What To Read n’ Watch Next: Ferndale Library Staff Recommendations with Kelly Bennett
(FPL, Jeff Milo,Circulation Specialist, July 1, 2014)
Welcome back to another of the Ferndale Public Library’s bi-monthly edition of staff recommendations! Need some advice on what you should read next? Kelly Bennett has been Head of Circulation for more than 2 years now; she’s worked here in the days before-and-after our renovation/expansion. Fair warning: she has a taste for the strange, the mysterious, the somewhat-dark and the somewhat macabre – so we don’t know if you’ll be taking these to the beach with you. You may find yourself turning some extra lights on, in fact, when you finish some of her picks.
Before we get to Kelly’s picks, we want to let you know that she helps host our special Summer Concert Series Local trio Oblique Noir will charm audiences with their eclectic set of world and lounge music sung by chanteuse Sylvia Inwood, performing at 6:30 pm on Tue. Jul. 8 in the library’s Community Room. The event is free and open to all ages.
Summer Concert Series: Oblique Noir Tue. 8 Jul, 2014 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Most of these choices have to do with horror and murder in one way or another. They’re all well-written and will suck you into their world for awhile. They might even bounce around your head long after you’re done reading or watching. Enjoy!
Bird Box by Josh Malerman
It’s not often that you get to say that you know someone personally that got a big book deal with a major publisher. I’m not intimating that Josh Malerman, author of Bird Box and frontman for The High Strung, and I are BFFs or anything; but if I wave or say hi, he reciprocates. I’m happy for him because this book is really, really good and lots of other people think so, too.
I listened to this one so my review might reflect that. It’s a necessarily simple story, because the characters’ world has shrunk. Fear permeates this novel, eventually taking you over, too. What would you do in a world where opening your eyes could be a death sentence? Would you survive? Can you even make it around your apartment in the dark, let alone, a neighborhood or down a river?
Malerman does the classy thing here, and doesn’t get into the explanation of the thing that makes his world such a dangerous place. This further places the reader in the same position of the characters. They’re too busy surviving to really have the time or resources to explore the how. Though that doesn’t keep them, and therefore us, from wondering, and fearfully speculating.
Visceral, without too much actual gore, Bird Box gets your pulse up and makes you identify with all the characters, even the mad ones, even the non-human ones.
Hannibal by Thomas Harris
This book caused a lot of fervor when it came out because it does two things: 1) It begins to explain “why” Hannibal Lecter is the way he is and 2) it brings Clarice Starling and Lecter together in a way that many readers did not appreciate. The book begins to delve into the mind of everyone’s favorite bad guy. It was an interesting move for Harris, because up till this point, Lecter just was. He was a serial killer apart, he was smarter than anyone, could function normally in life, and his motivation for killing was almost understandable. Rude people are the worst, right?
Full disclosure: I have a criminal justice degree and a more than passing interest in the psychology of serial killers. Hannibal Lecter would never be real. And I’m guessing that when Harris first wrote him, he just intended him to be this interesting secondary character. But when you create someone like Lecter, or Sherlock Holmes, it can get away from you. People begin sinking their own ideas, fears and desires into him and, all of a sudden, he’s alive.
To me, the best part about this book is Lecter’s manipulation of Starling. The psychology of it all makes sense, but in the hands of someone as deft and self-serving as Lecter, it’s basically magic.
Another standout is the horribly creepy, yet also almost realistic Mason Verger. His attitude and brand of insanity seem possible among the out-of-touch rich of the world. And given his crimes against children and his sister, his punishment at the hands of Lecter is likely more just than he ever would have received in the justice system, especially as it exists in the world Harris creates.
This book is dark, (duh), but the most disturbing quality is not its gore or crimes, but its off-kilter moral compass and ability to nudge the reader’s own.
When Gravity Fails by George Alec Effinger
Available through the Library Network
This lesser-known gem of the cyberpunk genre is the first in a trilogy about Marid Audran, a good-looking hustler in the 22nd century. Set in the Muslim Middle East, this book is unique among its genre, but many of the elements that make cyberpunk great are there. Designer drugs, biomechanical modifications that allow users to substitute their own personalities and appearances with a simple chip, and information as currency are all at the core of this book. Audran is downtrodden and reluctant as many heroes are, but his losses are great and his pathos is realistic. I learned a bit about Middle Eastern culture in addition to being entertained by this gritty story.
Hannibal: The Complete First Season
NBC TV Series
DVD TV H
I’m a Fannibal. This show, which I and many others scoffed at for even existing, has taken over my life. In the age of anything-goes cable series filled with gore, profanity and nudity, why would anyone try to make a show about serial killers, and the cannibal for network television? Bryan Fuller, the show’s creator, and his cast, crew and producers are merrily living in the box that censors have created for them and making fantastic television to boot.
It works because the production values are astonishingly high. Every time I watch an old episode, I find myself exclaiming, “Look at that gorgeous time lapse shot! They don’t even need that there! It’s just a place-holder or establishing shot!” The point is, there is no “just” about anything they do on Hannibal. It all creates a mood, a heightened world where someone like Hannibal, with his exquisite taste in food, clothes (God, the suits and ties he wears are amazing), and decor make sense. The show has not only a food stylist (Janice Poon, who’s blog is great http://janicepoonart.blogspot.com/), but a food consultant. By the way, it’s all people. Everything he serves. It’s people. But when you’re watching this show, you do not care. It just looks so amazing.
But it’s not all well-lit shots of food and Mads Mikkelsen’s cheekbones. There is a depth of understanding of psychology, not a surprise when most of the main characters are psychologists or behavioral analysts, here that surprises and confuses in the best ways possible.
The first season starts chronologically before the events of Red Dragon, where we have Will Graham (played gorgeously by Hugh Dancy), an FBI Special Agent with the psychologically damaging skill that helps him get into serial killers’ heads. Jack Crawford, again, brilliantly played by Laurence Fishburne, is the head of the Behavioral Science Unit, and he’s eager to rope Graham into working for the Unit, even if it’s bad for Graham. Then there’s Hannibal, who at this point in the chronology is not only free, but a successful psychiatrist that no one would ever suspect is a murderous cannibal feeding the rude to the high society of Baltimore at glorious dinner parties. Mikkelsen is so still and quiet in this role that the tiniest micro-expression explodes across the screen.
In conclusion; this show is good. You should watch it so we can talk about it.
The Cuckoo’s Calling
by Robert Galbraith
This is a modern detective story with lots of moving parts. There’s the familiar hard-boiled private detective Cormoran Strike (this would be the one tip off that J.K. Rowling is the author; her characters’ ludicrous names), who’s got a past, an injury, and an uncanny ability, despite his looks, to attract supermodels. There’s a delightful number of characters with varying amounts of sleaze. Just like the Harry Potter series, her strengths are character development and keeping a convoluted story straight. I like Strike and his temp secretary Robin, and am excited to see them again in The Silkworm which comes out June 19, 2014.
After the Wedding
DVD FOREIGN A
In the absence of my weekly dose of Mikkelsen in Hannibal, I’ve been delving into his film back catalog. Before he became known as a Bond baddie and a gentleman cannibal, Mikkelsen was a Danish national treasure. After the Wedding is a gut-wrenching family drama with an emotional twist. Mikkelsen plays a manager of an orphanage in India, who travels home to Denmark to seek funding for the orphanage. His idealism is challenged when he meets a man who seems to want to pull him deep into his own, upper-class life. The pacing of this movie has a different feel than most American movies and I found that transfixed me, and forced me to experience every emotional moment more deeply.
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What To Read n’ Watch Next: Ferndale Library Staff Recommendations with Kelly Bennett