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Friday, October 5, 2018

Celebrate 15 Years of The Walking Dead

Written by Jon Williams

On October 8, 2003, The Walking Dead issue #1 hit comic shops everywhere. Coming right on the heels of the acclaimed movie 28 Days Later, it helped start a snowball effect to begin the zombie craze that is still building to this day. Now, The Walking Dead is still going strong as a comic series, with issue #184 coming out earlier this week, and creator Robert Kirkman saying the end is still “far away off.” In conjunction with the fifteenth anniversary of the first issue’s release, October 13 has been designated as Walking Dead Day. To help your library celebrate with your patrons, here’s a look at the pop culture phenomenon that The Walking Dead has become.

The namesake television series The Walking Dead premiered, fittingly enough, on Halloween, October 31, 2010. Like the comic, it centered on Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), a small-town sheriff who awakes from a coma to find the hospital he is in, as well as the world outside, overrun by zombies. His life becomes a fight for survival as he struggles to figure out what’s going on and search for other survivors, particularly his family. The show has been a sensation, breaking viewership records for a cable series, and has gone on through its various seasons to explore the threat posed by other human survivors, personified by such memorable villains as the Governor (David Morrissey) and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), as well as the ever-present zombie menace. This Sunday, October 7, the ninth season debuts, with this being notable as Andrew Lincoln’s last, as the show will shift its focus to Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) as they attempt to lead the survivors.

With the show’s success, it’s no surprise that it has spawned a spinoff of its own. Unlike The Walking Dead, which began more or less with the zombie apocalypse already underway, Fear the Walking Dead explores what it was like to experience the world descending into chaos. Debuting in August of 2015, it follows Madison (Kim Dickens) and Travis (Cliff Curtis) as they try desperately to keep their family alive and together. The fourth season, which just concluded on September 30, brought the two shows together with the introduction of Morgan, a character originated by Lennie James in the first season of The Walking Dead and brought back in season 5. Fear the Walking Dead has been picked up for its own fifth season, as it and the original show seem poised to continue far into the future.

The Walking Dead began its life in the comic format, but it has expanded into other areas of publishing as well. In 2011, the novel Rise of the Governor brought the backstory of that intriguing villain to life, and it was followed by The Road to Woodbury and The Fall of the Governor Parts 1 and 2 to round out the story arc. Series creator Robert Kirkman teamed up with writer Jay Bonansinga to tell the Governor’s story, and then Bonansinga continued on with four more novels: Descent, Invasion, Search and Destroy, and Return to Woodbury. Fans of the comic series and the show won’t want to miss these stories that delve into the niches of beloved characters and settings.

With so much content available, and plenty more on the way, fans of The Walking Dead are everywhere, and they’ll be looking for ways to celebrate on October 13. Make sure you have plenty of zombie-related media on your shelves for them to check out. And for those who just can’t wait, point them toward hoopla, where they can find Jay Bonansinga’s audiobooks, as well as the entire comic series, available with no holds and no waiting.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Plenty for Beatles Fans to Be Excited About

Written by Jon Williams

Paul McCartney’s latest album, Egypt Station, came out on September 7. It was his first release of new material since 2013’s NEW. As hard as it may be to believe, based on his iconic career, Egypt Station was Sir Paul’s first solo release to debut at #1 on Billboard’s album chart, and the first to attain that position at all in 36 years, since 1982’s Tug of War got there more than a month after its release.

Although this is his first new album in five years, he has been anything but idle in the meantime. In that span he released remastered editions of his classic albums Venus and Mars and Wings’ At the Speed of Sound (2014), Pipes of Peace and the aforementioned Tug of War (2015), and Flowers in the Dirt (2017), as well as putting together the post-Beatles career-spanning hits collection Pure McCartney. All of this on top of his constant tour schedule, and it’s hard to believe this man is 76 years old.

Another project McCartney had a hand in is the upcoming 50th anniversary re-release of the Beatles’ seminal self-titled ninth album, familiarly known as “The White Album” due to its plain white album cover with just the band’s name embossed on it. Originally released as a double album on November 22, 1968, the new edition will be available on November 9 in two configurations. A 3-disc set will include the original album plus the “Esher Demos,” a set of 27 songs recorded acoustically at George Harrison’s home (some of which were included on Anthology 3). The 6-disc deluxe edition includes all of that as well as outtakes and demos from the album’s recording sessions, plus a Blu-ray featuring the original mono mix of the album, the new stereo mix, and a 5.1 surround-sound mix. This comes on the heels of last year’s similar anniversary release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

And that’s not all that’s on the horizon for fans of the Beatles and their solo careers. Coming next week, in celebration of what would have been his 78th birthday on October 9, are new Ultimate Editions of John Lennon’s classic 1971 album Imagine. On the strength of its title track, it has proved to be his most popular solo album. The reissue will include a remastered standard edition, a 2-disc edition that includes B-sides and outtakes, and a Super Deluxe version that explores the evolution of each song through four CDs and bonus Blu-ray content. In addition, the films Imagine and Gimme Some Truth have been restored and are being re-released on DVD and Blu-ray at the same time. The project was overseen by Yoko Ono, Lennon’s widow and creative partner.

The Beatles’ popularity continues unabated more than 48 years after they broke up, and their music, both as a band and from their individual solo careers, truly is a gift that keeps on giving. Your patrons will be clamouring for the new album from Paul McCartney, as well as these explorations of the Beatles’ and John Lennon’s classic albums. You can get them from the links above, and you can SmartBrowse on our website for more timeless music from these artists (and don’t forget George Harrison and Ringo Starr, who also have plenty of celebrated solo work).

Friday, September 21, 2018

American Horror Story Brings the Chills

Written by Jon Williams

Fall begins this weekend. As we close the book on summer and inch closer to October and the spooky season, it’s entirely fitting that the new season of American Horror Story is now in full swing. Subtitled Apocalypse, the acclaimed show’s eighth season began with a widespread nuclear attack wiping out much of the world’s population, and then focused in on a small group of survivors brought together by a mysterious “Cooperative.”

Praise for American Horror Story began in 2011 with its first season. Murder House dealt with a troubled family trying to make a new start by moving to the West Coast; unfortunately, the house they bought for a steal had a troubled history of its own, with its victims (both old and new) being quite a bit livelier than you might expect. The star-studded cast featured Dylan McDermott, Connie Britton, and Kate Mara, as well as Jessica Lange, Taissa Farmiga, Evan Peters, Frances Conroy, Alexandra Breckenridge, Zachary Quinto, Sarah Paulson, Denis O’Hare, and Lily Rabe.

Although each season tells its own self-contained story, many of these stars (and others) would become familiar faces in different roles as the show progressed. The second season, Asylum, added Chloe Sevigny into the mix, and also featured James Cromwell (who won an Emmy for Best Supporting Actor) and Joseph Fiennes. The third season, Coven, added Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, and Emma Roberts to the rotation of regulars, and starred Gabourey Sidibe as well, as it detailed the exploits surrounding a school for young witches. Freak Show took on a circus sideshow act, adding Finn Wittrock and John Carroll Lynch (in a memorable role as Twisty the Clown), as well as Michael Chiklis. Then came Hotel, about a group of vampires living in a haunted hotel, led by Lady Gaga’s Countess, and starring Wes Bentley, Alexandra Daddario, and Cheyenne Jackson. The sixth season, Roanoke, tells of a reality show and documentary taking place on the site of a famous mass disappearance, and adds Andre Holland and Cuba Gooding Jr. to the cast. Then last season, Cult, took on the aftermath of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, with Alison Pill joining the fray.

With Apocalpyse, American Horror Story creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk are in the midst of their eighth season of acclaimed, award-winning television, and the show has already been renewed to run at least through its tenth season. Even outside of this show, they are no stranger to good, popular television. Murphy created the show Nip/Tuck in 2003, and met Falchuk while working on it. When it ended, they joined forces to create the musical sensation Glee, which ran for six seasons. They created the two-season series Scream Queens, and they also serve as executive producers for another anthology series, American Crime Story, whose first season focused on the O.J. Simpson trial and whose second season, The Assassination of Gianni Versace, took home five trophies at this week’s Emmy Awards. They also created the series 9-1-1 focusing on first responders, currently in its second season.

Television lovers are always looking for good new shows to binge-watch, and with Halloween right around the corner, American Horror Story is a can’t-miss. The varied storylines and incredible performances are sure to keep viewers coming back for more. Find all previous seasons on our website so your patrons can get caught up with all the horrific happenings that have led into this season as well as whatever the show has in store for the future.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Jack Ryan Returns to the Screen

Written by Jon Williams

On August 31, the entire eight-episode first season of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan became available for streaming. This new iteration brings the character to life for the first time since 2014, and to the small screen for the first time ever. Positive critical and viewer reactions are already rolling in, and the series has already been renewed for a second season.

This time around Ryan is played by John Krasinski, as the series focuses on the early days of the burgeoning CIA agent’s career. Krasinski has been in the pop culture spotlight lately as the star, director, and co-writer of the hit horror flick A Quiet Place, which came out earlier this year. He is probably even better known for his breakout role as Jim Halpert on The Office, which he played for the entirety of the comedy series’ nine-season run. The rest of Jack Ryan’s main cast is rounded out by Wendell Pierce, Abbie Cornish, Ali Suliman, and Dina Shihabi.

The show may be new, but the character of Jack Ryan is anything but. He originally came to be in Tom Clancy’s 1984 The Hunt for Red October. The novel tells how Jack Ryan, at this point a young CIA analyst, helps to ensure the defection of a grizzled Soviet navy captain with a devastating new submarine. The book became a bestseller following huge critical reaction, including an endorsement from U.S. President Ronald Reagan. Ryan has since featured in more than twenty novels, including such titles as Clear and Present Danger, Executive Orders, Command Authority, the recently released Line of Sight, and the forthcoming Oath of Office. Sadly, author Tom Clancy passed away in 2013, but the mantle of writing the Ryan character has been taken on by fellow authors Mark Greaney, Mike Maden, and Marc Cameron.

Jack Ryan remained as words on a page until 1990. That was the year The Hunt for Red October made him a big-screen sensation as well, bringing in over $120 million at the domestic box office. The movie featured a star-studded cast that included Sean Connery, Sam Neill, and James Earl Jones, as well as Alec Baldwin as Ryan himself. It was followed in 1992 with Patriot Games, with Harrison Ford taking over as Jack Ryan, a role he reprised in 1994’s Clear and Present Danger. The series was rebooted with 2002’s The Sum of All Fears, with Ben Affleck in the main character’s role. That movie took Clancy’s novel of the same name from 1991 and updated it for a 2002 setting. The series was then rebooted again in 2014 with Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, an original origin story not based on any specific Clancy book, this time with Chris Pine starring.

And that’s where Jack Ryan’s screen presence left off, until the new streaming series debuted two weeks ago. As more and more people discover the show, Tom Clancy’s audiobooks and the past movies are sure to be in demand. Use the links above to find the materials, or SmartBrowse ‘Jack Ryan’ on our website for a full list of audiobooks we carry in the series.

Friday, August 24, 2018

In Memoriam: Aretha Franklin

Written by Jon Williams

The music world lost a legend last week with the passing of the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. She was 76.

While Aretha’s mother passed at a young age, her father was a well-known minister, giving her exposure to influential gospel singers of the time, including Mahalia Jackson and Clara Ward, both of whom served as role models. Aretha began touring and performing with her father when she was just 12, and her first single was released when she was 14. She stuck with gospel until she was 18, at which time she moved to New York with hopes of breaking into the pop music world. Her first secular album, Aretha: With the Ray Bryant Combo, was released early in 1961, just before her 20th birthday.

The rest, as they say, is history. She went on to have one of the great careers of all time, recording such iconic, instantly recognizable hits as “Respect,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” and “I Say a Little Prayer,” among so many others. In 2008, music authority Rolling Stone named her the greatest singer of all time. With a career that spanned more than five decades, her influence is legendary, inspiring generations of singers and musicians with her talent and powerful performances. Some of these notable names include Whitney Houston, Beyonce, and Jennifer Hudson, who Franklin herself chose to play her in an upcoming biopic.

We join the music and pop culture worlds in mourning the monumental loss of Aretha Franklin. SmartBrowse her name on our website to find a number of collections of her music, as well as a few related audiobooks and films (including her incredible performance in the classic comedy The Blues Brothers). Patrons can also check out her wonderful music, including a broad collection of original albums, on hoopla digital.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Patrick Stewart Returning to Star Trek

Written by Jon Williams

In an age of reboots and revivals, it takes a piece of seriously big news to command the attention of the pop culture landscape. That’s exactly what happened recently when first rumours started to swirl and then actual confirmation happened that Patrick Stewart would return to the role of Jean-Luc Picard in a new Star Trek series being developed. The series will explore the further adventures and later life of the beloved man who once commanded the bridge of the iconic starship Enterprise.

Although he had already been acting for many years, many people, especially in the United States, had their first exposure to Stewart when Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted in 1987. That show breathed new life into a popular franchise that, nevertheless, had been off television for nearly twenty years. It worked; the show ran for seven seasons and then, like the original series before it, spawned several big-screen adventures, with Stewart continuing to lead the cast from the show. All in all, he ended up portraying Jean-Luc Picard for fifteen years. It’s been sixteen years since the last time, in the 2002 movie Star Trek: Nemesis, and fans are eager to see what has become of the intrepid captain in the meantime—just as Stewart is himself, calling the opportunity to return “…an unexpected but delightful surprise.” Although he was initially skeptical of performing in a sci-fi television show, he eventually came to appreciate the reach the show had and the impact it had on fans’ lives.

Seeming to confirm his initial skepticism, though, for a time the popularity of Star Trek: The Next Generation hindered him from landing other roles, as filmmakers felt that having “Captain Picard” show up in their project would distract the audience. Stewart finally got around this by jumping into a similar part in another sci-fi franchise. In 2000’s X-Men, he portrayed for the first time Professor Charles Xavier, who runs a school to teach youngsters with freakish abilities (called “mutants”) how to control and use them responsibly. As with Star Trek, the role lingered, with Stewart playing Professor Xavier in a total of seven movies, most recently (and for the final time) in 2017’s critically acclaimed Logan.

Despite the typecasting, Stewart’s talent has won out, allowing him to carve out quite a nice and well-rounded acting career for himself. Prior to Star Trek he had roles in such films as Hennessy, his 1975 film debut, Excalibur, and Dune. He showed off his comedic side as King Richard in the 1993 spoof Robin Hood: Men in Tights, just before his Star Trek role jumped to the big screen in Generations. On television, he has brought a number of literary and theatrical classics to life, including I, Claudius, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Hamlet, and Macbeth, to name just a few. And with his deep, distinctive voice, it’s no surprise that he’s also done quite a bit of voice acting. He recently had a memorable role in The Emoji Movie, and has also lent his voice to such favourites as The Prince of Egypt, Chicken Little, and Gnomeo & Juliet. He maintains a recurring role on the long-running animated series American Dad!, and his association with creator Seth MacFarlane led to him serving as the narrator for both Ted and Ted 2. He also narrated the Tim Burton classic The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Patrick Stewart is an actor whose performances are always incredible, and the news that he’s returning to Star Trek is sure to put his work in the spotlight as never before. Make sure you have The Next Generation shows and movies on your shelves for patrons to discover or relive, and SmartBrowse his name on our website to see a full list of what we have to offer from his impressive career. And for more Star Trek, be sure to pre-order the first season of Discovery, available in November, before the second season premieres in early 2019.

Friday, August 3, 2018

R.L. Stine Continues to Frighten

Written  by Jon Williams

The calendar may have just flipped over to August, but as far as we’re concerned, it’s never too early to start thinking about Halloween. You can look forward to plenty of Halloween media ideas from us between now and October, and what better way to kick it off than with a master of the creepy tale, a man whose work has been the basis for countless pleasant shivers in the dead of night? After an early career writing humour aimed at kids, R.L. Stine eventually came to the conclusion that he’d rather frighten them. His first kids’ horror novel, Blind Date, was published in 1986, and the rest is history. According to his website, he’s written well over 300 books in the intervening 32 years, including a number of wildly popular series.

By far his most well-known series is Goosebumps. Begun in 1992 with Welcome to Dead House, the classic series ran through 1997 and comprised a total of 62 books. Goosebumps has taken on a life of its own with a number of spinoff and companion series, some of which continue to this day. One of those is called SlappyWorld, featuring Slappy, a ventriloquist’s dummy come to life with scary stories of his own to tell. Slappy made his first appearance very early on, in 1993’s Night of the Living Dummy, and became a primary antagonist in the 1995 follow-up. From there he took on a life of his own, so to speak, appearing in several HorrorLand books (yet another Goosebumps-adjacent series) before spawning his own series in 2017’s Slappy Birthday to You. There are currently five books in the series, with Escape from Shudder Mansion just releasing late in July, and more to come.

Of course, popular as it was and still is, Goosebumps was not Stine’s first book series. That honour goes to Fear Street, which started in 1989 with The New Girl. Recent titles in this series include Party Games and Don’t Stay Up Late. Also released in late July, You May Now Kill the Bride is the first book in a new Return to Fear Street series. And Fear Street fans can look forward to renewed interest in the series, with Fox recently announcing plans for three theatrical films to be based on stories from the books.

And although Stine has made his name in the world of publishing, he is certainly no stranger to the screen. As his writing career was gaining traction in the early 1990s, he helped create and wrote for the children’s TV series Eureeka’s Castle. Shortly thereafter, Goosebumps was turned into an anthology TV series that ran for four seasons. In 2007, the movie The Haunting Hour: Don’t Think About It was made, loosely adapted from a book of Stine’s short stories, and that too was spun off into a successful anthology series, winning a number of Daytime Emmys among other awards. And in 2015, Goosebumps became a feature film starring Jack Black as R.L. Stine himself. A sequel, Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween, is due in theatres in October.

R.L. Stine has been giving young readers the creeps for more than thirty years now, and in so doing, has inspired generations of kids to develop a love of reading that has carried them into adulthood (and adults who grew up reading him as kids should check out Red Rain, his grown-up horror novel written in tribute to longtime fans). As his popularity expands with each new book and movie, continue to share his work with eager young readers and listeners. You can search his name on our website for all his works we carry in audiobook and Playaway, and point your patrons to hoopla, where they can find a wide selection of his books in both audio and eBook.
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