The Other Americans by Laila Lalami

Book– One critic described The Other Americans and National Book Award Finalist work as, “the next great American classic.”

Nora, a jazz composer, returns to her small desert town of Mojave, California following the news that her father Driss was killed. She informs Detective Coleman she doesn’t believe his death was an accident. An undocumented witness’s reluctance to come forward causes complications. Maryam, Nora’s mother, still pines for another life, while her sister struggles to keep up the facade of the successful daughter, living the “good” life. Nora’s encounters with former school mates, one a former Iraq War veteran, lead to unexpected consequences.     

Written by Laila Lalami in first-person perspectives The Other Americans is a timely, brilliant novel of fiction and mystery, giving depth and voice to characters as diverse as the people of this country. I am kicking myself for not having read this sooner. You will, too.

The Green Mile (1999)

DVD – The Green Mile is outstanding. Released in 1999 some would say it’s an oldie, but it’s definitely a goodie. Based on the book of the same name by Stephen King, the movie is full of varying emotions.

The lives of the guards on Death Row are the starting point of the movie. As time passes, they Cover image for The green mileacquire a new inmate- a tall, stocky man who is charged with the rape and murder of two young girls, appears to be uneducated, yet seems to have a mysterious and special gift. With this he is able to help others, including the guards. What happens during his time on the Green Mile and will he be exonerated before his execution?

Lead actor Tom Hanks is perfectly suited for his role as a Prison Guard. His body and facial expressions, aided by the script will have you crying until your eyes are too puffy to watch anymore. This movie has made me wonder about the reality of life on death row and whether there is a correlation to what inmates and guards do (or don’t), on a daily basis. The Green Mile can be summarized in these words: emotional and thought-provoking.

Killing Eve (2018)

Image result for killing eveTV Series – The show’s slow simmer doesn’t take long to come to a flambé. The BBC’s Killing Eve stars Sandra Oh (Grey’s Anatomy) as Eve, the MI-5 Security Officer who longs for the thrill of the spy life. Eve gets more than she bargained for when the charismatic, charming, psychotic/sociopath Villanelle, played by British actress Jodi Comer (Doctor Foster), goes about her merry way across Europe savoring the killings she is assigned to…and not. The two become obsessed in a catch-me-if-you-can game, admiring the other’s intellect, wit, life and identity.

The screenplay is written by Fleabag‘s clever Phoebe Waller-Bridge, whose compelling characters we can’t turn away from. She does not rush to get through the story, which is well-paced, but I dare you not to binge this series. To boot, the action rounds out the show, so there is no lull or dull moment to be had. Top all of that with fantastic acting from both female leads and you will wish there were more shows like this.

Season 2, commissioned before the first season ended is due out later this year. Check out Season 1 located in our New Adult TV Series on DVD!

An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten

Book – If you’re too busy during the holidays to read a whole book, why not a short story or two? This tiny volume of five stories by Helene Tursten, author of the Detective Inspector Irene Huss mysteries, chronicles the trials and tribulations of an 88-year-old Swedish woman called Maud. She has no remaining family and no close friends, but she lives in her father’s old apartment rent-free and has the money to travel, so she’s quite content with her life. The one thing she can’t tolerate is other people infringing upon her settled existence, and when they do, she takes steps to stop them. Murderous steps.

There’s a certain perverse joy in watching someone get away with murder because everyone assumes that they couldn’t possibly be dangerous. Doubly so when the victims are so obnoxious. Haven’t we all wished we could come up with a permanent solution to a loud, angry, abusive neighbor? Of course, most of us aren’t as clever as Maud. Save yourself the trouble and enjoy her solutions vicariously instead.

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Book – When the weather cools and the air turns crisp, I am ready for some spooky reads. I grew up watching Sabrina the Teenage Witch on ABC’s TGIF so I was immediately intrigued to see a more grown up version of a childhood favorite. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Vol. 1 is a re-imagining of Sabrina’s origin story. Sabrina isn’t the bubbly and wholesome witch I grew up with, there are no funny magical mishaps nor life lessons learned in this graphic novel rendition. Sabrina and her terrifying aunts, Hilda and Zelda, are dark, vicious and callous. The Spellman family show little compunction to bloody murder and satanic worship. But don’t be scared away by this! Aguirre-Sacasa lends an interesting plot to this intense read and the artwork matches the intriguing plot. The story is set in New England in the 1960s, a nod to the original Archie comics where Sabrina was introduced back in 1962. Sabrina’s 16th birthday is upon her and she must decide if she wants to become an immortal witch and join the coven or to be simply a normal teenage girl. Unfortunately for Sabrina, her tragic and grisly origin will literally come back to haunt her making her decision rather bleak.

If you’re looking for a spooky read to welcome the Halloween season you won’t be disappointed. Can’t get enough of Aguirre-Sacasa’s spooky retellings? He also wrote the graphic novel Afterlife with Archie, available through Hoopla! Also, keep an eye out for the television series based on The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina coming later this fall.

Death Wish (2018)

DVD – Death Wish is a remake of the 1974 version, which I admit I have not seen. I saw this movie on the shelf and thought, “Hey, I love Bruce Willis and the Die Hard movie collection, so why not try this one?” This is a great action thriller movie about an emergency room doctor (Bruce Willis) who is unwittingly tasked with fixing up the bad guys of Chicago. A grave situation befalls his family, at which time he has a moment of awakening and plots his revenge. The police- overwhelmed with cases and coming up empty- starting with lowly purse snatchers, and moving up to carjackers, and eventually murderers – he doles out justice as he sees fit.

This was a great action movie for Bruce Willis. Not too much CGI and a plausible storyline. It felt honest and true to the types of mistakes one might make while learning to be an everyday superhero incognito. I am somewhat confused about the role his brother plays in the film, but not enough to discourage me from watching it a second time. I think this one hits home for the action lover of the family as well as the romance/story lover of the family.  An all-around A+ in my book!

Bad Boys (1995)

DVD – Will Smith and Martin Lawrence make a comedic-winning duo in Bad Boys. Officers Mike Lowry (Smith) and Marcus Bennett (Lawrence) lead an investigation into a break-in at the police station’s evidence locker room, where a load of heroin is unassumingly stolen. They have 72 hours to reclaim the drugs before the FBI and CIA are called in. To complicate matters, they have to protect Julie, a witness who saw the thieves murder her best friend amid a heroin exchange. Told by her friend that if anything ever happened to her and needed help, Julie should contact Mike, because he is THE ONLY person she trusts. Off pursuing lead, his partner Marcus intercepts a call from Julie, saying that he is Mike. The two characters lead very different lives, so it is highly entertaining to see how each portray the other. Will they retrieve the heroin? At what cost to the city? Will they keep Julie alive?

Bad Boys is an older movie, but a goodie. There is a significant amount of adult language, use of racial slurs, intense action and recommend this for adults only. The film’s success was later followed up by Bad Boys II released in 2003.  Snuggle up for a fun adult night with this pair of movies!

 

Close Your Eyes by Amanda Eyre Ward

Book – When she was six years old, Lauren’s mother was murdered, her father arrested for the crime. Lauren’s brother Alex has always been convinced that their father is innocent, but Lauren doesn’t buy it. She remembers seeing something – she’s not sure what, but it was bad – and she trusts her memory. But when Alex disappears during a tour in Iraq with Doctors Without Borders, Lauren is forced to come to grips with her memories, her father, and her family’s history. Meanwhile, a pregnant young woman has left her boyfriend, hoping to reunite with her best friend — but she, too, has childhood memories that have yet to be resolved.

I enjoyed this psychological thriller about the unreliability of childhood memories. The characters are not always sympathetic, but they’re well-drawn and intriguing. This isn’t really a fast-paced thriller; the story moves from one point to another in the abrupt staccato way of memories itself. While the point of view shifts can be a little disorienting to start with, the whole story weaves itself together in the end in a most satisfying way.

Raw (2016)

Movie–Justine, lifelong vegetarian, comes from a family tradition of vegetarian veterinarians (try saying that 3 times fast). The movie follows her first days at her new school with her upperclassman older sister and her new roommate, the brutal hazing she and the other freshman endure, and the bloody consequences that ensue. The freshman class is drenched in animal blood à la Carrie and made to eat rabbit liver. Justine is pressured into eating it by her sister, despite their vegetarianism. This proves to be a terrible mistake. Justine finds herself with an sudden and insatiable craving for living tissue: hair, raw chicken cutlets, and even human flesh… The nightmarishly oppressive and clinical atmosphere of her school provides the ghastly backdrop for Justine’s struggle, and inevitable failure, to control her urges.

When this movie was screened at the Toronto film festival, some of the viewers fainted, and it’s not hard to see why. One scene in particular that takes place after a bikini waxing gone wrong is very hard to watch. Also, be aware that this movie is in French with English subtitles in case that’s not your thing. If you like Raw, you might also enjoy the cerebral cannibalism found in Hannibal seasons 1-3.

A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo

Book–Amateur comic book artist and high school student Jess Wong is painfully, unhealthily in love with her best friend Angie. Jess is content to obsess over Angie secretly until Angie enters into a relationship with Margot Adams, a beautiful student from the nearby posh boarding school. Naturally, Jess thinks Margot is no good for Angie, but is this just sour grapes on Jess’s part or is Margot really bad news? When tragedy strikes at an off-campus party and everyone is a suspect, Jess must face up to what really happened that night. Or must she?

This is a dark, twisty thriller, like Pretty Little Liars meets Gone Girl meets The L Word. The book is split in two parts: the beginning is told in first person from Jess’ POV and the end is made up of police interviews and third person limited POV following multiple characters. This allows Lo to build up the tension without giving it all away too quickly. If you enjoy A Line in the Dark, you might also like twisty young adult books like We Were Liars and Last Seen Leaving.