Month: January 2013

Check It Out Blog

Sword and Sorcery Meets Detective Fiction

Dark Jenny book coverFor 25 pieces of gold a day, sword jockey Eddie LaCrosse will take on almost any case. His office is above Angelina’s Tavern. One slow night, an occupied, oversized coffin is delivered to Angelina’s. All the regulars egg Eddie on to tell them who is in the coffin and how he could possibly know without prying the lid off. Eddie tells of a long-ago case on the island kingdom of Grand Braun, where King Marcus Drake is beloved by his people and Queen Jennifer is accused of adultery and murder. In Dark Jenny by Alex Bledsoe, Eddie unravels if Queen Jennifer is a killer and who is in the coffin so many years later.

Also, if you love audiobooks, Dark Jenny is a great listen, read by Stefan Rudnicki.

There’s More Than One of Everything

Fringe DVD coverFringe is more than you think it is. Yes, it began with X-Files-like investigations into strange events, and you’ll certainly find episodes with the best storytelling elements of science fiction, fantasy, and even horror. However, it grows beyond formulaic genre fare. Fringe became a complex and poignant exploration of parenthood, identity, and humanity. Terrific performances, most especially that of John Noble as the repentant, Red Vine-loving mad scientist, expose the beating hearts beneath dual worlds. Not many series boast episodes that include a noir musical, an LSD-fueled jump into animation, or a twenty-five-year fast-forward into dystopia, but that’s par for the course on a show that embraces the full spectrum of human emotion, from the creepy to the heart-tugging.

A Law Professor Examines Drug Laws

“The fate of millions of people – indeed the future of the black community itself – may depend on the willingness of those who care about racial justice to re-examine their basic assumptions about the role of the criminal justice system in our society.”

To begin that examination, check out Michelle Alexander’s nonfiction bestseller, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

LISTS: Salsa Music

Rough Guide to Tito Puente album coverIzzy Sanabria, a Latin music promoter from New York, was credited with popularizing the term “salsa” to define Latin dance music in the 1970s. Tito Puente hated the term, and supposedly stated, “I’m a musician, not a cook.” Whether you call it Cuban music, Latin music, or salsa, it can really get a joint jumping.

Click here to get your salsa listening party started.

Getting By in Kansas

The Agriculture Hall of Fame book coverModern day Kansas is full of pick-up trucks, mess-ups, dirty living, lost loves, wasted life, and wanting more…all under a gray sky in Andrew Malan Wilward’s debut short story collection The Agriculture Hall of Fame. Milward attempts to nail down the identity of America’s center-most state, a prairie where his characters feel passed by life, rather than presently living in it. Farm life, fundamentalism, drugs, and corporatism in grassland living are all themes of Milward’s excellent, Midwestern collection. If you liked Frank Bill’s Crimes in Southern Indiana, but want something a little less bloody, but still somewhat cynical, try The Agriculture Hall of Fame.

Cynthia’s Pick: Six Feet Under

Cynthia staff picks photoMichael C. Hall can’t seem to escape death. Before he was Dexter, he was a mortician in Six Feet Under. He’s part of a quirky family whose lives are entwined with the funeral home their father left after suddenly dying. Although the setting seems maudlin, the show is about relationships, expected and unexpected, and their complications.

Two Women of Little Rock

Elizabeth and Hazel book coverA picture may be worth a thousand words, but in the case of Elizabeth Eckford and Hazel Bryan, a single photo set a course for the rest of their lives. In September 1957, 15-year-old Elizabeth was one of the first African-American students scheduled to attend an integrated school. She was prevented from entering the building by an abusive mob of adults and fellow students, including Hazel who was captured on film with her face contorted with hatred. Elizabeth and Hazel by David Margolick is the story of the events that led each woman to that day and how their lives have been irrevocably intertwined ever since. You may think you already know about this volatile time of American history, but these unwitting poster girls for the Civil Rights Movement are examples of how much we still have to learn.

A Seamstress and Five Orphans

Chintana is a struggling seamstress going through a divorce. She accidentally ends up at her husband’s mistress’ house for a birthday party. A storyteller has been brought in to entertain the children, but his story is a dark one. You see, there is a sword – a sword that might even be in the long black box set before the audience – that only causes harm to its victims after they have aged to 50. The Fifty Year Sword is an experimental novella by Mark Z. Danielewski. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Danielewski has a major cult following for his first novel, House of Leaves.

LISTS: Native American Authors

Blasphemy book coverSherman Alexie has said, “If one reads enough books one has a fighting chance. Or better, one’s chances of survival increase with each book one reads.”

To increase your chance of survival and get to know the fiction of Sherman Alexie, and other Native American authors, click here.