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.

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Book – Looking for a great psychological thriller? The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen should satisfy that need. Vanessa is the jilted, ex-wife of Richard. When they first met she was swept off her feet by this handsome, wealthy, successful and attentive man. To her, their relationship was worth giving up her career and New York City lifestyle, to move to the suburbs with the prospect of a future family. The fairy tale soon unravels after numerous, failed fertility treatments. Richard eventually leaves Vanessa for his assistant Nellie, who in many ways is a younger version of Vanessa. Vanessa becomes obsessed with her former husband’s young, naïve fiancé and tries to sabotage the upcoming nuptials. Is Vanessa, who is swimming through an alcoholic haze, just bitter and vengeful, or is something else at play? Meanwhile, Richard is protective and loving towards his future wife, but Nellie is beginning to have doubts.

Each character’s story is narrated from their perspective. What is real, what is not? The twists and turns cause misdirection, forcing you to keep guessing their ulterior motives- who, of course, all have their secrets.

The Audiobook of The Wife Between Us is also available on Hoopla and Overdrive for Kindle and other electronic devices.

Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovich

Book– I grabbed this audiobook for my commute to work. I was instantly hooked! The wonderfully talented, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, a Ghanaian-born Brit, brought the main character to life.

Peter Grant, Probationary Police Constable (rookie cop for us stateside) with London’s Metropolitan Police Services is having a rough time. His policing skills are found to be lacking by his superiors and is easily distracted and fancy’s hotshot PC, Lesley May who unlike Peter, is on the fast track to the Murder Team. Peter is resigned to join the pencil pushing ranks of the Case Progression Unit. Nothing can possibly make his life any worse! That is, until he is rudely introduced to a ghostly chap while on duty watching a murder site. Peter is not convinced ghosts are real; the supernatural is all just mumbo-jumbo! Yet, this ghost is real enough and Peter soon finds himself assigned to the charming C.I. Thomas Nightingale of the Economic and Specialist Crime. Nightingale takes an instant shine to Peter and his magical potential. Peter soon finds out that not only are ghosts and magic real, they have an established history in the city, and that he can have a part in this world. I won’t spoil the rest of the plot, but suffice to say this is a contemporary urban fantasy with aspects of mystery and magic, not to mention a very interesting London police procedural. Adult fans of Harry Potter will enjoy Aaronovitch’s grown up magical world.

Midnight Riot is Book 1 of the London River series.

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!

Black Panther (2018)

DVD- After his father’s recent passing T’Challa returns to his birth place in Wakanda, Africa to take his place as king.  Being king, comes with it – the power of the Black Panther, an ancestral super power passed down through the generations. As far as the world knows, Wakanda is a poor, barely-surviving country. Looking under the invisible cloaking net that has protected the country for centuries, however, one finds a wealthy, technologically advanced society sitting on a mountain of Vibranium. This precious metal, thought to no longer exist, was used to make Captain America’s shield.  Once others learn of Vibranium’s presence, they will stop at nothing to acquire the rare alloy.

This movie was well done. The Black Panther is a person of pride, strength, and honor. Wakanda’s setting is stunning, and although the people have an excess of what is needed to survive, they are scrupulous in how the country’s resources are used. The colors, music, special effects, and the director’s ability to immerse audience members in the film – all made me feel that “WOW!” factor, after it was over. Even if you do not follow the Marvel superhero franchise, you will still be amazed by this movie. I highly recommend Black Panther to everyone!

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.

Troubled Waters by Susan May Warren

Book- Troubled Waters is the fourth installment in the amazing, Montana Rescue Series.  The story starts out with a forest fire, which sends the PEAK rescue team into action. Through unfortunate events, the chopper is damaged and in need of help of former PEAK member, billionaire Ian Shaw. PEAK member Sierra convinces him to  have a fundraising junket on his yacht, the Montana Rose. Despite having been built on a steep budget, the luxurious yacht has never actually sailed.  During its first trip out to sea when a series of rogue waves rock the ship – everyone is hurled overboard. Who will survive, and if so, how? If given a new lease on life will opportunities be seized, and the perspective that life is too short for petty issues, be realized?

Susan May Warren strikes again with yet another winner. I found Troubled Waters somewhat more “churchy” than the others in the series, but nevertheless compelling. Her way of storytelling describes experiences with great detail, and to a such degree that readers feel as though they themselves experience what the characters do.I was chilled to the bone when the crew went overboard! I eagerly await the next book in the series, Storm Front, due out this June.

Version Control by Dexter Palmer

Book–Set in the near future, Palmer’s novel follows Rebecca Wright, a thirty-something recovering alcoholic, and her physicist husband Philip. Philip has been working fruitlessly for many years on a causal volatility device (in layman’s terms, a time machine), and as far as he knows, has not been having much luck. Meanwhile, Rebecca has been having a nagging sense that something is not right; the president is not the right person, her friends’ personalities aren’t quite right, her life isn’t what it should be. Palmer has an interesting take on time travel that, without spoiling anything, powers much of the narrative. For me, the attraction of this book was the depiction of the near-future society, where the president delivers personalized messages to each citizen and cars drive themselves.

While the main character is not, in my opinion, likeable, she is very real and flawed. Palmer’s views on race, gender, marriage, and technology are very much on display here and, regardless of whether you agree with them, they are certainly interesting to read about and only occasionally preachy. Version Control is a perfect sci-fi and literary fiction blend sure to appeal to fans of Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow.

Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent

Book–Oliver Ryan, famous children’s book writer, and his loyal wife Alice, who illustrates his books, have a seemingly happy life until one night, after a very good dinner, he hits her, leaves, then comes back to beat her into a coma. The rest of the book is like peeling the layers of an onion. Nugent jumps around in chronology and in viewpoint, each character giving their take on Oliver, their past with him, and why he did it. From his harsh upbringing in a Catholic boarding school, to a fateful summer in France, to his current success, the reader gets more insight into Oliver’s character and motivations with every chapter. By the end, the reader should understand why he did it. Whether you find him sympathetic or a monster is up to you.

Like many books with this structure, it can get a little repetitive. We read tellings of the same scene from so many viewpoints that the details can wear thin by the second character’s take. Also, the story is full of too-convenient coincidences that stretch belief. Nevertheless, I read it in one sitting and found myself sucked in to Unraveling Oliver the way the best domestic thrillers suck you in. While I still found him absolutely monstrous at the end, I could see a different reader coming around to find him at least pitiable, if not sympathetic. This should appeal to people who like the recent spate of compelling Girl novels (Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, etc). If you’re looking for your next read, try B. A. Paris’ Behind Closed Doors, or, in fact, any of B. A. Paris‘ domestic thriller novels.