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Christmas Land (Hallmark Movie)

I don't think I've yet shared with you my love of Hallmark Movies.  I love a good Hallmark Christmas movie.  I can watch a Christmas movie in the winter or the summer; Christmas in December or Christmas in July.  Doesn't matter.  I watched this movie in the Spring and saved the review for closer to Christmas.  Christmas Land stars Luke Macfarlane and Nikki DeLoach.  I previously saw Luke Macfarlane in the Hallmark Movie and Mystery, The Memory Book (the library has it on DVD), and that was a decent movie.  It seems Macfarlane has recently become the darling of Hallmark movies because he's done a Hallmark movie a year since 2014 (and I have thus far seen two of them), and that's fine by me.

When Jules, a high powered something something executive in the big city (something to do with social media campaigns or some such), inherits her grandmother's house, land, and the Christmas themed attraction that occupies that land, Jules returns to the small town she hasn&…

Special Announcement

All month long we've been building to a special announcement here on the blog in celebration of our ten year anniversary.  And now this announcement is here: we're moving!  That's right "A Series of (Un)Fortunate Reviews" is moving to a new blogging platform and getting a new URL.  This is something I've often thought about doing, and the decade anniversary is the perfect time for a new start!

What does this mean for the blog?  It means that today's post is the last new post that will go live here on matthewslibrary.blogspot.com.  After today all new content will be posted on the new platform.  Don't worry--this blog will remain on Blogger for the foreseeable future to ensure that our readers will find us at our new home.  However, all this blog's content has been migrated to the new blog platform, so you will also be able to access our back catalog at the new blog.

Where are we moving?  We're breaking up with Blogger and moving to WordPress!…

10 Year Retrospective

Before we roll out the extra special surprise next week, let's take a look back on the top viewed reviews.  It's no surprise that the reviews that have the most page views over the life of the blog are all book reviews.  We'll take a look at the top viewed one or two DVD reviews too at the end.  But first we'll count down the top viewed book reviews.   In honor of our tenth anniversary, we'll re-visit the top ten most viewed book reviews starting with the tenth most viewed post and so on.  All reviews will be linked so if one piques your interest, please click the link to read the full review.

10.  Shock Wave by John Sandford is the fifth novel in the Virgil Flowers series.   Flowers is the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension's best agent, and he solves his cases by digging up as much information as he can about the major players connected to the case at hand.  I've reviewed all the Virgil Flowers novels thus far in the series; these novels are alway…

Broadchurch: Season 2 (DVD)

I reviewed the first season of Broadchurch at the end of August.  Each season runs eight episodes long.  In addition to the primary players who return from last season, some powerhouse actors join the cast for the second season.  Marianne Jean-Baptist and Charlotte Rampling join the cast as defense counsel and prosecuting attorney respectively and Eve Myles and James D'Arcy play pivotal roles as the main suspects in the Sandbrook case.  The third season will be released on DVD in September.  I'm not sure how season three and its respective review will go down.  These two reviews had the advantage of being written upon the second viewing of both seasons.  I won't see the third season until I get the DVD.

Where we left off at the end of season one: The arrest and charging of Joe Miller, husband of D.S. Ellie Miller, as the confessed murderer of Daniel Latimer sent shock waves through Broadchurch and shattered the Miller and Latimer families.

The second season picks up sever…

Ten Year Anniversary Special: By the numbers

We're celebrating the blog's ten year anniversary all month long, and this week we're taking a look at some raw numbers.  Last week's anniversary post was timed to go live to the day on the ten year anniversary of the very first post on "A Series of (Un)Fortunate Reviews."  But ten years today the first reviews were posted to the blog!

I took a look at some raw data recently to tally up the number of posts and reviews broken down by format.  Content posted up to September 5, 2017, was included in the tallies.  There were also a few posts that were single posts that contained reviews for two different titles.  In these cases each of those reviews was tallied separately for the review numbers.  So if you add up reviews, and it comes to a couple more than the total number of posts, this is why.  Now.  Let's take a look at the numbers!

Over the past ten years this blog has posted 422 posts.  More recently I've made an effort to post a new review once a w…

Table 19 (DVD)

I wasn't going to review this movie but I had opinions, so here we are.  Before I get to those opinions, let's get some business out of the way.  This movie stars Anna Kendrick, June Squibb, Craig Robinson, and Lisa Kudrow.  Table 19 is a romantic comedy that isn't very romantic.

The premise of this movie is that Eloise (Kendrick), after breaking up with the best man who is also the bride's brother, is ejected from her role as maid of honor despite having assisted in planning half the wedding already.  After much conflicted back and forth, Eloise decides to attend her oldest friend's wedding.

Upon arrival at the reception Eloise is seated at table 19, the table at the back of the ballroom, mere feet away from the restrooms, the table where "all the random people who should have RSVP'd their regrets are seated."  And indeed her table-mates are random.  There's the bride's childhood nanny, a couple who know the bride's father through the di…

A Series of (Un)Fortunate Reviews Turns 10!

This month marks ten years since this blog was born.  Incidentally this month also marks ten years that I've been editing the library's website since one lead to the other.  To celebrate this milestone, readers can look forward to some special programming all month long in addition to the usual weekly reviews.  The celebration will culminate in a huge surprise that will roll out towards the end of the month.

While I don't remember too many details about what lead to the blog, I do remember it sprang from a brainstorming session between the director and I.  At the time I was working evenings at the library, and when I suggested starting a library blog to review books, the director let me run with it.  I brainstormed blog titles that night, and "A Series of (Un)Fortunate Reviews," a play on  the middle grade book series title A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, was by far the best one.  This blog was almost called "The Lovely Reviews" or &q…

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Miss Shayne is back with a savage book review!  And stay tuned this week for some special programming on the blog.

Reading the synopsis for this book, I wasn't sure I would like Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones. It sounded like a meager fairy tale. Since the cover was beautiful and plastered with appraisals that made reading it seem worthwhile, I decided to take a gamble. Never let me into a casino, folks, because I will never hit the jackpot.
Wintersong tells the story of Liesl, who grew up playing her violin for the Goblin King in the Goblin Grove, a clearing in the woods by her house where the Goblin King was able to cross into the world above the ground. In addition to playing her violin, Liesl would play games and make careless gambles, not understanding the gravity of what she was promising the Goblin King. Now that she is grown, the Goblin King expects her to fulfill all that she had promised as a child.
Because years have passed, Liesl has forgotten the Goblin King. She is now th…

Broadchurch: Season 1 (DVD)

Broadchurch is a British TV series trilogy that stars David Tennant (of Dr. Who fame) and Olivia Coleman (you may also know her from The Night Manager) as well as Jodie Whittaker (the new Dr. Who) and Andrew Buchan.  If you watch a lot of British TV, you may recognize these actors's names as well as a lot of the supporting cast.  I watched the first season of Broadchurch a few years ago when it aired in the U.S. on BBC America, which is how I also watched the second season.  The long wait for the third and final season is over, so I decided to re-watch the first two seasons before I watch the third season.  I'm reviewing them as I watch them again.  Also there are spoilers, so a word of caution before you keep reading.

In Broadchurch season one when twelve year old Daniel Latimer's body is found dumped on the shoreline of Broadchurch, the ensuing police investigation uncovers the town residents' secrets and threatens to rip both the Latimer family and the town itself a…

Not A Sound by Heather Gudenkauf

Not A Sound is the sixth novel by Heather Gudenkauf.  It's the fourth novel by Gudenkauf that I've read and reviewed here on the blog.  Go here to find those reviews.

Two years after a hit and run driver left Amelia deaf and another woman dead, Amelia, a former trauma nurse and sexual assault nurse examiner, is still picking up the pieces of her life.  Still adjusting to being deaf and struggling with staying sober, Amelia is rebuilding her life after her depression and alcoholism caused her to lose her job, her husband, and her young stepdaughter.  Then Amelia discovers the partially nude body of another nurse, who was also a sexual assault nurse examiner and a former friend, in the nearby river on a morning paddle board excursion.  As Amelia's drawn into the homicide investigation, her life is upended and endangered as it never has been before.

When Amelia finally lands a part-time job data processing for the local cancer treatment center, she discovers mysterious gaps …

The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda

The Perfect Stranger is Megan Miranda's follow up to All the Missing Girls.  I read and reviewed All the Missing Girls back in January.  The Perfect Stranger differs in structure to All the Missing Girls which largely unspooled its story backwards.  While The Perfect Stranger follows a more traditional story structure, it is no less gripping.

After Leah Stevens torches her career in Boston in pursuit of the truth, a seemingly chance encounter with her former, post-college roommate, Emmy Grey, spurs the two women to move to western Pennsylvania.  Both women are in search of a fresh start and while Leah finds hers as a high school English teacher, Emmy flounders in nameless, nondescript, dead end jobs.  When a woman who bears a striking resemblance to Leah is found left for dead on the shores of the nearby lake, Leah soon realizes that her roommate has been missing for an undetermined length of time.  And Leah realizes that it is the beginning of the end of her fresh start because b…

Spiderman: Homecoming (Movie)

Miss Shayne returns this week with another movie review!

I'm a pretty big fan of Spidey. As big a fan I can be without reading the comics, that is. Unfortunately for me, I had just gotten used to Andrew Garfield as the poster boy for Spider-Man. So when I heard they were doing ANOTHER Spider-Man reboot, I didn't know if my heart could take it. Just how many Spideys must we toss aside until we get it right?!
Perhaps… no more.
Spider-Man: Homecoming follows the typical Spider-Man recipe, though there are some differences. Though Peter Parker's origin story is mentioned, we don't have to sit through the spider biteagain. The movie starts out with Parker on a trip to train with the Avengers under the cover of interning for Stark Industries. Upon his return home, Parker discovers some sketchy guys selling weapons that use alien technology, making them especially dangerous. Naturally, these weapons help some criminals do some pretty bad things. Peter Parker tries to balance h…

Looper (DVD)

Miss Shayne is back with a movie review!
Released in 2012, Looper stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis in a twisted sci-fi-esque movie. I am a big fan of movies such as these, and, as far as twisted films go, this movie is one of the better ones I have seen. Though it can be hard to follow, the ending is worth all of the initial confusion.
Time travel has not been invented yet, but thirty years in the future, it has. To keep things relatively clean, when the future mob needs someone whacked, they send them back in time to be killed by hired guns called "loopers." This is all well and good until the future mob boss starts to "close the loops" by sending back the loopers' future selves to be whacked. Unfortunately, the young loopers don't realize they killed their future selves until they see their payment is gold bars instead of silver.
Joe is one of these loopers who is trying to save up enough money to leave this lifestyle behind. Unfortunately for …

On Living by Kerry Egan

On Living is the second book by Kerry Egan, who is a hospice chaplain and graduate of Harvard Divinity School.  She lives in South Carolina.  This is a very readable, 'unputdownable' book.  For me the first two chapters were slow.  Once the third chapter started, which was the first chapter in which Egan shares one of the stories a former patient told her, I was hooked.

On Living is a series of meditations on various themes in the life humanity lives as seen through the lens of counselling and supporting patients who are terminally ill and their families.  Egan often does not meet these people until they know they are in their final months or weeks and have begun hospice care.  Usually the meditation is predicated on the story or stories shared by specific patients.  These stories serve as a gateway to further meditation on a broader theme, such as salvation and change; identity; that there is kindness in the gray areas of life.

This is also a highly personal work as Egan uses…

A Deadly Thaw by Sarah Ward

A Deadly Thaw is the second novel in the DC Connie Childs series by Sarah Ward.  I reviewed the first book, In Bitter Chill, a couple weeks ago.  The third book, A Patient Fury, will be released in September.   Thus far each book revolves around a present day mystery that connects to a previously unsolved crime in the distant (or not too distant) past and Childs and/or DI Sadler twinge on to the sense that they're 'missing something' in the case file, such as some key piece of evidence, that will make all the puzzle pieces fall into place.  Both In Bitter Chill and A Deadly Thaw exposed a dark and depraved secret that essentially broke the case wide open for the detectives.

In 2004 Lena Grey was convicted of and served time for the murder of her husband, Andrew Miller, having suffocated the man in the couple's marital bed.  Now over a decade later the newly dead body of Andrew Miller turns up in Hale's End, a local, long abandoned mortuary, having been shot dead b…

The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry

The Fifth Petal is the third book by Brunonia Barry.  I read and reviewed her first book, The Lace Reader.  Her second novel was The Map of True Places, and I read that one, but apparently I did not review it for the blog.  All of Barry's novels are part of The Lace Reader series.  They all take place in Salem, Massachusetts, and the third one features characters from the first two novels as well as new characters.

The setting in Salem is important to the story, and it couldn't be set any place else.  The rich history of a city still scarred by the infamous witch hysteria of 1692-'93 plays a distinctive, heavy role in the story itself.  And the history of the witch trials and their victims is as fascinating as the story.

On Halloween a trio of teen boys harasses Rose, Salem's resident "banshee" and outcast woman, and when a god awful shrieking starts, the ring leader of the trio falls dead.  Thanks to his connections to an influential family in Salem, the mo…

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (Movie)

Miss Shayne returns with a review of a new movie in theaters now; it will be available to borrow on DVD from the library soon.

I absolutely LOVE the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. It is one of the reasons why, as a child, I would often tell people I wanted to be a pirate when I grew up. (And, if I’m being honest, I still tell people this.) The first two movies in this franchise are incredible, and it would be difficult to match the perfection achieved with them. However, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is still worth a watch.

This movie starts out by following Henry, the son of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann. He is trying to find Poseidon’s trident which will undo the curse that binds Will Turner to the Flying Dutchman, along with every curse on the sea. To find the trident, Henry must first enlist the help of Captain Jack Sparrow, who Henry believes to be some kind of pirate legend. Henry eventually stumbles upon Carina Smyth, an intelligent woman of science. T…

Suspects series 1 & 2 (DVD)

By now you may have realized that I'm a sucker for a British TV show.  Period drama, Jane Austen adaptation, both of these or none of these, it doesn't matter.  I branched out recently into Australian TV shows when one of the libraries got Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries on DVD.  I'm currently watching the first season of that show.
Suspects is a British cop procedural drama; series one and two come in the same case.  "Filmed from an eye witness perspective," it also features improvised dialogue.  The latter makes the show feel like a reality TV show except it does not have in camera confessionals.  It's a gritty, realistic series that features brutal crimes; and, due to its improvised dialogue and eye witness perspective, it feels quite different from scripted dramas.
The show follows three detectives: Detective Inspector Martha Bellamy, Detective Sergeant Jack Weston, and Detective Constable Charlie Steele.  In the first season each episode is treated as…

Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

Miss Shayne returns this week with another review!  This title is new to teen collection at the library.
This book follows the individual stories of Juliet and Declan and how they become intertwined. Juliet’s mother recently passed away and to help cope with the sadness, Juliet writes letters to her mother and leaves them at her grave. One day, a letter is discovered by Declan, who is doing community service in the graveyard after getting drunk and crashing a truck into a building. Declan reads the letter, relates to what Juliet wrote, and writes a response. This begins an anonymous correspondence between the two.
When they are in school, these two don’t get along. Juliet is an artistic student who has had a hard time getting back into the swing of things since her mother’s passing, and Declan is an outcast who seems to only have one friend: Rev. Even though they run with different crowds at school, Declan and Juliet get along when they are writing anonymous letters to one another. I…

Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions is the first book by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie that I've read.  Adichie has written several award winning, best selling novels and a short story collection.  When one of Adichie's friends writes to ask how to raise her daughter feminist, A Feminist Manifesto is the resulting compilation of fifteen suggestions for how to accomplish this task.

Dear Ijeawele is very much a manifesto for how Adichie lives and thinks as a feminist; it's a codification of her own personal feminism in addition to being a primer on feminism, the ways in which society and the world conditions, raises, views, and treats women differently from men, and gender justice issues.  It is both thoughtful and thought provoking.

Adichie's fourth suggestion begins with a warning regarding Feminism Lite or what I would still call subtle misogyny masquerading as feminism and concludes with the point that society has conditioned us to view power as m…

In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward

In Bitter Chill is the debut novel by Sarah Ward; it's the first book in the DC Connie Childs series.  I didn't realize this was the start of a series when I started reading it.  Just as when I read and finished The Dry by Jane Harper, I didn't realize that too was the start of a series.  I'm not sure how I feel about starting more book series.  But then the book series that I followed, I haven't been reading anyway, so maybe it's time for some new book series.  This series is set in Derbyshire, England.  And while the prologue didn't really grab me, once I read the first couple chapters, I was sucked in.

While there is a mystery in the present day story, it's very much tied to an unsolved kidnap from 1978.  The present day chapters are sparsely intercut with chapters that flash back to 1978.  Were it not for the kidnap case in 1978, there wouldn't be a present day mystery to solve.

In 1978 when Sophie Jenkins and Rachel Jones are kidnapped one mor…

The Widow's House by Carol Goodman

The Widow's House is Carol Goodman's 12th novel.  I've read all except for her three YA novels (Blythewood series) and the literary fiction novel that precedes this one, River Road.  I've reviewed most of them for the blog, and if you click this link, you can read those reviews.  Many of Goodman's novels have a literary theme or connection.  In this novel the main characters are writers/novelists, one of whom is a former composition professor at the local college while the other two are his former students.  This is a creepy, atmospheric, suspenseful mystery.  Goodman's story sucks you in from the beginning right through to the tense, pulse pounding ending.  It's a page turner that you won't want to put down.
Jess Martin is a famous writer, whose follow up to his stunning debut is about a decade overdue.  Clare is his wife, an equally talented writer, who has given up writing in order to take a steady job as a copy editor for a publisher.  The Martins a…

Get Out (Movie)

A Series of (Un)Fortunate Reviews' guest reviewer, Miss Shayne, has returned for the summer!  Her first review of the summer is for the movie, Get Out, which will be released soon on DVD.
Get Out directed by Jordan Peele is a mystery/thriller movie about Chris, an African American man, meeting his girlfriend Rose’s parents at their country estate for the first time. Upon arriving, Rose’s family seems unaccustomed with how to act around African Americans, so their conversations with Chris seem forced. At first, Chris assumes they are just trying their hardest to make him feel comfortable, but because they are hyperaware of his race, they go overboard.
Things start to get even stranger when Rose’s brother insists on having a physical MMA-style fight with Chris while eating dinner. Chris also notices the other African Americans that work for the family act strangely. To top things off, Rose’s mother insists on hypnotizing Chris in an attempt to get him to quit smoking. Chris refuses,…

The Dry by Jane Harper

The Dry is the debut novel by Australian writer Jane Harper.  Set in Australia, it's an expertly written mystery that doubles as a tense coming home novel.  Compared to the last book I read, Everything We Keep, The Dry features much stronger, organic writing.

When his childhood friend, Luke Hadler, butchers his family and then kills himself, Aaron Falk, now a successful federal agent, returns to the rural, farming town that literally ran him and his father out in the middle of the night over a decade ago.  Aaron is determined to stay for the funerals and be gone the next morning.  Meanwhile, the only people welcoming him home are the parents of his deceased friend Luke and his childhood friend, Gretchen, who is now a mother herself.  The whole town, save for the handful of residents who have moved there in the interim since the Falks departure, makes it clear that Falk is not welcome and regards him askance while the Deacon family openly regards him with hostility, only too happy …