September 2013 Archives

The Gold Coast

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Click for availability and more information The Gold Coast, by Nelson DeMille
 
For dedicated readers, it is always a pleasure to finally have time to discover an author whose works have not yet been read. Such is the case for this reviewer with Nelson DeMille, an extremely popular writer of fiction, and one of his earlier books The Gold Coast. The title refers to a northeastern enclave of Long Island noted for its collection of extremely wealthy residents and their large, architecturally impressive estates.

DeMille centers his story of John Sutter, who is an attorney catering to the financial and estate planning needs of his rich clientele. His wife Susan and their two children enjoy a life filled with many luxuries. However, the Sutter's world is turned upside down when Frank Bellarosa, a reputed Mafia boss, settles into the estate next door to theirs. DeMille's masterly crafted tale shows John Sutter attempting to deal with personal life crises while being unwittingly pulled into Bellarosa's world of corruption and crime. Sutter is a great and fun character - sarcastic, witty, smart and seemingly bent of self destruction at times. Frank Bellarosa is magnetic as he draws the Sutters under his control.

The Gold Coast is a wonderfully enjoyable read with great characters, a constantly unfolding plot of intrigues with Bellarosa and the Sutters, and terrific writing that gives the reader both a great story and insight into the charmed, though tragic at times, world of the Gold Coast residents.
-Roy

The Forgotten

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Click for availability and more information The Forgotten
 
A mother grieves for a son she lost in a plane crash over a year ago. Mysteriously, people around her - her husband, psychiatrist, neighbors - start forgetting she ever had a son. Her son's image begins disappearing from family photos. The woman befriends another man, who lost a child; but she has to jolt his memory before he remembers he had a daughter. Suddenly, they are stalked by a mysterious man, and the NSA is in pursuit. This is just the beginning of the mystery thriller DVD The Forgotten. Although some of the film shots are in the dark and it's hard to see the action, this movie is well-worth viewing.
-Carl

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Hesitation Marks

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Click for availability and more information Hesitation Marks, Nine Inch Nails
 
First, a word about reviews. In reading the many reviews so far for Hesitation Marks, Nine Inch Nails' first album in five years, a simple fact was once again made very apparent to me: those reviewers (like me) who love this album had to give it many repeat listens before being able to get into it. This is something I've known about Trent Reznor's music for decades. It's something I'd say that most of the fans seem to know. And it is something so-called "professional" reviewers claiming any expertise on the band are also supposed to know (hence the "professional" moniker). There isn't a single NIN album I've ever listened to where I was able to "get it" on one pass, and the same goes for any credible music critics I've ever heard from. And yet there are those out there who insist on making the mistake of assuming that they can mentally, aesthetically, rhythmically absorb an entire album this complex and layered in one sitting and then have anything meaningful to say about it. I hope like heck I'm not coming off as pretentious or elitist here because I truly am not trying to be, but for someone to give a new NIN album a proper chance, I believe at least a minimum of a half-dozen listens is required to really begin to grasp the depth and complexity of the music. For me, I'm well past a dozen listens and I'm still picking up all kinds of new things, and I know I still will be even after the next dozen. And yet I've been seeing occasional reviews by professionals (and amateurs) who insist on trying to write an intelligible review after their single solitary listen, only to end up sounding foolish. So, word to the wise: just like every other NIN album ever released, you'll want to give Hesitation Marks a proper chance to work its way into your head--the time investment truly pays off here.130621-nine-inch-nails.jpg

That said, one does not so much "listen" to a NIN album as "experience" it. Don't get me wrong--there are the more immediately accessible tracks (inevitably released as singles) such as "Came Back Haunted" and "Copy of a" (and I would say "Satellite" fits the bill as well) that can each stand on its own readily enough from the start before one has had a chance to discover other soon-to-be favorites. But there's an overall compositional/thematic structure to each NIN album that lends itself more to complete listening once the novelty of the singles begins to wear off. If I had to put a name to it, my impression of Hesitation Marks's over-arching theme is one of "evolution". The persona or alter-ego Trent Reznor often refers to in his lyrics seems to have undergone some metamorphosis and is leaving his old self behind (this concept is at its most overt, I feel, in "Everything"). I doubt this is coincidence, given the changes he's experienced in his personal life over the past few years (marriage, children, etc). 7000306519_a35235d68b_z.jpgThe music itself has also changed; I've heard Trent Reznor previously described elsewhere as never doing the same thing twice, and I think it's true. Every NIN album sounds different from every other. He (and his collaborators, I should say) experiments with new sounds, instruments, melodies... Hesitation Marks carries on boldly with that tradition, though I know I've picked up on intentional references to previous work in a number of tracks. As an example, in "Various Methods of Escape" I even noticed something reminiscent of the opening credits scoring Trent composed for the movie Se7en! But I feel that these sprinkled references to past compositions serve, mainly by comparison, to highlight the progression or evolution along new musical directions. This is even evident in the album art, which evokes that of The Downward Spiral while still managing to be something new (it's no wonder, really, given that the same artist, Russell Mills, is responsible for both).

I can't recommend this album highly enough. It has something for almost every NIN fan, and I'm sure it will entice new ones as well. I'm eager to see how and which songs get worked into NIN's phenomenal live show when I go to see them in October.
-Will
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Cosmopolis

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Click for availability and more information Cosmopolis
 
Cosmopolis is not your usual movie. It depicts a world where information is the most important commodity. The lead character, Eric Packer, is a rich genius, who can process information in nanoseconds - incredibly interpreting what will happen next. His character is very rigid, lacking emotion. It seems as though he's become bored with processing data, and yearns for something to shake up his life. He hedges his bets against Chinese currency, putting his company's entire fortune at risk. Eric marries into a book-publishing family, and it seems to be a marriage of convenience. His new bride spurns his sexual advances. Despite warnings from his bodyguard (the city is under siege by G8-type protesters and Eric has become the target of an unknown assassin) , he sets out in a limo to "get a haircut". He starts looking for raw sex, danger and adventure. His trip to the barber seems to be an attempt to connect with his past. As a backdrop, society seems to be splitting into 2 groups - the wealthy, who control information, and the poor, who don't control technology. At times he seems to be looking for answers to philosophical questions, which he can't totally comprehend. I think this intrigues him.

It takes a while to get into this movie, but if you stick with it, I think you'll find it interesting.. The acting and special effects are superb, and the plot is very entertaining. It makes you wonder if this is a window into our future!
-Carl

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Archer's Quest

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Click for availability and more information Archer's Quest, by Linda Sue Park
 
When a legendary king of ancient Korea suddenly appears in twelve year-old Kevin's home, Kevin must figure out how to return the ancient leader to his own time before the Chinese New Year.
-Deirdre

Click for availability and more information Stink and the World's Worst Super-Stinky Sneakers, by Megan McDonald
 
A class visit to the Gross-Me-Out exhibit at the science museum inspires Stink Moody to create a variety of terrible smells to put on the sneakers he plans to enter in the World's Worst Super-Stinky Sneaker contest.
-Deirdre

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