brass sunDo you enjoy world-building? If you do, then I recommend Brass Sun, a science fiction and steampunk graphic novel by Ian Edginton and I.N.J. Culbard. In this graphic novel, Edginton and Culbard take the world-building idea often present in science fiction and fantasy novels and give it a quite literal translation. Someone actually built the Wheel of Worlds in Brass Sun and after its creation, the creator gave each world a piece of the key that when whole, would allow all of the worlds to reach and restart the sun. Sounds like a solid plan to make sure everyone gets along, right? Not even close.

The Great War broke out amongst all the worlds as some worlds clamored for all the pieces of the key, while others struggled to stay out the way. Hoping to lessen the damage, the tram/train system that connects the worlds is closed off, plunging the worlds into further chaos. After the Great War ends, the surviving inhabitants see their beliefs shift and the surviving knowledge about the Brass Sun and the Wheel of Worlds begins to be twisted.

Now this giant mechanical solar system is dying. It’s failing. The outer worlds are starting to freeze and inhabitants are dying by the millions. Sounds like a pretty cut-and-dry and fairly urgent problem that the governing party would want to solve quickly, right? Nope. INSERT ALL THE CHAOS!

First of all, there are MAJOR disagreements throughout the people in charge regarding who and how the world was created and for what purpose. There is this mysterious religious order who is literally burning people at the stake if they disagree with the common doctrine, ie. if these dissenters say that the cog is failing and the world is slowing down, they’re lying and must die! The Orthodoxy believes if you have faith, there is nothing wrong. There is also a whole class of royalty fighting amongst themselves with their dissent stemming from the aftermath of the Great War. On one of the worlds where ice is encroaching, a young girl named Wren is given a piece of the key by her grandfather and entrusted to save the galaxy. Thrust into this crazy chaos with absolutely no idea how to complete this task, she starts collecting a rather ragtag group of accomplices to help her. The power to save the galaxy rests in her alone though. The art in this graphic novel is stunning, the colors bright with brilliant world creation. The art combined with the elaborate storytelling hooks you in and definitely left me rooting for a positive outcome.

orphan blackOrphan Black is an action thriller television series that debuted in 2013 on BBC America. The fourth season is set to begin in April 2016.

Orphan Black begins by introducing viewers to Sarah Manning, a woman back in the states and on the run from an abusive relationship who is trying to get in contact with her young daughter whom she hasn’t seen in over 10 months. She’s getting ready to take the train when she sees a woman commit suicide right in front of her. Interesting twist: this woman looks exactly like Sarah. She decides to assume the dead woman’s identity and lets herself into the woman’s apartment.

Everything seems to be working out perfectly when she realizes the woman has $75,000 in the bank. She decides to drain the woman’s bank account and then skip town with her daughter and her foster brother. Her plans are cut short when unfinished business from both the dead woman’s past and her own past come barreling into her life, leading Sarah down a deadly trail of thrilling mystery that all lead her to the stunning conclusion: she is a clone, there are more of her out there, and that someone is trying to kill all of them. Sarah has no choice but to continue to live a double life as herself and the dead woman, as she meets other clones and realizes that they are all entangled in a complicated plot as genetically identical individuals who all grew up in very different circumstances.

Highlighted by a tour de force performance by Tatiana Maslany (she plays all of the clones, giving each of them distinct personalities, speech patterns and behaviors), this is compulsive television viewing.

ascensionThe Syfy channel premiered Ascension, a limited event series, in December of 2014, as a way to introduce people to the idea of what would have happened if Project Orion (also check out their Wikipedia page), a government sponsored program from the 1950s that would have placed over 150 scientists on the moon and even been able to send expeditions to other planets, would have actually happened. Ascension chronicles what could have happened had Project Orion actually occurred.

Ascension gives viewers a glimpse into the secret programs of the government and the lives of the people who both wittingly and unwittingly found themselves stuck on that spacecraft. In 1963, at the height of the Cold War, the government secretly recruited 350 people for a mission into space. A huge interstellar spaceship called Ascension was launched into space on a 100 year journey to another solar system. Present day on the ship is 50 years later and viewers are introduced to the children of the original crewmembers, the middle group of people, the ones who are doomed to spend their whole lives on the ship without ever being able to see their destination. Their parents started the ship and their children will be remembered as the ones who complete the journey. This middle group will be forgotten.

Tragedy has struck on Ascension with their first murder having been committed. This leads to chaos as the captain and his crew struggle to figure out who committed this crime while also working to keep the rest of the ship calm. Striated class systems and struggles for power dominate the investigation of the death of a woman from the upper decks as people from the lower decks are accused of the crime. This television show is wracked full of plays for power, multiple ship romances and trysts, and rivalries that will have you on the edge of your seat. Add in the fact that people on board only have access to culture, information, and technologies from 1963 and before and the whole spacecraft takes on an eternal 1960s feel that is intriguing and pleasing to the eye.

Check out this show to learn more information about the launch of Ascension, the people aboard the ship, as well as information about the founders and the governmental organization responsible for making sure the mission stays on course no matter the cost.

killjoysIn The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, Better Living Industries, a megacorporation with a ruthless and tyrannical leader, is working to take over more of the world and to cut off the freedoms and emotions of everyone living on the planet. This has been going on for years with revolutionaries and groups popping up every now and then trying to save what they can of the life they used to live and the people that they used to know. A group of four said revolutionaries became THE group of revolutionaries in this world with their likenesses splattered all over the news. Sadly over ten years ago, they were all killed while trying to save the life of a mysterious young girl that Better Living Industries, aka BLI, was trying to kill. This young girl becomes one of the main subject lines of The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. Follow along as the Girl works to figure out why BLI tried to kill her, what BLI is doing to all the defunct robots around the world, how these rogue groups are surviving and getting their news, and how the system BLI has set up is really affecting the civilized people in the world and how BLI is able to control the world and its employees.

The writers, Gerard Way and Shaun Simon, along with artist Becky Cloonan, have crafted a very strange, mysterious, and science fiction heavy graphic novel that is rich in details and colors that pop into your subconscious as you follow along with the characters. This graphic novel does not have a traditional linear structure, in the sense that readers will have to pay attention to context and art clues to figure out the difference between the past and the present, but the ideas presented are so intriguing and seemingly plausible that the quick transitions between past and present and also between different characters’ storylines only serve to add to the complex and supremely creative nature of this graphic novel. I highly recommend reading through this graphic novel more than once.

Gone Girl DVDGone Girl starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike is now available at the library on DVD. Gone Girl is a mystery/thriller set in present day Missouri. The movie begins on the morning of the 5th wedding anniversary of Nick and Amy Dunne. Nick leaves for work, but returns home soon after at the urging of a concerned neighbor. Nick finds signs of a struggle and Amy gone. The movie takes us on a search to find out what happened to Amy. What makes this movie interesting? Many things, but I particularly like that it is told through a dual perspective. On the one hand there is the point of view of present day Nick Dunne while he works with family, friends, and the police to figure out what happened to Amy. Weaved in to the story are entries from Amy’s diary that span back seven years to when Amy and Nick first met. Good luck trying to figure out what is real and who is telling the truth! I promise you the final fifteen minutes will have your head spinning.

Gone Girl was originally released as a Mystery novel by Gillian Flynn in 2012.  Gone Girl is the third novel written by Flynn and the first to see the big screen.  A couple years ago I read this book at the urging of a coworker and I admit I was quite enthralled with it, though not completely  taken with the ending. Watching the movie, I almost wish I hadn’t read the book first because the mystery was now gone. It is hard for me to tell if Gone Girl was just better as a book or if reading the book spoiled the movie. Part of this may fall back on the fact that Gillian Flynn wrote the screenplay to Gone Girl and stays incredibly true to the book. For those of you concerned about how this movie will end, don’t be! The majority of people that I speak to like the way the book/movie ends.

The Verdict: If mystery and thrills is your thing, then make a hold for Gone Girl today! If you haven’t read the book don’t worry as the story stays true to the book! If you have read the book and loved it, watch the movie and let me know what you think!

Award WatchGone Girl was nominated for 4 golden globes including Best Actress, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Score. Rosamund Pike has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. For a full list of awards visit IMBd Gone Girl.

Fun Fact: Gillian Flynn has written two other novels: Sharp Objects and Dark Places, both of which are being made into movies. Dark Places will be released this year as a made for TV movie and Sharp Objects is still in production.

 

June 3rd

robocopRoboCop – Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton

The year is 2028 and multinational conglomerate OmniCorp is at the center of robot technology. When Alex Murphy, a loving husband, father, and good cop, is critically injured in the line of duty, OmniCorp sees their chance for a part-man, part-robot police officer. OmniCorp envisions a RoboCop in every city and even more billions for their shareholders, but they never counted on one thing. There is still a man inside the machine, pursuing justice. Rated PG-13

 

 

son of godSon of God – Diogo Morgado

The story of Jesus’ life brought to audiences through compelling cinematic storytelling that is both powerful and inspirational. Told with the scope and scale of an action epic, the film features powerful performances, exotic locales, dazzling visual effects and a rich orchestral score from Oscar-winner Hans Zimmer. Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado portrays the role of Jesus as the film spans from his humble birth through his teachings, crucifixion and ultimate resurrection. Rated PG-13

 

 

June 10th

jack ryanJack Ryan – Shadow Recruit – Chris Pine, Keira Knightly, Kevin Costner

A global action thriller set in the present day. This original story follows a young Jack as he uncovers a financial terrorist plot. When Ryan believes he’s uncovered a Russian plot to collapse the United States economy, he goes from being an analyst to becoming a spy and must fight to save his own life and those of countless others, while also trying to protect the thing that’s more important to him than anything, his relationship with his fiancee Cathy. Rated PG-13

 

 

true detectiveTrue Detective – Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson

In 2012, Louisiana State Police Detectives Rust Cohle and Martin Hart are brought in to revisit a homicide case they worked in 1995. As the inquiry unfolds in present day through separate interrogations, the two former detectives narrate the story of their investigation, reopening unhealed wounds, and drawing into question their supposed solving of a bizarre ritualistic murder in 1995.

 

 

June 17th

lego movieThe Lego Movie – Will Arnett, Elizabeth Banks

Emmet, an ordinary, rules-following, perfectly average LEGO minifigure, is mistakenly identified as the most extraordinary person and the key to saving the world. He is drafted into a fellowship of strangers on an epic quest to stop an evil tyrant, a journey for which Emmet is hopelessly and hilariously underprepared. Rated PG

 

 

grand budapest hotelThe Grand Budapest Hotel – Ralph Fiennes, F Murray Abraham, Jude Law

The adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend. The story involves the theft and recovery of a priceless Renaissance painting and the battle for an enormous family fortune. Rated R

 

 

June 24th

winters taleWinter’s Tale – Colin Farrell, Russel Crowe, Jessica Brown Findlay

Set in a mythic New York City and spanning more than a century, follow a story of miracles, crossed destinies, and the age-old battle between good and evil. Rated PG-13

 

 

 

300 rise of an empire300 : Rise of an Empire – Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey

Greek general Themistokles attempts to unite all of Greece by leading the charge that will change the course of the war. He’s pitted against the massive invading Persian forces led by mortal turned god Xerxes, and Artemesia, vengeful commander of the Persian navy. Rated R

February 4th

dallas buyers clubDallas Buyer’s Club – Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner

Texas cowboy Ron Woodroof’s free-wheeling life was overturned in 1985 when he was diagnosed as HIV-positive. Shunned and ostracized by many old friends and bereft of government-approved medicines, he decided to take matters in his own hands, tracking down alternative treatments from all over the world by means both legal and illegal. Bypassing the establishment, he joined forces with an unlikely band of renegades and outcasts and established a hugely successful ‘buyers’ club.’ Rated R

February 11th

riddickRiddick – Vin Diesel, Karl Urban, Katee Sackhoff

Riddick must fight for his life after his people betrayed him, leaving him stranded on a desolate planet to die. On this unbearably hot planet, Riddick is up against predators of an alien race. Using his emergency signals, he summons two ships: one transporting a mercenary, and the other led by an old acquaintance. Rated R

 

 

enders gameEnder’s Game – Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis

A hostile alien race attacked Earth, and if not for the legendary heroics of Fleet Commander Mazer Rackham, all would have been lost. In preparation for the next attack, Colonel Hyrum Graff is training only the best young children. Ender Wiggin, a shy, but brilliant boy, is soon ordained by Graff as the military’s next great hope. Once at Command School, he’s trained by Mazer Rackham to lead them into an epic battle that will determine the future of Earth and save the human race. Rated PG-13

all is lostAll is Lost – Robert Redford

An open-water thriller about one man’s battle for survival against the elements after his sailboat is destroyed at sea. Using only a sextant and nautical maps to chart his progress, he is forced to rely on ocean currents to carry him into a shipping lane in hopes of hailing a passing vessel. But with the sun unrelenting, sharks circling, and his meager supplies dwindling, the ever-resourceful sailor soon finds himself staring his mortality in the face. Rated PG-13

austenlandAustenland – Keri Russell, Jj Feild, Jennifer Coolidge, Bret McKenzie, Jane Seymour

Jane Hayes’s adoration of all things Jane Austen is complicating her love life. Determined to be the heroine of her own story, Jane spends her life savings on a trip to Austenland, an eccentric Austen-inspired resort, where she meets two very different gentlemen…but has a difficult time determining where fantasy ends and real life, and maybe even love, begins. Rated PG-13

 

February 25th

rushRush – Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde

Set against the golden age of Formula One racing in the 1970s, Rush is based on the true story of a spectacular sporting rivalry between English playboy James Hunt, and his structured, intelligent opponent, Austrian driver Niki Lauda. Directed by Ron Howard. Rated R

 

 

gravityGravity – Sandra Bullock, George Clooney

Dr. Ryan Stone is a brilliant medical engineer on her first shuttle mission with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky. On a seemingly routine spacewalk, the shuttle is destroyed, leaving Stone and Kowalsky spiraling out into the blackness. The deafening silence tells them they have lost any link to Earth and any chance for rescue. As fear turns to panic, every gulp of air eats away at what little oxygen is left, and the only way home may be to go further out into the terrifying expanse of space. Rated PG-13

nebraskaNebraska – Bruce Dern, Will Forte

After receiving a sweepstakes letter in the mail, a cantankerous father thinks he’s struck it rich, and wrangles his estranged son into taking a road trip to claim the fortune. Getting waylaid in the father’s hometown in Nebraska, the son tries to reconnect with his impenetrable father. Rated R

 

 

thorThor – the Dark World – Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Christopher Eccleston, Stellan Skarsgard, Natalie Portman

Thor fights to restore order across the cosmos, but an ancient race led by the vengeful Malekith returns to plunge the universe back into darkness. Faced with an enemy that even Odin and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor must embark on his most perilous and personal journey yet, one that will reunite him with Jane Foster and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all. Rated PG-13

 

 

visitationstreetBored and restless on a hot summer night in Red Hook, Brooklyn, 15-year-olds June and Val decide to take a pink raft down to the docks and float out into the bay.  The next morning, Val is found unconscious under a pylon, but June remains missing.  Her absence becomes a catalyst for new relationships and a weight for the residents trying to find a way out.

Red Hook, Brooklyn has become the butt of a lot of hipster jokes in the last couple of years, and along with the gentrification of the neighborhood and the devastation caused by hurricane Sandy in 2012, Red Hook has found itself in national headlines.  Pochoda’s examination of this historic neighborhood takes place right on the cusp of this change. Visitation Street is about a specific place at a specific time, but feels remarkably universal. Most young people are reaching to move beyond the circumstances to which they’re born, and as young people from across the country move to newly cool Red Hook, many of the long-term residents of Red Hook are looking for a way out.

Ivy Pochoda’s Visitation Street presents the voices of this urban, changing neighborhood in the midst of tragedy.  I often speed through books I like, wanting to find my way to the conclusion.  But in Pochoda’s debut novel, I took my time.  I genuinely liked Fadi, Cree, Val, Jonathan, Ren, and Monique — flaws and all.  

When I grow up I want to be a Lady Detective just like Miss Fisher—elegant, scrappy and clever (words that also describe my other favorite Lady Detective, Jessica Fletcher!) Phryne Fisher has been dancing around the book world for a while (see my review of the first in that series here: Phryne, Rhymes with Briney), but now we can actually see her shake her beaded tassels in a new gorgeously filmed television series by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, shown in the United States on PBS.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries begins just as Kerry Greenwood’s book series does, with the Honorable Phryne Fisher, played by the seductive Essie Davis, returning to 1920’s Melbourne after being away for a decade or so. While she was away in Europe, Miss Fisher had modeled nude for artists, partied with dancers, worked as WWI nurse, and suddenly came into a title and money. Now that she is returned, Phryne decides that her charm and intellect are perfectly suited to solving murder mysteries around her old hometown. She enlists the help of her gentle butler, her communist chauffeurs/handymen, and her new maid, Dot, who finds herself constantly struggling between good Catholic values and the not-quite-legal-or-virtuous things that Miss Fisher persuades her to do. And of course, the local Detective Inspector Jack Robinson does not find Phryne’s frequent interference in his work amusing (even if he does find her annoyingly companionable.) I loved every episode of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, but what most puts a sparkle in my eye is Phryne’s marvelous wardrobe! The silk kimonos! The slinky wide-legged pants! And the hats oh THE HATS!

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is so charming, fun and sexy while still addressing many historically controversial issues such as abortion, homosexuality, and terrorism—all while giving us a cracking good whodunit. I highly recommend this series to fans of Downton Abbey, Call the Midwife, and those who love history and mysteries 😉

cuckoo's callingBack when Deathly Hallows was hot off the presses, I remember reading an interview with J.K. Rowling; when asked what she would write next, she answered: mysteries for adults. I’ve been looking forward to The Cuckoo’s Calling ever since. After her first post-Potter foray into literary fiction, Jo is back in the realm of genre, and I think it’s where she belongs. Her imagination is so fierce and wild and her observations about the real world are so raw and true that the juxtaposition of them is magical. We all saw it in Harry Potter, I missed it in The Casual Vacancy, and now it’s back in The Cuckoo’s Calling. This is a phenomenal book: thrilling and elegant and a little cheeky. The characters are vibrant, true, and endlessly entertaining. Even the dead model at the heart of the mystery, Lula “Cuckoo” Landry, has a personality, and a life, beyond her infamous lifestyle and her undignified death; the living characters, private detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin, are even better.

Cormoran lost his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, and back home in the UK, he’s facing a life that’s deteriorating rapidly as his debts mount, his relationships waver, and his stream of clients dries up. When Robin appears, the product of an expensive contract with the temp agency that he tried to cancel, Strike is vexed: how can he hide from this clever, intrepid young woman that he’s sleeping on a cot in his office? But Robin and Strike are a great team, as they both tentatively realize: Strike is a gifted detective whose shadowed past has removed him from the military police for complex, unclear reasons, and Robin is a whip-smart HR rep with a natural talent for investigation.

As Robert Galbraith, Rowling wastes no words. This is a long book, but not an overlong one. There are a lot of characters, a lot of red herrings, and a lot of plot developments, but they layer on top of each other seamlessly and the payoff is extremely satisfying. The scenes are so descriptive, you’re absolutely there – I was completely drawn into this book. The best part about it was how genuine and true it all was: when Robin and Cormoran use their cell phones and the internet to track down clues, it doesn’t feel forced or fake, it’s completely natural. The same thing happened in The Casual Vacancy: whenever technology is used, it’s employed seamlessly, artfully, expertly into the plot. I propose that this comes from treating it with the same rules you’d use to write about magic wands. It was painful to set The Cuckoo’s Calling down and heartbreaking to reach the end: if Rowling wants to write any more about Cormoran Strike, I’ll be gleefully pre-ordering every new Galbraith title.

Relevant Fun Fact: the common European cuckoo reproduces by parasitic brooding, where they lay their eggs in the nests of other birds and the other birds raise the baby cuckoos – leaving the adults free to flit off and do whatever birds do.