Check It Out

Check It Out Blog

The Best of Television

John Adams DVD coverThe 60th Annual Primetime Emmys were awarded this week, and the best in television is available at your library:

The HBO biopic miniseries John Adams set a new record with 13 awards, including those for Outstanding Miniseries, Writing, Lead Actor (Paul Giamatti) and Lead Actress (Laura Linney).  Mad Men (AMC), a freshman show about a 1960s advertising agency, became the first basic cable series to be honored as Outstanding Drama.  For Outstanding Comedy Series, 30 Rock (NBC) won for a second year in a row.  Also from 30 Rock, Alec Baldwin took the trophy for Lead Actor, and Tina Fey won for both Lead Actress and for Writing.  Other award recipients include Damages (FX), Entourage (HBO), Cranford (PBS), and Recount (HBO).

The Age of Rock

Young at Heart DVD coverA crowd cheers wildly, the guitar and drums sound out an infectious beat, and one of the lead singers steps into the spotlight…with her walker.  This is Young @ Heart, a senior citizen singing group whose song list includes hits from James Brown, Sonic Youth, Prince, and Coldplay.  In a singularly entertaining film from Fox Searchlight Pictures, director Stephen Walker showcases the concert preparations of an amazing chorus of members for whom the average age is 80.  Their music takes on added importance when the health of two members begins to fail, and the singers try all the harder to celebrate the gift of life and the power of song.  This remarkable story will tap your toes, lift your spirits, and inspire your heart.

A Deadly Chess Game

The Rook book coverWhen Special Agent Patrick Bowers is called to San Diego to help solve a series of arsons, he doesn’t expect a crazed homeless man to attack his car and to jump in front of an oncoming trolley.  Even more shocking is the growing suspicion that this bizarre suicide is somehow connected to the fires he is investigating.  The Rook by Steven James is a suspenseful and fast-moving story with twists and clues aplenty.  Bowers must match wits with the shadowy figures manipulating players in this horrible game, including a frightening adversary who eagerly chooses pain over freedom.

When Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction

Monster of Florence book coverA bestselling author becomes entangled in the unsolved murder case of Italy’s most infamous serial killer, even finding himself under suspicion of acting as an accessory.  Though this may sound like one of Douglas Preston’s thrillers, you’ll find his latest book shelved under non-fiction.  The Monster of Florence recounts the fascinating and unsettling true story of Preston’s interest in a grisly crime that occurred years before in the olive grove next to his new villa.  A chance encounter with journalist Mario Spezi sparks a collaborative investigation of their own, but their research leads to interrogations, arrest, and a confrontation with the possible killer himself.

Buildings That Will Not Bore

Sketches of Frank Gehry DVD cover“That is so stupid-looking, it’s great!” may not be what you expect to hear from an architect during the creative process, but Frank Gehry lives to defy convention.  His designs, including the Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago, express uninhibited feeling with three-dimensional objects and yet are wholly functional.  In the documentary film Sketches of Frank Gehry (2006, Sony Pictures Classics), longtime friend Sydney Pollack traces the development of Gehry’s ideas from doodled line drawings and poster board models to gasp-inducing creations around the world.  What results is a tour of unusual angles, interesting shapes, and daring risks that inspires each of us to think outside of the box.

A Second Helping of Chocolat

The Girl with no Shadow book coverIf you prefer your candy semi-sweet, you will enjoy sampling Joanne Harris‘s latest novel, The Girl with No Shadow.  Vianne Rocher has left the small French village that was her home in Chocolat for a subdued life in Paris with her daughters Anouk and Rosette.  Enter Zozie de l’Alba, an exuberant woman with lollipop shoes and a shady past, who becomes a little too interested in Vianne and her shop.  Anouk is entranced, especially by hints of magic that she longs to explore, though she knows her mother would not approve.  Rich, mysterious, and flavorful, The Girl with No Shadow is a satisfying return to the charms of the chocolaterie.

I’ve Got You Under My Skin

Infected book coverIt begins as an itch that will not go away.  Soon blue triangles are visible under the skin – and they are growing.  Podcasting author Scott Sigler has earned comparisons to Chuck Palahniuk and Stephen King for his new print novel, Infected, in which a vicious disease turns average Americans into psychotic killers.  The government seems to be two steps behind in finding any explanation, and the graphic crime scenes are multiplying.  In the meantime, a former football player is waging his own personal war with the triangles in his body, even as they begin to talk to him.  This fast-paced story of paranoia and terror will make your skin crawl in a whole new way.

A Tapestry of the ’70s

Girls Like Us book coverJo of Information Services recommends Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon – And the Journey of a Generation by Sheila Weller:

Their music provided the soundtrack for the ’70s and their talent drove them to success in the male-dominated world of rock ‘n’ roll. The songs of Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell and Carole King told the stories of their lives and these “golden girls” seemed to have it all.  But their public personas belied their struggles to find happiness in a time of great social upheaval and change.

In her book, Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon – And the Journey of a Generation, author Sheila Weller painstakingly researched not only the three singers but also the times they lived through, weaving their life stories into the backdrop of the ’70s.  It’s a journey you won’t want to miss!