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  • Tara Sonin 6:45 pm on 2017/01/11 Permalink
    Tags: , binge-watch, , television,   

    Fall in Love with PBS’s Victoria (and 6 More Historical Dramas to Binge!) 

    If, like myself, you’re a sucker for historical dramas, you’ve been chomping at the bit for the next big hit—especially now that Downton Abbey has made its final bow. (RIP, but at least Lady Edith got her happy ending, am I right?) That means the moment you heard about PBS’s miniseries Victoria–based on the book by Daisy Goodwin and starring Dr. Who’s Jenna Coleman!—you, also like me, have been waiting with bated breath caught in the tight confines of a corset.

    Well, call me your majesty, because I have the scoop on Victoria for you! PBS sent me a screener, I devoured it like a box of chocolates, and it is everything you could want in an historical drama and then some. Here are six period dramas you can watch and, of course, my thoughts on Victoria herself, which premieres on PBS January 15.

    I confess, I knew next to nothing about Queen Victoria before starting this series. But in the first episode, we learn a lot: Alexandrina Victoria, as she is still named, is still a teen, but has known since she was very young that she would become queen when the king, her aging uncle, dies. When we first meet Victoria, she finds out that day has come, and in Coleman’s hands, her transition from young girl into monarch with the burden of the world on her shoulders is subtle and nuanced. She resents the influence others try to have on her, rejecting her mother and Sir John Conroy, who wish to control her, and forming a perhaps inappropriate, but super fun to watch, attachment to her prime minister instead. One moment Victoria is composed and eloquent, and the next…she gets too drunk at a coronation ball and flirts with her most trusted advisor, Lord M. The tension between them is almost instant, and makes it immediately that Victoria’s personal happiness will often be at war with her monarchical duties. Full of lush ball gowns, gilded palaces, and some great upstairs-downstairs drama, this miniseries is your first 2017 obsession. I can’t wait to see what Victoria will do next.

    I JUST discovered this historical drama based on a series of novels about a British soldier named Ross Poldark who comes back to his small seaside town of Cornwall after fighting on the losing side of the Revolutionary War to find many things have changed. His father has died, leaving his mine and inheritance in shambles. And even worse, the woman he loves—the woman who promised to wait for him—is engaged to his cousin. Ross decides to spurn the gentry class that has betrayed him and open one of the barren mines, giving hope to the poor in Cornwall…and along the way, he meets a pauper girl, Demelza, and finds a second chance at love. Poldark is a gasp- and swoonworthy drama about legacy, class, love, and the catastrophe (and joy) that can happen when they all collide. (Also, Ross Poldark is gorgeous. You’re welcome.)

    The White Queen
    Based on the novel by Philippa Gregory, this historical drama begins in the midst of the War of the Roses between the Lancasters and and the Yorks—and features three women caught in the middle of the bloodshed, beauty, and love. Elizabeth Woodville’s husband fought and died for King Henry, but when he is defeated, she marries King Edward as part of a deliberate (and possibly magical) plot to gain power. Margaret Beaufort’s son was supposed to succeed Henry on the throne, but with him gone, she plots in the darkness to take back her power. And Anne Neville, daughter of the King’s most trusted advisor-turned betrayer, becomes first a pawn in her father’s game to take the throne, and then a villain herself. Soapy, sexy, and full of drama!

    How could I not put Outlander on this list? When Clare Fraser inadvertently travels back in time from 1945 to the 1770s, leaving her husband behind, she’s soon forced into matrimony (for her own protection) with Highland warrior Jamie Fraser, and is torn between the world and man she’s growing to love and the magic and duty that pulls her back toward her old life. The third season of the TV adaptation arrives in spring, so make sure you binge seasons one and two before Jamie Fraser’s perfect face graces our TV sets again.

    Forsyte Saga
    This is one of my favorite lesser-known historical dramas, which opens in 1874 and chronicles a family’s downfall when issues of class, love, and most importantly, vengeance, come to a head. Damien Lewis plays Soames Forsyte, who becomes obsessed with Irene Heron, despite her lower class. After a loveless, abusive marriage, betrayals, and decades of separation, he cannot let her go. Forbidden love runs rampant in this series, and you will love every second of hating the villainous Soames.

    Wolf Hall
    We’ve all heard of The Tudors, of course, but Wolf Hall, based on the book by Hilary Mantel, tells the story of King Henry’s divorce from Katherine and resulting marriage to Anne Boleyn from a different perspective: that of his adviser, Thomas Cromwell. Thomas is an historical antihero of a different sort—he did not grow up in the gilded halls of Buckingham Palace. He’s the son of a poor man, who rose up in the esteem of the Cardinal…and who, when the Cardinal fell from grace, rose from the ashes to take his place as King Henry VIII’s most trusted adviser. Full of class tension with five-star acting from Damian Lewis as the King and Claire Foy (who now stars as Queen Elizabeth on Netflix’s The Crown!) as Queen Anne. Rich and beautifully created, with drama in spades.

    Hollow Crown
    If you’re into British history, you’ll love this adaptation of Shakespeare’s plays starring some of Britain’s best actors, including Tom Hiddleston, Ben Whishaw, and Jeremy Irons (with cameos by Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery and Hugh Bonneville, as well as Sherlock’s Benedict Cumberbatch!). The Hollow Crown follows four of England’s most infamous monarchs as they try to keep power out of the hands of their enemies. This series is great if you’re into battle scenes and performances so perfect you won’t mind that romance takes a backseat.

    The post Fall in Love with PBS’s Victoria (and 6 More Historical Dramas to Binge!) appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 5:40 pm on 2016/02/02 Permalink
    Tags: , read then watch, , television, ,   

    10 Great Books for Fans of New and Returning TV Shows in 2016 

    When you’re a book nerd, the challenge of loving a TV show is finding books that will hit the same sweet spot while you wait for the next season to come along. That’s where we come in: if you’re a fan of any of these 10 new or returning shows, and need something to tide you over between seasons (or between episodes), here are 10 can’t-fail book recommendations. Because when you can’t find anything new to Netflix and chill with, it’s time head to the nearest bookstore. (Note: where shows are based on books, we’ll avoid simply suggesting you read the source material, because we’re better than that.)

    If you love 11/22/63, read The Revisionists, by Thomas Mullen
    A lot of people are excited to see one of King’s best recent works adapted to the small screen, and Hulu is pushing this as a prestige project, filled with twists and turns and time travel. If you’re looking for something to bridge the gap between reading King’s book and watching the new series starring James Franco, we suggest The Revisionists, the story of an agent from a perfect future whose job is to keep it that way, even if it means allowing—or inducing—documented catastrophes to occur in the past. Mullen’s writing style is different, but the story hits the same dark twistiness of 11/22/63.

    If you love The X-Files, read A Vision of Fire, by Gillian Anderson and Jeff Rovin
    Whether you’re old enough to remember scheduling your Friday nights around this eerie show, or you’ve recently binge-watched all the episodes and wondered where it has been all your life, the six-episode event returning The X-Files to television is exciting stuff. If you need something to give you that paranoid feeling until you can watch the new episodes, why not go directly to the source and read Gillian Anderson’s novel, which is essentially an unofficial X-Files episode—and a creepy, surprising one at that.

    If you love Shameless, read Lullabies for Little Criminals, by Heather O’Neill
    This remake of a British show has become a unique thing on American television, tackling issues of poverty, class, addiction, and whether there really is any social mobility in this country—all with a wink and a laugh (and some occasional heartbreak), not to mention plenty of basic cable nudity. If you’re putting off watching season 6 until you can binge them all, O’Neil’s novel might make the wait easier. While not as laugh-out-loud funny as Shameless can be, it offers the same heartbreaking question of whether kids growing up with awful parents, no money, and a rapidly vanishing innocence can ever truly “make it.”

    If you love Downton Abbey, read Below Stairs, by Margaret Powell
    No, you’ve got a tear in your eye as you watch the last few episodes we’ll ever see of this remarkable show, which has tracked the fortunes of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants over the course of twelve years of fictitious history. The times continue to change, and we all know Great Houses like the Abbey won’t exist for much longer in the show’s universe, so shore up your love of all things Downton with the real thing: Powell’s powerful memoir, recounting her actual experience as a servant “below stairs” serving a wealthy family in a Great House.

    If you love The Flash, read Steelheart, by Brandon Sanderson
    The obvious, easy thing to do while waiting for The Flash to return this month would be to break out the comics and start making a wish list of villains and story arcs to see played out onscreen. The better thing to do is find a novel that plays with superhero tropes and offers a fresh perspective on “powers.” The ideal candidate is Sanderson’s brilliant Steelheart, in which a mysterious force transforms some human beings into superpowered villains—and a band of non-supers is formed to hunt them them down and kill them using whatever weaknesses can be found. While technically a young adult novel, it’s a great story for all ages that flips the superhero concept on its head, making it the ideal palate cleanser.

    If you love Supernatural, read Cal Leandros Series, by Rob Thurman
    When Supernatural premiered in 2005, few thought it would last too long—and here we are waiting to see if the CW orders a twelfth season in 2016. While you wait with bated breath to find out, start reading the Cal Leandros series by Thurman—10 books that will scratch the exact spot where Supernatural has left you wanting, providing plenty of material to carry you until the CW comes to their senses and renews it, already.

    If you love Kocktails with Khloé, read: How to Host a Dinner Party, by Corey Mintz
    Okay, you’re a Kardashian fan for life, and you’re willing to follow them anywhere—even to the FYI channel, the location of which literally no one knows. While you search for it, get ready for the gatherings that Kocktails will no doubt inspire, as Khloé hosts mega-cool dinner parties in her kitchen. When you decide you’ll do the same, Corey Mintz’s brilliant book will give you everything you need to make it happen.

    If you love The Magicians, read All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders
    The Magicians offers a darker, more adult Harry Potter experience, but it’s much more than that: Grossman has created a deep and mysterious universe people want more of. Absolutely, you should read the books—but if you already have and you’re just waiting for each new episode of the SyFy show, check out Anders’ debut novel, in which former childhood friends and fellow misfits, now a magical prodigy and a scientific genius, become embroiled in a worldwide cataclysm they’re either supposed to solve or bring to fruition. Deep, fascinating stuff that will get your motor humming for The Magicians on the small screen.

    If you love The Vampire Diaries, read Vampire Academy, by Richelle Mead
    The Vampire Diaries lives and dies on conflict, insane plot twists, and really, really good-looking immortal people who despise each other. Mead’s Vampire Academy books are a bit lighter in tone, but offer the same sort of immortal chess-game plotting. Reading this awesome series is the best way to salve your longing for more Vampire Diaries.

    If you love House of Cards, read Macbeth, by William Shakespeare
    Rumor is Season 4 of House of Cards will be its last. While that isn’t confirmed, it makes sense: after all they’ve been through, there’s not much left for Frank Underwood and his wife, the icy Claire, to do except destroy each other in entertaining ways. To prep for the coming season, go back to the source and read Macbeth. It’ll add a touch of class, and House of Cards has always had Shakespearean ambitions anyway.

    What TV shows are inspiring your book choices these days?

  • Joel Cunningham 4:30 pm on 2014/09/23 Permalink
    Tags: , , , conquering hollywood, , , old man's war, , , , television   

    John Scalzi Explains the Secret to Writing Books Hollywood Will Love 


    Author photo courtesy of Athena Scalzi

    Just a few months ago, I observed that it was a very good time to be John Scalzi: he was fresh off a 2013 Best Novel Hugo win for Redshirts, with a new book due out in a few weeks, and two of his novels (including Redshirts) in development as television series. Since then, things have only gotten better for the sci-fi author-cum-geek culture commentator.

    That new book, Lock In? Debuted on the New York Times best-seller list. Oh, and it’s also been picked up as a potential TV series. If you’re counting, that means three of his books might be gracing the small screen over the next few years. I think you’ll agree with me when I say: that’s bonkers.

    At a recent book signing in Brooklyn, Scalzi explained the secret of writing books that will bring Hollywood to your door: put down that paperback and fire up Netflix, and spend the next few years studying how movies work, and why.

    Yes, yes, it also helps to be a skilled, engaging, and accessible writer (qualities that have made Scalzi one of the most popular authors in the genre), but there are a lot of fantastic sci-fi books that haven’t been optioned for adaptation. Scalzi credits his ability to write books that attract movie producers like flies to years spent as a film critic, watching seven movies a week and dissecting them for his readers, examining what worked and what didn’t, and explaining whether they were worth seeing or not.

    “It was my five-year film school,” Scalzi said. From there he learned the things that make for a great blockbuster movie: a compelling three-act structure. Lots of memorable dialogue. Well-drawn, relatable characters. “Action,” he added, “that is action-y.”

    Some writers would chafe at being called accessible, but Scalzi prides himself on it—he specifically crafts his books to be appealing to veteran and “entry-level” sci-fi readers alike, and his movie-modeled structures are a part of the equation. When he first sent his manuscripts to his now-agent, Scalzi was even asked if the books started out as screenplays. (Nope, but one of them—Old Man’s War—was turned into one by screenwriter David Self for Wolfgang Petersen to direct, though the project has since moved into development at SyFy.)

    In hindsight, I should have seen the Lock In announcement coming. It’s his strongest book yet on a plotting level, with an arresting, nightmarish premise about an out-of-control virus that leaves a small portion of the U.S. population fully conscious but trapped in a coma-like state. The sci-fi elements are novel but relatable (the afflicted interact with the world through a virtual reality landscape), and the potential for multiple-season story arcs is certainly there (especially once a handful of the apparently helpless coma patients discover they can use the virtual reality system to control others’ bodies).

    Hollywood is a fickle creature, of course, and it’s too soon to say when or if any of these books will make it all the way to a network or streaming service near you, but, undoubtedly, it remains an excellent time to be John Scalzi.

    Are you excited to see John Scalzi’s books adapted for TV?

  • Rebecca Jane Stokes 3:30 pm on 2014/08/18 Permalink
    Tags: , , , television,   

    Outlander Episode 2: A Spy in Their Midst? 

    OutlanderSing you a Scottish drinking song, and tie a sheet around your waist like maybe it’s a kilt—it’s about to get real Scottish up in this joint. Things are definitely getting sexier on the highlands this week on Outlander! If by “sexier,” of course, you mean more flashbacks to various floggings and also Jamie gets his nose broken defending the promiscuous antics of a blond-haired random whose dad has some anger issues to work out.

    The show is picking up steam in the best possible way. This week, Jamie swore to protect Claire so long as she was in his presence. Then he all hunkily went out to the stables to break a horse by whispering sweet Gaelic nothings in its ear and Claire FOR SOME REASON DID NOT FOLLOW HIM BUT INSTEAD MOPED AROUND CASTLE LEOCH WHILE EVERYONE RESIDING THERE DECIDED THAT SHE WAS DEFINITELY A SPY.

    I guess the lack of electricity plus the constant irritation of kilted wool rubbing up against skin has left every single denizen of Colum MacKenzie’s castle a tad bit paranoid. It’s clear that Claire has a secret, but the woman is so obviously not a spy. Before we watched her get accidentally wasted on Rhenish wine and then get conned into being held prisoner indefinitely at Leoch, thankfully, we got an 18th century clothing montage. It wasn’t technically a montage; Mrs. FitzGibbons just got Claire dressed in traditional garb. But dude, that involves easily eight different steps—there might not have been kicky pop music playing, but I’m calling it a montage.

    Properly outfitted for the age, Claire wanders around the castle trying to acclimate herself as quickly as possible so that she can get herself back to the hill and, hopefully, back to Frank. I have to say, after tending poor, dreamy Jamie Fraser and hearing about his mistreatment at the hands of the English, I’d be all “FRANK WHO?” This is probably why no one has asked me to marry them. Every guy I date is deeply concerned that if I travel backwards in time I will immediately take up with a dreamy, tortured red-headed Highlander. They are not wrong.

    Claire and Jamie bonded this week as he opened up to her about his past while she tended his ten million injuries. It’s clear that they share a connection, but Claire isn’t being quite so open with Jamie about her own story. This is probably smart, because to loudly insist to a stranger that you fell through time would probably get you beaten with “witch-slappers” or something in this day and age. Instead of the truth, she tells Jamie that the husband she’s weeping for isn’t alive…which is, you know, technically true.

    Although Colum, lord of the manor, initially tells Claire that he’ll get her back to the stones, he reneges on his offer. He and his brother Dougal suspect that she’s a spy, and decide to keep her on at Leoch. It doesn’t help her case that Claire is an excellent healer, something the castle and its residents need quite badly. The only ally Claire has at the moment is a fellow-healer and self-proclaimed witch, Geillis Duncan, who translates the goings on in the castle hall on Claire’s first visit there. But something about the plucky local who has stepped forward to be Claire’s ally (second only to Jamie) seems slightly…off. What will happen next? I mean, I totally know, but it’s fun watching the series as though I have never read any of the books.

    What did you think of episode 2?

  • Ginni Chen 6:00 pm on 2014/08/06 Permalink
    Tags: cartoons, celebrity bookshelves, , , heroes in a half-shell, , pizza, teenage mutant ninja turtles, television, , turtle power,   

    The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Their Favorite Books 

    collageWhat is happiness? Is it love, success, the achievement of dreams, and spiritual fulfillment? Or is it a bowl of sugary cereal, pj’s and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles opening credits on a Saturday morning? Ask a child of the 80s and 90s, and they just might say the latter. They also might yell, “Turtle power!”

    The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are a band of four brothers, named after Italian Renaissance painters and trained in the art of ninjutsu to fight crime. They’re walking, talking, butt-kicking mutated turtles raised in the sewers of Manhattan by their sensei, Splinter, an anthropomorphic rat with Japanese sensibilities. With the highly anticipated TMNT movie coming out in a few days, we’ve got the heroes in the half-shell on the brain. Here’s what we imagine each of their favorite books to be:

    Leonardo (leads)
    Masked in blue and wielding two katanas, Leonardo is the leader and the most obedient to Splinter. Leonardo’s favorite books are:

    The Way of the Samurai, by Inazo Nitobe
    It’s about living by a code of honor and cultivating loyalty, courage, and obedience, values that contribute to Leonardo’s credo.
    The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas
    Leo loves the duels, the loyalty, and the epic bromance between the fearsome foursome.
    King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, by Roger Lancelyn Green
    Leo is fascinated by these medieval tales of chivalry, gallantry, and swords. He’s also enthralled by one sword in particular: King Arthur’s Excalibur.
    The Book of Ninja, by Antony Cummins and Yoshie Minami
    This book covers the history of ninjas, but Leo loves it for more practical reasons: it’s instructive on the arts of espionage, tactical planning, night raids, mission strategies—all the things ninjas need to defeat their enemies.

    Michelangelo (party dude).
    He’s the easy-going prankster in the orange mask who talks like a surfer and wields nunchakus. Mikey thinks these books are cowabunga:

    Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson
    Come on. The kids might not know it, but we all know Michelangelo likes to party. He’s obviously the Scooby-Doo of the gang.
    The Pizza City, by Peter Genovese
    The Turtle likes his pizza! As a born and raised New Yorker, Mikey takes the history, origins, and story of the New York slice seriously.
    God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, by Kurt Vonnegut
    Michelangelo’s sense of humor is as big as his heart, so Vonnegut’s novel about a loony, wealthy philanthropist is one of his favorites.
    The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
    Swashbuckling pirate heroes, giants, conniving Sicilians, masochistic Counts, and one absolute babe of a princess, and it’s laugh-out-loud funny. All of Michelangelo’s favorite things.
    The Agony and the Ecstasy, by Irving Stone
    A gift from his sensei, Splinter, this is the only serious book on Michelangelo’s shelf.  He loves this novel about his namesake Michelangelo Buonarroti, the Renaissance man behind the Sistine Chapel.

    Raphael  (cool but crude)
    The dagger-dueling, red-masked rebel of the group, Raphael is hot-headed and sarcastic but also fiercely loyal to his family. His favorite reads:
    Animal Farm, by George Orwell
    Raphael considers this book research into anthropomorphic animals who are bad guys. This book accounts for Raphael’s deep mistrust of talking pig Bebop.
    The Mole People, by Jennifer Toth
    Always on guard against intruders, Raphael finds Toth’s account of the subterranean homeless population of New York City enlightening.  He likes to know a bit about the other people roaming around New York City’s underground maze.
    Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
    Angst-ridden Raphael relates to Holden’s disappointment in adults and his desire to die for a noble cause and to protect children.
    The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
    It’s one of the few books that can make Raphael laugh, and it’s about following your own moral code when the world around you is being stupid.

    Donatello (does machines)
    He’s a purple-masked whiz with the bo staff, and a whiz at everything else too. Donatello’s the inventor/engineer/scientific genius who prefers to use brains over brawn. On his bookshelf:
    Einstein’s Dreams, by Alan Lightman
    A fictional exploration into the dreams of young Albert Einstein while he works on his theory of relativity. This book weaves together philosophy and science in a way that’s right up Donatello’s alley.
    Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, by Haruki Murakami
    This bizarre, fantastical, and compelling sci-fi classic describes Tokyo’s sewer-dwelling reptilian monsters. Donatello finds this ironically amusing.
    Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
    The themes of censorship and the importance of books and dissenting ideas speak to Donatello’s intellectual side. It reminds him to use force for good, not to oppress or dominate others.
    The Iron Man comic series, created by Stan Lee
    These comic books were a gift from his brothers, who see Donatello as their own Tony Stark: genius, inventor, engineer ,and hero. Donatello wouldn’t mind being a ladies’ man like Tony Stark, too.

    Who’s your favorite Ninja Turtle and what book would you give him? 

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