything goes wrong. This is Brookes’ first novel and I

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 Hunt

By Vinterberg, Thomas
5
Rated by Megan C.
Apr 16, 2015

What are the limits of friendship? The Hunt explores this question when a misinterpretation of facts unleashes a chain of consequences in a small town in Denmark. Lucas, a newly divorced father and kindergarten teacher, is tested to the limits of his emotional endurance as he slowly becomes an object of suspicion and mistrust among his coworkers, the townspeople, and even his closest friends. The plot builds to a level of exquisitely wrought tension that keeps you holding out for some kind of relief as Lucas reaches his edge.


This film has many strengths but what stood out most for me was

The Laughing Monsters

By Denis Johnson
4
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

Snowpiercer (DVD)

By Bong Joon Ho, Director
4
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

Please Look After Mom

By Kyung-Sook Shin
5
Rated by Megan C.
Jan 18, 2015

This best-selling novel by South Korean author Kyung-Sook Shin takes a piercing look at how we treat those closest to us, and what it means to be a wife and mother. Told from four perspectives, the story examines the aftermath of the disappearance of “mom”. Some of the narrators speak in the unusual voice of second person, which serves to make the narrative more personal.


The narrators’ revelations are often poignant but can be uncomfortably honest, creating a family portrait that might serve to make the reader painfully aware of his/her own family’s foibles, but also of the strength of

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 Silkworm

By Robert Galbraith
5
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