I don’t know about you, but I just can’t rationalize paying for all of the streaming TV out there. Instead, I like to get caught up on the popular series by checking them out from the library because it’s free! Sometimes that means I’m a little late to the party, but I don’t mind. The shows (if you are as good as avoiding spoilers as I am) are just as good, and in reality, I don’t always have the time to do the binge-watching necessary to keep current with several series. (There is reading to be done after all!)
My latest free score was checking out the first season of Barry on DVD. This dark comedy airs on HBO and stars Bill Hader as Barry Berkman/Barry Block, a Marine turned hit-man who is lonely and dissatisfied. After traveling from his hometown of Cleveland to Los Angeles to “work” (aka, murder someone), Barry finds himself drawn to a community of aspiring actors. Barry inadvertently steps into an acting class led by Gene Cousineau, who is played by Henry Winkler, and decides to quit the life of crime in order to become a full-time performer, but just can’t seem to keep his bloody past from creeping into his new life. While the content is dark, it is also, often, hilarious, and this viewer couldn’t help but root for the guy who was, at times, literally hurting the people he loves.
Sound like your cup of tea, too? Place your hold on series 1 of Barry in our catalog today. And, then, we can (impatiently) wait together for the DVD release of season 2.
I feel like it was a million years ago that I read and loved The Alienist by Caleb Carr. Published in 1994 (so, not a million years, per se), this novel was the first in Carr’s dark historical fiction series featuring Dr. Laszlo Kreizler as an ahead-of-his-time psychologist whose ability to profile criminals helps track down serial killers. Kreizler is assisted by Times reporter and friend of Teddy Roosevelt, John Schuyler Moore, and society woman-turned-trailblazing policewoman Sara Howard. This team is not afraid of gritty scenes and certainly finds them in 1890s New York City when a string of street children are gruesomely murdered. In this novel and its two sequels, Carr’s magic is his character development and slow building suspense.
In 2018, I was thrilled when “The Alienist” was was released as a TNT television series, starring Daniel Brühl, Luke Evans, and Dakota Fanning. For me, it checked all the boxes for good murder mystery viewing: lush period setting, beautiful fashion, brooding intensity, and fine acting.
I’m even more excited that the second season, “The Alienist: The Angel of Darkness,” debuted last night! After watching the two hour premiere, not only am I a little extra sleepy today, I am already looking forward to next week’s episode to see what will befall my favorite characters.
If you are ready to dive in, just know that both the TV series and books are dark and violent–you can’t have a criminal profiler if there isn’t a criminal, right? Disclaimers aside, find sometime for a book that will stay with you throughout the years and pick up Caleb Carr’s 1995 Anthony Award for Best First Novel, The Alienist, or set your DVR.
It’s true confession time–I’m a bit obsessed with a video game. Red Dead Redemption II is a survival game set in 1890s in a fictionalized representation of the Western, Midwestern, and Southern United States. Players become Arthur Morgan, a member of a notorious gang, and are encouraged to follow the game’s story-line in order survive the decline of the Wild West, government forces, rival gangs, and other adversaries. Usually, this kind of a game is a bit too shoot-em-up for my style, but I find that as Arthur, I can mount a horse, ignore the missions the game wants me to embark on, and instead just ride on and on, enjoying the gorgeous landscape of early 19th-Century America. Don’t laugh –the scenery in this game is indeed that good. In fact, the game designers actually were inspired by 19th-century painters like Rembrandt and American landscape artists who were members of the Hudson River School when they created this game. After an hour of play, I’m relaxed from all the flora and fauna around me and, oh yeah, did I mention that I get to be a cowboy too?
In reality, taming the wilderness was neither all that fun or easy, and I get to see that in live action too, while I’m watching “Barkskins” on the National Geographic channel. This TV adaptation of Annie Proulx’s 2016 novel is set in the colonial region of New France in the last years of the 17th-century. It chronicles the deforestation of the New World, beginning with the arrival of two immigrants to New France, René Sel and Charles Duquet, who are tasked with work as wood-cutters, or “barkskins.” As you might imagine, it’s a rough life for these men, and on all sides there is threat of death as English and French vie for land and power. The show, lavishly set with wood-built settlements of the main town, dark candle-lit interiors and rustic pathways where we would have modern city streets, creates the feel of danger around every corner and puts viewers right in the action. Part western, part soap opera, part saga of good versus evil, this show is 100% totally binge-able. I dare you to look away.
Want some adventure in your life? Place a hold for Barkskins in book format in our catalog here. And, don’t forget to place holds on all your favorite videogames, including Red Dead Redemption II for Playstation 4 and Xbox One
I admit it, I love a good serial killer story. And, no, the quarantine didn’t drive me to it; I just like the way that authors let us readers live inside of the mind of fictional characters, and some of those characters happen to be serial killers.
If we want to trace the beginnings, though, while I’m sure I was influenced by all the baddies that Stephen King had to offer back in the day, I first, truly fell for a serial killing character in The Talented Mr. Ripleyby Patricia Highsmith. I admit to reading this one after seeing the flick starring Matt Damon and Jude Law. Reading it really made me fall for Ripley, though. So misunderstood, so handsome, so deadly.
Next up was when I met Dexter in the novels by Jeff Lindsay-and my friend tells me the series is great too. But here, too, I encountered an utterly handsome and charming guy, who is almost perfect– minuses for working as a blood spatter analyst (yuck!) and for regularly murdering people (but he only murders bad people!)? So, who wouldn’t fall for that kind of guy…am I right?
Oh, and then there is Patrick Bateman from Brett Easton Ellis’ American Psycho, who was, to be honest, fun reading about, but I wouldn’t want to run into personally. Ew, actually, he was pretty demented, Let’s just skip him.
Which brings me to today’s obsession–Villanelle. My latest serial killer obsession is the star of Killing Eve, a BBC show that just concluded its third season. This British black comedy-drama spy thriller television series follows Eve Polastri (the amazing Sandra Oh), as a British intelligence investigator who has been tasked with capturing the psychopathic assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer). As the chase progresses, the two develop a mutual obsession. I’m with you, Eve. I can’t wait for season four either!
I get it if these murderous types aren’t your cup of tea, though. Just wait a week and I’ll likely be back to birds and kittens.
It’s been hard to concentrate lately. I know that many people also are feeling this way right now. I’m even (sniff sniff) having a hard time reading. So, for some escape this week, and for lots and lots and lots of laughs, I’ve been streaming NBC’s Superstore, starring America Ferrera. The quirky characters on this multi-season sitcom are coworkers at Cloud 9, a big box store, where hi-jinx ensue on the regular. This show just might help you stop missing your coworkers whileworking from home.
What else am I watching? Birds! We are an advanced-beginner bird-watching household. We have our dog-eared guide book and hurry each other to the window to see something new.
Ducks. Hummingbirds (Yes, they are back even with this snow!). Orioles. Nuthatches. I know these birds have always been in (or migrating through) my yard, but it feels like I am seeing them with new eyes. This shutdown has provided me with an opportunity to be present, it slows me down when I feel restless and uncertain and helps me appreciate what is around me– my backyard, my pets, my family. To be comforted by the familiar, and to be open to viewing the familiar in a new light are starting to feel like gifts.
I see more birds because I am looking more, which takes time. I know that eventually everything will bounce back and return to a new version of normal, but I aim to hold on a bit to the good stuff I’ve learned from this. When life picks its pace back up, I plan to keep taking the time to take time.
No, I wasn’t on jury duty, but I’ve recently been to court–Henry VIII’s court, that is! I’ve just read The Mirror and the Lightby Hilary Mantel, a novel I’ve waited eight years for. This novel closes Mantel’s historical fiction trilogy, depicting the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII, ultimately leading to Cromwell’s execution. (Now, now, don’t be mad. It’s not a spoiler, that’s an actual fact!) Mantel’s Cromwell is a dynamic, believable and sympathetic character. Readers will love him as he commits despicable acts, root for him even as he is doomed. She won Man Booker Awards for her first two in the series (Wolf Hall, 2009 and Bring Up the Bodies, 2012) and her latest is a satisfying and poignant conclusion. Oh, but it is 754 pages. Beyond worth reading for this fan, but if you wanted the DVD or streaming version, you’ve lucked out. It (sort of) exists.
Wolf Hall is the British television of the first two books in the trilogy and was broadcast on PBS Masterpiece in April 2015, winning a Golden Globe for Best Miniseries or Television Film. Starring Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell, Damian Lewis as Henry VIII, and Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn, this six part series is beautifully acted, darkly lit, and filmed with incredible attention to period detail and faithfulness to the books. I’m hoping they’ll adapt book three!
Politics, murder, backstabbing and family drama–Cromwell’s life was full of it and his story provides a fascinating escape. Sure the history is dark, the characters are doomed, and we know how it will end, but I dare you to look away.
I’ve had a tough time this past week finding joy in my recent book and TV choices. I only have myself to blame for watching Hunters–an Amazon series that actually landed on my radar because it is controversial. Al Pacino stars as a Holocaust survivor with many secrets–among them is that he heads up a group of New Yorkers in the 1970s, who run around murdering Nazis, Tarantino-style. Though slick, violent and action-packed, the usual recipe for a winning hit, I found that this show, which is in hot water after being accused of revising history and exploitation, was just not for me. Have you seen it? Agree? Disagree?
I read The Regrets by Amy Bonnaffons, a first novel that is touted as a “love affair between the living and the dead,” and I wanted to love it. The premise: Thomas is a recently dead man who is sent back to live for an extra three months because of an angel’s clerical error. He begins a relationship with Rachel, a living woman who feels unable to make fulfilling connections with others. It was quirky, sexy and original and I rushed to the end, but I ultimately found the star-crossed lovers’ relationship to be codependent and toxic. I’ll try Bonnaffons again, but no, for me, this one wasn’t true love.
Maybe these bold and unusual choices would have dazzled me in different circumstances, but right now I’m craving light. This morning I looked for new visitors at our bird feeder, noticing a smaller woodpecker I’ve never seen before, the mallard duck couple who visit here early in the mornings, and the many new flowers springing up around the yard. I am restored.
Take care of yourself, wash hands, read and repeat.
Feeling overwhelmed? Slow down. At the very least you can at least control what you are watching and reading. Here are some recommendations, just in time.
If you are looking for something different to binge-watch, “Raised by Wolves” is available via our free Acorn TV service https://rockyriveroh.rbdigital.com/ and is a “pleasantly raunchy British comedy,” according to the The New York Times. Portraying the eccentricities of a home-schooled family of six children, their headstrong single mother, and randy grandfather, this show isn’t for everyone, but its two seasons are refreshingly honest and original and filled with moments of comic gold.
In need of a satisfying page-turner? Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid fits the bill. Deceiving in appearance with its cute title and cover art, this novel about the connections between two women—a twenty-eight-year-old black babysitter and the well-meaning woman who employs her, will make you think about race and privilege, and is reminiscent of Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. Find a digital eBook or audio copy of the book at https://clevnet.overdrive.com/clevnet-rrpl/content/
If these sound like your cup of tea, enjoy. And, stay safe!
Many of us here at the library are shall I say….slightly, just a little bit – ah, who am I kidding, REALLY into George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series. Some of us have read the books, some just have watched the show, but cries of “Can you believe that Red Wedding?” or “Wow, that Cersei is ice cold!” have been heard around the water cooler.
I don’t know if the popularity is due to the medieval setting, the dragons or the crazy complicated plots, but I do know that the complex characters are one facet that we all love to dissect. So we’ve decided to share our favorites and include a poll so you can join the fun!
Chanel: My favorite characters from the Game of Thrones series are both Daenerys Targaryen and Arya Stark. Both of these ladies are strong female characters who have overcome obstacles placed upon them at a very young age due to their sex and family tragedy. I admire the fact that they are both survivors who fight hard to survive and will not let anything or anyone hinder them from their goals. They are, in my opinion the Wonder Women of Westeros!
Trent: Arya Stark: I respect Arya as she drives her own narrative. She is not controlled or manipulated by others, but instead chooses a path and lets no obstacle prevent her from moving indomitably forward towards her goal. Arya exudes those hard-to-define-but-you-know-them-when-you-see-them qualities – moxie, pluck, and chutzpah.
Laura: My favorite character is Jon Snow. Jon is the bastard son of Eddard Stark and was raised at the castle Winterfell, the ancestral seat of House Stark and he is unaware of the identity of his mother. Jon is described as having the “Stark look”, long face, grey eyes and a lean build. Lady Catelyn Stark, Eddard’s wife, views Jon with an icy scorn as he is a constant reminder of her husband’s infidelity but Jon develops a warm and loving relationship with his half-siblings especially the tom-boy Arya (who resembles Jon and like him feels she does not fit in.)
Jon adopts the direwolf Ghost and takes him north to join the Night’s Watch while the rest of the Stark family heads south to face all kinds of turmoil. Jon is loyal, perceptive, strong and brave. I hope he makes it to the end!
Dori: There are so many juicy characters but I have to say that Tyrion Lannister fascinates me. He’s whip smart, both emotionally and intellectually, and because he’s always been persecuted within his family and in the outside world because of his dwarfism, he feels at home with the lower classes, the outcasts and the underdogs. He usually finds his way to what is ‘right’, even if the journey is a little twisted. And he’s still around – they haven’t managed to kill him off!
Megan: The world of Game of Thrones is full of characters we love and even more who we love to hate. It’s easy to love Jon Snow and Daenarys Targaryen. It’s also easy to despise Cersei Lannister and Joffrey Bannister. Some of my favorite characters are the ones who manage to stay good and true, despite the constant turmoil. Yes, Jon Snow is good and true and swoonworthy, but what about Samwell Tarly? I love how kind, loyal, and insightful he is. That description is also fitting for Brienne of Tarth. For me one of the best things about this series is the abundance of powerful women. I always find myself rooting for Arya and Sansa and Daenarys. How’s that for picking a favorite character? I had to take the easy way out and name them all!
Matt presents a haiku: Onion smuggler
With finger bones close in pouch
Ser Davos Seaworth