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Friday, May 19, 2017

Stephen King Fills 2017 with His Brand of Horror

Written by Jon Williams

Call it a hunch, but we’re guessing that a lot of your patrons are Stephen King fans. Luckily for those patrons, there’s plenty of recent and upcoming King material to keep them quivering in fear for quite some time.

To start, we need to go back almost to the very beginning. Now, of course, King is a well-known, bestselling author with more than fifty books to his credit, but that wasn’t always the case. The Dead Zone was just the fourth novel King published under his own name. Released in 1979, it deals with a young man both gifted and cursed with psychic abilities after a catastrophic car accident. The novel spawned both a 1983 movie and a 2002 TV series that ran for six seasons, but it has never been available in audiobook format until now. This classic is narrated by actor James Franco.

There’s also plenty of new material from King. His latest release, out this week, is Gwendy’s Button Box, a novella written with help from publisher, editor, and fellow horror writer Richard Chizmar. The story takes place in Castle Rock, Maine, a familiar setting for King fans. The Dead Zone was set in Castle Rock, as were Cujo, The Dark Half, and a number of novellas and short stories scattered throughout his collections. The 1991 novel Needful Things was originally billed as “the last Castle Rock story,” but apparently he wasn’t done with the little town after all.

And that’s not the only collaboration King has on his docket. Coming this September is Sleeping Beauties, a new novel written in tandem with his son Owen King. It details a dystopian future in which all women (except one!) fall prey to a strange cocooned state while they sleep, and men are left to their own devices. Of course, King is no stranger to this type of collaboration, having teamed up with his other son, author Joe Hill, for the short stories “Throttle” and “In the Tall Grass.”

As popular as his books are, when it comes to Stephen King, they’re only part of the story. Another part is all the adaptations that have taken his work from the page to screens both big and small. In that regard, there’s a pretty full slate on the horizon. First up is The Mist, a ten-episode series premiering on Spike on June 22. The novella, available on its own or collected with other short stories in Skeleton Crew, was previously made into a movie in 2007. Then, on August 9, Mr. Mercedes comes to the Audience Network, based on the first book of a trilogy King wrote about a retired detective facing off against a twisted killer.

In addition to regular TV, fans can also look to the streaming services for some upcoming adaptations. Coming to Netflix later this year is Gerald’s Game, the story of a woman who is trapped handcuffed to a bed after her husband dies suddenly. Much of the novel takes place within main character Jessie Burlingame’s head, so it will be interesting to see how it translates to the screen. Also coming to Netflix in 2017 is 1922, about a man who is convinced his murdered wife is haunting him. It’s based on a novella in Full Dark, No Stars, which also contains the story that was the basis for the movie A Good Marriage. Then, beginning production later this year with no set debut date, is the Hulu series Castle Rock. Not much is known about it other than the setting, the small Maine town mentioned above, but the first teaser contained elements of King classics like Misery and plenty of others.

And speaking of King classics, one of the biggest (both literally and figuratively) is coming to theatres on September 8. It, the epic novel about a shape-shifting creature that feeds on children and the gang of outcast kids that decide enough is enough, has engendered a fear of clowns in readers since its release in 1986. It’s a whopper: the print edition comes in at over 1,000 pages, and the audiobook narration takes up 35 discs. A previous adaptation came in the form of a 3-hour miniseries in 1990, and this time around will be split into two feature films, with the second installment coming in 2018.

And then there’s The Dark Tower…but we’ll have more to say about that soon. In the meantime, make sure you have plenty of Stephen King material on your shelves for patrons to explore and enjoy as these new works and adaptations come along. And don’t be surprised if some of them ask you if they can check out a nightlight, too.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Period Dramas Draw TV Viewers

Written by Jon Williams

Based on a series of memoirs by Jennifer Worth, the hit TV show Call the Midwife focuses on a group of midwives and nuns working at Nonnatus House, a convent in post-WWII London. The show debuted to high ratings in 2012, and it has steadily gained popularity ever since. The sixth season currently airing on PBS (it concluded in March on BBC One in the UK) takes place in 1962 and sees the first effects of the cultural changes that took place in that tumultuous decade.

This sixth season is notable for another reason, as it will be the last as a series regular for Ben Caplan. The actor, who previously starred in HBO’s World War II drama Band of Brothers, has played policeman Peter Noakes since Call the Midwife’s first season in 2012. He’s looking to add some more variety to his acting career, but fans can rest easy. With the show already renewed through Season 9, Caplan is certain that his character will resurface somewhere down the line. The same is true of another fan-favourite that left the series previously. Miranda Hart, who played Sgt. Noakes’s wife Chummy, left the show after Season 4. Like Caplan’s character, a reappearance for Chummy is not out of the question for the show’s future.

British period dramas are very popular for PBS right now. The trend got rolling with Downton Abbey, which ran for six seasons beginning (on PBS) in 2011. That show was both critically acclaimed and very popular, leading the way for the current wave of shows, including Call the Midwife. The series Poldark follows a man returning to the shattered remains of his former life in Cornwall following America’s Revolutionary War. Beginning in 2015, it’s an update of a 1975 BBC series, and both are based on a series of novels by Winston Graham. Beginning earlier this year, Victoria details the early life of the UK’s long-serving queen. Former Doctor Who companion Jenna Coleman plays the role of the queen in question, and there’s also a companion novel by show creator Daisy Goodwin.

Of course, the phenomenon isn’t limited to just PBS. With the popularity of these shows and others like them, it’s no surprise that the streaming services have jumped in to bring some to their audiences as well. When the show Ripper Street was threatened with cancellation after its second season, it was picked up by Amazon Video in the UK (the series has been available on BBC America in North America). Focusing on the aftermath of Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror, the recently concluded sixth season was the show’s last. Still in progress, on the other hand, is Peaky Blinders, a show about a criminal organization in the days after World War I. The first three seasons are available from Netflix in the US, and at least two more seasons are in the offing.

This is just a small sampling of the period dramas that are so popular right now. TV lovers will love to see these in your library so they can check them out and binge-watch, and that’s especially true for shows on cable and streaming services, which everyone may not have access to. What’s popular in your library right now? Let us know your patrons’ current favourites in the comments section below.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

What’s the Deal with James Patterson?

Written by Jon Williams

First off, a happy belated birthday to the author, who turned 70 last week.  As a librarian, you are no doubt aware of Patterson’s prolific nature and his constant presence on the bestseller lists. Have you ever wondered, though, exactly how he manages to put out so many books?

Patterson published his first novel, The Thomas Berryman Number, in 1976, before he turned 30, but it wasn’t an easy road. He had a full-time job in advertising as he wrote it, and the novel was rejected 31 times before it finally found a home. It won the 1977 Edgar Award for Best First Novel by an American Author, but did not sell many copies. Nevertheless, his career path was set. For the next twenty years, he continued to work in advertising as he wrote novels, including two of his best known: Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls.

Those two novels introduced detective Alex Cross, one of Patterson’s most lucrative creations. As of now, there are 25 Cross novels, the most recent of which, Cross the Line, was published in November. The character has also made the jump to the big screen: Kiss the Girls (1997) and Along Came a Spider (2001) starred Morgan Freeman; then, in 2013, the character was rebooted in Alex Cross, with Tyler Perry in the title role. That movie was based on Patterson’s 2006 novel Cross, and a second movie starring Perry is in production based on 2007’s Double Cross.

For twenty years after The Thomas Berryman Number was published, Patterson continued to work full-time as he wrote. He retired from advertising in 1996 (although he continues to be involved in campaigns for his own work). In those twenty years, he published eight novels. Following his retirement, his publication pace really picked up. In 1996 alone, he released three novels: Hide & Seek, Miracle on the 17th Green, and Jack & Jill. Since then, not a year has passed without the publication of at least one Patterson book, and most years have featured several.

How does he do it? For one thing, the writing in Patterson’s books is relatively simple, streamlined for maximum readability. Secondly, he has turned his books into a cottage industry, collaborating with a number of other writers to produce many of them. This 2015 article in Vanity Fair describes the process, in which Patterson provides his collaborator with an extensive outline that details the plot from beginning to end, and then revises and rewrites the manuscript to his specifications once it is fleshed out. Some of his collaborators have included Richard DiLallo, Mark Sullivan, Michael Ledwidge, Liza Marklund, and Maxine Paetro. Patterson’s most recent novel, Black Book, published earlier this week, is a collaboration with David Ellis.

Part of the strategy behind Patterson’s writing style is his intention to appeal to an audience that may not otherwise be interested in reading, as a way of promoting literacy. When he noticed that his own son Jack was a reluctant reader, Patterson decided to jump into the arena of young adult literature. Thus, in 2005, the Maximum Ride series was born with the first book, The Angel Experiment. Now his involvement in the genre has grown to include seven more series (including Middle School, which led to the recent feature film) as well as quite a few standalones. Lately, Patterson has turned his attention to adults as well, launching a series of Bookshots: short, exciting reads that can be easily consumed in one sitting (and although he’s not as involved in the writing process, there’s also a line of Bookshots Flames aimed at romance readers).

So that’s the “secret” behind how James Patterson writes to many books. Needless to say, such a large share of the market has made him quite a wealthy man, and he has put a substantial amount of that money where his mouth is, donating large sums to fund scholarships and literacy programs, in addition to launching ReadKiddoRead, a website devoted to providing resources to parents in the effort to pass the joy of reading to their kids. That being the case, there’s really not much else to say, other than: Go, James, go! To share more of his impressive oeuvre with your patrons, SmartBrowse his name on our website, and point them toward our collection of his audiobooks on hoopla digital.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Two Classic Albums Reissued

Written by Jon Williams

Classic rock fans are in for a treat—or, more accurately, two treats—over the course of the next two New Music Fridays. Two rock legends are releasing remastered and expanded versions of albums that came out in the 1980s.

First up, available tomorrow, is Paul McCartney’s Flowers in the Dirt. Originally released in 1989, it was McCartney’s eighth solo album (or fifteenth, if you include his Wings outings) after the dissolution of the Beatles. Ever the collaborator, Sir Paul enlisted the help of Elvis Costello for this album, and together the two co-wrote four tracks. The special edition reissue features a second disc comprising nine demos, five of which are songs that were not originally included.

This is also the tenth installment of the McCartney Archive Collection, which are classic album reissues supervised by Sir Paul himself. It follows the Wings classic Band on the Run, the solo albums McCartney, McCartney II, Ram, the live album Wings Over America, Venus and Mars, Wings at the Speed of Sound, Tug of War, and Pipes of Peace. Each of these contains a treasure trove of extra songs not found on the original release. The first release in the collection came out in 2010, and McCartney has continued to put them out while also maintaining a full worldwide touring schedule and releasing two new albums: Kisses on the Bottom, a collection of covers with two original songs, and NEW, containing all-new material.

Next week offers a similar treat when Fleetwood Mac reissues their 1987 album Tango in the Night in honour of its 30th anniversary. The standard edition is a remaster of the original album, while the expanded edition will include a second disc that offers a number of outtakes and rarities from the recording sessions. The album is notable for being the last to feature Fleetwood Mac’s “classic” lineup of Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, and John and Christine McVie. It also experienced a resurgence in 2014 after the song “Seven Wonders” was featured in the season finale of American Horror Story: Coven, a season in which Stevie Nicks appeared as herself on the show.

This year also marks the 40th anniversary of their iconic album Rumours, which was released in February of 1977. One of the bestselling albums of all time, it received the reissue treatment in 2013, an expanded three-disc edition that includes live tracks as well as early takes of the album’s songs. The band’s other albums to feature their most well-known lineup are Fleetwood Mac (1975), Tusk (1979), and Mirage (1982). Although Tango in the Night was their last album together, they do still perform live.

Paul McCartney and Fleetwood Mac are stellar artists who have been making outstanding rock music for decades. These new reissues of classic albums are the perfect opportunity to share their work with your music-loving patrons.

Friday, January 13, 2017

A Lot to Look Forward to in 2017

Written by Jon Williams

The new year is upon us. We noted before 2016 ended that it was, in many ways, a difficult year in pop culture. With the beginning of 2017, however, we have an opportunity to wipe the slate clean, to rinse out whatever bad taste might be lingering in our mouths, and get a fresh start. With that in mind, here are just a few of the cool pop culture projects on the horizon for this year.

For your patrons who like superheroes, there’s a lot to be excited about. It starts in March with Logan, which will be star Hugh Jackman’s last hurrah as Wolverine. In May, the second volume of Guardians of the Galaxy will follow up the 2014 blockbuster detailing the first adventure of the galactic team of misfits. Then in June, Spider-Man: Homecoming gives a solo adventure to Tom Holland as the webslinger, following his scene-stealing appearance in last summer’s Captain America: Civil War. Later in the year, Thor: Ragnarok sees Chris Hemsworth return as the god of thunder for his first standalone since The Dark World. For those who prefer DC to Marvel, fear not: Wonder Woman gets her own movie in June, as Gal Gadot builds upon her small role in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. In November, the DC heroes come together for Justice League, much like Marvel’s The Avengers.

Quite a few popular films and series have sequels or new installments coming to theatres in 2017. Keanu Reeves is back for a second action-packed round of John Wick in February. The Fast and the Furious gang is back in April for the highly anticipated The Fate of the Furious. May’s Alien: Covenant brings Ridley Scott back to the director’s chair for a movie that bridges the gap between Prometheus and Alien. The popular rebooted Planet of the Apes series continues in July with War for the Planet of the Apes. October’s still-fairly-mysterious God Particle is the third installment of the Cloverfield series. In December, the Barden Bellas return for a third Pitch Perfect movie. And one of the most anticipated movies of the year also opens that month: the as-yet-untitled Star Wars: Episode VIII, which will pick up where The Force Awakens left off.

The Force Awakens itself, of course, is a series continuation, coming after—depending on your point of view—1983’s Return of the Jedi or 2005’s Revenge of the Sith. Either way, it was a long time for fans to wait. The same can be said for a pair of long-awaited sequels finally coming in 2017. First up is T2 Trainspotting, which sees Ewan McGregor and the rest of the cast from the beloved 1996 original return and reunite. Then, in October, Harrison Ford resurrects yet another of his iconic characters for Blade Runner 2049, which comes 35 years after its sci-fi masterpiece predecessor.

There are also some intriguing book adaptations on the way. Coming later this month is A Dog’s Purpose, and who’s not a sucker for a good dog story? That’s followed next month by Fifty Shades Darker, the second installment in the publishing (and now film) phenomenon by EL James. Christian audiences can look forward to The Shack in March, based on William Paul Young’s 2007 bestseller. The hit young adult novel Wonder by R.J. Palacio comes to theatres in April, starring Room’s Jacob Tremblay. In October, Jo Nesbo’s bestseller The Snowman becomes a big-screen adventure. And there is also a pair of highly anticipated Stephen King adaptations on the way. First up, at the end of July, is The Dark Tower, based on his multi-book magnum opus. In September, there’s It, one of his most popular books, which was previous made into a TV miniseries in 1990.

But that’s not all! In addition to movies, television (including streaming services) has become a hot place for book adaptations to land. Available today on Netflix is A Series of Unfortunate Events, from the popular kids’ fantasy series. Rationing out those eight episodes will help pass the time until April, which is a big month. On April 26, Margaret Atwood’s dystopian The Handmaid’s Tale comes to Hulu. On the 30th, NBC will premiere Midnight, Texas, based on a series by Charlaine Harris, who also wrote the books that HBO’s True Blood was based on. Also that month, Neil Gaiman’s fantasy epic American Gods will debut on Starz. Then, at some point later this year, HBO will have Cormoran Strike, a limited 7-hour series adapted from Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling’s mystery novels The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Silkworm, and Career of Evil.

So that’s just a scratch of the surface of what’s coming in 2017, and that’s without venturing into music or audiobooks. Please let us know what you and your patrons are most looking forward to in the comments section below.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Saying Goodbye in 2016

Written by Jon Williams

It was a cruel and heartbreaking year in the entertainment industry, with the passing of so many larger-than-life figures, so many of them in unexpected fashion. And unfortunately, 2016 ended much the same way it began. Our first blog post of the year reflected on the passing of David Bowie, and it was followed up a week later with one memorializing Alan Rickman and Glenn Frey. It got no easier from there; some of the notable names we lost in 2016 include Abe Vigoda, Harper Lee, Garry Shandling, Patty Duke, Merle Haggard, Doris Roberts, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Anton Yelchin, Elie Wiesel, Garry Marshall, Juan Gabriel, Gene Wilder, Arnold Palmer, Leonard Cohen, Leon Russell, Florence Henderson, Alan Thicke, and Zsa Zsa Gabor.

Seeing those names all listed together, it’s a pretty stark list of so many talented people. And sadly, even the holiday season offered no respite. On December 24 we lost Richard Adams, author of the classic Watership Down (which George R.R. Martin called “one of the three great fantasy novels of the twentieth century”) as well as several other well-received novels. Then, the next day, came the passing of pop superstar George Michael, a groundbreaking figure in popular culture who won a Grammy Award for Album of the Year for his debut solo album, 1987’s Faith.

On Monday of this week, Carrie Fisher passed away. Fisher, of course, will forever be most associated with her role playing Princess Leia in Star Wars Episodes IV-VI, and then later in The Force Awakens, but there was much more to her than just that one role, iconic as it may be. In addition to her acting career, she was also an acclaimed writer, responsible for the semi-autobiographical novel Postcards from the Edge, as well as the screenplay for the film starring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine. Her one-woman show Wishful Drinking was turned into a successful book, and her most recent memoir, The Princess Diarist, was released earlier this year. What many fans don’t know is that she put her writing talent to good use during her Hollywood career, serving as an uncredited “script doctor” to punch up dialogue for such films as the Star Wars prequels, Hook, Sister Act, Scream 3, and The Wedding Singer, among others.

What makes the story even sadder is that Fisher’s mother, Debbie Reynolds, passed away just one day later. An actress, singer, and dancer, Reynolds earned a Golden Globe nomination at the age of 18 for Most Promising Newcomer, and her breakout came when she starred opposite Gene Kelly in 1952’s Singin’ in the Rain. She followed that up with roles in films like The Affairs of Dobie Gillis, Bundle of Joy, and The Unsinkable Molly Brown. More recent performances included a recurring role on Will & Grace and as Liberace’s mother in Behind the Candelabra. She even did some voice acting, starting with Charlotte’s Web in 1973 and continuing through The Penguins of Madagascar. The relationship between Reynolds and Fisher is explored in the documentary Bright Lights, which will air on HBO next month.

As we get set to watch the ball drop on 2016 this weekend, we can only hope that the coming year will be a kinder one. In the meantime, libraries can help keep the memories of all these wonderful performers alive by sharing with patrons the incredible work they left behind.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Force Is Strong with Rogue One

Written by Jon Williams

Last week, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story rolled into theatres, thrilling fans eagerly anticipating the franchise’s first standalone movie. It has dominated the box office since then, earning more than $350 million worldwide with another big weekend coming up. While the movie won’t be available on DVD and Blu-ray for a while, fans can relive the excitement with the novelization (also available for younger listeners). With such popularity, patrons are sure to be interested in exploring not just the story surrounding the movie, but other movies from the new cast as well.

The first place to start is with James Luceno’s novel Catalyst, which ties directly into Rogue One. It tells the story of brilliant scientist Galen Erso and how he is pulled into the Death Star project by Director Orson Krennic. In 2014, Luceno also wrote the novel Tarkin, detailing the early career of another character who figures prominently in Rogue One, as well as the original Star Wars movie, 1977’s Episode IV: A New Hope.

One “new” character introduced in Rogue One is Saw Gerrera, the leader of a Rebel extremist group. “New” is in quotation marks, of course, because the character isn’t actually new at all. He first appeared four years ago in the fifth season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the animated series that bridged the gap between Episodes II and III, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. At that time, he was a young militant being trained by the likes of Anakin Skywalker; his older, more experienced self will soon be joining this season of Star Wars: Rebels, voiced by acclaimed actor Forest Whitaker, who portrays him in Rogue One.

Gerrera’s function in the movie is to bring together the band of rebels who will attempt to steal the Death Star plans. He can serve this function because he was once a mentor to young Jyn Erso, daughter of the aforementioned Galen Erso, who helped design the Death Star’s weapons system. Jyn is played by Felicity Jones, who won an Academy Award for her performance in 2014’s The Theory of Everything and has also appeared in such films as Inferno and The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Bringing Jyn into the Rebellion and leading the mission to help her find her father is Captain Cassian Andor, played by Diego Luna. Acting from a young age, Luna is an acting staple to Mexican audiences. He was in the acclaimed film Y Tu Mama Tambien as well as the sci-fi film Elysium, among others. Andor in the film is accompanied by a droid sidekick, K-2SO, played in a motion-capture performance by Alan Tudyk. This was not his first robot portrayal, as he also played Sonny in I, Robot. A prolific comic actor, Tudyk starred as one of the title pair in Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, and also as Steve the Pirate in Dodgeball.

Throwing in on the mission as well are the one-two punch of Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus. Îmwe is a blind devotee of the Force who nonetheless is a valuable fighter. He’s played by Donnie Yen, a martial arts master who has starred in such films as Hero and the Ip Man trilogy. Malbus is his gun-toting companion who serves as his protector on the rare occasions when he needs one. Jiang Wen is an acclaimed Chinese actor and filmmaker; Rogue One is his first film produced primarily for an English-speaking audience.

The last member of the team, getting them from place to place, is the defected Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook, played by Riz Ahmed. Ahmed was seen most recently in the hit HBO series The Night Of, and he also starred opposite Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler. He also features as a rapper (under the name Riz MC) on the Hamilton Mixtape. Needless to say, the past couple of weeks have been phenomenal for his career.

Opposing the Rebels in their efforts is Imperial officer Orson Krennic, overseer of the Death Star construction project. He’s played by Ben Mendelsohn, an Australian actor who has won an Emmy Award for his performance in Netflix’s Bloodline. He also appeared in The Dark Knight Rises, and will star as the Sheriff of Nottingham in the upcoming Robin Hood. And of course, a Star Wars movie dealing with the Rebellion against the Empire will be haunted by the specter of Darth Vader. The Dark Lord of the Sith does appear briefly in Rogue One, with his familiar forbidding voice being provided once again by James Earl Jones.

Fans who loved Rogue One will have all this to explore, and there’s always plenty to enjoy from the ever-expanding galaxy far, far away. SmartBrowse Star Wars on our website to find all the movies and TV series, not to mention soundtracks and audiobooks. In addition, patrons can head over to hoopla digital for a collection of eBooks and comics that they can enjoy right away on their smartphones or tablets.