RRPL Gift Guide – Gifts for the Science Fiction Nerd in Your Life

Being something of a gigantic nerd myself, I know that it can be difficult to buy holiday presents for that science fiction aficionado in your life. They have all the action figures – excuse me, figurines – they could ever need, and there’s no more space for posters on their walls. Let me, a self-professed nerd, guide you on a journey to the perfect present for your loved one. 

All of these items are available through the library if you’d like to try before you buy, but please make sure to support your local independent bookstore; you can buy online and support indie bookstores with Bookshop.org.

If they love to read:

Gideon the Ninth & Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

I cannot stop raving about this series – in my opinion, these books are the best sci fi I’ve read in years. If the phrase “lesbian necromancers in space” sounds like something your nerd would like, pick up these books! Not a reader? Try gifting them the audiobook versions, which are also excellent.

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin

A sci-fi love letter to NYC mixed with Lovecraftian horror, the newest book by the author of mega-popular The Fifth Season

Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots

Has your nerd ever thought about the collateral damage that their favorite superhero creates by smashing two skyscrapers together? Choose Hench for a different take on superheroes.

Redshirts by John Skalzi 

If your nerd loves Star Trek, they’ll love Redshirts, which follows the little guys rather than the starship captains in a ‘legally distinct’ universe from Star Trek.

Star Trek: Picard: The Last Best Hope by Una McCormack

Another entry for Star Trek fans, this book is the prequel to the new series Star Trek: Picard.

Star Wars: The Mandalorian: The Art & Imagery

If your nerd can’t get enough of Baby Yoda, they’ll love this collection of art from the ultra-popular Mandalorian.

If they’re more of a movie person:

Tenet

The biggest film release of the year by one of the most acclaimed directors out there, Christopher Nolan. Your nerd is almost guaranteed to want this movie.

Star Trek: Picard Season One

Another exciting release in 2020, this new Star Trek series brings back the most beloved of starship captains, Jean Luc Picard, played by Patrick Stewart.

Underwater

This one is more of a horror entry, but still has science fiction elements. A crew of deep-sea researchers must get to safety after their underwater drilling station is hit by an earthquake.

Ex Machina

What happens when a tech genius creates a robotic AI? A sleeper science fiction hit from 2014 starring Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson.

Color Out of Space

Treat your nerd to this flick starring scenery-chewer Nicholas Cage as a farmer whose property is hit by a meteorite, based on an H. P. Lovecraft story.

Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker

If your nerd is a Star Wars fan, they’ll want to complete their collection with the final installment in the new trilogy that started with The Force Awakens.

Good luck in your hunt for the perfect present, and keep an eye on this blog for many more gift guides from other staff members in the coming week!

Reconnect@RRPL

Goodbye November 2020.

Perhaps I used up all of my “thankful for”s last week but I’ll confess that not only am I am not sorry to see this month go, I’m actually eager to turn the calendar’s page. Are you feeling drained by this year, too? Why don’t we right now decide to take it easy on ourselves on this grey and rainy Monday and last day of November evening blog post (or whenever you are reading this) and seek out a way to shut down for a spell and to relax?

My way tonight will be popping in The Return of the King, the third and final film in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. We (re)watched the first two films over Thanksgiving weekend, and despite the fact that we were not able to gather with loved-ones, we were still reminded how nice it is to spend some of our other “old friends.” Gandalf, Frodo, Sam and the rest of the Middle Earth gang helped fill an obvious void, and time spent with them was a bit of a respite from scrolling through news and dodging the already prevalent holiday shopping ads. It helped, too, that we chose a favorite where we know the good guys win in the end.

Do you need a brain-break too? Why not pick up your favorite ‘oldie but goodie,’ or put your favorite titles on hold and see if your DVD player still works? ~Carol

Reconnect@RRPL – Streaming Review

Steve Buscemi, Ray Liotta, Adam Sandler, Tim Meadows, Julie Bowen, Kevin James, Maya Rudolph, Kenan Thompson, Kelli Berglund, Karan Brar, and Noah Schnapp in Hubie Halloween (2020)

I’m a fan of Halloween films and Adam Sandler Films, so Hubie Halloween was an easy choice. Adam Sandler has created several other films in the Halloween theme with the Hotel Transylvania series looking to make its fourth film. This film is targeting an older demographic with the type of humor he has in this film. This film hovers between scary and comedic throughout, with I believe it landing on the comedic side. Sandler’s character is foolish in many ways, but his ingenuity and sincerity stand out.

The film starts out at a mental health facility with Orderly Hal (Ben Stiller) discovering one of his patients has escaped. We’re then introduced to Hubie Dubois (Adam Sandler) riding his bicycle down the street. As he’s riding, various children pelt eggs at him while he deftly dodges them. Hubie then goes to work at a deli where Mr. Landolfa (Ray Liotta) and Mike Mundi (Karan Brar) scare Hubie as a prank. Officer Steve Downey (Kevin James) is alerted that there is an escaped patient from the mental health facility who may be heading towards the town. Hubie suddenly knocks on Steve’s window to tell him that there was a boy buying an abnormal amount of toilet paper and eggs. Steve isn’t interested and the boy who Hubie tried to report chases him home.

When Hubie gets home, he meets his new neighbor Walter Lambert (Steve Buscemi). Walter seems very kind; but he warns Hubie that if he hears any weird noises from his house in the middle of the night, then he should ignore them and not come inside. We’re introduced to several characters over time leading to Halloween night. Hubie is trying to keep everyone safe, and he ends up at a high school party trying to get them to obey laws and be safe. Mike Mundi decides to play a prank on Hubie by getting someone else to say there is a child lost in the corn maze. Tommy (Noah Schnapp) and Megan (Paris Berelc) leave the party deciding the prank on Hubie is mean-spirited. After Hubie learns there isn’t anyone to save in the maze, he finds Mike Mundi tied up and then Mike is abducted by something strange.

This film has a lot of characters and I had to leave out some fairly large ones in the second half of the film to get to the suspenseful part. Hubie’s character is at first seen as a fool, but we see there are other people who respect him. I enjoyed the overall humor in the film with Adam Sandler’s character diverging from many of his other comedic characters in that Hubie is afraid and he doesn’t get mad at other people. To use Sandler’s other films to categorize this one, I’d say it has the range of storylines from films like Grown Ups but Sandler is a more extreme character like in You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. Overall, this film is filled with cameos and fun scenes. I think it even has some decent lessons about being kind to others. So, I’d recommend this as a fun Halloween film aimed at teens. Rated PG-13.

Ryan

Favorite Horror Films on Kanopy

Spooky season is finally here! Personally, I enjoy all things supernatural, spooky, and scary year-round but October is the month I can recommend my favorite books and films to those who reserve their scares just for the month of Halloween.

Kanopy has some really great horror films available for viewing right now, including some of my favorites from the past decade or so. Including an atmospheric German witch tale, a deeply disturbing story of grief and possession, and an Iranian vampire western (yes, you read that correctly) there is an amazing variety of top-notch scares waiting for you. So dim the lights, warm up some apple cider, and queue up on of these films.

Keep your eyes peeled here next Thursday to read about some of my most favorite horror books. If you love reading horror too (it is truly a wide ranging genre full of such talent!) join me later this month for Novel Scares book club where we will be discussing The Good House by Tananarive Due on Zoom.

What are some of your favorite scary movies to watch around Halloween? Share in the comments!

Chadwick Boseman’s Gift

I hadn’t read any Black Panther comics or books and had the same amount of background knowledge of his place in the Marvel Universe as I did about Thor (ie – so very, very little) before seeing the movie based on the character. Oh. My. Gosh. The 2018 film staring Chadwick Boseman was 134 minutes of greatness!! The history and lore of Wakanda, the special effects, the serious moments mixed with humorous moments, all the surprise twists, and getting to watch Chadwick Boseman create an unforgettable, strong, vulnerable hero as King T’Challa. Mr. Boseman passed away on August 29th but his kindness, his vision of what the movie industry could be, and his long list of films, speak to the legacy of this legend, taken too soon. Thank you for all the gifts you gave to us Mr. Chadwick Boseman!

Read Before You Watch

Do you like to read the book before you watch the film or television adaptation? Or are you someone who doesn’t mind seeing the screen version and then reading the book? Or, perhaps you are one of those people who only does one or the other. I must admit, there have been times that I chose not to read a book because the movie was not that interesting to me (looking at you Divergent series).

We’ve got some great television and film adaptations to look forward to, and below are a few of my top picks for books you should read before their adaptations hit your screen.

Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

A brand new HBO series just launched based on this awesome book by Matt Ruff. I really enjoyed the book, a smart mash-up of historical fiction, Lovecraftian horror, and sci-fi fantasy elements. Readers follow a series of of inter-connected stories about an extended African American family in the 1950s, mostly taking place in Chicago, and their dangerous encounters with the supernatural (sorcerers, inter-dimensional portals, a haunted house) and the terrible, rampant racism they constantly faced during the Jim Crow era.

The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock

The film adaptation of this book is slated to hit Netflix September 16th so you have plenty of time to pick up this book (which is what I plan to do as I haven’t read it yet!). Set in rural southern Ohio and West Virginia, The Devil All the Time follows a cast of characters from the end of World War II to the 1960s, including a husband and wife team of serials killers and a disturbed war veteran. The book, Pollock’s first novel, was described as “violence-soaked” from it’s first pages by The New York Times Book Review, so be prepared for a dark and disturbing read.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

This newly published horror thriller has already been put into development by Hulu according to recent news. The drama series will be based on Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s bestselling novel, and produced by Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos’ Milojo Productions and ABC Signature. Set in 1950s Mexico, Mexican Gothic follows glamorous and young socialite Noemí from her home in Mexico City to the dismal grounds of High Place, a gloomy English manor styled estate in the Mexican countryside. She is there to check in on her newlywed cousin after receiving a frantic letter begging for someone to save her. What will she discover about this odd family and strange house?

Are there any big or small screen adaptations that you are really excited about this year? Share in the comments!


Imagine Your Story @ RRPL

Lila and Lenu in Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend

I did it! I finished the Neopolitan Quartet, My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay and The Story of the Lost Child, by Elena Ferrante, and I already feel lost without “my” girls, Lila and Lenu, Ferrante’s main characters in this sweeping series of a lifelong friendship within the backdrop of a poor neighborhood of Naples, Italy.

I need to rely on some wonderful quotes from a review by Ella Alexander found at https://www.harpersbazaar.com/uk/culture/a25122947/elena-ferrante-neapolitan-novels-female-friendship/ to give an essential understanding of Lila and Lenu’s story. “We place a lot of emphasis on romantic love because of the narratives that we’re fed from such a young age. But the relationships and love we have for our female friends, especially during childhood, are equally as emotional and charged…But it’s not always rosy. There’s the jealousy, competitiveness and cruelty that people only dish out to those they love the most, and when we’re children, teenagers and even in our early twenties, we don’t understand yet how to rationalize those feelings or to temper them… It is a reminder that we never lose the love for someone who we were once so close to, and of how far someone can push another before deciding that a friendship brings more sadness than joy.”

I believe most readers will find a friendship, somewhere within their lifetime, that will cause reflection and raw emotion to surface, while reading about the journeys of Lila and Lenu. As a reader, as well as both the main characters, you come full circle and find some understanding and peace as to how we got here.

If you choose to go on this journey with Lila and Lenu, which I highly recommend, it will be lengthy, but take your time, absorb, digest, reread, if necessary. I also watched the HBO series while reading the books and found that each format, reading/watching, complimented each other very well, and ultimately enhanced the story for me.

While I will miss “my” girls”, I look forward to jumping into Ferrante’s new novel, The Lying Life of Adults, to be released September 1st, 2020.

Newly Added Kanopy Films- Top Five Picks

I’m still slowly working my way through re-watching all seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, having severely underestimated how many episodes there were in such a long running show! Luckily for me, I am in no rush. In addition to my comfort blanket of late 90s/early 2000s television, I’ve been watching plenty of movies as well (favorites of 2020 list to come soon!).

Kanopy, one of my favorite library resources, is always adding new films to their extensive catalog of streaming options so there is almost always something that catches my eye. Below you will find a round-up of my top five picks of newly added Kanopy films to watch this month.

Asako I & II

A mysterious and intoxicating pop romance, this film begins with Asako, a young woman who meets and falls madly in love with a drifter, Baku, who one day drifts right out of her life. Two years later, working in Tokyo, Asako sees Baku again or, rather, a young, solid businessman named Ryohei who bears a striking resemblance to her old flame. They begin building a happy life together until traces of Asako’s past start to resurface.

Official Selection at the Cannes Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, BFI London Film Festival.

Welcome to Me

I adore Kristen Wiig and this film casts her in the role of Alice Klieg, a young woman with Borderline Personality Disorder who wins the lottery. She quits her psychiatric meds and buys her own talk show and inspired by Oprah, she broadcasts her dirty laundry as both a form of exhibitionism and a platform to share her peculiar views on everything from nutrition to relationships to neutering pets. Also starring other fabulous actors such as Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack, and Linda Cardellini.

Hari-Kiri: Death of a Samurai

Revenge, honor and disgrace collide when a samurai’s request to commit ritual suicide leads to a tense showdown with his feudal lord. From cult auteur Takashi Miike, beautiful cinematography, awesome fight choreography, and a heart-wrenching plot all come together in this unpredictable film.

Nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

Wild Nights with Emily

In the mid-19th century, Emily Dickinson is writing prolifically, baking gingerbread, and enjoying a passionate, lifelong romantic relationship with another woman, her friend and sister-in-law Susan…yes this is the iconic American poet, popularly thought to have been a recluse. Beloved comic Molly Shannon leads in this humorous yet bold reappraisal of Dickinson, informed by her private letters. A timely critique of how women’s history is rewritten and perhaps a closer depiction of Emily Dickinson’s real life than anything seen before.

Official Selection at the SXSW Film Festival.

The Lighthouse

Two lighthouse keepers, played by Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe, fight each other for survival and sanity on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s. From Robert Eggers, the visionary filmmaker behind the horror masterpiece (and one of my favorite films) The Witch.

Nominated for an Academy Award. Official Selection at the Cannes Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival.

What films have been your favorites so far this year? Do you have any stellar picks on Kanopy to share? Post in the comments! Happy viewing and stay safe out there readers.

Imagine Your Story – Movie Review

Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson, and Alexandra Daddario in Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2013)

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is the sequel to Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief. This film seems to take a different tone from the last one. While the last film could have been a self-contained adventure, this film works on world building to expand the Percy Jackson universe. There isn’t a third film though despite there being a third book called The Titan’s Curse, but there is also an announcement that Disney will make a series for their streaming service. I still found this film enjoyable though and it made me want more. However, I do feel like certain character growth regresses in this film.

The film starts off with a flashback to demigods fleeing from cyclopes. One girl gets struck down, and so Zeus turns her into a tree to protect the demigod camp. We then see that years later Chiron (Anthony Head) and Mr. D (Stanley Tucci) are surprised by a new demigod who made it past the barrier. When they ask if he knows who their parent is, he points to an image of Poseidon one of the big three gods. We then see that Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) is struggling on an obstacle course against his rival Clarisse (Leven Rambin). Clarisse ends up winning, and we learn Percy has been doubting himself in comparison to Clarisse.

Percy gets called into Mr. D’s office and learns that he has a half-brother who is half cyclops called Tyson (Douglas Smith). Percy starts showing Tyson around when suddenly the barrier around the camp is attacked. A metallic bull breaks through and with help from others is defeated by Percy. Luke (Jake Abel) shows up explaining he survived the fight before and he is still seeking to overthrow the gods. Luke explains he poisoned the tree that creates the barrier around the camp and leaves. Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) figures out the only way to cure the tree is by finding the Golden Fleece which can heal anything. Clarisse gets chosen to go on this quest, but Percy and his friends decide to go on the same quest separately worried about the consequences of failure.

This film seems to develop many areas at once. One area that particularly bothers me is the introduction of Clarisse in respect to Annabeth. Annabeth was supposed to be the star at the camp, and Clarisse seems to take that role from her relegating Annabeth to mostly be support. The film does have several interesting scenes and keeps the idea of being an adventure with multiple locations used. With the introduction of two new characters, the franchise seems to be gaining momentum here. Which is the reason the ending almost feels too soon. While they resolve their main conflict, they strongly suggest there will be greater adventures to come. Rated PG.

Ryan

Streaming Film Festival

Earlier this year when the Cleveland Film Festival was still planning their 44th year, and a grand bon voyage to the original hosting venue, Tower City, Rocky River Public Library was excited to be a community partner for the film Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century. Based on the book by the same name written by French economist, Thomas Piketty.

Spoiler alert, the film fest was canceled. BUT!

The great news is that the movie is now available to stream for free on Kanopy with your RRPL card!

The CIFF website has a page dedicated to searching for alumni movies now available on a variety of streaming services. The call it CIFF ALUM STREAMS and it is awesome!

With the power of the CIFF Alum Streams database and a library card, you can spend the rest of the pandemic streaming 44 years of amazing cinema from around the world. Give it a try!

-Beth