American Horror Story: Asylum

Aired: October 17, 2012 – January 23, 2013

Set mostly in 1964, Kit Walker (Evan Peters) is accused of killing his wife (Britne Oldford) and locked up in Briarcliff Manor, an asylum that houses the criminally insane. Court appointed psychiatrist, Dr. Oliver Threadson (Zachary Quinto) is assigned to asses Walker’s ability to stand trial. Reporter Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) requests access to the asylum as she sees exposing the mistreatment of the patients as the making of her career. Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) denies her access so Lana sneaks in and is injured. Jude initially uses the injury and then Lana’s homosexuality to keep her locked away. Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell) is using the patients to make the ultimate human beings. Dark forces are at work. In modern day in the ruins of Briarcliff will history repeat itself?

Asylum is the second show in the American Horror Story series.

 

There is a lot going on in Asylum. There are serial killers, alien abduction, demon possession, war criminals, the list goes on. The show tackles homosexuality, interracial marriage, unchecked medical practices and the abuses that occurred unchecked in asylums of the era. People treated as sub-human and disappeared easily. Each character is deeply complex and unique in their own right and few are truly evil, simply misguided in their approach to what they think is best for the world.

As would be expected from the calibre of performer to appear in a Ryan Murphy production, the acting is beyond reproach. I read a tweet not long ago that lauded Evan Peters as the Meryl Streep of the modern age and I can’t say that I disagree. He is an absolutely phenomenal artist. In Kit he is traumatized, confused and desperate. Kit is a man fighting for his life and the audience believes the urgency of his dilemma. Lily Rabe appears in this second outing as Sister Mary Eunice, a nun imbued with childlike innocence who turns evil. Frances Conroy appears briefly as an angel of death of sorts and her brief appearances are simply breathtaking. Though there are sex scenes in Asylum, they are less pronounced than in Murder House though, I must warn viewers that might be triggered, there is a pretty brutal rape scene that is in no way gratuitous.

Because of the many directions in which the stories go, some of them simply aren’t done very well. I know that there are lines throughout that will connect in the final season, perhaps the very poorly executed alien story-line that seems like an afterthought will re-emerge in Apocalypse. The backstories of the varied inmates (woman accused of killing her family, sex addicts, Anne Frank,  Pepper – a nonverbal patient who appears as a main character in the later installment Freak Show, etc…). Each character is explained and their motivations explored. Innocent and guilty melted together and forced to survive. Sister Jude rules the roost but she’s at odds with Doctor Arden believing that the experiments Briarcliff’s founder, Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes), has given Arden the space to perform is against nature but she soon finds herself with a greater adversary…her past.

I expected to be deeply uncomfortable with the cruelty of the Asylum and was but was intrigued with where the story would go and was not disappointed. The tie in of the past storyline with it’s present counterpart was expected but really well done. Adam Levine and Jenna Tatum are perhaps not the strongest actors in the piece but their brief appearance certainly makes its mark. Sarah Paulson especially was a standout as a later life Lana Winters. 

To say much more would be giving away the story so if you are one of the few people who haven’t seen this series and enjoy well acted drama, check it out. Let me know what you think.

 

American Horror Story Asylum is available as a DVD, Blu-ray and on Amazon Instant Video.

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Title American Horror Story Murder House
Director Ryan Murphy (and others)
Actors Evan Peters, Jessica Lange, Frances Conroy, Sarah Paulson, Zachary Quinto (and others)
Length 13 episodes
Rating NR
DVD Release October 8, 2013

Brett Enters the Square Circle by David D’Aguanno (author) and Henry Travis Carter (narrator)

Publication Date: April 12, 2018

Stacey Ashton has disappeared. While Melanie Foster thinks she may have run off with Melanie’s husband, it soon becomes clear that there’s a good chance that she was murdered. But by who? Can suave, handsome, best butt in the nation, man for the ages Brett Cornell solve the case?

Brett Enters the Golden Circle is the fifth book in the Brett Cornell series.

The author gave me a copy of this audiobook in exchange for my review.

 

The best way to start this review is with an observation. This is Book 5 so we know Brett Cornell. He is a quintessential 80s man with his curly golden locks and porn star stache. My own father liked to top the look with a woven straw cowboy hat. Very of the day.  At the start of Brett Enters the Golden Circle we’re treated to a sexual flashback that includes private “sessions” with one of his teachers. My first reaction, of course, is to vomit a bit in my mouth at the idea but Brett is of the same generation of my aforementioned father who I remember laughing with relatives of his generation about that drivers ed teacher who would give private lessons and be out a little long or about how the boys on the football team got to drive the gym teacher’s sports car after a private session with him. The attitude today is still that boys who sleep with older women have won the lottery. So what’s my point with this? The ability to gloss over Brett is partly because deep down we know he’s a good soul but also he was a man before the #metoo movement when men assumed that women really wanted a good ass slapping but really weren’t free enough to say. He considered the abuse, and lets be clear that’s what it was…as well as his other encounters with older women….as part of a sexual evolution. That he is so much a man of his time will, to be honest, put readers off. Some of us who remember the 80s and remember the Bretts we knew (Dear Lord, help us all) chainsmoking, wise-cracking, full of pomp and themselves will take it for what it is, a nuance of an already pretty flawed character.

As we embark on Brett’s fifth outing, he still thinks of himself as the golden egg the goose laid. As has been the habit of the course of the series, D’Aguanno invites us to see a little more of what makes Brett tick which, frankly, is this character’s saving grace. Brett, as usual, is the one telling the story and readers know to take most of what he says with a giant block of salt. Brett Enters the Square Circle is less a mystery and more a story of Brett. He and Ginger are on a break (which he pretends to enjoy as it opens up his sexual horizons). He runs across bastards more unscrupulous than himself, women who are sometimes willing and sometimes not to put up with his classic Brettisms. He, as the title implies, winds up in a square circle. This is where narrator Travis Henry Carter really comes into his own. From the start this narrator has been a stroke of brilliance for the series. His voice embodies the bald face bravado that has become Brett’s brand.

While Brett may be Melanie Foster’s “dream come true,” his story isn’t something you would want to play during the daily school commute. D’Aguanno’s language is bold and brash but refreshing in its inhibition. Travis Henry Carter enhances what has become a pretty fluid voice gifted to Brett by his author. His quick patter and easy sounding shifts between Brett and his wise-cracking adversaries (both male and female) allow the reader to become fully engaged. Brett Enters the Square Circle is fast paced and entertaining. Come for the mystery, which is wrapped up pretty neatly, but stay to get to know Brett better. A truly good listen.

 

Listen and buy Brett Enters the Square Circle by David D’Aguanno on

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Title Brett Enters the Square Circle
Author David D’Aguanno
Narration  Travis Henry Carter
Length 8 hours and 32 minutes
Released April 12, 2018

Prefer the book? Read an excerpt and buy the book Brettt Enters the Square Circle by David D’Aguanno on

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About David D’Aguanno
For more information about David D’Aguanno visit his website. You can connect with him on GoodreadsFacebook and Twitter @DaveDAguanno.

 

 

Eubeltic Descent by Nadine Keels

Publication Date: August 22, 2018

Abigaia Grena has only known a life of crime. A talented thief, she has come to hate what she’s become. She dreams of returning to her ancestral home but her intended isn’t interested in making the trip across the ocean. What will she do when the Euebeltic Realm needs her?

The author, Nadine Keels, gave me a copy of Eubeltic Descent in exchange for my review.

We learn the most important thing about Abigaia in the first few sentences; she rationalizes morality. She’s a thief but vendors anticipate thievery and make allowances so Abigaia suggests that it’s something of a social contract. At her core, she’s a deeply principled person caught in a situation she’s unable to control but she can dream and, perhaps; find the strength to make dreams reality. She’s a master of distraction and analytical thinking in her craft and uses that not only to misdirect vendors and readers. She’s led a rough life having lost her mother young and while her father was physically there for a while and impressed upon her the importance of her heritage, she’s terrified of him. Abigaia, now living with her aunt, has turned to something of a pack of thieves. Her aunt knows she can’t afford the things she brings from market but asks no questions. Keels impresses on us that these are desperately poor people living on the edge and hence, the world to which Abi’s ancestors immigrated isn’t quite the bright land of opportunity it once was and as she learns about her ancestors, her hope grows.

There’s a metaphor of modern life in Eubeltic Descent. The class system and shattered lives and the proud ancestry that one would hope is re-found. Keel’s writing style is an intelligent mix of a classic world and a carefully constructed progressive plot that shows massive growth in its main character that is in keeping with the girl we meet in the first few chapters. Abi starts as a little girl sure she’s too old for the games and matures into a strong and capable woman. Keel’s skill with the language is visceral. We see Abi’s hair fall to act as a disguise, we see Tarek’s raking smile, we stand in the kitchen with Abi’s aunt as she makes apple tarts. Its hard to go into the story without revealing massive spoilers but the lines of the plot come together smoothly taking readers on a journey to the unexpected.

As fantasy novels go, Eubelic Descent is a good one. It flows well and is a fast read. If you like character driven fantasy, be sure to pick this one up today.

Read an excerpt and buy Eubeltic Descent by Nadine Keels on

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About Nadine Keels
For more information about Nadine Keels, visit her blog. You can connect with her on Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter @nadinekeels.