Military Wives

The wives on the Flitcroft military base are facing six months on their own after their spouses were called up to active duty. It is not easy when your spouse gets deployed. They get letters and maybe a video chat, but must find their way to cope. Some turn to TV shopping, others send care packages, many drink.

The Sergeant Major's wife, Lisa (Sharon Horgan), is responsible for the mental well-being of all the wives in the regiment. This ranges from brainstorming entertaining group activities to providing a shoulder to cry on. She is a little overwhelmed and has to cope with the Colonel's wife, Kate (Kristin Scott Thomas), who has very different ideas for activities. They finally meet in the middle and decide a choir would be an activity all could enjoy. The pair clash, but after some words realize they are stronger together. The choir becomes the activity that pulls them together and provides comfort.

Military Wives (2019, PG-13) was inspired by the true stories of women who started the first military wives' choir. The story is touching, heartfelt, funny, and sad at times, but very entertaining. For more about the true story and an interview with the actors, check out this NPR article.


The Vanishing Half

Desiree, one of the lost twins of Mallard, Louisiana, has returned home with her "black as tar" daughter Jude. She is returning to a town founded as a place for people who "would never be accepted as white, but refused to be treated as Negroes." The founder hoped to create a "more perfect Negro" with each "generation lighter than the one before."

In 1954, 16-year-old twins Stella and Desiree Vignes ran away from home. Desiree later works as an FBI fingerprint examiner in Washington D.C., and Stella leaves her sister to find her own way in the world. She moves to California, marries a white man, has a daughter, and passes for white. Her family has no idea of Stella's secret past.

As the story moves from the 1950s into the 90s, author Brit Bennett examines sisterhood and the idea of "a sister as a kind of alternate self."The twins share the trauma of seeing their father lynched by white men. The author explores how that kind of inherited trauma might affect the next generation who have no idea what they have inherited. Both sisters have daughters that meet by chance, not knowing that they are related or any idea of their mothers' shared past.

I found this novel so interesting on many levels: the idea that a town places importance on skin tones, the idea of passing, and the dichotomy of what life would be like staying in the South as opposed to living in the North. In The Vanishing Half (2020), we see two lives and two dramatically different paths. A compelling story of family, identity, and race.

Check out the ebook or audiobook of The Vanishing Half on Overdrive today. For more own voices stories, browse our list of Black Voices: Historical Fiction.



The Song of Names

This stunning story stars Clive Owen and Tim Roth as boyhood friends. Dovidl, a Polish child violin prodigy, comes to live with Martin and his family as a refugee in London. After a time, they become like brothers and their relationship strengthens until an alarming event. When Dovidl is 21, a concert is arranged by Martin's father at great expense. Dovidl disappears without a trace, bringing shame and ruin to his adoptive family.

Years later, when Martin is 56 years old, he is interviewing a potential candidate and recognizes a style that only Dovidl could have taught. Thus begins the search for his long-lost friend.

Check out The Song of Names (2019, rated PG-13) today. If you enjoy this film, you might also try watching All My Loved Ones, The Boy in Striped Pajamas, and The Red Violin.

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Never Look Away

Kurt, a young art student, falls in love with Ellie, a fellow student. Her father Professor Seeband, a famous doctor, is not happy with the match and is out to destroy it. What none of them know is that their lives are already connected through the terrible crime Seeband committed during the war. Never Look Away (2018, rated R) is a stunning story, matched with outstanding cinematography.

In German with English subtitles.

For fans of The Reader, Black Book, Frantz, Tulip Fever, and The Exception.


The Words I Never Wrote

The novel opens in present day New York City when photographer Juno Lambert purchases a 1931 typewriter once owned by journalist Cordelia Capel. She discovers an incomplete manuscript, spurring Juno to investigate Cordelia's life.

The story then switches to the 1930s, where English sisters Cordelia and Irene end up on different paths and different sides of WWII. Irene moves to Berlin after marrying a German man; her husband rubs shoulders with high-ranking Nazi officials, putting her in treacherous situations. Cordelia ends up in Paris working for a newspaper. The sisters correspond with letters, but have a falling out after mistruths lead to complications.

The Words I Never Wrote (2019) by Jane Thynne is an intricate story that builds momentum as more secrets are revealed. Juno seeks to complete the story and discover what happened so many years ago.

If you enjoy reading novels set during WWII, check out our book lists.



The Yank

An Irish-American lad, Tom Murphy, and his very wacky family are expecting to have him married off very soon, but the bride must be an Irish girl. Tom travels to Ireland for his best friend's wedding and stumbles through the pubs and over the hills in his quest for a bride.

Fred Willard, Colm Meaney, and Kevin Farley all make appearances. Tom learns in the end that Ireland is not the mythical land of old movies, but a real, hardworking country moving forward.

Watch The Yank (2014, rated TV-14) on Hoopla today.

If you enjoy Irish films, check out some of the titles on this list

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Code Name Hélène

In Ariel Lawhon's latest gripping historical novel, she delves into the life of socialite spy Nancy Wake. Code Name Hélène (2020) is richly detailed. The chapters alternate between her early life and her life as an agent.

This New Zealand native left home at 16. She moved to Europe and worked as a journalist. Nancy eventually married a Frenchman. When France falls to Germany during World War II, she starts working for the Resistance. She is quite a dynamic leader with good instincts and quick reactions. I was truly disappointed when this ended.

Visit Overdrive to read the ebook or listen to the audiobook of Code Name Hélène. Learn more about the real-life heroism of Nancy Wake by reading this History.com article. For more novels featuring women in the resistance, check out our book list.



Comfort and Joy

Based upon real events, a local DJ gets involved between two rival families for the ice cream trade in Glasgow.  Bill Paterson, who plays DJ Dickie Bird, is in top form.  The introduction is rather long before you get into the reason for the film.  While it can be slow moving, it does have a good sense of humor.

Watch Comfort and Joy (1984, rated PG) on Hoopla today.


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The Interpreter

This Slovakian film garnered 13 nominations and 9 wins from all over the world.  The Interpreter (2018) tells the story of 80-year-old Ali Ungar finding a book written by a former SS officer describing his wartime activities in Slovakia.  Ali discovers this person was responsible for murdering his parents.  He tries to take revenge, but instead finds the officer's 70-year-old son, Georg.  The son hires Ali, the interpreter, to travel with him to find out more about his father, with whom he never had a close relationship. These opposites travel together to interview eyewitnesses to the slayings, but along the way the very different men find out that they are not so different at all.

This movie was superb, with believable characters that will wrench at your heart.  Watch The Interpreter on Hoopla today.

In Slovak, German, and Russian with English subtitles.

Page Eight

I really enjoy the work of Bill Nighy.  While being a gifted comedic actor (Pirate Radio, Dad's Army), he also excels at portraying Johnny Worricker, an operative of MI5 nearing the end of his career.  His life has been upended when his boss and best friend have damaging information on the Prime Minister, but dies before it can be verified.

Page Eight (2011) is a spy thriller that isn't about car crashes and explosions, but instead about dirty money, hidden agendas, political maneuvering, believable characters, witty dialogue, and contemporary situations.

Watch it on Hoopla today.

Hair Love

Enjoy this story inspired by the Academy Award winning short film that shows the love a father has for his daughter by learning how to take care of her natural hair. "My hair is mommy, daddy, and me. It's hair love!" Delightful!

Hair Love (2019) was written by Matthew A. Cherry and illustrated by Vashti Harrison. Listen to the audiobook on Hoopla, read the ebook on Overdrive, and watch the Oscar winning film on YouTube.

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Detectorists

Why would someone create a show about amateur metal detectorists? I put aside my doubts and tuned in. These two oddball Englishmen travel all over the countryside hoping to uncover buried Saxon treasures! But it's a cutthroat hobby—who would have thought? I was hooked after the first episode of Detectorists. Share the lives, loves, and detecting ambitions of Andy and Lance. You never know what you will uncover.

Binge the whole series on Hoopla! The complete series (2014-2017) is available to watch instantly.


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A Madness of Sunshine

Anahera returns home to a small New Zealand village after she is widowed. Will, a police officer new to town, is struggling with his own demons. They are prickly with each other.

When a local girl with a bright future disappears after going for a run, Will and Anahera team up along with the whole town to search for her. In the course of his investigation Will uncovers rumors and evidence of previous runners disappearing. He relies on Anahera for local insight, and the pair dig up crimes of the past.

A Madness of Sunshine (2019) by Nalini Singh is a gripping romantic suspense novel in a lushly described New Zealand setting. The story is filled with lots of red herrings and a shocking ending.

Discover more romantic suspense.



A Single Thread

In 1932 England, Violet is considered a surplus woman, a 38-year-old doomed to spinsterhood after the Great War. She doesn't accept her fate and tries to live her life despite her mother's constant harping. She leaves home and moves to Winchester to work as a typist.

While attending church services, Violet discovers a group of women who embroider seat cushions and kneelers. She joins this group of broderers, learning the stitches and the meaning behind the designs. She meets Arthur, who rings bells at the cathedral.

A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier (2019) features a strong female character with an unapologetic approach to life. She defies convention and charts her own course. While there is a feeling of despondency, the reader learns that not all women accepted their fate. Violet builds a meaningful life. Chevalier provides a great sense of place with her setting in a small English village. 

Meet Me in Monaco

The novel begins with Grace Kelly in Cannes, being pursued by James, a British photographer. She ducks into a perfume boutique where Sophie gives her refuge. Over the next 30 years, James and Sophie form a friendship and mutual admiration, though life sometimes pulls them in opposite directions. Meanwhile, Grace meets and becomes engaged to Prince Rainier, returning to Monaco for the wedding. Grace has never forgotten Sophie and orders the perfume for her wedding from the boutique. The publicity causes business to pick up.

In Meet Me in Monaco: A Novel of Grace Kelly's Royal Wedding (2019), Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb have written an amusing and delightful novel with a light romance amidst the wedding of the century.