Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Tuning into the cinematic Queens of the Throne Age

I've noticed that here in America, despite all of our vested interest in democracy, we still find the whole kings and queens of England deal fascinating,particularly in pop culture.

 Granted, the British also share our taste for royal biopic fare as they produce plenty of it for our mutual viewing pleasure. This past Sunday was the PBS Masterpiece debut of  the miniseries Victoria, starring Jenna Colman as the young queen as she first takes the throne.

She is beset on many sides(including her own mother and a "family friend") as to how to rule but the one person who truly listens to her is Prime Minister Lord Melbourne(Rufus Sewell). As their professional relationship grows, rumors fly about as to how much influence the PM has over her, a theme that is revisited more than once in Queen Victoria's life:

While Victoria is more of a historical soap opera than a drama, it is well acted and entertaining enough to keep on watching. Plus, that persistent notion of Queen Victoria being easily swayed by the men in her life is worth exploring.

A fine example of that is the 1997 theatrical film Mrs. Brown(aka Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown in the UK), where a later in life Victoria is in deep mourning for her deceased Prince Albert. Both the government and her family wish her to take part in the world again but it's only through the friendship of royal groomsman John Brown that her spirits start to revive.

The bond between them causes much talk,hence the title nickname, and eventually a wedge is made between the queen and servant,which perhaps did not fully diminish their affections. It's s a stellar film and the one of the best performances by both Judi Dench and Billy Connolly which shows that while Queen Victoria did need someone to lean on, she wasn't the weaker for that, rather the reverse:

Of course, PBS's Victoria is being compared to the Netflix series The Crown, that is chronicling the life and times of the current Queen of England, Elizabeth the II.

The show has just won a couple of Golden Globes recently, with Best Actress going to leading lady Claire Foy and the entire program winning Best TV Series. I do plan to watch The Crown at some point but I do think it's a bit unfair to compare TC to Victoria. For one, being on a streaming service like Netflix allows for more storytelling boundaries to be stretched than something made for standard television.

Another even more compelling reason for the difference in dramatic direction is that Queen Elizabeth is still with us,thankfully, and that any biographical depiction of a living notable person tends to err on the side of the serious when it comes to screen. I'm sure that some artistic license has been taken  with both productions but Victoria has the advantage of being set in the far enough past unlike The Crown, which has to tread a little more carefully there:

My opinion on that may change once I watch season one of The Crown but it does seem to be par for the course with dramas about Elizabeth II. The movie that I think opened the door for this series is the 2006 film The Queen, where Helen Mirren played Her Majesty upon dealing with the untimely death of Princess Diana in the late 1990s.

Mirren's performance lead to an Oscar and then a stage adaptation entitled The Audience(which earned her a Tony). The film deftly displayed the dilemma for the queen as to how to balance the private pain of what happened with the appropriate public response, a struggle that even those not having a royal title can relate to and I suspect The Crown covers similar emotional ground:

In the end, part of the appeal for such queenly shows for Americans is, in my opinion, seeing what it would be like to have a woman in charge. While we probably will have to wait a bit longer to see such a shift in power in real life, that time will come for us,

What's important to remember,as many of these stories teach us, is that it is not gender or even bloodline that makes for a worthy ruler. It is the strength of character that such a person has and what he or she is willing to give up for the sake of their duty to others.

This display of character can also be seen in those whom that person chooses to ally themselves with and most importantly, their choice of advisors. Hopefully when we do find that true leading lady to lead us, her inner circle will be a true reflection of her character and perhaps even on the same level as the future queen of Westeros and her Hand will be:

Monday, January 16, 2017

Catch-Up Theater opens the door to Stranger Things and Jessica Jones

This past Friday the 13th, my sister and I watched the perfect programming, the last four episodes of Netflix's Stranger Things. For those unfamiliar with this online series, it takes places in a small town in Indiana during the latter half of 1983 and begins with an experiment gone wrong at a nearby lab which leads to the disappearance of a young boy named Will Byers.

Will's disappearance is only the start of the weirdness as more folks go missing, bizarre creatures have been spotted and a newcomer,a girl called Eleven(or El for short) is being hunted by dangerous people.

 These challenges encourage three generations to seek answers, such as Will's mother Joyce(Winona Ryder), a frazzled single parent, moody sheriff Jim Hopper(David Harbour), distraught teens Nancy and Jonathan(Natalia Dyer and Charlie Heaton) and Will's circle of D&D playing buddies Mike,Dustin and Lucas(Finn Wolfhard,Gaten Matazzo and Caleb McLaughlin)

To tell anymore would ruin the fun and while this show has been out there for awhile, I'll do my best not to spoil stuff(some of the videos included in this post are a tad spoilery in spots,so you have been warned!).

What I can safely say is that Stranger Things has truly pulled off a pop culture hat trick; while rift with various references to other genre fare, this is a wholly original story with characters that are fully fleshed and allowed time to develop and grow.

Part of the reason for this success is the writing. The Duffer Brothers,who created this series and wrote and directed most of the episodes, really have a handle for organic storytelling. In other words, the 1980s weren't used as a diorama for them to play-act with stick figures in here. If this had been a book(and yes, these fellas know their Stephen King), it would be one of those great reads that hooks you from page one and doesn't let you go until the end:

While I have several favorite characters on the show such as Joyce,Nancy's missing friend Barb(who I hope does reappear in season two) and Dustin, the top of that list belongs to Eleven, brilliantly played by Milly Bobby Brown.

I know what they say about child actors but this role would be a complex one even for an adult. A girl raised like an experimental animal with incredible psychic powers yet unable to speak in complete sentences, Eleven slowly yet surely becomes the emotional core of the story.

Granted, there are a number of emotional focal points within the plot(especially Jim Hopper's past memories of his daughter) but El's  struggle to find her place in the world is at times heartfelt and menacing,which can also be seen as the overall tone of ST. Eleven is the ultimate outsider whose humanity is what truly keeps the threat of the Upside Down at bay:

As I mentioned earlier, there is a second season in the works and how long they can make Stranger Things last is going to be the real cliffhanger here. It's not just the kids growing up or filming schedule conflicts that might hamper the show's future.

Again, it's all about the writing and I sincerely hope that the Duffer Brothers know when to say when, story wise.  Meanwhile, both my sister and I are joyous to have shared this entertainment experience together and we may even re-watch ST at some point(my sis definitely wants to see that Stranger Things SNL skit again in order to really appreciate that parody):

 My next foray into Catch-Up Theater may be a solo one as I head for Marvel's Jessica Jones on Netflix. This show, along other Marvel properties on that streaming service, is meant to be much darker in content than typical comic book fare and judging by the first episode alone, this is not PG-13 fare.

Kristen Ritter stars as the title character, a private investigator with super  poewers who is recovering from a terrifying past experience with a deadly telepath named Kilgrave(David Tennant). Jessica is mostly going through the motions of her life but when her former nemesis returns, she had to find a way to defeat him once and for all.

This story is not the usual moody comic book anti-hero tale, particularly since it's dealing with the emotional aftermath that women have to deal with from abusive situations, which makes it all too fitting to watch in times like these. Since the show is 13 episodes long, it may take me awhile to get though it but I have no doubt that this is a journey worth taking and then some:

Friday, January 13, 2017

Settling into A Winter's Respite of reading

Well, the way things are going these days, a readathon is surely welcome and starting this upcoming Monday, Seasons of Reading will be hosting their annual A Winter's Respite,which runs for two weeks.

One of the best parts of this readathon is that you are given an easy and open access to it. Fiction and nonfiction alike is encouraged, you can start and stop at your own pace and prizes will be awarded but the main reward is catching up on your reading.

Since this is a long readathon, my intended reads list is a moderate one but here are at least four books that I'm hoping to get into as we go along:

THE GIRLS: I have two books on hold at the library to pick up this weekend and one of them is Emma Cline's debut novel about a young woman caught up in a Manson-like cult in 1969.

 Fourteen year old Evie Boyd's desire to become part of this group is not really due to it's charismatic leader,Russell. It is nineteen year old gritty glamorous Suzanne Parker that firsts attracts Evie to seek new experiences outside of her safe suburban sphere and before long, she finds herself willing to do anything to please her new best friend. That anything proves to be fatal in more ways than one.

I've heard a lot of good things about this book and it appears to be much more than a retelling of the infamous Manson murders(although the author did some in depth research on cults). A dark subject for leisurely reading,perhaps, but one well worth exploring:

TRULY MADLY GUILTY: My other library pick-up is Liane Moriarty's latest novel, this one dealing with the aftermath of an incident at a neighborhood backyard party.

The friendship between long time best gal pals Clementine and Erika is a bit strained at times and when they and their families join in at a last minute invite from newcomers Vid and Tiffany for a bit of barbecue, those close ties become dangerously close to unraveling.

With the upcoming debut of the HBO adaptation of Moriarty's previous best seller Big Little Lies, interest in her books is already growing, so I'm very grateful to have the chance to tackle this one:

MAJOR PETTIGREW'S LAST STAND: Upon finishing and thoroughly enjoying Helen Simonson's The Summer After The War, I decided to treat myself to her earlier novel(which makes it the first book I've bought in 2017).

This story is set in more modern times than TSBTW but small town politics still play a huge role here. The title character is a retired military officer who prefers to stick with his old habits and keep most of the world at arms length.

However, he develops a friendship with local widow Mrs. Ali, which stirs up unwanted attentions from more than one quarter. Between disdainful relatives and prejudiced locals, the budding romance is at risk for being cut down before it's blossoming time.

Simonson has a lovely way with words as well as characters,which should make for a warmly charming read as the nights grow colder:

AMERICAN WIFE: I have this book on order from Better World Books and it should arrive long before this readathon is over. Curtis Sittenfeld's fictional look at a First Lady is said to be loosely based upon Laura Bush but the intent of this story is not a political takedown.

Rather, it's the tale of Alice Lindgren, who had a relatively quiet life until being swept off her feet by Charlie Blackwell, the trouble making son of a wealthy family who winds up in the White House.

 While Charlie's antics in office do cause plenty of strife, Alice is haunted by her own personal demons,which include the accidental death of a former love, and has to make peace with that past in order to deal with the present. This book was written several years ago and yet it does feel oddly appropriate to read right now as learning to see beyond official appearances is going to be an important skill to develop as we go on from here:

 Other books that I plan to enjoy during this readathon include C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters and Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye, as well as continuing with my Series-ous Reading of Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor. I hope everyone who joins in on A Winter's Respite has a good reading time and that my page turning doesn't wear me out too much. Sleep is important but not while you're in the middle of a good book:

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A trio of terrifying TV shows offer up some dark comfort for our times

There's an old saying that goes "May you live in interesting times", which can be seen as either a blessing or a curse. Well, it's pretty clear that we're all going to be in for some interesting times indeed, starting later this month and as always, pop culture will be reflecting those fears in hopefully entertaining ways.

A good place to look for such frighting focal points is TV and I've found at least three upcoming shows(two of which will be online) that showcase different ways to deal with a dramatic shift in the norm.

First up is Netflix's Santa Clarita Diet, due to debut in February. Drew Barrymore stars as Sheila, who has a successful real estate business with her husband Joel(Timothy Olyphant). When an untimely accident cuts Sheila's life short, she finds a way to stay one step ahead of the Grim Reaper while ridding the world of some very obnoxious people in an appetizing manner.

Yes, this appears to be a zombie comedy that's set in a more upscale locale than the CW's iZombie(which will be back with season three this spring). Humor is certainly one way to roll with the changes yet chuckling does come easier if you're not one of the entrees on the monster mash menu:

Next, the CW is ready to air Riverdale,based on the Archie comics, by January 26. However, this take on Archie and friends is more Twin Peaks than Happy Days, as a local murder puts moody reporter Jughead on the case with plenty of secrets and lies to uncover.

This version is set within the more modern landscape of the Archie comics world that has adapted to our times and included such elements as interracial dating, gun violence and gay characters(Kevin Keller will be on this series). Granted, this series does seem to be a bit of a goth Dawson's Creek, with Archie dating a teacher as well as Betty and Veronica, in some ways but at least it's willing to embrace a more nuanced approach to the traditional set characters.

It would be all too easy to draw upon the simple nostalgia of the 1950s incarnation of Archie but fortunately, the current creators of both the comic book and latest live action adaptation are smart and bold enough to allow this world to mature to the next level instead of letting it become a stale relic of the past. This show could be a good example of showing that embracing a more well rounded version of the way we live now has more to offer all audiences:

For the spring, Hulu has The Handmaid's Tale waiting in the wings. Elizabeth Moss is Offred, the reluctant leading lady of this dark futuristic story, a woman trapped in a new world order that only values females as potential breeders for the state.

This is based on Margaret Atwood's iconic novel, which was made into a full length movie back in the day, and for many of us, it's a nightmare scenario that hits close to home. However, the hallmark of this tale is the determination to survive and endure, as we see the daily horrors through the eyes of Offred,whose fate was left rather open in the novel.

No doubt, there will be some changes from the book, not to mention the previous movie version, and how things turn out for Offred may be part of that. Hopefully, this new adaptation can give us a glimmer of hope as to where she ultimately finds herself by the end of this season:

So, while the real world is going to be throwing some curve balls our way all too soon, we can take heart in seeing our fictional friends deal with their particular set of challenges along the way. True, having super powers or high tech allies might make things better but they're not always a guarantee for finding the perfect solutions.

Even Supergirl(returning on January 23) is going to have some rough times ahead yet her best weapons against the forces that want to take her down are her generous heart and good friends, both of which any of us can have and use without donning a cape and boots(although, those are pretty cool):

Monday, January 09, 2017

Enjoying some Catch-Up Theater with Netflix's Stranger Things & Gilmore Girls

I have to confess that due to my not being able to afford Netflix streaming services, I have had deep rooted pop culture envy for anyone able to happily binge watch all of these well received,talked about shows.

 Sure, I did check out season one of Orange is the New Black on DVD but it's hard to keep up with a show that is several seasons in by the time the new batch gets to the home video circuit. Well, this year, it's going to be different.

Thanks to some budgetary rearranging(and my sister getting a awesome Christmas gift that upgrades her TV), my Netflix streaming drought is over. Granted, I won't be able to get up to instant speed on every series and special that I'm interested in but now at least I can dip a toe into these entertainment waters.

 So, my first big dive into the Netflix stream was ,of course, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. I watched that over the course of a week(I come from the old school,folks,of viewing in installments) and it was truly a joy to behold.

Since just about everyone has had their say about the revival, my talking points will be brief(spoilers up ahead):

THINGS THAT I LIKED: Paris Geller(especially her bathroom meltdown), the Stars Hollow musical(which did run long but totally wacky fun), Kirk and his pig Petals, Babette having a barbecue at the Black & White & Read Theater, Lorelai's attempt at doing an authentic Wild experience(that whole "book vs. movie" debate was hilariously true to life) and her emotional phone call to Emily about Richard(more about Emily in a moment)

THINGS THAT I LOVED: Luke and Lorelai finally getting married, Rory trying to keep The Stars Hollow Gazette alive, Sookie's big scene(so wanted more of her!) and Emily having had enough of the DAR and calling them all out on their nonsense:

THINGS THAT I WANTED MORE OF: Lane and her life(seeing her dad finally wasn't that big of a deal), more time with Paris and Doyle,even if they are breaking up and more,more,more of Jess(I know that Milo Ventimiglia has a hit show right now but still...)

THINGS THAT I COULD DO WITHOUT: Logan, who I always considered the worst of Rory's boyfriends, the Life and Death Brigade(who wear out their welcome fast for me) and Rory having that childish phone fight with the head of Sandee Says(she could've prepped better for that interview, I do agree).

All in all, the revival was wonderful and in my opinion, Emily had the best character arch. Trying to adjust to life as a widow, particularly as structured a life that such a marriage as that demanded, is far from easy and seeing Emily come into her own was a journey worth taking.

 Ironic that part of that trip had Emily befriending a maid and just letting that whole extended family into her world, something that she insisted on drawing distinct social lines for back in the day. While her story wasn't wrapped up in a neat little bow at the end, Emily did seem to find a new happy ever after there and I wish her well.

As for the Rory backlash, yes, she did act immature at times but if you look back at past seasons, she was still being Rory. It takes a long time to grow up, folks and perhaps with those final four words, Rory will be able to do just that. No, I won't say what those words are(for those who don't know) but they do make sense in terms of this series coming full circle there. If we do get a follow-up to this, great but if not, I'm fine with that. A Year in the Life was a well lived one,indeed:

Once I was done with GG:AYITL, my next stop was Stranger Things, the 1980s set sci-fi thriller that became the cult hit of the summer.

For those who don't know, it involves mysterious disappearances, a secret experiment gone awry, adventurous kids and an amazing girl called Eleven.

The first two episodes, I watched alone but the next two, I waited until my sister could join me. We saw the first half of the eight episode run and will finish it up by next weekend, which made for quite the bonding experience there. There's a considerable gap in years between me and my sis(I'm the older one,btw) and yet, we both found plenty of pop culture references within the show to share.

Stephen King's influence does show here, along with music from John Carpenter's films(my sister was particularly reminded of Christine) and we both agree that the older sister of one of the boys did have a Nightmare on Elm Street vibe about her(she is named Nancy and the actress does have a bit of a Heather Langenkamp look to her).

 However, this is a very original story that allows for solid character development and creates genuine "I don't know what's going to happen next" suspense. I'll be able to talk more about Stranger Things once I complete the first season but I am happy to find that the hype for this series was well warranted:

Once Stranger Things is done with, I'm not sure which show to check out next.

On my viewing list are most of the Marvel series that Netflix has produced, including Jessica Jones and Luke Cage(too bad Agent Carter isn't among them) and The Crown, which just won big time at the Golden Globes last night.

The Crown tells the backstory of Elizabeth II, with Claire Foy(who I remember from her roles in the revival of Upstairs,Downstairs and Little Dorrit) playing the queen in her younger days. Sounds like my cup of tea and with PBS about to debut Victoria, this winter feels rather royal in storytelling times.

Whatever I watch, I'm just glad to be in the loop and able to join the conversation here. Granted, my seat is on the aisle in Catch-Up Theater but better late than never, as they say:

Friday, January 06, 2017

Preparing for some upcoming cinematic epics at The Movie Trailer Park

We've got a whole new year of movies to look forward to as well as look out for, with just about everyone having their own favorite genre to narrow their focus on. Yet, there is one category that spans across genres and that is the one known as "epic."

An epic film doesn't necessarily mean a long running time or big name stars or even serious dramatic content. Epic is more about the tone of the story and the importance of the plot to the characters, who may have true consequences at stake that won't be easily resolved by the time the end credits arrive. It's more about feeling that seeing,although a true epic delivers on both fronts.

While all of these trailers for future release in 2017 may not live up to that promise, they certainly are serious contenders for that cinematic spotlight. First up is Blade Runner 2049, a long in the tooth follow-up to the 1982 sci-fi cult classic. Here, a new replicant hunter(Ryan Gosling) is searching for his predecessor Rick Deckard(Harrison Ford) to unravel a mystery that threatens to shake up things for the worse.

There's a new director at the helm(Denis Villeneuve, who directed the recently acclaimed science fiction drama The Arrival) as Ridley Scott prefers to just take a producer's credit this time around. A lot will be riding on this sequel, as the original film itself stirred up a ton of movie debut but if it works, this could be a game changer,folks:

Speaking of Ridley Scott, he is willing to take the director's chair for Alien: Covenant, the sequel to Prometheus, which is the prequel to the original Alien that Scott directed back in the day. Yeah, that's quite the loopy turn to get back to where you started, huh, Ridley?

Anyhow, Covenant is the name of the space explorer vessel that comes across android David(Michael Fassbinder,who was in the prior film) while searching for a fresh new planet to call home. Turns out this stop is not the ideal one as the locals are pretty vicious to newcomers indeed.

As the situation goes from bad to worse to doomed, it's up to crew member Daniels(Katherine Waterson) to take charge and kick serious ass. While the jury still seems to be out regarding Prometheus, the verdict for Alien: Covenant could be a solid win, especially if the leading lady of this piece lives up to the legacy of  Lt. Ellen Ripley:

Historical epics are usually the one to come to mind with this category and those that take place during times of war are instant go-tos for certain audiences. Christopher Nolan is no stranger to epic tales and as he turns his considerable talents to Dunkirk, chances are that more than the regular WWII buff will in in line for this movie.

The major focus of the story is the evacuation of Allied Forces during a strong siege on the beaches of Dunkirk in May and June of 1940. Quite the stellar cast is on deck here, with Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance and Cillian Murphy, just to name a few.

This is set for a summer release but I won't be surprised if Dunkirk becomes an Oscar contender before Labor Day arrives:

You can argue over whether or not a comic book superhero movie can be considered an epic but clearly the upcoming Wolverine film is intended to take a more somber look at the genre.

For one thing, it's called Logan(the actual name of the iconic X-Men character) and while it may or may not be Hugh Jackman's last onscreen depiction of that role which made him famous, this take on him certainly feels like a final chapter.

Set in a time that follows Days of Future Past, Logan is tending to an ailing Professor X(Patrick Stewart, also back on board) and called upon to help a young girl on the run from a sinister project known as Transigen. Echoes of the Western classic True Grit can be heard here(that Johnny Cash song selected for the trailer is not a random choice,to be sure) and perhaps this X-Men saga can be the ultimate setting off into the sunset for Wolverine, a real steel cowboy if there ever was one:

 More epics are sure to come but this batch at least looks interesting. A good epic should be fun as well as meaningful, with the audience finding them shocked to see it end so soon, even if it took up several hours of their lives.

I hope that we get a few epic musicals along the way, not just the animated ones or the live action based on animated ones. Don't get me wrong, cartoon musicals are among my favorite films and I'm even curious to see how well the new Disney version of Beauty and The Beast turns out.

 I know that La La Land is a critical darling at the moment and that's great but it would be nice to have the likes of Hamilton or The Book of Mormon be on the big screen,too. Give us some song and dance,Hollywood! We certainly could some of that right now:

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Celebrating a new year of reading with a Library/After Christmas Book Haul

For something fun to do on New Year's Eve, I went to the library(which had early closing hours) not only to return a couple of books but to get some to start 2017 off right.

Granted, that may not sound too exciting,particularly as this trip took place during daylight hours. However, it was nice to have a good quiet moment or two for myself on that particular day, enjoying the silence while being surrounded by books.

I did find a pair of promising titles to borrow, one of which I've heard much good word about and the other from an author that I'm pretty familiar with.

Lyndsay Faye's Jane Steele is more of an alternate universe take on Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre than a retelling as the title character has read that book and found a few similarities to her own life.

Yet, one major difference between these two fictional heroines is that Miss Steele is not shy about using lethal methods to dispose of those in her way. When her former childhood home,Highgate House, is in the hands of a new owner, Jane takes a position as governess in order to find out if she can claim inheritance rights.

However, her fearless nature appears to be matched by Mr. Thornfield, who is in command over the household and has quite a violent history from his time in the Sikh Wars, along with his devoted butler Mr. Sardar Singh. Can Jane find true love with him or must they find themselves in a winner-takes-all death match?  The reviews both on and offline of this novel have been wonderful, so it was quite a find indeed:

I've read Leila Meacham before, starting with her debut novel Roses and then later, Tumbleweeds. She  tends to write good old fashioned melodramas set in Texas,which makes it no surprise that her new book Titans takes place there.

The story is set a little further back in time that she usually goes, during the 1900s when many of the big industries that made the state so much of a powerhouse were just getting started. The plot centers around two separated at birth twins, Nathan Holloway and Samantha Gordon, whose paths are about to cross in a most unexpected manner.

While Samantha has known about her status as an adopted child for years, Nathan learns of his background via a visit from his birth father, who has more than just good intentions in now claiming his long lost son. Yet, neither sibling knows the worst secrets about their shared past and that could ultimately affect their future. So far, the book has been an absorbing read told well with soap opera flair and it should be fun to see this story to the end without any commercial interruptions:

Upon returning home, I was pleasantly surprised to find a package from Better World Books on my doorstep. I did indulge in a bit of after Christmas shopping online but thought that my trio of new purchases would arrive well December 31st.

Well, fate likes to be kind very so often and I was happy to have them all to see the old year out. One of my buys was The Passion of the Purple Plumeria by Lauren Willig, who I plan to be reading more of her Pink Carnation books in 2017.

This particular title is not on my Serie-ous Reading list but I might get to it before the year is out, especially since this story comes right before The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla, which is set for my October reading. We shall see.

I am truly serious about reading the next title in my Better World Books bag, as it's been around for a good while long and is about to be a major made for HBO movie this year.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot chronicles the true story of an African American woman taken advantage of by medical science, starting in 1951.  A sample of Ms. Lacks' fatal tumor was used without her knowledge by doctors at John Hopkins who then replicated that tissue many times over and it was the basis of such breakthoughs as the polio vaccine,gene mapping and cloning.

The cells, known as "HeLa", were passed around the medical community with none of Henrietta's family being told of such work, not to mention being financially compensated for the numerous benefits derived from her genes. This book has won tons of praise and several honors since it was first published in 2010 and before the movie airs, I would like to read about this sadly profound real life tale in it's original form:

Last yet far from least, I added a copy of Dennis Lehane's Live By Night to my order. With the movie being out right now and my having read The Given Day, which is connected to this book, the time felt right to have it.

A minor character from TGD is the leading man here,Joe Coughlin, the son of a Boston Irish cop who heads down to Tampa,FL, in order to become a big dealer in the illegal rum trade during the 1920s. While he does achieve the success that he desires, Joe finds himself longing for something to quiet his inner discomfort with life.

You don't have to have read The Given Day(and it's been awhile since I did so) from what I have heard to get into this book or the movie, for that matter. I've only read a few of Lehane's books but each time, I've always been satisfied, which you can't say about many authors,that's for sure:

I do believe that my reading year is off to quite a good start and I look forward to buying my first new book for 2017 very soon. After all, this is prime shopping season,folks-what else are gift cards for?: