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  • Melissa Albert 7:30 pm on 2016/12/05 Permalink
    Tags: , TV, ,   

    5 YA Books for Westworld Fans 

    After the events of last night’s Westworld finale on HBO (no spoilers here), you may be looking for a great book to fill the futuristic, “robots in the Wild West nightmare waiting to happen” hole in your heart. We’ve got your to-read list right here: Lifelike robots, emotional confusion, viewers getting dragged into intense storylines, the Wild West, and scary theme parks feature heavily in these five YA novels. Welcome to the park!

    Caraval, by Stephanie Garber
    Scarlett is the dutiful sister, Tella the impetuous, headstrong one. So when they receive an invitation from the mysterious Master Legend to attend Caraval—a magical event that lasts days, in which players enter an immersive game they may never leave—it’s Tella who hatches a plan to sneak away from their terrifying father. What neither sister bargains on is Tella getting kidnapped and being made the prize in the game. Just like in Westworld, nothing here is what it seems, and once players get drawn into the Caraval storyline, the danger is real, and anything can happen. Loaded with atmosphere, secrets, and scares, this is a magical, entrancing tale.  (It’s not out till next month, but get your pre-order on today!)

    Cinder, by Marissa Meyer
    You want androids? We got ’em. In this retelling of Cinderella, our heroine is now called Cinder, and she’s a cyborg in New Beijing, a bustling, lawless city crowded with humans and androids living side by side. The world is ravaged by plague, and even Cinder’s adopted family is threatened. When Prince Kai shows up in Cinder’s workshop to get an android repaired, he’s instantly attracted to the not-quite-human Cinder. However, the evil mind-controlling Lunar Queen has other ideas, and she drops in from the moon in order to marry Kai…which kind of leaves Cinder in the middle of an intergalactic war. A little awkward. Full of Cinderella references that have been cleverly translated into a sassy, scrappy sci-fi future.

    Girl Parts, by John Cusick
    David is plugged in. He’s always online, and has friends everywhere. Charlie, not so much. However, David is clinically “disassociated,” and to help him learn how to connect, his parents buy him the newest Companion Bot, a redhead called Rose. David has some ideas about how he’d like to connect, but unlike in Westworld, this robot has strict intimacy protocols (and no “girl parts”), and shocks him whenever he’s being inappropriate. Useful trick. Rose gradually begins to understand what she is, and develops more emotional responses. Which is when she runs away, and runs into Charlie. The story focuses on Rose as she becomes more than a machine, but we also get two very vivid portraits of lonely teenagers struggling to relate to a world they don’t understand in David and Charlie. Friendship, love, and loss mix in this unique sci-fi fable.

    Revenge and The Wild, by Michelle Modesto
    Set in a futuristic Wild West (sound familiar?), Revenge and the Wild follows Westie, a girl with a mechanical arm seeking revenge on the cannibals who took her limb—and her family—seven years ago. She lives in the out-of-control Rogue City, full of magic and darkness. The Wintu people use magic to protect Rogue City from the beasts that roam outside, but their magic is failing, and Westie thinks her family’s killers may have just arrived in town. Westie is determined to get her revenge at all costs, but her adopted family has other ideas. This is a thrilling, dark, and magical adventure that would be a great storyline in the Westworld theme park.

    Full Tilt, by Neal Schusterman
    Brothers Blake (responsible) and Quinn (reckless) get stuck in a scary phantom carnival/amusement park that has a habit of trapping people forever. Not ideal, and it’s all Quinn’s fault. Who goes into a haunted amusement park?! Blake has to go after him to make sure he’s okay…which is when things go horribly wrong. (Seriously, thanks, Quinn.) The demonic Cassandra appears and breaks the news:  Blake has to complete seven supernatural rides (aka, terrifying tasks that are horrendously difficult and challenging on, like, a personal level) before sunrise, or he’ll never be able to leave the park again. It’s the theme park from hell, forcing Blake to face his deepest fears and traumas. Horror, fantasy, and depth of character drive this story to its intense showdown.

    The post 5 YA Books for Westworld Fans appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Sarah Skilton 5:45 pm on 2016/11/08 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , TV   

    6 Books to Pair with Your Favorite Netflix Series 

    Over recent years Netflix has ascended to become one of the best sources for quality TV. With its series’ brief (often 10 to 12 episodes) seasons, the quality never wavers—it doesn’t have time! Add stellar writing and casting, and you’ve got a dozen must-watch programs. The only downside is once you’ve binged, you’re left hanging, waiting for the next season to come around. The best way to deal is by reading great books that pair perfectly with your favorites, from sitcoms and superheroes to sci-fi and politics.

    If you love Marvel’s Luke Cage, try Blood Red Blues, by Teddy Hayes
    Easy Rawlins is name-checked in the first episode, and you can never go wrong with Walter Mosley’s classic detective series (now 14 books and counting), set in L.A. during the 1960s and ’70s. But if you’re looking for a crime-and-politics story set in Luke’s Harlem, pick up Harlem noir Blood Red Blues. Devil Barnett’s a former C.I.A. agent who returns to the neighborhood to run his dad’s bar, the Be-Bop Tavern, following his dad’s murder. Soon he’s embroiled in a separate murder case, that of a Japanese diplomat, with men on both sides of the law demanding his help navigating the underworld in which Devil grew up.

    If you love Jessica Jones, try Heroine Complex, by Sarah Kuhn
    Both tales depict damaged women in their twenties who battle bad guys in urban settings (Jones takes place in Hell’s Kitchen, Heroines in San Francisco). The comparisons don’t end there: both are sexy, fast-paced, and full of lovable supporting characters. Best of all, in both stories, female friendships take center stage. In Heroine Complex, Evie Tanaka is personal assistant and BFF to superheroine Aveda Jupiter, San Fran’s favorite daughter and official protector, but behind the scenes, Evie might actually be more powerful than her boss. Their fight against human-hybrid demons culminates in a karaoke battle that’s not to be missed.

    If you love BoJack Horseman try Furiously Happy, by Jenny Lawson
    For those who’ve never seen BoJack, it’s hard to categorize the brilliant show, which is chock full of bonus jokes for people who work in film, TV, or publishing. It’s a comedy about depression, narcissism, substance abuse, relationships, the entertainment industry, and the exquisite frailty of human connection. Each season is deeper, more bittersweet, and more poignant than the last. Furiously Happy, Lawson’s second memoir, delivers on a similar premise—”A Funny Book About Horrible Things”—by striking a tone that encourages hilarity and introspection. After all, Lawson is “crazy like a fox that has really gone insane.”

    If you love Black Mirror, try Notes From the Internet Apocalypse, by Wayne Gladstone
    Those who enjoy Black Mirror’s dark, satirical look at the world’s collective technology addiction will be intrigued by Gladstone’s three-book series. When the web flat-out disappears, forcing everyone to unplug, the Manhattanite main character (also named Gladstone) teams up with an obnoxious blogger and an Australian webcam girl to uncover the where’s, when’s, and why’s of the new world order. Although the loss of the Internet may seem as though it will “bring back a simpler time,” Gladstone quickly realizes it only means “a search for something new to fill the void.”

    If you love Master of None, try Adulting, by Kelly Williams Brown
    The clearest pairing to this Emmy Award–winning show is Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg’s book, Modern Romance, but that would be too easy. So, while you wait for season two, why not honor Dev, Rachel, Arnold, Brian, and Denise—and their quest for fulfillment—by digging into Adulting? The book’s funny, helpful nuggets of advice run the gauntlet from cooking/hosting (“How to make a dope cheese plate,” “Do not fear the puff pastry”) to socializing (“The small-talk bell curve”) to employment (“Do not steal more than three dollars’ worth of office supplies per quarter.”) A self-help book with a little something for everyone.

    If you love House of Cards, try The Hopefuls, by Jennifer Close
    Imagine Frank and Claire Underwood in their 20s, invigorated by the campaign process, eager to make their mark as White House staffers. (Okay, that’s really hard to picture.) Imagine House of Cards minus the cynicism. (Even tougher? All right, you got me: The Hopefuls is the anti-House of Cards.) But for anyone who misses the relatively saner 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns (which are depicted in the book), and anyone who loves funny, boozy, inside-baseball immersion into the world of politics, this book is a delicious feast. Close is a genius at writing contemporary realism. The central relationship, between two young D.C. couples who aspire to greatness, is so real it hurts.

    The post 6 Books to Pair with Your Favorite Netflix Series appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Heidi Fiedler 6:40 pm on 2016/09/14 Permalink
    Tags: , , TV, what would rory read   

    8 Books We Want to See Rory Reading in the New Gilmore Girls Episodes 

    Forget about whether Lorelai is still with Luke. Put your questions about Paris on pause. We all know what our most burning questions will be when Gilmore Girls returns to the small screen in TK: What is Rory reading? It’s 2016, and the world is kind of a mess, even in Stars Hollow. But there’s comfort to be found in books. And if Rory’s reading it, you know it’s what you want to be reading, too. Partly so you can hold an intelligent conversation with your friends, but mostly so you can imagine, even if just for a moment, how glorious it must be to be Rory Gilmore. Let’s all just take a a moment to treasure her good heart and keen mind, and then let’s get nerdy. During the original series, Rory was seen reading over 300 books. In the new and final (maybe?) season, these are just a few of the books we hope to see on the top of her TBR pile this time around.

    My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
    Rory probably read the first in the internationally acclaimed Neopolitan saga the second it was translated. Perhaps she has already finished the series. But if not, can she please form a book club with Paris and Lane? Hearing their take on this masterful series about friendship and the meaning that can be found in the most ordinary of lives, now that they are older, wiser, and more world weary, would be a treat.

    Modern Romance, by Aziz Ansari
    As smart as she is, Rory isn’t really known for making great decisions when it comes to her love life. Previewing the new series, show creator Amy Sherman-Palladino says Rory “is single in the sense that she’s not married. But she’s dating like any young woman with that face would be.” Maybe she’s ready for love, maybe she’s not. But it couldn’t hurt for her to read Aziz Ansari’s sociological take on romance. First up, what does it mean when a guy sends a pizza emoji?

    We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    Rory has probably already memorized the text from this thoughtful TEDx speech, which makes the case for universal feminism, but it’s always nice to have a copy in your purse. There’s something so reassuring about this eloquent and personal book. You can leave it behind after a nasty encounter at the movie theater or give a copy to your intern. Rory has an intern, right? She has probably had hundreds of them by now!

    Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
    This was one of the best books of 2014, and in the years since Rory left Stars Hollow, it probably found its way onto her nightstand. It’s a literary love letter to Shakespeare, human kindness, intimacy, and the bonds that hold communities together, whether they’re scattered across the country or nestled in a tiny Connecticut town. As determined and tender as Rory can be, she also has a melancholy streak, and this book is perfect for long lonely train rides across Europe.

    Hamilton, by Lin-Manuel Miranda
    Rory probably can’t afford to see Hamilton any more than the rest of us, but if anyone can glean some wisdom from the annotated libretto and essays in this book, it’s Rory. Hearing the personal journey Lin-Manuel Miranda took to produce his masterpiece is sure to inspire her creativity and social activism. It also might inspire Lorelai to rap. Either way.

    Swing Time, by Zadie Smith
    After graduating from Yale, it’s safe to assume, Rory has some friends working in high places, or at least in publishing. Hopefully she’s getting an advance copy of Zadie Smith’s new novel, which comes out in November but is deeply pre-order worthy. The book is about the power of dance, the difference between being talented and being philosophical, and the people that influence us long after we know them, a bit like the way Rory has influenced our reading lists for years.

    When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi
    Anyone who reads the classics the way Rory does is thinking about more than literary devices and plot points. They’re really looking for the answer to one question: What makes a life worth living? Literature offers a wide variety of answers. This bestselling memoir takes another approach, as it navigates the last months of neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi’s life. This is a guide to finding meaning in the midst of tragedy and living virtuously even when we still have questions. Perfect Rory reading material.

    The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert
    A modern masterpiece, this book belongs alongside The Awakening, As I Lay Dying, and other classic titles on Rory’s original reading list. It’s an expansive novel about love and discovering who you are, but it’s also about the intricacies of lichen and the challenges of running a business. Alma, the heroine, is a serious scientist in 19th-century England, and she serves as a fierce role model sure to inspire any Gilmore girl.

    The post 8 Books We Want to See Rory Reading in the New Gilmore Girls Episodes appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Nicole Hill 9:00 pm on 2016/04/11 Permalink
    Tags: , , the return of claire and jamie, through a glass darkly, TV   

    Outlander Episode 1 Recap: Through a Glass, Darkly 

    Good news, Outlander fans! The Sassenach is back, but she’s not where we last left her.

    In the season finale all those eons ago, Claire and Jamie, healing from the many wounds inflicted on him by Black Jack Randall, were boarding a ship for France. They were ready to change history, and they were ready to add a bouncing bundle of joy to their family.

    Season 1 was a difficult, tumultuous ride, but it ended with positive vibes. Surely Season 2 will build on that momentum, right? Wrong, as Claire discovers when she awakens in the Scottish stone circle that started this whole mess. The Highlands are the Highlands, so it’s hard to place her at first, but some context clues—chiefly Claire’s screams—place her squarely in the 20th century. It’s 1948 to be exact, three years after she first wandered through the portal to the past.

    We don’t know how she came to be here, nor does the dapper Scotsman who stops to check on the woman in full corset wandering down the middle of the road. Claire responds to his questions with one of her own: “Who won the battle of Culloden?” Either because this is fiction, or because this is Scotland, this poor patriot readily replies that it was the British. One banshee scream later, Claire’s admitted to a hospital in Inverness, where she remains the most sorrowful of any living person who’s returned to a world with indoor plumbing.

    Meanwhile, Frank (the modern, practical husband) has been notified his wife has returned from the ether. The brief snippets of Frank’s life we saw in Season 1 were filled with misery and confusion, and he is in store for more as he visits Claire for the first time. She’s wary at best in her interactions with him. It is, after all, hard to love a husband who’s the spitting image of the man who ruined your life and tortured your other husband.

    There is some good news for Claire: she’s to “convalesce” at the home of our old friend Reverend Wakefield, who lives in what is presumably the ashes of the Library of Alexandria. Claire spends every waking minute combing through books, trying to find some mention of Jamie’s fate, on which she is unclear.

    By the time Claire’s worked up the will to tell Frank just where she’s been all this time, it’s easy to see blissful ignorance is preferable to the poor guy. “No, no, dear,” his face pleads, “I’m really fine if we pretend you fell in with a particularly virulent cosplay cult. We don’t need to speak of it again.”

    She unloads on him. Book fans will note how differently this episode treats Claire’s return, but it works for the format. Instead of hearing Claire’s recollections of how Frank took the news, we get to see the stiff-upper-lip anguish ourselves. Cut out the middleman, I say!

    In his typical stoic fashion, Frank announces he’s ready to take this “leap of faith” with his bonkers wife. He’s trying so hard, being so brave, and Claire does everything in her power to smash his facade with a hammer. Her fury at how helpless she feels shortens her fuse, and we can presume this is why she doesn’t so much break the news of her pregnancy as drop it like an atom bomb.

    Before we go any further…despite the trauma she’s experienced, Claire is at the top of a short list for luckiest woman alive. She has two husbands, both of whom are more understanding than men of their times have a right to be, and she spent all of the last three years on a journey through time and sheets. One husband is a hunk with a heart of gold and abs of steel, and the other is slim, trim, and perfectly willing to go along with an insane story of bed-hopping of the days of yore.

    Anyway, Claire could deliver the news of her pregnancy with a bit more delicacy, but it wouldn’t be Outlander if she weren’t being tart with a man who loves her beyond reason. Pushed to his limit, Frank sets about to hulk-smashing his kindly Scottish host’s belongings. Claire’s news about her pregnancy is a double whammy for the poor guy: not only did his wife get knocked up by some other beefcake, but she did so after years of struggling with infertility in their union.

    Rage subsided, Frank lays out the conditions for his taking on this whole fatherhood business: they will raise this child as their own, and Claire must stop her frantic research on Jamie. If Frank had watched the sex scenes from Season 1, he’d realize, “You must let him go,” is a lot easier said than done. But Claire consents anyway, because one husband is better than zero husbands.

    Speaking of…it’s flashback time! We pick up with Claire’s memories as she and Jamie step off the boat in France, safely back in the 18th century. Also there: Murtaugh, Europe’s crankiest traveler. Yay.

    The difference in Claire’s overall demeanor is noticeable—she’s bubbly. But while his wife’s ready to go whole hog in stopping the ill-fated Jacobite rebellion, Jamie is hesitant. Despite Claire’s understanding, they have not agreed to reshape history. What exactly they talked about on that long boat ride is a mystery, but it wasn’t strategy. Jamie does finally consent to Claire’s plans, including the portion where he must con his Jacobite cousin into ingratiating them with the rebel alliance.

    As Murtaugh, poet of the soul, utters later in the episode, Claire and Jamie’s plan is “like a plaid woven out of guile and deception.” The man can turn a phrase.

    The Fraser clan is a talented bunch, as we learn when we catch up with Jamie’s cousin, Jared, who runs a lucrative wine business. After some persuading, Jared asks Jamie to run the store while he goes off to the West Indies for lucrative wine business things.

    Claire and Jamie have their foot in the door in France. But…it also wouldn’t be Outlander if Claire weren’t on the verge of causing an international incident. Down at the docks, Claire notices a man being carted off a ship on a stretcher. Her nurse instincts kick in. He’s got smallpox, she loudly declares to anyone who’ll listen. Unfortunately, that means the ship he came in on and all the cargo on it must be burned. This aggravates the owner of that ship, here known as Snarly Businessman #1, a chief competitor of Jared Fraser.

    “Another country, another enemy. Life with you is never dull, Sassenach,” Jamie says, adding some levity to a situation that will surely come back to haunt them. Never dull, indeed, which is why we’ll all be back next week to see what Claire’s stepped in.

  • Nicole Hill 8:00 pm on 2016/02/16 Permalink
    Tags: , , small screen, , TV   

    Stephen King’s Must-Read Novel 11/22/63 Just Became Your Newest Must-Watch Miniseries 

    Even the central plot device of 11/22/63 screams Stephen King: a portal to the past, located in the storage closet of a Maine diner. For many the name Stephen King conjures images of human behavior at its worst—enough rereadings of Misery will do that to a person. But the master of horror is equally capable of probing the best parts of human nature, like the fact that the only two men who know about the existence of this time-travel gateway use it for a mission they believe will better the planet: saving President John F. Kennedy from an assassin’s bullet.

    That’s the premise of King’s monolithic book, and it’s where we begin with the J.J. Abrams–produced, eight-part adaptation that premiered on Hulu yesterday, lightly renamed 11.22.63. If you’re not hooked after this first episode, I don’t know what to tell you. Boasting an all-star cast (with James Franco and Chris Cooper at the helm), the miniseries is fast-paced, beautifully shot, and stocked with King easter eggs. And if it stays at all true to the book, which producers have promised it will, there are a hundred more reasons to tune in. Here are just a few.

    Genres for everyone!
    At first, diner-induced time travel would seem to put this one squarely in the realm of science fiction. And there are certainly significant elements of it, including a fascinating twist on the mechanics of time travel. Every time mild-mannered English teacher Jake Epping (Franco) steps into the past, he wipes away whatever he did on his last trip. Additionally, no matter how long he stays in the ’60s, when he returns to our time, only two minutes have passed.

    That aside, the sci-fi machinations are just one genre King wades into here. 11/22/63 is also equal parts historical fiction, mystery, and thriller, with a dash of romance propelled by the Lindy hop. You never quite know what you’ll be hit with next, and unfortunately for Jake, neither does he.

    Nostalgia without the glossy sheen.
    What so often happens with period pieces, particularly set in the “halcyon” days of the ’50s and ’60s, is sanitization. It’s easy to get caught up in all the great clothes, stately cars, and retro music, and forget about the myriad unpleasantries of the past. King doesn’t do that, and judging from the first episode, neither does the miniseries. In one memorable moment on Jake’s road trip from Maine to Dallas, he encounters the ugliness of the era when he almost uses the wrong option between the segregated restrooms.

    The past doesn’t want to be changed.
    Beyond the suspense of Jake’s Lee Harvey Oswald espionage, the primary driver of suspense is the past itself. You see, it knows how things are supposed to happen, and it goes to great lengths to derail our hero’s quest, whether it’s through a messenger’s verbal warning or a violent catastrophe aimed squarely at him. Jake’s not just fighting the clock as it ticks toward the moment in 1963 when everything changed, he’s fighting the resistance of time itself. It’s a remarkable complication to what already might be a fool’s errand, and it adds a level of eeriness characteristic of a King story. All of that is to say: Jake shouldn’t be here. But you should.

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