Favorite Surf Breaks…
What I’m Watching, Reading and Recommending!
One of my favorite Podcasts of 2019 is WNYC Studios’ Dolly Parton’s America . Nine episodes trace the evolution of her career which mirrors our divided country and finds common ground in Parton’s music which is quite political, and yet she remains non-partisan. The music is great. You’ll be humming “Jolene” for a few days.
A Discovery of Witches on Sundance Now. This engaging series aired on SKY TV where it became a hit in the UK and was picked up for the US market by Sundance Channel which is owned by AMC. It broke record streaming ratings for both Sundance Now and for Shudder, so AMC has taken notice and has decided to air it as its own original series (in April). That’s quite unusual, so check it out.
I highly recommend you reading the All Souls Trilogy of novels by Deborah Harkness on which this series is based. Here is a terrific Podcast with the Author. Really enjoyable reading. Lemme know what you think!
Continuing an unexpected theme of Witches, I highly recommend Circe by Madeline Miller. I ran through this book and read it a second time to savor the story and see what I missed during the first go-round. HBO Max has ordered a series adaptation of this wonderful novel. I loved it. So, will you! (Here is a terrific interview with the author via the NEA which has praised the book, as well: NEA Podcast With Madeline Miller.
As with Deborah Harkness and Neil Gaiman, when I find an author whose work really captures my imagination, I tend to look at other books they’ve written. The same is true with Madeline Miller, whose first novel is The Song of Achilles, a retelling of the legend of Achilles and the Trojan War as told from the POV of Patroclus, an exiled prince who becomes Achilles’ companion. Really wonderful.
Soundtrack from The Greatest Showman
You know a film soundtrack has really crossed over to mainstream success when you hear a track at your local grocery store. That happened to me today at Ralph’s in Venice. I strolled through the aisles singing along to Rewrite the Stars with Zendaya & Zac Efron. You will, too. Check it out: Soundtrack from The Greatest Showman
The EarthSea series by Ursula K. LeGuin who recently passed away. There are six books in the series, and the first book, The Wizard of Earthsea, is the weakest in the series which gets stronger with each subsequent book. I had avoided reading these books for years, but once I delved in to them, I was captivated and miss those characters now that I’ve finished the series which is a telltale sign of a great book and a great author.
Hayley Atwell (Agent Carter, Captain America) stars in this 4-part miniseries adapted by Kenneth Lonergan. I really enjoyed this new take which fleshes out supporting characters that the film version did not. Definitely on my Top Ten List of Favorite TV for 2018.
American Gods, Norse Mythology, The Ocean at the End of the Lane
by Neil Gaiman
American Gods, Gaiman’s book-turned-TV series, really hooked my inner-mythological fanboy. Everyone who ever emigrated to America brought with them the Gods in whom they believed. Those Gods either thrive or diminish based on how many people continue to pay tribute to them.
Read the book before checking out the TV adaptation on STARZ (which is perfectly cast). S2 airs in 2019, so you have time to catch up!
Meanwhile, Norse Mythology is Gaiman’s take on the most well-known Norse legends, but he has re-told them for a modern audience, and his tales really take the reader on a journey. I am ready to go to Norway and to discuss Odin, Thor, and Loki with the locals.
And, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is just a terrific meditation on Memory and Myth. I thoroughly enjoyed this page-turner.
Guilty Pleasure Alert!
Recently caught the first 2 eps. of #Riviera on a Delta flight and really enjoyed this Thriller set in the South of France which stars Julia Stiles (Jason Bourne, Mona Lisa Smile) as a woman caught up in web of lies. Created by Neil Jordan (The Crying Game). Lots of twists and turns. Airs on Sundance Now. 10 eps. Good Binge! Update: Just renewed for S2. Here’s the Trailer for S2 via Deadline Hollywood.
Here’s My Top 10 TV Series of 2017:
- American Gods (Starz) – S2 shooting now in Toronto. 8 eps. premiere in 2019.
- The Young Pope (HBO) – S2 coming in 2019. John Malkovich joins the cast.
- Big Little Lies (HBO) – S2 shooting now in Monterey. Meryl Streep guest stars.
- Outlander (Starz) – Renewed for S4 and S5.
- The Leftovers (HBO)
- The Americans (FX) – Nominated for a slew of Emmys for its final season.
- Westworld (HBO) – S2 wowed the Emmy Voters.
- Riviera (Sundance Now)
- Sherlock! (PBS Masterpiece)
- Berlin Station (EPIX)
Are you an Abraham Lincoln fan? I grew up with Lincoln (we are both Native Sons of Hodgenville, Kentucky), so I am leery of books about him, but George Saunders’ wonderful book set in The Bardo, the Buddhist Purgatory, is a wonderful backdrop to the Lincoln Presidency during the death of Willie Lincoln.
Echoes of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. Terrific read.
Big Little Lies on HBO and streaming. This 8-episode limited series adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s novel about Moms in Monterey really hooked me with a fantastic twist on a Whodunnit.
Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley and Laura Dern are the most prominent Moms who juggle their secrets with carpools and play dates. Very watchable TV. Great script by David E. Kelley and wonderful direction by Jean-Marc Vallee (Wild). S2 just concluded on HBO. Kidman and Dern both won Emmys.
Timely, Topical TV.
Binge-watch S1 and Enjoy.
Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Noah Emmerich and Margo Martindale topline an excellent cast in this based-on a true story set in the ’80s about KGB operatives in the U.S. I just never got around to watching this gripping spy-drama on-air. Fantastic! The series just concluded after six successful seasons. Emmys for Russell and Rhys.
OUTLANDER on Starz. This TV show is an excellent adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s internationally best-selling series of novels. Set in Scotland, the first season follows a modern-day woman who inexplicably travels in time to that country’s violent past in the 1700s. Lots of Men in Kilts, sword play, and beautiful Highland scenery. But, it’s the characters that keep you enthralled. Very Adult-themed Romance Science Fiction Historical Fantasy. Ron Moore (Battlestar Galactica) executive produces. Production just started on S5.
PRINCE LESTAT and the REALMS of ATLANTIS
Anne Rice’s latest in her popular Vampire Chronicles series catches up with Lestat, Louis, Marius and Co. as they wrestle with the consequences of Lestat becoming The Prince. Rice’s next installment, Blood Communion, released in 2018, sorta wraps everything up for Lestat & Co.
HARRY POTTER and the CURSED CHILD
Can’t get to New York or to London to see the 2-day event production? Read the script!
Okay, it’s not a book, but rather, the script to a 2-part Play. And yet, it reads just as easily as one of Rowling’s books in the Potter franchise. Here, we catch up with Harry’s son Albus and his best friend Scorpius Malfoy when they get a hold of a TimeTurner to disastrous results. Enjoying a sold-out run in London’s West End and enjoying great success on Broadway, as well. When’s the National Tour?!
READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline.
Hands down, my favorite book of the last five years.
Cline presents the future of Entertainment and how we consume it, but also, how Entertainment will consume Us. Plus, some cool ’80s trivia. Skip the movie. Read This Book.
WILD by Cheryl Strayed is a wonderful book (as is the film adaptation direct by Jean-Marc Valle). Strayed puts you there alongside her on the Pacific Crest Trail and will make you want to hike.
In fact, too many hikers are causing environmental problems for the PCT, per Outside Magazine.
The Magicians by Lev Grossman is, of course, the first in a trilogy of novels, but they are engrossing books about an American and more contemporary version of Hogwarts, a school of magic set in upstate New York. There’s a mystery within a mystery that will keep you reading. Naturally, this book has been adapted for TV and is now in its 5th season on SYFY.
- Penny Dreadful (Showtime)
A continually surprising Horror series with new takes on Dracula, Frankenstein, Dorian Gray, The Wolfman, et al. Binge-watch all three seasons which were written by John Logan (SPECTRE, Skyfall). With Eva Green, Josh Hartnett and Timothy Dalton. There’s a sequel series, City of Angels, in the works, too.
- Hamilton: The Documentary (PBS.org)
If, like me, you still have not seen the play, check out this wonderful behind-the-scenes documentary, which will tide you over until ticket prices drop and/or a high school production near you catches your attention.