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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Announces 2018 Induction Class

Written by Jon Williams

Early yesterday morning, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced the bands and musicians to be inducted into its hallowed halls this coming year. It must have been a tight race: among the acts that didn’t make it this year are Radiohead (in their first year of eligibility), Eurythmics, Depeche Mode, and LL Cool J. Those that did make it in, on the other hand, are as follows:

Bon Jovi won a fan poll on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s website, which garnered them an extra vote toward induction. They’re the “newest” band in this year’s class, with their self-titled debut album releasing in 1984. They hit it big in the heyday of hair metal with 1986’s Slippery When Wet, with hits like “You Give Love a Bad Name” and “Livin’ on a Prayer” propelling the album to 12x Platinum status. They’ve been going strong ever since, adjusting their rock sound over the years and releasing a total of thirteen studio albums to date, with the most recent being last year’s This House Is Not for Sale. Speculation has already begun that original members Richie Sambora and Alec John Such will reunite with the rest of the band for the induction performance.

Dire Straits got their start a bit earlier, but, like Bon Jovi, enjoyed their greatest success in the 1980s. Formed by brothers Mark and David Knopfler in 1977 with a pair of friends, the band released Dire Straits (containing their knockout first single “Sultans of Swing”) and Communique before the decade was out. The 1985 album Brothers in Arms, on the strength of “Money for Nothing” and its ultra-popular music video, became the first million-seller in the compact disc format, and also won two Grammy Awards. They released just one album after that, 1991’s On Every Street, although principal member Mark Knopfler has enjoyed a very successful solo career since then.

The Cars’ induction brings them full circle—singer Ric Ocasik and bassist Benjamin Orr originally met in Cleveland in the 1960s. The Cars came together in 1976, and they took off with their 1978 debut album, which included the hits “Good Times Roll,” “My Best Friend’s Girl,” and “Just What I Needed.” They released six albums before the band’s breakup in 1988. Founding member Orr passed away in 2000, but the remaining members reunited for the 2011 album Move Like This (currently unavailable on CD, but available digitally on hoopla). Like Knopfler and Dire Straits, Ric Ocasik has also had success as a solo artist.

The Moody Blues have their origins more than a decade before, coming together in 1964. After one album as an R&B outfit of sorts, they hit their stride with the landmark prog rock album Days of Future Passed (containing their biggest hit, “Nights in White Satin”) in 1967. Although they’ve been through a number of lineup changes, they’ve been quite prolific, with sixteen albums to their credit. The last was 2003’s Christmas-themed December, perfect for this time of year, but the band has continued to tour, and to release compilation and live albums.

Nina Simone sadly passed away in 2003, but will play a large role in the 2018 induction nonetheless. Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon, she adopted her stage name as a small-time singer in 1954. She became a full-fledged member of the civil rights movement with her 1964 live album Nina Simone in Concert (available on hoopla) and incorporated that message into her music going forward. She put out an incredible number of albums, both studio and live, and has influenced a generation of musicians, from the Beatles and David Bowie to Aretha Franklin and Lena Horne to Elton John and more. Whoever performs in her stead at the induction ceremony, it’s sure to be an incredible show.

As these stellar musicians are enshrined into the pantheon of rock legends, patrons are sure to crave their music, whether to relive classic sounds they’ve loved for years or to dig into these incredible discographies for the first time. Be sure to check out this collection of essential albums we’ve put together, and SmartBrowse each of them on our website to find even more.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Excitement High for The Last Jedi

Written by Jon Williams

Next week sees the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi in theatres, the saga’s Episode VIII, and the middle installment in the sequel trilogy that began with 2016’s The Force Awakens. Excitement is at a fever pitch for the new movie, and library patrons will be looking for all kinds of materials relating to a galaxy far, far away.

Following on from The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi returns stars Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac as heroes Rey, Finn, and Poe, as well as Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker and the late Carrie Fisher in her final appearance as Leia Organa. The opposition comes in the form of the First Order’s Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). They’re joined in the cast by newcomers Laura Dern, who plays Resistance Admiral Amilyn Holdo, and Benicio del Toro, in the mysterious role of DJ. The Last Jedi is written and directed by Rian Johnson, who has previously made such acclaimed films as Brick and Looper. It’s clear that Lucasfilm thinks the world of Johnson’s effort; they’ve already announced that he’ll be helming a new Star Wars trilogy set in a heretofore unexplored time period and area of the galaxy.

On the day the new movie is released, the score drops as well, featuring the typically outstanding work of Academy Award-winning film music icon John Williams. Fans will have to wait a bit longer for Jason Fry’s novelization, which releases in March. For those who need something sooner than that, Canto Bight, released earlier this week, tells several tales from the opulent, high-stakes casino city to be introduced in The Last Jedi, while Delilah S. Dawson’s Phasma explores the backstory of Gwendoline Christie’s chrome-armored villain.

The third and concluding installment in the current trilogy won’t come until 2019, but that doesn’t mean there’s no more Star Wars on the more immediate horizon. Coming on the heels of last year’s Rogue One, the second standalone film is scheduled for release on May 25, 2018. That movie will be Solo, the origin story of everyone’s favourite smuggler, scoundrel, and nerf-herder, Han Solo. The title character will be played by Alden Ehrenreich, while the multitalented Donald Glover will portray his good buddy Lando Calrissian; such names as Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, and Thandie Newton will round out the cast. That movie is directed by acclaimed filmmaker Ron Howard based on a script by Lawrence Kasdan (writer of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, as well as The Force Awakens) and his son Jon, while the music will be provided by John Powell.

Star Wars is arguably the most popular movie franchise of all time, and patrons will always be looking for the latest and greatest related titles. You can SmartBrowse on our website for all this media and more to lead into The Last Jedi and Solo. And if your library is a hoopla member, patrons can log in anytime to check out movie scores as well as original eBooks and comics for enjoyment at home or on the go.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A New Version of a Classic Mystery

Written by Jon Williams

The new movie Murder on the Orient Express delivered a strong debut last weekend, bringing in more than $28 million at the box office. Directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh, the film also features an ensemble cast consisting of Johnny Depp, Willem Dafoe, Penelope Cruz, Daisy Ridley, Leslie Odom, Jr., Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Josh Gad. Adapted from the 1934 Agatha Christie novel of the same name, it’s a mystery in which detective Hercule Poirot must deduce the identity of a murderer from among the passengers on a train. The novel is no stranger to adaptation, having been brought to life both on film (1974) and on television (2010).

Christie’s work is incredibly popular in its own right, with the late British author holding the honour as the bestselling novelist of all time. And that’s not just in the English-speaking world; she’s also the most translated, with her works currently available in more than 100 languages. Her career began shortly after World War II when The Mysterious Affair at Styles, her first novel, as well as the first to feature the Belgian detective Poirot, was published in 1920. She returned to Poirot with her third novel, Murder on the Links, and a series was born. In all, she wrote 33 Poirot novels, including Murder on the Orient Express, as well as a number of short stories and a play. She also created a number of other recurring detective characters, such as Miss Marple, an elderly protagonist whose first published appearance came in 1927. In all, she published 66 novels; Curtain (1975) and Sleeping Murder (posthumously published in 1976), although written earlier, were the last two published, wrapping up the careers of Poirot and Miss Marple, respectively. The last she wrote was 1973’s Postern of Fate.

With such incredible popularity, it’s no surprise that Christie’s novels, stories, and characters are ripe for adaptation. Murder on the Orient Express is only the latest in a long line that dates back to 1928. Given her penchant for recurring characters, some of the most well-received adaptations have been into television series. From 1984 through 1992, actress Joan Hickson brought Miss Marple to life for the BBC; in an ITV series that spanned from 2004 through 2013, she was portrayed by Geraldine McEwan and Julia McKenzie. ITV also had great success with its Poirot TV series which featured David Suchet in the title role. Other adaptations include Ten Little Indians (from And Then There Were None), Death on the Nile, and The Mirror Crack’d.

She’s known for her mystery writing, but there was a bit of mystery in Christie’s life as well. In 1926, during a difficult time in her first marriage, she disappeared for ten days. When she was found, she claimed to have no memory of the intervening time. This incident was explored in Carole Owen’s 1996 book The Lost Days of Agatha Christie. It was also the subject of the 1978 film Agatha starring Vanessa Redgrave and Dustin Hoffman, and portrayed in a fantastical light in the Doctor Who episode “The Unicorn and the Wasp.”

This is just a taste of all the incredible Agatha Christie content we have to offer. Visit our website to pre-order the new version of Murder on the Orient Express on DVD and Blu-ray, and while you’re there, browse around to find all this and more to complete your Christie collection and keep your mystery-loving patrons coming back for more.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Cars 3 Expands Pixar’s Legacy

Written by Jon Williams

Cars 3 is out this week on DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K UHD. No doubt your young patrons have already cultivated quite a hold list for the latest installment in the adventures of Lightning McQueen. The series began in 2006 with Cars, which introduced Owen Wilson as the voice of the race car who learns about friendship during an unintended pit stop. The movie also featured voice work from Bonnie Hunt and Larry the Cable Guy, not to mention Paul Newman (in his final role), George Carlin, and, of course, John Ratzenberger. Cars 2 followed in 2011, and in 2013 the series spun off into Planes (which got its own sequel, Planes: Fire & Rescue, in 2014).

Cars 3 is just the latest in a long line of high-quality, very popular animated films from Disney-Pixar. Pixar began as a division of Lucasfilm before breaking off into its own company in 1986, with Steve Jobs as chairman. In 1991, the company agreed to produce three feature-length animated movies for Disney. That resulted in the first fully computer-animated film, 1995’s classic Toy Story, and the rest is history. They finished out the 1990s with A Bug’s Life (1998) and Toy Story 2 (1999).

Pixar had a contentious relationship with Disney during the first half of the 2000s, but you wouldn’t know it from the quality of their output. They began the decade in 2001 with Monsters, Inc., starring Billy Crystal and John Goodman. That was followed in 2003 by Finding Nemo, an underwater adventure that is currently Pixar’s highest-grossing non-sequel with over $380 million at the box office in North America, good for #30 of all time. Then in 2004 came The Incredibles, about a family who (some more reluctantly than others) must use their superpowers to save each other and their city.

In 2006, Disney cemented their partnership with Pixar by purchasing the company. The first Cars movie was the first released after the sale, although it was developed and made independently. Going forward together, the two companies finished out the 2000s with Ratatouille (about a rat who learns how to be a chef), WALL-E (about a robot who finds love), and Up (about a man who attaches balloons to his house to go on a wonderful adventure).

Up to that point, Pixar had traditionally not produced sequels, with Toy Story 2 being the lone exception. That changed in 2010 with a third installment, Toy Story 3, and then Cars 2 the year after. They’ve since followed up both Monsters, Inc. (with Monsters University in 2013) and Finding Nemo (with 2016’s Finding Dory, the #9 highest-grossing film of all time with over $486 million). They’ve also continued to make quality original films, with Brave in 2012 and both Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur in 2015.

Pixar makes wonderful, timeless movies that will continue to be popular with young patrons, and that their parents will enjoy just as well. With Cars 3 now available, and with their next movie, Coco, releasing in theatres on November 22, now is a great time to make sure your Pixar collection is complete.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

In Memoriam: Tom Petty

Written by Jon Williams

On a day already darkened by sadness, music lovers everywhere were shocked Monday by the news of rocker Tom Petty’s passing. He was 66.

Born in 1950 in Gainesville, Florida, Petty overcame a rough childhood to find fame in the music industry. With early influences including Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones, and guitar lessons from Don Felder of the Eagles, he first formed a band that eventually became known as Mudcrutch. After that band struggled to find success, some lineup shuffling eventually resulted in the Heartbreakers, the band which Petty was associated with for most of his music career. In 1976, their self-titled debut album hit the charts first in Great Britain, and then spread to the U.S. Containing the classic hits “Breakdown” and “American Girl,” it kicked off a musical legacy that would grow to legendary status over the course of the next 41 years.

The band’s first taste of success soon led to more. You’re Gonna Get It!, released in 1978, was their first album to chart in North America, and 1979’s Damn the Torpedoes (currently unavailable on CD, although patrons can stream it on hoopla) gained multiplatinum status. The ‘80s were a very productive time for the band, spawning albums including Long After Dark (1982) and Southern Accents (1985). Petty’s greatest success came on 1989’s Full Moon Fever, technically a solo album, although members of the Heartbreakers did contribute.

Full Moon Fever also benefitted from the presence of a number of other musical legends: Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, and ELO’s Jeff Lynne. The five of them had gotten together in 1988 for a single (“Handle with Care”), and ended up recording an entire album as the Traveling Wilburys. Although Orbison passed away late that year, the remaining members put together a second album, joking titled Volume 3, which was released in 1990. Of course, Petty was no stranger to high-profile collaborations. His duet with Stevie Nicks, “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” appeared on her debut solo album, while another duet, “Insider,” was released on his album Hard Promises. He and the Heartbreakers also backed Johnny Cash on the country icon’s 1996 album Unchained.

In 2007, Petty reunited his first band, Mudcrutch, and together they recorded two albums: their eponymous “debut,” released in 2008, and 2, released in 2016, which would be Petty’s final recording. Through it all, though, Petty never stopped working with the Heartbreakers. Their two most recent albums, Mojo and Hypnotic Eye, were released in 2010 and 2014. The band had just finished their 40th anniversary tour, with the final performance coming September 25 at the Hollywood Bowl.

Tom Petty is sadly gone, but his classic rock hits will endure. Make sure you have his music on your shelves for patrons to check out and enjoy again and again. You can SmartBrowse his name on our website to find all the albums listed above and more.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Follett Adds to Kingsbridge Series

Written by Jon Williams

Like so many authors, Ken Follett didn’t originally have his heart set on a career writing fiction. Born in Wales before moving as a child to London, he studied philosophy in college, he started out working in journalism. The tide began to turn a few years later when he moved into a publishing career and began writing fiction of his own. After a number of novels were released under pen names, Follett finally found success under his own name with Eye of the Needle in 1978. A World War II spy thriller, it won the Edgar Award for Best Novel, and it set Follett on the path of an internationally bestselling author.

He followed that novel up in 1979 with Triple, another spy novel, this time set in the Middle East of the late 1960s. Indeed, Follett would become known primarily as a purveyor of fast-paced spy novels full of action and intrigue. Novels in this vein include 1985’s Lie Down with Lions, 1991’s Night Over Water, and 2001’s Jackdaws. And although it’s actually a true story, 1983’s On Wings of Eagles fits into much the same mold, as it explores a daring rescue mission to liberate two men being held in an Iranian prison. It was adapted into a miniseries in 1986.

However, this type of action thriller is not all that Follett writes. Although many of his novels were based around various points of 20th century history, in 1989 he planted his feet more firmly in the realm of historical fiction with The Pillars of the Earth, which explores the building of a cathedral in a fictional English village in the Middle Ages. It became his bestselling work to that point. After a long layoff, Follett finally followed up The Pillars of the Earth in 2007: World Without End revisits Kingsbridge Cathedral more than 150 years later, during the time of the Black Death, through the eyes of the descendants of characters from the original novel. And now, at long last, there is a third installment in the series. A Column of Fire, which came out last week, brings the cathedral and its surroundings into the Elizabethan era.

With that novel just coming out, hold lists may be long, for the initial installments as well as the latest release. However, you can direct impatient patrons to check out another series of historical novels from Follett. This trilogy began with Fall of Giants in 2010, following a number of characters through such events as the Russian Revolution and World War I. Follett wrote the novels in this series much more quickly than the Kingsbridge novels; the second, Winter of the World, was released just two years later, in 2012 and deals primarily with World War II. The third, Edge of Eternity, came out in 2014, and carries the families through the Cold War, from the 1960s through the 1980s.

Whatever he’s writing—whether it’s spy thrillers, historical fiction, or even non-fiction—Ken Follett’s work is always popular with patrons. Make sure you have his latest hit novel on your shelves for them to enjoy, and SmartBrowse his name on our website to find all we have to offer.

Friday, September 1, 2017

In Memoriam: Tobe Hooper

Written by Jon Williams

Acclaimed horror director Tobe Hooper passed away last weekend at the age of 74. He was considered an incredibly influential filmmaker—a quick Internet search will return a number of articles praising his work—and looking over his body of work, it’s easy to see why.

Growing up in Texas with parents who owned a theatre, Hooper came by his love of movies naturally. He took that love with him to film school at the University of Texas in Austin, and he jumped into his career with his first film in 1969, at the age of 26. Eggshells, a low-budget horror/sci-fi movie, barely made a ripple as it came into the world. The same could not be said for his next feature. In 1974, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre terrified audiences and revivified a flagging horror genre. Filmmakers including Wes Craven, Guillermo del Toro, William Friedkin, and Ridley Scott have cited this seminal film as an influence in their work. He followed it up with a sequel in 1986, and the original was remade in 2003, with Hooper serving as co-producer.

Then, in 1982, came Poltergeist. Written by Steven Spielberg, who was unable to direct while he worked on E.T., the film was instead directed by Hooper. It was a critical and commercial success, and is still considered a classic 35 years later. Despite some confusion over Hooper’s role in the film, he pressed on, following it up with a pair of horror/sci-fi mashups: Lifeforce in 1985, and Invaders from Mars (a remake of a 1953 movie) in 1986. In 1995 he directed The Mangler, based on a short story by Stephen King and starring horror icon Robert Englund. His final film was 2003’s Djinn, about an apartment that is haunted by demons.

However, the silver screen was only part of Tobe Hooper’s career; he also did quite a bit of work for the small screen. That began in 1979 with his first Stephen King collaboration: the miniseries adaptation of the vampire novel Salem’s Lot. Over the years he would contribute to a number of anthology shows like Amazing Stories, Body Bags, Tales from the Crypt, and Masters of Horror. He also directed individual for a number of other shows, such as The Equalizer, Dark Skies, and Taken.

Tobe Hooper loomed large in the world of horror filmmaking, and his absence will be sorely felt. With Halloween right around the corner, now is a perfect time to stock your shelves with his classic films and lesser-known gems. You can SmartBrowse his name on our website to find all the titles listed above and more.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Princess Diana, 20 Years Later

Written by Jon Williams

Lady Diana Spencer was born on July 1, 1961, into a prominent family of the British nobility, and she came to the attention of the world when she married Prince Charles on July 29, 1981, shortly after her 20th birthday. Their wedding drew a television audience of 750 million people worldwide. Initially shy, Diana would grow into her role in the spotlight over the course of their 15-year marriage, making a number of international visits both with the prince and on her own.

Princess Diana and Prince Charles’s marriage could best be described as “tumultuous,” and the couple divorced in July of 1996. Diana retained her title of Princess of Wales, and rededicated herself to a number of charities, including AIDS research and landmine elimination, using her status to highlight causes that were near and dear to her. Her signature style during her time in the spotlight also made her a fashion icon. She was a beloved figure worldwide who transformed the way so many people viewed the royal family.

Princess Diana was killed in a car accident on August 31, 1997, sending shockwaves around the world. Her funeral procession drew an estimated 2.5 billion viewers globally. Elton John, a close friend of the princess, performed a version of his hit song “Candle in the Wind” with the lyrics revised to honour Diana’s life. While that song is one of the highest-selling singles of all time (with proceeds benefitting Diana’s charities), it has never been included on any of his albums or compilations, and Sir Elton has stated that he would only perform it again live if asked to do so by her sons, Princes William and Harry.

Next week will mark the twentieth anniversary of Princess Diana’s untimely passing. With so many still fascinated by her life and enduring legacy, you’ll want to have plenty of material on your shelves for them to check out. SmartBrowse Princess Diana on our website for a collection of materials put together by our media experts in commemoration of this melancholy milestone.

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Lion King Roars Out of Disney’s Vault

Written by Jon Williams

Disney’s The Lion King was released in theatres in June of 1994 and immediately became a smash success. It would go on to be the second-highest earning film of the year (behind Forrest Gump), and its domestic box office gross of more than $420 million is currently good for #18 of all time. It won Academy Awards for Best Score and Best Original Song, and it was also awarded the Golden Globe for Best Picture – Musical or Comedy.

Now the original animated movie hit is being released from the Disney vault in new DVD and Blu-ray editions, and it’s not coming alone. Capitalizing on the success of the film, Disney released The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride as a direct-to-video offering in 1998 with most of the voice cast returning. It was followed in 2004 by The Lion King 1 1/2, a “sequel” that takes place at the same time as the original film, but from the perspectives of Timon and Pumbaa, the movie’s popular meerkat and warthog sidekicks. All three movies will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on August 29, the first time they’ve been available since 2011.

More than twenty-three years since the film’s original release, fans are still enthralled by the timeless story and characters of The Lion King. In 1997, it was adapted into a musical that has enjoyed a very long run and is the highest-grossing Broadway production of all time. It has also been kept alive on television, starting with an animated series featuring Timon and Pumbaa that aired from 1995 through 1999. In 2015, the TV movie Return of the Roar kicked off a new series called The Lion Guard that centers on the cub Kion and a new group of friends that protect the pridelands. In addition, Timon and Pumbaa star in a number of Wild About Safety shorts that aim to teach young viewers about how to be safe in a variety of situations. And all of this will culminate in 2019 with a new live-action version, much like what Disney did with Beauty and the Beast earlier this year.

With The Lion King and its sequels being released on DVD and Blu-ray for the first time since 2011, make sure you get copies now. When it goes back into the vault, it will be several years before it’s available again. If you have questions about the Disney vault’s origins or which Disney movies are subject to the process, make sure you revisit our blog post on the topic.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Dark Tower Beckons

Written by Jon Williams

As The Dark Tower opens in theatres this week, casual observers could be forgiven for thinking it’s nothing more than another Stephen King adaptation; there are certainly quite a few of those happening right now. More devoted King fans will tell you that The Dark Tower is more than just a book, more than just the seven-book series it eventually turned out to be. It is, in fact, King’s magnum opus, spreading its tendrils to touch, in one way or another, perhaps every book he has ever written.

The series begins with the simple yet elegant line that has become one of King’s most famous: “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” He wrote those words in 1970, as a senior at the University of Maine. He was inspired by a poem, “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” by Robert Browning, which itself comes from a line in Shakespeare’s King Lear. He wedded that in his imagination with elements of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name, and the Arthurian legends, among other influences, for a dark fantasy quest that was unlike any other.

He began writing in 1970 and laboured for twelve years before the first volume, The Gunslinger, was published in 1982. This established a pattern that would persist for much of the series, with several years elapsing between the publications of the individual volumes. The second book, The Drawing of the Three, came out in 1987; the third, The Waste Lands (also inspired by a poem, this one by T.S. Eliot), in 1991. One of the longest gaps, six years, came before Wizard and Glass appeared, with its many Wizard of Oz references, in 1997. This exploration of the gunslinger’s fundamental backstory will be the basis for an upcoming TV series that will feature Idris Elba in a reprisal of his role from the movie.

It was another six years before another Dark Tower book would be published. In 1999, King was hit by a minivan while out for a walk, an incident that threatened his life and drastically altered his writing career when he was finally able to get back to it. Seeing the Dark Tower series as his life’s work and now feeling his own mortality, King set to work with a will. Wolves of the Calla was released in November of 2003; the sixth and seventh books, Song of Susannah and The Dark Tower (currently unavailable on audiobook) came out three months apart in 2004.

The Dark Tower brought the series to a conclusion, but that wasn’t quite the end of the story. In 2012, King returned with The Wind Through the Keyhole, another framed story of Roland’s backstory that fits in between Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla. There’s also a bit of backstory to be found in “The Little Sisters of Eluria,” a short story written in 1998 and included in the collection Everything’s Eventual.

Of course, the full tale of the Dark Tower isn’t contained solely in these books and stories. Readers and listeners will notice connections throughout King’s entire oeuvre, some more pronounced than others. For instance, near the beginning of Wizard and Glass, the gunslinger and his band of travelers pass through a world that has been ravaged by Captain Trips, the weaponized flu strand from The Stand. The man in black that Roland pursues throughout the first book of the series (played in the movie by Matthew McConaughey) appears, in different forms, in both The Stand and The Eyes of the Dragon. The character Father Callahan from ‘Salem’s Lot joins Roland’s crew for a time beginning in Wolves of the Calla, and Dinky Earnshaw (from the title story of Everything’s Eventual) and Ted Brautigan (from Hearts in Atlantis) show up with roles to play as well. The 1994 novel Insomnia becomes a plot point of its own in the final book of the series.

While the Dark Tower books are popular in their own right, they are somewhat less well known than King’s other works. With the movie in theatres and a TV show in the works, though, the series is about to come to the forefront in a big way. Patrons who are stepping into this world for the first time have a rich, rewarding journey ahead of them, and others will want to relive Roland’s adventures again and again. Make sure you have the series and its related works on your shelves for them to explore and enjoy.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Dunkirk Brings WWII to Life

Written by Jon Williams

May, 1940. With World War II in its early days, the Battle of France raged. As the month wore on, the advance of the German military left a group of Allied forces cut off and pushed back to the sea near Dunkirk. Thus began Operation Dynamo, a British-led effort to evacuate the Allied soldiers, so crucial to the already tenuous war effort, from their perilous situation. Because of the shallow waters in the area, only small craft could be used. Nevertheless, the eight-day action resulted in the successful rescue of more than 300,000 men.

This is the story told by the new epic war movie Dunkirk, in theatres this week. It’s the latest from filmmaker Christopher Nolan, who’s known for his trilogy of Batman films (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises), as well as movies like Inception and Interstellar. Dunkirk stars Batman alumni Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy along with Kenneth Branagh and pop star Harry Styles in his acting debut.

Patrons interested in the story behind the Battle of Dunkirk are in luck, with a wealth of materials examining this momentous event. To go along with the movie, historian Joshua Levine has taken a fresh look at the lives of all those involved in the battle for a companion audiobook. Walter Lord’s 2012 work The Miracle of Dunkirk was based on extensive interviews with the battle’s survivors. And in 2004, the BBC put together a three-episode docudrama that broke the battle down to show how it progressed on a day-by-day basis.

With the end of World War II now more than seventy years in the past, it won’t be long before it fades from living memory. However, there is no shortage of media that will preserve its legacy for future generations. One of the most valuable contributions is from acclaimed documentarian Ken Burns, whose documentary series The War deals primarily with the perspective of Americans on the home front. Along similar lines is WWII in HD, which uses immersive footage to depict the front lines. Also produced by the History Channel, The Third Reich examines the rise of Nazi Germany. On the other side of the world, War in the Pacific and Hell in the Pacific look at the war as it took place away from the Atlantic Theatre.

There are also plenty of dramatized accounts; as Dunkirk shows, World War II is always fertile ground for stories to be told on the big and small screens. Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers come immediately to mind, as do The Dirty Dozen and The Bridge on the River Kwai, as well as Schindler’s List for the Holocaust. The miniseries The Winds of War, based on Herman Wouk’s novel, follows a far-flung American family as they get caught up in the war along with the United States. On the Pacific side, Clint Eastwood’s duology consisting of Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima is hard to beat.

There are literally hundreds more documentaries and movies which delve into World War II and its various aspects. To find more, simply SmartBrowse World War II on our website, and please let us know about those you’ve found to be interesting and/or popular at your library in the comments section below.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

hoopla digital Inks Expanded Content Agreement with HarperCollins Publishers

Category-creating digital service for public libraries expands eBook catalog with thousands of award-winning titles from HarperCollins

HOLLAND, OH (June 22, 2017) – hoopla digital (, the category-creating digital service for public libraries, today announced a new, expanded agreement with HarperCollins Publishers to add more than 15,000 award-winning eBooks to hoopla’s dynamic collection, available July 5. With this content agreement, patrons of participating libraries will have access to the HarperCollins global English Language catalog of acclaimed authors – which includes titles from HarperCollins Christian Publishing, HarperCollins UK and Harlequin – via hoopla digital’s app and online service.

This agreement expands on a deal last year that brought HarperCollins Publishers’ entire digital audiobook backlist catalog to hoopla’s collection. The new deal adds the deep backlist works of bestselling HarperCollins authors Neil Gaiman, Louise Erdrich and Dennis Lehane to hoopla digital’s catalog of more than 600,000 movies, TV shows, music albums, eBooks, audiobooks and comics. Patrons of libraries who partner with hoopla digital can access this dynamic content anytime on their smartphones, tablets and laptops.

"We are thrilled to expand our successful partnership with HarperCollins and excited to build our eBook catalog with thousands of popular and award-winning titles from their iconic authors. On hoopla digital, these titles are available anytime, anywhere without any holds or waits," said Jeff Jankowski, co-founder and owner of hoopla digital.  “eBooks is one of our strongest growth areas with high demand from libraries and their patrons and we will continue to make a significant investment to assemble a deep offering of titles for the libraries we serve.”

hoopla now offers a catalog of eBook and audiobook titles across a broad spectrum of adult and children’s genres, including romance, thriller, literary fiction, self-help, Christian living and non-fiction content.

"HarperCollins has enjoyed the additional discovery achieved through hoopla libraries and their patrons with regard to HarperCollins audiobooks," said Adam Silverman, Senior Director, Digital Business Development. "We look forward to building on our success with this expanded agreement."

There is no waiting to borrow titles on hoopla digital since on-demand content can be enjoyed by multiple patrons simultaneously. Patrons who use hoopla digital also avoid library late fees as digital content borrowing periods simply expire without charges.

hoopla digital has partnerships with more than 1,500 public library systems across North America including Boston Public Library, Free Library of Philadelphia, Chicago Public Library, San Francisco Public Library, Los Angeles Public Library, and Edmonton Public Library.

To access eBook and audiobook titles from HarperCollins Publishers, cardholders of participating libraries can download the free hoopla digital mobile app on their Android or iOS device or visit

About hoopla digital

hoopla digital is a category-creating service that partners with public libraries across North America to provide online and mobile access to thousands of eBooks, audiobooks, comics, movies, music, and more. With hoopla digital, patrons can borrow, instantly stream, and download dynamic content with a valid library card. All content is accessible via hoopla digital’s mobile app and hoopla digital is a service of Midwest Tape – a trusted partner to public libraries for over 25 years.

For more information, please contact 800-875-2785 (US) or 866-698-2231 (Canada).

About HarperCollins Publishers
HarperCollins Publishers is the second largest consumer book publisher in the world, with operations in 18 countries. With two hundred years of history and more than 120 branded imprints around the world, HarperCollins publishes approximately 10,000 new books every year in 17 languages, and has a print and digital catalog of more than 200,000 titles. Writing across dozens of genres, HarperCollins authors include winners of the Nobel Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Newbery and Caldecott Medals and the Man Booker Prize. HarperCollins, headquartered in New York, is a subsidiary of News Corp  and can be visited online at

Thursday, May 25, 2017

40 Years of a Galaxy Far, Far Away

Written by Jon Williams

Forty years ago today, on May 25, 1977, Star Wars opened in just thirty-two theatres across the United States. That number quickly expanded as the film took off, and many theatres were still showing the film on its first anniversary. A lot has changed in the intervening years—even that first movie’s title, which has expanded to Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope—but the voracious appetite that fans have for stories set in the galaxy far, far away has not abated. Luckily, there’s a wealth of new material coming out.

Fans at the recent Star Wars Celebration in Orlando, as well as those streaming the event live around the world, were treated to the first teaser trailer for Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. Releasing in December, this will be the second in the new trilogy that picks up the story of the galaxy thirty years following the events of Return of the Jedi. The first installment, The Force Awakens, brought in nearly $1 billion at the box office in North America alone, and more than $2 billion globally. It came out in 2015; the most recent Star Wars movie, Rogue One, the first standalone, non-trilogy film, leads directly into the events of the original Star Wars.

Those who attended Celebration also got a first look at the upcoming fourth season of Star Wars: Rebels, the animated show that follows a small band of freedom fighters in the early days of the Rebel Alliance’s fight against the Galactic Empire. Show creator Dave Filoni also announced that the upcoming season will be the show’s last. The third season featured characters that appeared in Rogue One, such as Rebellion leader Mon Mothma and renegade Saw Gerrera, who was first introduced in Star Wars: Clone Wars.

The third season of Rebels also brought back Grand Admiral Thrawn, a beloved character from the old expanded universe that was wiped out to make way for new stories with Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise. Thrawn’s original entrance came in 1991’s Heir to the Empire, the popular novel by Timothy Zahn that revived interest in Star Wars and can be credited for everything that has come since. With the character coming back into the universe, Zahn stepped in once again to write a novel, released in April, detailing how the Grand Admiral rose to his rank in the Imperial military.

Novels and short stories are a great source of new stories in the Star Wars universe. Chuck Wendig’s recently concluded Aftermath trilogy picks up shortly after the destruction of the second Death Star and details the fall of the Empire and the first seeds of the First Order rising in its place. James Luceno’s Catalyst serves as a prequel to Rogue One, while Rebel Rising by Beth Revis and Guardians of the Whills by Greg Rucka (both unavailable on audio but available in eBook format on hoopla digital) give back stories for some of that movie’s heroes. Finally, releasing in October and celebrating forty years of the original Star Wars movie, From a Certain Point of View explores iconic scenes from that movie from the perspectives of background characters.

The popularity of Star Wars means that patrons will always be looking for the latest materials in your library. SmartBrowse on our website for more, and don’t forget to remind patrons that they can look on hoopla for even more Star Wars audiobooks, eBooks, comics, and music.

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.