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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

2014 Pulitzers Announced

Written by Jon Williams

On Monday, the prestigious Pulitzer Prizes were awarded by Columbia University. While most closely associated with journalism (being named after newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer), Prizes are also awarded in several literary categories, in addition to one for music.

This year’s fiction and non-fiction awards went to a pair of incredibly deserving books. The Goldfinch, released in October, was Donna Tartt’s first novel in eleven years, following up 2002’s The Little Friend (currently out of print). The Goldfinch opens with the main character, teenaged Theo, surviving a terrorist bombing (which claims the life of his mother) at an art museum, and follows as the repercussions of that day reverberate throughout his life. Tartt is an interesting figure in the literary world, shunning interviews and fame and producing new books only rarely; The Goldfinch is just her third novel, with the first being published in 1992.

In the non-fiction category, this year’s Prize went to Dan Fagin for his book Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation. Toms River, New Jersey, is a town renowned for its propensity for sending youngsters to play in the Little League World Series. It has another history, though, as home to a cancer cluster that in 2001 was legally linked to a pattern of toxic dumping. Fagin brings to light the story of how that judgment came about, including the deception of those who kept the dumping going on for so long and the struggles of those who had to live with the consequences of their actions.

With their wins, these authors have etched their names in history alongside a number of well-known books both classic and contemporary. In just the past ten years, Pulitzer Prizes for fiction have gone to such books as A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (2011), Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (2009), and The Road by Cormac McCarthy (2007), just to name a few. Since the award was first given in 1918, winners have included The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder (1928), The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1940), The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk (1952), The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (1952), To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1961), A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (1981), Beloved by Toni Morrison (1988), and The Hours by Michael Cunningham (1999).

Again, this is just a small sampling of the many wonderful and beloved books that have won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction over the years. Still more have won for non-fiction, in the general category as well as for history and biography. For a full selection of Pulitzer Prize winners available from CVS Midwest Tape, SmartBrowse ‘Pulitzer Prize’ on our homepage.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Finally! A TV Show about Librarians (Sort Of)

Written by Jon Williams

Now here's something we all can enjoy. Coming to the TNT network later this year, a new TV series called The Librarians will continue the story of the highly successful movie trilogy whose installments have aired on the network in 2004, 2006, and 2008, respectively.

The movies starred Noah Wyle (of ER fame) as scholar Flynn Carsen, who’s hired for a post at the Metropolitan Library. Once ensconced in this new job, he must undertake an action-packed Da Vinci Code-type quest to solve cryptic clues to retrieve and then protect a collection of powerful objects and artifacts. He is joined in all three films by Jane Curtin and Bob Newhart, who serve as his mentors in his role as the Librarian.

In the first film, Quest for the Spear, Carsen first takes the job as Librarian and discovers what his new role entails. Soon, a piece of the Spear of Destiny is stolen by Edward Wilde (Kyle MacLachlan), the previous Librarian, and Wyle’s character must recover it and track down the remaining two pieces to keep them out of the hands of evil. The second installment, Return to King Solomon’s Mines, features an amulet that is key to the discovery of the Book of Solomon, which in turn gives its possessor the power to control space and time. Finally, in The Curse of the Judas Chalice, Carsen must try and keep the fabled chalice from a powerful, ancient vampire.

The Librarians will pick up where the last movie left off. While Wyle will appear in his role as Flynn Carsen, he’ll be joined by four new recruits brought in to assist in a role that is growing far too unwieldy for just one person to handle. Chief among the newcomers will be Eve Baird, played by Rebecca Romijn. While both Curtin and Newhart will also be returning, the new ringleader for this group of librarians will be played by veteran actor John Larroquette. This group will be opposed by the Serpent Brotherhood that was led by Kyle MacLachlan in the first film, now headed by a mysterious figure named Dulaque, played by Matt Frewer.

While these characters’ jobs may be slightly out of line from what’s typically expected of a librarian, we say that anything to draw attention to public libraries is a good thing. While no premiere date has been set, look for the first of the series’ ten episodes to air before the end of 2014.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Get Ready to Sing Your Face Off

Written by Jon Williams

Speaking of TV singing competitions, here comes one with a twist.

Premiering on Saturday, May 31, ABC’s Sing Your Face Off will not feature an unknown cast of varying talents vying for fame and recording contracts. Instead, it will feature a number of celebrities who will attempt to bring an iconic singer or pop star (such as Lady Gaga or Luciano Pavarotti) to life through individual performances. This is not limited to the choice of song, but will be judged also on criteria such as mannerisms and incorporation of signature dance movies, for instance. If the show stays true to its inspiration, the international hit Your Face Sounds Familiar, the performer each contestant must impersonate will be randomly selected each week.

The five people selected to complete on this show reflect a wide range of celebrity backgrounds. One contestant will be NBA star Landry Fields, who plays for the Toronto Raptors. His fellow performers come from more conventionally related fields in the entertainment industry. One is actress Lisa Rinna, best known for her roles on Days of Our Lives and Melrose Place. She’ll be joined by fellow actor and comedian Jon Lovitz, a Saturday Night Live alumnus who has appeared in a number of movies and TV shows in addition to voiceover work and Broadway shows. Combining the acting and music worlds is China Anne McClain, best known for starring in the Disney Channel series A.N.T. Farm and performing on the soundtrack. Rounding out the cast is rocker Sebastian Bach, who fronted the band Skid Row in their late-eighties/early-nineties heyday and his since embarked on a solo career.

Of course, as with any singing show, its success will depend as much on the judges as it does on the cast. Sing Your Face Off’s regular panel of judges will consist of two members. On the musical/singing side there’s Debbie Gibson, the ‘80s pop sensation who first hit #1 with her 1988 single “Foolish Beat.” Judging other aspects of the performances will be Darrell Hammond, another SNL alum known for his hilarious impressions of various well-known figures. The show is also scheduled to have a number of celebrity guest judges. And serving as host will be Scottish actor John Barrowman. In addition to a number of roles on Broadway, Barrowman’s face is familiar from his role as Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who and its spinoff, Torchwood.

With its varied array of talent and its far-out premise, this show promises to be a good time, and will likely garner quite a bit of attention when it airs. Make sure your patrons have access to the work of all the celebrities who will appear on the show so they can explore their previous work.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Voice Welcomes New Coach

Written by Jon Williams

The singing competition show The Voice began in 2011 as other networks looked to capitalize on the phenomenal popularity and ratings enjoyed by Fox’s American Idol. Knowing that Idol was brought to the U.S. from the U.K., NBC also looked abroad for inspiration, bringing The Voice stateside from its origins in Holland.

For those who haven’t seen it, the concept of The Voice begins, similar to Idol and other singing competitions, with a singer coming onstage and performing for a panel of judges. The twist is that, on this show, the judges are facing away from the performer and are able to make their appraisals only on the person’s voice and singing ability. When one (or more) of the judges hears something they like, pressing a button swings their chair around to face the performer, thereby “claiming” that performer. From that point on, the judge becomes a coach, helping the performer to achieve their fullest potential as the show progresses.

Currently midway through its sixth season, The Voice has proved to be quite a hit, scoring consistently high ratings and a number of awards and nominations. Winners of the first five seasons were Javier Colon, Jermaine Paul, Cassadee Pope, Danielle Bradbery, and Tessanne Chin, with other notable performers including Dia Frampton and Tony Lucca.

As much as the performers themselves, the show attracts attention due to its high-powered panel of celebrity judges/coaches. The original group consisted of rocker Adam Levine of Maroon 5, hip-hop and R&B star Cee Lo Green, pop diva Christina Aguilera, and country heartthrob Blake Shelton. That combination stayed together for three seasons. For the fourth season, Cee Lo and Christina Aguilera stepped away, and their seats were filled by Usher and Shakira. The original group reunited for season five, but the current season sees the season four group together again.

Recently, Cee Lo announced that he would not be returning to the show. Although the sixth season is still ongoing (the finale is set for Tuesday, May 20), a new judge for season seven has already be introduced. It will be none other than Pharrell Williams, riding the wave of success caused by his hit song “Happy” from Despicable Me 2, which also features on his recently released sophomore album, GIRL. This won’t be Pharrell’s first experience with The Voice; Usher brought him in to mentor his performers (and perform himself) during season four.

In 2013, Canada got its own version of The Voice, titled La Voix. Originating in Quebec, it is currently in its second season. The first season winner, Valerie Carpentier, released her debut album in November. She was coached by Ariane Moffatt; other first season coaches were Jean-Pierre Ferland, Marie-Mai, and Marc Dupre. Of that group, only Dupre is back for the second season, which premiered on January 19. He is joined this season by Eric Lapointe, Isabelle Boulay, and Louis-Jean Cormier.

Season seven of The Voice (U.S.) will air on NBC later this year. If the excitement over Pharrell’s involvement is any indication, it’s primed to be a bigger hit than ever. Make sure to have plenty of music by past performers and their coaches on your shelves for your patrons to explore and enjoy.

Friday, March 28, 2014

New Rowling, King Books Set for June

Written by Jon Williams

As we wait for spring to kick into full gear, it’s never too early to start thinking about summer beach reading and audiobooks for long trips. There is a wonderful slate of books scheduled for release later this spring and into the summer, but June looks to be a monster, with highly anticipated new titles coming from two juggernauts of the literary world.

It was recently announced that June 24 would bring The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith. This will be the second crime novel featuring private detective Cormoran Strike. The first Strike novel was last year’s The Cuckoo’s Calling, in which Strike investigated the death of supermodel Lula Landry, the adopted sister of his childhood friend. That book, of course, made news (and jumped to the top of the bestseller lists) when it was revealed that Robert Galbraith was, in fact, the pen name of J.K. Rowling, the wildly famous author of the Harry Potter books. After that series concluded in 2007, she made her first foray into writing for adults with 2012’s The Casual Vacancy. When that book was an automatic bestseller, she decided to use a pen name for her next book in order to see how it would perform on its own merits. That plan was foiled shortly after The Cuckoo’s Calling was published; however, it was drawing rave reviews even before the truth about its authorship was revealed. The Silkworm promises to pick up where the first book left off, with Strike this time investigating the case of an author gone missing before the publication of a devastating tell-all.

Before that comes out, though, June 3 will bring a new novel from Stephen King. Like Galbraith’s crime novels, King calls Mr. Mercedes his first “hard-boiled” detective novel, with his own signature macabre twist. The tale deals with a killer who operates by driving a stolen car into crowds of people, and the retired police officer on the trail to track him down before he can strike again. This is King’s first novel since last year’s Doctor Sleep, the long-awaited sequel to his early classic The Shining, and it kicks off a busy month for the horror master. On June 30, Under the Dome returns to CBS, a show based on King’s 2009 tome about a small town mysteriously trapped under an invisible force field that completely seals them off from the outside world. The second season’s premiere episode was written by King himself. In addition, later this year (November 11) King will publish Revival, a story more typical to his roots in the horror genre.

And of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of great stories coming out this spring and summer. Are there any titles you or your patrons are particularly excited about? Let us know in the comments section below.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Frozen Continues Its Run of Success

Written by Jon Williams

Disney’s Frozen was released into theatres on November 27, 2013, intended as a delightful holiday treat for the kids. It quickly turned into a phenomenon. It pulled in over $110 million at box offices around the world just during its opening weekend, no mean feat for a film with a $150 million budget. Even more impressive has been the film’s staying power. It was #1 at U.S. box offices three different times, the latest being its seventh week of release, challenging and beating other movies that were more likely blockbusters. As of today, it has earned close to $398 million domestically and over $1 billion worldwide. The movie came out last week on DVD and Blu-ray, where no doubt it will be hugely popular as well.

Frozen’s popularity extends beyond the film itself, though. If you pay attention to the music charts, no doubt you’ve noticed the Frozen soundtrack hovering at or near the top since its release. It’s been in the top ten for seventeen weeks, and at #1 for seven of them—including this week. Like the film, the soundtrack has challenged or beaten out albums more likely to be at the top of the charts. Led by the Academy Award winner for Best Song, “Let It Go,” the soundtrack has captured the hearts (and ears) of young ones everywhere—and their parents.

“Let It Go” in the movie is sung by the character Elsa, the snow queen, voiced by Broadway star Idina Menzel. She is joined on the soundtrack by actress Kristen Bell (the character Princess Anna), best known for her recently resurrected role as Veronica Mars, as well as Jonathan Groff (Kristoff) from Glee Josh Gad (Olaf), and Demi Lovato, who performs the single version of “Let It Go.” The soundtrack also features pieces from the score by acclaimed film composer Christophe Beck.

At this early date, the soundtrack is already set to be one of the biggest (if not the biggest) selling CDs of 2014. And for those who just can’t seem to get enough, it is also available in a two-disc deluxe edition that includes 23 additional tracks, featuring demos and outtakes of several songs, plus additional pieces from the score. It has also inspired an edition in the Disney Karaoke series, allowing kids (or whoever) to bring the music home and perform their own renditions.

Needless to say, Frozen fever is at its peak and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon—especially with news that the hit film is in the planning stages for an adaptation on Broadway. If you don’t have the movie or the music on your shelves, what are you waiting for? Just head on over to our website, where you can find it all, as well as plenty of other always-popular Disney films and soundtracks.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Winter Is Coming

Written by Jon Williams

I can hear the shrieks of frustration over this headline, as News and Views readers look at their calendars. “Wasn’t yesterday the equinox?” I hear you asking. “Isn’t winter finally over?”

In one sense, yes, that’s absolutely true. In another sense, however, the harshest days of winter are still on the horizon. “Winter is coming” are the words of the Starks of Winterfell, one of seven families locked in a war that has swept through the kingdom of Westeros in HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones. The show’s fourth season premieres on Sunday, April 6, at 9:00 p.m.

The first season of Game of Thrones made its HBO debut on April 17, 2011. It quickly won acclaim from viewers and critics alike. The first episode (itself titled “Winter Is Coming”) scored 2.2 million viewers, and that number grew to over three million before the season was over. It was nominated for thirteen Emmy Awards, winning two of them, including Best Supporting Actor for Peter Dinklage, who plays Tyrion Lannister, better known as “The Imp.”

Upon seeing the numbers for the first season’s premiere episode, HBO executives immediately renewed Game of Thrones for a second season, which began on April 1, 2012. That season built upon the critical and commercial success of the first, growing to over four million viewers for the season finale and garnering another eleven Emmy nominations and six wins.

The third season grew to even more notable heights, averaging more than five million viewers for its ten episodes, plus sixteen Emmy nominations and two wins. The ninth episode, titled “The Rains of Castamere,” featured the Red Wedding, one of the most shocking scenes ever shown on television. I won’t give away any spoilers, but those of you who watch—you know what I mean.

The series, of course, is based on bestselling author George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series of fantasy novels. The first season covers the first book, A Game of Thrones (originally published in 1996), from which the series took its name. Likewise, the second season follows the second novel, A Clash of Kings. The third season, however, only covers roughly half of A Storm of Swords; the fourth season, reputed to be the darkest yet, will take on the rest. Two other books in the series have been published: A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons. The sixth book will be titled The Winds of Winter; no release date has been announced, but it’s close enough to completion for Martin to have released excerpts onto the Internet. The series will conclude with the seventh book, A Dream of Spring.

The Game of Thrones series and Song of Ice and Fire books are extremely popular right now. Make sure you have them all on your shelves so patrons can catch up on what’s happening in Westeros in advance of the Season 4 premiere.