31 October 2014

Book to Screen: Olive Kitteridge (HBO Miniseries)

Olive Kitteridge on HBOAs many of you know, I'm a big fan of HBO, which has aired some of the best original content seen on television (Deadwood and True Detective, for example). And because they bring the same excellent writing and quality production to their adaptations, I'm crazy excited about their upcoming (November 2 and 3) miniseries based on Elizabeth Stout's Olive Kitteridge, starring Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins.

The book Olive Kitteridge is a collection of linked stories that together make up a character study and examination of life in a small Maine town, often seen through the eyes of its eponymous character, a junior-high math teacher, known for her abrasiveness. Yet despite outward appearances, Olive is a complex, caring woman who fights bouts of depression, a disease that runs in her family.

Photo credit: HBO/Jojo WhildenThe emotionally strong Pulitzer Prize–winning book, with its unforgettable characters, follows Kitteridge family drama over the course of a quarter century, beautifully exploring the full arc of what it means to be human.

The writers of the HBO miniseries Olive Kitteridge were faced with turning a short story collection into a single entity. Emmy® winner Jane Anderson rose to the occasion, crafting a teleplay that focuses on the title character but respects Stout's original format. The miniseries is presented in four parts (two on Sunday, November 2, and two on Monday, November 3), each of which carry the name of one the collection's stories. "Pharmacy" and "Incoming Tide" open the miniseries, followed by "A Different Road" and "Security" on the second night.

Photo credit: HBO/Jojo WhildenDespite concentrating on only a few of the stories, Anderson's script, combined with the truly outstanding cast, promises to capture the essence of both the Kitteridges and small-town life. Director Lisa Cholodenko (The Kids Are All Right) teams up with McDormand (an Academy Award® winner) and Jenkins (an Academy Award® nominee), who star as Olive and Henry Kitteridge. They are supported by a strong field of familiar actors, including Bill Murray, John Gallagher Jr., Rosemaire DeWitt, Jesse Plemons, and Ann Dowd. In addition, almost everyone on the crew, from the director of photography to the score's composer, is a major award winner or nominee.

Take a look at the trailer to get an overview of the HBO miniseries Olive Kitteridge. Then watch the short clip to take a peek at a Kitteridge family dinner.

Olive Kitteridge premieres on HBO on November 2 and 3. Check your local listings for air times in your area.

Thanks to HBO for providing the videos and stills. Photo credits: HBO/Jojo Whilden. (Click images to enlarge.)

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30 October 2014

Cozy Seasonal Reading: A Heptad of New Series

Even though Halloween is fast approaching, there is still time to get in some seasonal reading. Although I don't like super-scary books, I do like mysteries, and the busier I am, the more I turn to cozies. I like their punny titles, crazy situations, and fun characters.

This fall Berkley Prime Crime is offering an amazing opportunity for lovers of light mysteries. They are debuting no less than seven new series. Here's your chance to get in on the ground floor and meet a new amateur sleuth right from the start. One of these is sure to capture your interest.

Fat Cat At Large by Janet Cantrell Janet Cantrell's new Fat Cat series, is set in Minneapolis and starring professional baker Chase Oliver and her chubby cat, Quincy. In Fat Cat at Large, Quincy--supposedly on a diet--heads off to a neighboring house in hopes of snagging a tasty treat. When Chase goes to retrieve him, she discovers a dead body. Caught in the kitchen with the corpse, she becomes the prime suspect. Fortunately, Chase's best friend, Julie, is a lawyer, so chances are good that she'll be declared innocent. Enlivening this mystery is the friendship between Chase, her elderly business partner, and Julie and the fact that we sometimes see things from Quincy's perspective. No culinary mystery is complete without a few recipes, and this one includes treats for people as well as cats. (Published in September 2014; ISBN: 9780425267424)

Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates by Kathy AaronsWho doesn't like the combination of books and chocolate? Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates, by Kathy Aarons, is centered in a Maryland bookstore that also sells homemade candies. Best friends and co-owners of the shop, Michelle and Erica, are all set to host a Memorial Day fudge contest, when a local artist is found dead, presumably poisoned by one of Michelle's truffles. Teaming up with Erica's brother, the women must find the real killer before they're forced to close their business. Besides the strong women protagonists, small town life, chocolate, and books, this debut installment in the Chocolate Covered series includes a little bit of little romance involving a local policeman. Look at the back of the book for two sweet recipes! (Published in September 2014; ISBN: 9780425267233)

Nightmares Can Be Murder by Mary KennedyMary Kennedy's Nightmares Can Be Murder is set in Savannah, Georgia, where Taylor, a business consultant, is helping her sister, Allison, open a candy store. The sisters are also members of a group that meets to help each other interpret their dreams. When a dance teacher turns up dead, the circumstances surrounding his death are reminiscent of one of the dreams shared at the club. Because Allison was seen with the murder victim, the police think she's the killer. The club members team up to solve the crime before Allison is forced behind bars. This first in the Dream Club series features a group of women of all ages, a handsome ex-FBI agent turned private investigator, and a couple of lovable cats. The back of the book has a short guide to interpreting dreams. (Published in September 2014; ISBN: 9780425268056)

Bless Her Dead Little Heart by Miranda JamesI love the title of Miranda James's new novel: Bless Her Dead Little Heart. As you can guess, this series is set in the U.S. South, and if you're a fan of James, you'll be happy to know that this is a spin-off series of her popular Cat in the Stacks series. When Miss An'gel and Miss Dickce of Athena, Mississippi, agreed to pet sit their friend's cat, they didn't realize they were going to be put in the path of murder. But after an old friend and her grown children come for a visit, the two are caught up in a killer of a situation. Mix together feuding house guests, old friends, feisty sisters, and Southern charm, and you'll get the fun that's promised by this first in the Southern Ladies Mystery. You do not need to have read James's other series before meeting An'gel, Dickce, and the gang. (Published in October 2014; ISBN: 9780425273043)

Off Kilter by Hannah ReedHow about a mystery set in Scotland and starring a young writer? Hannah Reed's Off Kilter ("Someone's been kilt . . .") takes us to the Highlands and introduces us to Eden Elliot, who is visiting Glenkillen to research her next book and to try to move past her troubles (her mother's recent death and her divorce). One thing she learns is that life in a small village is not always peaceful. When a wealthy sheep farmer has been murdered, the prime suspect is one of Eden's new friends. Can Eden find the real killer before she too meets the sharp end of the sheep shears? Plenty of good characters, a little Scots dialect, beautiful scenery, newfound friendships, and a rural murder make a promising start to the Scottish Highlands series. (Published in October 2014; ISBN: 9780425265836)

Snow White Red-Handed by Maia Chance
Calling all fairy tale lovers! Maia Chance's Snow White Red-Handed, the first in the Fairy Tale Fatal series, is just for you. Set in 1867, the mystery starts off aboard ship heading from New York to Europe. Out-of-work actresses Ophelia and Prudence snag a job with a nouveau riche American couple bound for their castle in Germany's Black Forest. Pretending to be maids, the actresses soon get caught up in strange events: Was the castle really once the home of the legendary Snow White? As if skeletons of little people, poisoned apples, folktale experts, a spooky forest, and the death of their boss weren't enough, Prudence finds herself the prime suspect in the crime. Can Ophelia use her acting skills and intelligence to get her friend out of hot water? (Publishing in November 2014; ISBN: 9780425271629)

Suede to Rest by Diane Vallere
Diane Vallere takes us into the world of wannabe dress designer Poly Monroe in Suede to Rest, the first in the Material Witness series. Returning to the small California town of San Ladron after living in Los Angeles isn't easy for Poly, especially because she's back to take charge of her inheritance, the fabric store that once belonged to her family. Fighting her own emotions as well as the local business developers, the young woman is determined to get her career on track. But when a dead body is discovered in the store's alley, she must put her plans aside and get to the bottom of the murder before she also becomes a victim. Family history, a resourceful protagonist, fashion and fabrics, and couple of cute kittens make for a fun read. (Publishing in November 2014; ISBN: 9780425270578)

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28 October 2014

Wordless Wednesday 313

Fall Evening, 2014

Click image to enlarge. For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

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Today's Read: The May Bride by Suzannah Dunn

The May Bride by Suzannah DunnImagine what it would be like to have been raised in privileged isolation with few friends but your siblings. No wonder the shy, young Jane Seymour couldn't resist being drawn to her older brother's vivacious, lively bride, whose easy charm seemed to captivate everyone.

Twice my life has turned on the step of a girl through a doorway; first when I was fifteen and my new, first-ever sister-in-law came walking into Wolf Hall. The May trees were holding blossoms as thick and thorough as snowfall when Katherine crossed our threshold as the twenty-one-year-old bride of my twenty-one-year-old brother.
The May Bride by Suzannah Dunn (Pegasus Books, 2014, p. 3)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: early 1500s, England, Wolf Hall (the Seymours' home), Henry VIII's court
  • Circumstances: Jane's observations of her brother's marriage, her sister-in-law's behavior, and everyday life in her family castle; later, her experiences as an attendant to Queen Catherine and her eventual introduction to Henry VIII
  • Characters: Jane Seymour and her family; Katherine Filloil, her sister-in-law; various members of Henry VIII's court
  • Genre: historical fiction
  • What I know from reviews: The novel, told from Jane's viewpoint, fills in the gaps of the future queen's formative years, providing many period details and giving insight into the Seymour family; this is less about the Tudor court and more about Jane and how getting to know Katherine Filloil changed her perspective on the world.
  • Recommendation: I've barely started The May Bride, but it looks like it will be an interesting read for Tudor fans. Suzannah Dunn has written other popular novels about the Tudor period and Henry VIII's wives.

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27 October 2014

Review: The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove

The Glass Sentence by S. E. GroveMiddle grade fantasy has had a lot to live up to since the amazing (and well-deserved) success of the Harry Potter books. Nothing, it seems, comes close to the mark set by J. K. Rowling.

Well, hello, S. E. Grove! Her debut novel, The Glass Sentence--a middle grade (with easy cross-over to adults) high fantasy--introduces us to a world like no other you've seen before. There is very little that's derivative in this story about thirteen-year-old Sophia Tims and her uncle Shadrack Elli. The time is 1891; the place is Boston. Earth, however, is unrecognizable, thanks to the Great Disruption of 1799.

Here are my thoughts in a Bullet Review:

  • What's Sophia's world like? All in an instant on a normal July day, time became twisty and unmoored, mixing up past, present, and future all on the same planet. While the eastern half of the United States (now called New Occident) seemed steady in history, Canada was returned to the Ice Age, Africa reverted to the time of the pharaohs, and still other lands were thrown into the future. Explorers and cartologers were on the forefront of understanding the implications of the new reality. By 1891, Shadrack Elli was one of the most respected mapmakers in the known world. Sophia lives with him because her explorer parents set off on an expedition and haven't been heard from in eight years. Are they alive? Or are they lost in time or physical space?
  • What happens? Just as the reactionary government of New Occident decides to close its borders against people from other times, Shadrack is kidnapped, and his precious maps are destroyed. Sophia's only clue to his whereabouts is a hastily written note from her uncle telling her to "go to Veressa." So Sophia, accompanied by an older boy and with help from her housekeeper, sets off for the city of Nochtland in what was once central Mexico and is now in a different time period.
  • Things to know about maps. Maps are not what you think. They can be made of glass, clay, cloth, water, metal, and vegetable matter as well as paper. Some maps contain memories, others show the topography, and some show only human-made structures. Reading maps is a skill, and many people can't even even recognize a map when they see one. Sophia is exceptionally talented at reading maps, though she doesn't yet know how to make one.
  • Creatures and characters. Young Sophia is a wonderful mix of vulnerable and tough, of smart and naive. One of her distinguishing characteristics is having no sense of time: for her, a moment may last five seconds or five hours. She, like her world, seems to be unanchored to clocks. Her new friend, Theo, is guarded, complex, a few years older, and from a different era. Although Sophia agrees to travel with him, she is not at all sure how much she can trust him. Shadrack is a loving guardian and an ethical man who refuses to give the kidnappers what they want, until they threaten to destroy his niece. The cast of peripheral characters includes terrifying thugs who wield grappling hooks, faceless beings who mourn all that has been lost, and people who seem to be only partially human.
  • General thoughts. I love Sophia, Shadrack, and Theo, and I was equally taken with the world Grove created. The maps and how they work are unique in my reading experience, and I was fascinated. I also liked the idea of different time periods existing on the same planet. The novel makes us think about how the Great Disruption affected not only daily life but also art, literature, politics, and travel. The story itself was well paced, varying between intense action scenes and quieter moments. The Glass Sentence is the first in a planned trilogy, and I can't wait to see what happens next.
  • Recommendations. I recommend this debut novel for readers of all ages who like high fantasy, alternative history, excellent world building, and great storytelling. This first in the Mapmakers trilogy stands on its own and introduces us to an appealing new hero in Sophia and a complex, well-developed new world.
  • Audiobook. I listened to the unabridged audiobook edition (Listening Library; 15 hr, 48 min) read by Cassandra Campbell, whose approach to the novel is near perfect. Her expressive performance and keen sense of pacing bring the story alive. She creates distinctive and consistent voices for all the characters (no matter how minor), and each seems perfectly suited for the personality, age, and gender of the individual. I sure hope Campbell is available for the rest of the series.
Click the widget below to hear a sample of the audiobook.

Published by Penguin USA / Viking Juvenile, 2014
ISBN-13: 9780670785025
Source: Audio: review; print: bought (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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