Thursday, March 28, 2013

Music - British Punk

All Samuels Public Library cardholders are eligible for three free downloads a week from Freegal, a massive online database containing over 500,000 songs.  Sifting through such an enormous selection of music can be a daunting task, so we here at Samuels have decided to offer a few suggestions for the overwhelmed (or new) Freegal user.  This week's topic is British punk rock:
The Clash
From Super Black Market Clash 

1977 was the year punk exploded in England; it was also the name of the first single by The Clash, one of the first and best bands to emerge in the new genre.  Exuding style and attitude, The Clash brashly sneer through "1977" in less than two minutes, providing a fist-pumping anthem for a generation of disaffected British youth.

The Undertones
"Teenage Kicks"
From The Undertones

The favorite song of legendary DJ John Peel, “Teenage Kicks” is a blast of adolescent hormones, buzzing guitars, and sweet melody.  Arriving on the scene in 1979, Ireland’s The Undertones were part of the second wave of punk bands catapulted into the limelight after the tremendous popularity of groups like The Clash. Poppier than many of their English peers, The Undertones sang about classic rock n’ roll themes: girls, summer, chocolate, and more girls.     

The Only Ones
"Another Girl, Another Planet"
From Special View

Though not a punk band in the strictest sense, The Only Ones formed in England in the mid-seventies and shared a similar sensibility to many of the punks.  At times they echoed the raucous and raunchy sound of punk forefathers The New York Dolls, as on their most punk moment, “Another Girl, Another Planet,” the band’s best song and one of the greatest singles of the era.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Reading Lists - Zombie Lit

Zombies have been among us for some time now, and judging by the popularity of books, television shows, and movies like The Walking Dead, Warm Bodies, and World War Z, it appears they won't be disappearing anytime soon. If you’ve enjoyed any of the titles just mentioned, you may want to check out this list of zombie fiction:      

Brains: A Zombie Memoir by Robin Becker
This humorous mock memoir gives the reader insight into the thoughts of a former college English professor turned zombie.  Jack Barnes, the narrator, isn’t like most zombies— he has retained the abilities of thought and self-awareness.  With a group of fellow sentient zombies, he sets out on a journey to bring about a truce between the living and the living dead. 

Dead of Night by Jonathan Maberry
The body of an executed serial killer mysteriously disappears from the local morgue, and soon after zombies are spotted wandering around the streets of small town Stebbins, PA.  Reporter Billy Trout and policewoman Desdemona Fox must find the cause of the virus before it spreads any further. 

Feed by Mira Grant
The first book of the Newsflesh trilogy follows twin news bloggers Georgia and Shaun Mason as they cover a presidential candidate in the year 2039.  While traveling the campaign trail, the duo notices that zombie outbreaks occur in each city on the tour shortly after their arrival.  Part political thriller and part zombie horror, Feed is one good read. 

Flesh Eaters by Joe McKinney
Winner of the 2011 Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel, Flesh Eaters is set in Houston during the aftermath of a series of devastating hurricanes and floods.  As rescue workers seek to bring aid to the stranded community, they discover that the survivors have been infected with a disease that makes them crave human flesh.

Handling the Undead by John Ajvide Lindqvist
Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist first gained prominence in the U.S. when his haunting vampire novel Let the Right One In was adapted into a hit movie.  His equally eerie second novel, Handling the Undead, tackles the subject of zombies, focusing mainly on the reactions of the living as their friends and family members return from the dead. 

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
From the author of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter comes this side-splitting parody of Jane Austen’s classic novel of manners.  You’ll laugh yourself hoarse as Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy find love in an England overrun by zombies.   

Raising Stony Mayhall by Daryl Gregory
It’s 1968 and the government has been rounding up and destroying zombies, so when Wanda Mayhall finds a "living dead" infant on the side of the road she feels her only choice is to adopt the child.  Young Stony is raised in seclusion, but eventually he ventures into the world and discovers others like himself.  Gregory uses this premise to delve into the lives of those on the fringes of society. 

The Return Man by V.M. Zito
In a post-apocalyptic America, the entire West Coast has been destroyed by a zombie outbreak. Former doctor Henry Marco is called the return man— people pay him to travel into the quarantined area to kill virus-infected loved ones and release them from the undead state.  Now the government wants him for a mission that may provide a cure for the zombie plague.    

Shakespeare Undead  by Lori Handeland
If you’ve ever wondered what the movie Shakespeare In Love would be like if Shakespeare was a vampire who was inspired to write by a beautiful zombie killer, then this book is for you.  Handeland weaves together bits of history with references to the Bard’s work to create an outrageously funny zombie novel— and if that’s not enough, she even adds a bit of romance to spice things up.

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
Probably the most romantic zombie book you’ll ever read, Warm Bodies is the Romeo and Juliet of zombie lit.  This clever and heartwarming tale of unconventional love begins when a boy named R falls in love with a girl named Julie.  There’s just one problem— she’s alive and he’s a zombie.  Now a movie starring Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer. 

World War Z  by Max Brooks
One of the most popular titles in the recent resurgence of zombie lit, World War Z is compelling because its vision of a not-so-distant future feels completely plausible.  Brooks presents the material in the form of a series of interviews with the zombie outbreak survivors, and his serious tone adds to the suspense.  A film version starring Brad Pitt is set to be released in 2013.

The Zombie Autopsies by Steven C. Schlozman
Taking a cue from World War Z, The Zombie Autopsies purports to be the secret journal of renowned zombie expert Dr. Stanley Blum.  Sent by the United Nations to study the zombie virus, Blum uses his medical precision to describe the virus’s horrific effects on his subjects and fellow researchers.  The detailed illustrations are not for the faint of heart or the weak stomached.

Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! edited by  Otto Penzler
The title says it all.  This book contains over 700 pages of amazing zombie stories, ranging from classics by Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft to more modern tales by Stephen King and Graham Masterton.  Includes an excerpt from the very first zombie book, W.B. Seabrook’s The Magic Island

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Music - The Academy Awards

All Samuels Public Library cardholders are eligible for three free downloads a week from Freegal, a massive online database containing over 500,000 songs.  Sifting through such an enormous selection of music can be a daunting task, so we here at Samuels have decided to offer a few suggestions for the overwhelmed (or new) Freegal user.  This week we focus on songs from this year's Academy Award winners:

From the Skyfall soundtrack

This excellent title song helped Skyfall become the first James Bond movie to win an Academy Award since Thunderball took home an Oscar for Best Visual Effects in 1966.  With enough sultriness to match Shirley Bassey and more class than any Bond theme singer in recent memory, Adele has rightfully earned a place of honor in the long history of memorable Bond performances. 
Mychael Danna
"Pi’s Lullaby"
From The Life of Pi Soundtrack

Mychael Danna won Best Original Score for his work on The Life of Pi, Ang Lee’s film version of the celebrated novel by Yann Martel.  Danna enlisted Indian singer Bombay Jayashri to provide lyrics and vocals for the film’s enchanting main theme, a swirling concoction of classic Hollywood strings and Eastern instrumentation that sets the mood for Pi’s story. 

"Sugar Man"
From Cold Fact

This year the Academy Award for Best Documentary went to Searching for Sugar Man, an amazing story about the slow rise to fame of an obscure 1960s folk rock artist named Rodriguez.  The heart of the movie definitely comes from the generous selection of songs by the poetic and down-to-earth singer. One of the best tracks is “Sugar Man,” a raw, psychedelic portrait of the streets of Rodriguez’s native Detroit.   

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Music - The Grammys Part 2

All Samuels Public Library cardholders are eligible for three free downloads a week from Freegal, a massive online database containing over 500,000 songs.  Sifting through such an enormous selection of music can be a daunting task, so we here at Samuels have decided to offer a few suggestions for the overwhelmed (or new) Freegal user.  This week we continue to recognize this year's Grammy winners:

Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer & Chris Thile
“Here and Heaven” (featuring Aoife O’Donovan)
From The Goat Rodeo Sessions

Add a “Best Folk Album” Grammy to the long list of awards and accolades accrued by Yo-Yo Ma, the world’s most famous cellist.  Proving that he can do just about anything, Mr. Ma teams his classical chops with ex-Nickel Creek mandolin player Chris Thile and two other stellar musicians to create an interesting bluegrass-meets-string quartet fusion.  “Here and Heaven” also guests singer Aoife O’Donovan, whose lovely voice pairs perfectly with Thile’s on the old-timey ballad.

Chris Botti
“Oblivion” (featuring Caroline Campbell)
From Impressions

Impressions, winner of the “Best Pop Instrumental Album” award, contains a wide variety of familiar jazz, classical, world, and pop tunes given a smooth makeover courtesy of trumpeter Chris Botti.  The lush and lyrical “Oblivion,” with its stirring strings and melancholy melody, could be from a great lost romance film from the 1970s.  It would make perfect background music for a candlelit dinner or  an evening alone with a good book and a glass of wine. 

Carrie Underwood
“Blown Away”
From Blown Away    

Carrie Underwood belts it out like a force of nature on “Blown Away,” her “Best Country Song” winning number.  Much like fellow American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson’s “What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger)”-- a song I wrote about last week-- this song exhibits a gritty performance buoyed by a strong beat and a surging chorus.  Like Clarkson’s song, “Blown Away” feels like a call-to-arms, a bold battle cry in the face of tremendous adversity.