Month: October 2011

Check It Out Blog

House Music

Let Them Talk CD coverWe’ve made no secret of our admiration for Hugh Laurie, and now we have shining new proof that he is one of the coolest guys around. Let Them Talk is a love letter to the blues, rousingly performed with both inventiveness and skill. Laurie concedes there will be skeptics (“I was not born in Alabama in the 1890s. You may as well know this now. I’ve never eaten grits, cropped a share, or ridden a boxcar”), but his enthusiasm may just introduce a new audience to a surprising mix of New Orleans blues, spirituals, American classics, and traditional folk music. The interplay of instruments is by turns mournful and fun, and the end result is irresistible.

Bad Omens in the Smoky Mountains

The Hum and Shiver book coverPrivate Bronwyn Hyatt is back from Iraq with a busted leg and a broken shoulder. Home is a small town in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. As she heals, Bronwyn has to confront everything that made her run away in the first place:  her family, her treacherous ex-boyfriend and her people – the Tufa – a private, secretive population. While struggling to heal, Bronwyn comes upon a haint haunting her family and must discover what it wants before it’s too late. The Hum and the Shiver, by Alex Bledsoe, will be best loved by those who enjoy deep characterization and fantasy in rural settings.

Renee’s Pick: The Family Fang

Renee Staff Pick PictureThe Family Fang is definitely not about vampires. Caleb and Camille Fang are famous performance artists who involve their children in their art. So what happens to the kids of performance artists? It involves pictures on the internet, a potato gun and their parents’ greatest artistic creation ever…

“Sleep Well, and Stay Where I Put You”

Graveminder book coverThe burial rites given to the dead in Claysville are a little different.  In this town, the designated “graveminder,” a woman who is both official mourner and cemetery caretaker, administers an elaborate ritual to ensure that the dead stay buried.  It has been this way for generations, but Rebekkah knew nothing of it until she inherited the role and was told she must track down an escaped dead girl who has begun feeding her hunger.  Emma Galvin’s careful and moody reading of Graveminder by Melissa Marr plays with your existing fears and skillfully plants a few new ones.

LISTS: Grunge Music

Nevermind album coverThe Seattle Sound is marked by its hardcore, heavy metal and indie rock influences, often displaying distorted guitars and angst. Bands rebelled against the mass-consumed music and fashionable presentations that had become the norm in the big-hair-spandex ‘80s.

Once you’ve worn out your Nirvana albums, click here for more grunge music.

Guts, Blood and Sociology

The Monster Show book coverGore, girls and gruesome stories have long been a part of horror films, but are scary movies something more than boiling kettles of lust and carnage? In The Monster Show, David Skal poses that horror is a response and coping mechanism to society’s collected concerns. For example, movies about demonic children, like Rosemary’s Baby, made it big during an era when women’s reproductive rights were an overwhelming, national concern. Skal has created a conversational study on (mostly American) horror. If you haven’t had enough horror history after finishing The Monster Show, try the documentary The American Nightmare. It features prominent directors, like George RomeroWes Craven and Tobe Hooper, talking about their films and the cultural climates that inspired them.

Mr. Dark and His Pandemonium Carnival

Something Wicked This Way Comes DVD coverIt is a gusty October day when the lightning rod salesman comes to town, warning of a coming storm.  Soon an autumn carnival arrives, under the leadership of the intimidating Mr. Dark (Jonathan Pryce).  The sleepy town is ripe for excitement, and Will Halliday and Jim Nightshade investigate by night.  When citizens start disappearing, Will’s father (Jason Robards) realizes that the boys have stumbled into a frightful discovery.  Not your typical Disney fare, Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983) is the disturbing tale of an eerie carnival and its strange attractions by way of “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment”.  Ray Bradbury originally wrote the screenplay for Gene Kelly and later reworked it as a novel.  Though the studio made significant changes, including the addition of a James Horner score, the creepiness is still intact.

LISTS: If You Like Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison author photoToni Morrison is a Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist. She is best known for writing The Bluest EyeBeloved and Sula. In these books and others, Morrison creates complex characters in detailed historical settings who strive toward enlightenment against themes of racism and sexual oppression.

If you’ve exhausted Toni Morrison and want other authors who create deep characters and explore thorny, societal themes, click here.

A Scent-Obsessed Murderer

Perfume book coverJean-Baptiste was born without any personal scent and has been shunned most of his life for it. Because of his unnatural nature, Jean-Baptiste becomes obsessed with finding the most perfect smells in the world to blend into a divine perfume. Unfortunately, this makes Jean-Baptiste a dangerous man to beautiful, virginal women – their scents being the penultimate in purity – and Jean-Baptiste must kill thirteen to create his ideal fragrance. The sense of smell becomes a character equal on the page to Jean-Baptiste in Perfume, by Patrick Süskind. Perfume is a disturbingly stunning novel that has been made into an equally eloquent movie starring Ben Wishaw, Dustin Hoffman and Alan Rickman.