Thursday, August 29, 2013


FYI: that high-pitched shriek of delight you heard last week was my reaction to the news that Sir Kenneth Branagh (Shakespeare interpreter extraordinaire - see his incredible  performances in Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet, and Othello) will be making his New York stage debut in Macbeth at the Park Avenue Armory next summer. I cannot possibly overstate how excited I am about this. Seeing Branagh perform live in a Shakespeare play is something that's been on my Bucket List for ages (I even gave a character in my novel, Blame It On the Fame, a backstory of wanting to become an actress after seeing Branagh on stage in Hamlet.) I love Shakespeare's plays and have done so since I first read Macbeth in my sophomore English class. To this day, that play remains my favorite of his tragedies and I can recite the entire "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, Creeps in this petty pace . . ." monologue verbatim. I have no doubt that Sir Kenneth will make a sublime Macbeth and I have my fingers, toes, and eyes crossed that I will be able to get tickets for this show. Pray for me, people! I should, also, mention that the wonderful Alex Kingston (River Song!) will be playing opposite Kenneth in this production. She's an acting powerhouse, so I'm sure that they will make a memorable pair on stage. 

Apparently, Macbeth is hot right now because it was, also, announced last week that there's a new, big-screen version coming our way and wait for it . . . one of my favorite actors, Michael Fassbender, will be playing the lead role! SQUEE Michael is such an amazing talent and he's so charismatic and intense, I have no doubt that he will be mesmerizing as the murderous Scottish king. I'm already predicting an Oscar nomination (It goes without saying that Branagh will be winning a Tony for his Macbeth.) Fassy's Lady Macbeth will be the lovely Marion Cotillard (She's replacing Natalie Portman, which I think is a good thing. Lady M is such a steely and formidable character. I just can't imagine dainty, sweet-voiced Nat pulling that off.) This movie will start shooting in the UK in January, so I'll have to keep an eye out for pix and tidbits from the set. Hope we get to see King Fassy with his ginger beard!

Moving on to another British actor who recently made his Broadway debut in a Shakespeare play . . . the always-dreamy Orlando Bloom hit the boards, along with multi-Tony nominee Condola Rashad (Yes, she's the real-life daughter of Claire Huxtable!) in Romeo & Juliet at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. The show is still in previews, so no reviews yet. But judging by the great chemistry between Condola and Orlando on Good Morning America last week, I'd say that they should have no trouble selling a story of star-crossed love. If I were going to be in NYC this fall, this is definitely the show I'd want to see! R&J is a limited engagement and will end its run on Nov. 24th. Hopefully, this won't be the last time we see Mr. Bloom on The Great White Way.

So, we've talked plays, now let's talk musicals, which I am equally fond of. I've seen The Sound of Music on stage twice, and the film version of the musical is something I watch annually. I had such a crush on Christopher Plummer's Captain Von Trapp when I was a little girl! Must have been the accent. ;) I had no idea that there was a live television version of TSOM in the works until it was announced last week that Stephen Moyer of True Blood fame would be playing Captain Von Trapp opposite Carrie Underwood's Maria. I love this casting! I didn't even know that Stephen could sing, but a little research revealed that he's a graduate of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and apparently he killed it when he played Billy Flynn in the Hollywood Bowl's production of Chicago recently (see proof below.) And, of course, we already know that Carrie has an amazing voice, so this production promises to be a terrific one! I look forward to seeing how these performers interpret the iconic roles of Maria and Von Trapp. NBC will be giving us an early Christmas present by airing the new Sound of Music on NBC on Dec. 5th. The live factor should give the production an extra jolt of excitement. Can't wait!


That's it for this week's Banister Buzz. Hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it! Comments make my day, so please leave yours below. Tell me what your favorite Shakespeare play or movie is. Who do you think will make the better Macbeth - Branagh or Fassy? And what old-school musical would you like to see remade and who would you cast in it? Until next time, my friends. Wishing my fellow Americans a safe and fun holiday weekend!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Buzzers and Buzzettes, this week I'm taking you down the rabbit hole to one of my favorite fictional locales, a magical, mind-bending place called "Wonderland." I have been a huge fan of All Things Alice ever since discovering Lewis Carroll's brilliant flights of fancy, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, in my elementary school library many moons ago, so imagine my delight when my new Twitter pal, Johnnie-Marie Howard, told me about a new YA series that's a dark, funky, super creative re-envisioning of the Alice story.

I rushed right over to Amazon, read the blurb, and purchased an e-copy of Splintered by A.G. Howard. That's right, people, I didn't even sample the book first. I was so beguiled by the blurb and the gorgeous cover art that I took a leap of faith and I was so glad I did! Splintered grabbed me on the first page and held me in its thrall for the entire weekend. Household chores, friends, family, my own writing - all of it was forgotten so that I could keep reading about Alyssa Gardner, the  skateboarding, blue hair extension-wearing teen whose great-great-great grandmother, Alice Liddell, was the inspiration for Lewis Carroll's books. Alyssa has a lot to deal with - her mother's locked up in an insane asylum, her secret crush, the hottie-next-door, is dating the mean girl who's been picking on her since they were kids, and oh yeah, she can hear the voices of insects and flowers, which probably means she's going crazy. 

How Alyssa and the aforementioned hottie, Jeb, end up in Wonderland and what strange, shocking, perception-skewing things happen to them while they're there I won't share with you because I want you to enjoy the amazing journey this book will take you on. What I will divulge are a few of the reasons why I loved this book so much. 1) Alyssa is a wonderful (ha ha) protagonist, smart, brave, pro-active, and wise beyond her years while still being realistically vulnerable and confused. She's a heroine a reader can root for. 2) The author did an incredible job of taking elements and characters from the original tales and putting her own imaginative, twisted spin on them. Her creativity knows no bounds, and I am in awe of her world-building and storytelling skills. 3) Unlike most of the weak, unbalanced love triangles I've come across in YA books, the three-sided romantic configuration in this book is incredibly compelling and I found myself changing my mind about who Alyssa should be with from chapter to chapter - Jeb, the sexy artist with the troubled past who's always been there for Alyssa, or Morpheus, her seductive, infuriatingly engimatic guide to Wonderland whom Alyssa finds herself drawn to even though she doesn't trust him.   

I'm going to stop gushing about this book now, but I want  everyone to read it and tell me what you think! If you don't normally delve into the YA genre, don't let that scare you off. This book is one that I think readers of all ages will enjoy; the themes of love, loss, sacrifice, and self-discovery are just as relevant to adults as they are to teens. P.S. The second book in this series, Unhinged, will be out on January 7, 2014. The cover art is, once again, stunning. Kudos to Maria T. Middleton

Now that you all know what an Alice enthusiast I am, it should come as no surprise to you that the new fall TV show I am most looking forward to is Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. Original Recipe Once is one of my fave shows; it's a fabulous hybrid of fairy tale, fantasy, mystery, and family drama and I think the creators have done a brilliant job with the show. So, I was thrilled to hear that they were going to tackle Wonderland and its inhabitants. The Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts have already appeared on Once, and I loved the show's interpretation of those  characters. But the new Wonderland is going to be focusing on Alice, a young woman in what looks to be Victorian Era London who's languishing in an asylum because no one believes her tales of the fantastical realm she visited and the unusual creatures she encountered there.

While she was in Wonderland, this Alice met and fell in love with a genie named Cyrus (I am already crushing on Peter Gadiot, the actor playing this role, based on the trailer and his interviews from Comic-Con.) and she is devastated over his loss. When the Knave of Hearts shows up and gives Alice hope that her beloved is still alive, she's off on another adventure, which promises to be a blast for viewers. The cast of this show is stellar - in addition to exciting newbies Peter, Sophie Lowe (Alice), and Michael Socha (Knave of Hearts), acting greats John Lithgow (The White Rabbit) and Naveen Andrews (Jafar) will be on hand. I think this show is going to follow in the footsteps of its predecessor and be a big hit. So, be sure to tune in for the premiere on Thursday, October 10th on ABC.     


On the subject of Once, there's been some big casting news for the mother show. JoAnna Garcia Swisher is in as everyone's favorite mermaid, Ariel, and Kiwi actress Rose McIver will be playing Tinkerbell. I think both ladies will be perfect in their respective roles, and I can't wait to see what Once has planned for their characters. Might I suggest that the rascally Captain Hook make a love connection with one of them? I was 'shipping Hook and Emma early last season, but now that her baby daddy, Neal/Baelfire, is back, I have zero interest in seeing a love triangle with Emma being torn between bad boy Hook and her first love, Neal. There's just no way Hook can ever win that one and seeing him get dumped on would be no fun at all. Hook is at his best when he's being flirty, so I say, pair him up with the singing fish or the sassy fairy and let's see what happens. I think Hook's best bet would be Tink since she's always been a bit naughty and knows how to devote herself to a man (Rumor has it that Once's Peter Pan will be a malevolent 17 y/o, so that should keep him out of the running for Tink's heart.) Rose  and Colin O'Donoghue look good together, don't they?

A special treat for my fellow Hookers - a deleted scene from S2 in which Hook tries to make time with Red: 


I'm going to end this fantasy edition of The Banister Buzz by inviting you all to join me for a virtual party at Alice's Tea Cup - hats not optional. Doesn't this place look amazing? The next time I visit New York City, I am so dropping in on this little eatery and having a croque monsieur, along with a pot of Earl Grey Extra Fancy. 

As always, thanks for reading. I heart comments, so let me know if you've read any good YA books lately, what obsessions you've carried over from childhood, who you think would be the perfect mate for that scallywag Captain Hook, or what kind of tea and scones you'd like to be served at our little get-together. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


In a wacky case of life imitating art, I have decided to start writing a weekly (okay, probably more like bi-monthly) column about all things entertainment, just like Tierney Bishop, the heroine of my first completed novel (current location - buried in a filing cabinet drawer beneath old issues of People and VHS tapes with eps of Buffy and Farscape on them.) Tierney was a gossip columnist, so her work had a salacious bent, which mine won't (okay, maybe it will if there's some scandalously juicy celebrity tidbit I want to comment on.) Otherwise, what you can expect here are my thoughts and opinions on TV shows and movies I've watched, books I've read, the latest entertainment news, and I might even venture into fashion, theater, and music should the mood strike. There will be snark and possibly spoilers, so consider yourself warned. 

I've been eagerly anticipating the BBC One/Starz series, The White Queen, since first reading about it last year. I am mad about historical dramas featuring royals, from movies like La Reine Margot and Elizabeth to TV shows like The Tudors. These stories invariably include lots of pretty people in gorgeous costumes, steamy sex scenes, and so much familial backstabbing that you have no idea who's on whose side at any given moment. Oddly enough, I'd never read a book by Philippa Gregory, the Queen of Historical Fiction, so I decided to dive into The White Queen back in June. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and gave it 5 very enthusiastic stars in my review. I was actually a little worried that the show might not live up to the source material, but I'm happy to report that I loved the first ep of TWQ, which debuted on Starz this past weekend. It's an excellent adaptation of the novel, and I think all of the lead roles were well-cast. Max Irons and Rebecca Ferguson have sizzling chemistry, and they are totally selling the Elizabeth/Edward romance. The story of a young king falling in love with a commoner from a rival house is a compelling one that no romance junkie, myself included, can resist. I look forward to watching the rest of the series and I highly recommend it!

America's Next Top Model is back, and yes, I'm admitting to watching this contrived, cheesetastic show. Where else can I see models do ridiculous things like walk a runway down the side of an insanely tall building, IN THE RAIN (It was like a giant Slip 'N Slide!), or pose for photos depicting "alternative weddings" (i.e. nudists or polygamists getting married.) I was down on this show last season because I was so bummed about judge Nigel Barker and the two Jays (creative director Jay Manuel and runway coach J. Alexander) getting the boot. And I HATE the new social media aspect of the show. It just makes judging confusing, and unless I'm the one getting to vote on who stays and goes, why should I care? But I will give kudos to Tyra for reviving my interest in ANTM this season by making it a Boys vs. Girls competition. This is the first time male models have been included on the show, and I am digging it.

Overall, I think the male models are much stronger than the females (Jourdan and Renee are the only girls who might have a shot), so I'm calling it right now - a male model will win Cycle 20 and my money is on Chris H. because he seems to be the most photogenic. Having said that, my eye candy this season is going to be Phil. He's got a grungy look with longish hair and a bushy beard, which should be a complete turn-off, but the guy is hot! I can't decide if I want Tyra to clean him up in the makeover ep this week or let him keep his au naturel look because it's quite arresting (so many male models are hairless, baby-faced pretty boys.) 
I did some research and found out that this "hobo chic" look is actually a thing for male models right now. Super sexy Australian model, Tom Bull (see pix below), is known for his signature full beard and messy hair, and designers like Gaultier and Yohji Yamamoto have featured shaggy-bearded male models in their runway shows. So, what do you think, ladies? Can the homeless look be hot or do you prefer your eye candy to be well-groomed?

On to some big news in the sci-fi world . . . As my fellow Whovians are already aware, Matt Smith is retiring as the Doctor and there will be a new man piloting the TARDIS next year. I'm sad to be losing Matt because I loved his quirky take on the Doctor, but I was also kind of excited by the prospect of seeing a different actor interpret the role and bring a new energy to the show. I had visions of Tom Ellis, Idris Elba, and Andrew Scott dancing in my head. When it was announced that Peter Capaldi would be the 12th Doctor, I will confess that I threw a bit of a temper tantrum. I couldn't understand why the show's creators were casting a 55 year-old man who would look like Clara's (the Doctor's current companion) father! But I watched this Who-related interview with Peter and he charmed me. Not only is he a Who geek going back to his childhood, he's quite witty and seems really chuffed about getting this opportunity. So, I've decided to have an open mind about #12 and we'll see what happens. I am going to miss the flirty dynamic between Matt and Jenna-Louise Coleman, though . . .     

Last, but not least, I want to commend Masterpiece for announcing some exciting new additions to its roster for the upcoming season. I've been moaning and groaning for well-nigh a year about Masterpiece ignoring The Paradise in order to air the also-set-in-a-department-store drama Mr. Selfridge. For the record, I watched the two-hour premiere of Mr. Selfridge and absolutely loathed it, so I didn't bother continuing with the show. I feared that The Paradise would never make it to American TV, so I resorted to "alternative viewing methods" and fell in love with the series. I enjoyed it so much that it now surpasses Downton Abbey in my affections and I can't wait for everyone to see it. Masterpiece is planning to air the show in October (The same time S2 will be debuting in the UK, which means I will still have to rely on those alternative viewing methods unless I want to wait until fall of 2014 to see these new eps and I don't.) So, expect a big Paradise-themed celebration on my blog around that time. Also, in news that will delight all Austen fans, Masterpiece will be airing the adaptation of Death Comes to Pemberley that's currently shooting in the UK. It will debut across the pond around Christmas and we'll get it here in early 2014, which isn't too bad as far as lag times go. I cannot wait to see the delicious Matthew Rhys as Darcy!

And that's a wrap on this inaugural column of "The Banister Buzz." I hope you enjoyed it. Please feel free to share your thoughts on The White Queen, hirsute men, Doctor Who, and the upcoming Masterpiece season in the comments section below. In closing, I'd like to give a shout-out to two people who were instrumental in the creation of this column - Elizabeth Marx, for suggesting the idea in the first place (She knows how much I like to gab about movies, TV, etc.) and Laura Chapman, for coming up with my wonderful column name and for designing the super cute TBB artwork, which you can see at the top of the post. Thanks, ladies! 

See you next time on The Banister Buzz . . .   

Monday, August 12, 2013



What happens when your high school nemesis becomes the shining star in a universe you pretty much saved? Book blogger Kimberly Long is about to find out. 

A chick lit enthusiast since the first time she read Bridget Jones’s Diary, Kim, with her blog, "Pastel is the New Black," has worked tirelessly by night to keep the genre alive, and help squash the claim that "chick lit is dead" once and for all. Not bad for a woman who by day ekes out a meager living as a pretty, and pretty-much-nameless, legal secretary in a Manhattan law firm.  

While Kim's day job holds no passion for her, the handsome (and shaving challenged) associate down the hall is another story. Yet another story is that Hannah Marshak, one of her most hated high school classmates, has now popped onto the chick lit scene with a hot new book that's turning heads--and pages--across the land. It's also popped into Kim's inbox--for review. With their ten-year high school reunion drawing near, Kim's coming close to combustion over the hype about Hannah’s book. And as everyone around her seems to be moving on and up, she begins to question whether being a “blogger girl” makes the grade in her off-line life.

A born and bred New Yorker, Meredith Schorr discovered her passion for writing when she began to enjoy drafting work-related emails way more than she was probably supposed to, and was famous among her friends for writing witty birthday cards. After trying her hand writing children’s stories and blogging her personal experiences, Meredith found her calling writing “real” chick lit for real women. When Meredith is not hard at work on her current work in progress, she spends her days as a trademark paralegal. Meredith is a loyal New York Yankees fan and an avid runner. Blogger Girl is her third novel.

Find Meredith Schorr Online:

Saturday, August 10, 2013



Unbreakable Bonds
   An Angela Panther Novel
Carolyn Ridder Aspenson  

When Angela's best friend Mel thinks her husband is having an affair, she turns to Angela for help.   The two come up with the perfect plan to catch him in the act but to make it work, they'll need help from Angela's mother, Fran. 

There's just one teeny, little problem.

Fran's dead. 

And since Angela's psychic gift is currently out of service, connecting with Fran is a little complicated.

While Angela searches for a way to fix her psychic radar Fran and a multitude of other ghosts continue to try to make a connection. And it's driving Angela crazy. 

But Fran won't let her daughter's problem stop her from helping someone she loves and she sets out to catch the cheater on her own, using a few tricks and tools from the afterlife to get it done.

Book two of the Angela Panther series will be available November, 2013 in e-book and paperback.

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Unfinished Business

An Angela Panther Novel

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The giveaway will end on August 15th!

Unfinished Business
   An Angela Panther Novel

Angela Panther is an ordinary stay at home mom with a satisfying, albeit slightly mundane life. 

Things get a little crazy for Angela when her mother dies and comes back as a ghost.

It seems Fran's got some unfinished business on earth and she's determined to get it done, no matter what.

But Fran's not the only ghost with unfinished business and her return opens a portal between Angela and the afterlife.

Now every Tom, Dick and Harry ghost around comes knockin' on Angela's psychic door, looking for help. 

And it's a pain in the butt. 

Having her mother around is a double-edged sword for Angela. On the one hand, she's glad to still have the connection but on the other, death has given Fran some annoying abilities and she's seriously trying Angela's patience.

When Fran tells Angela her teenage daughter Emily is in trouble, Angela decides to let her mother use her ghostly skills to keep tabs on the girl.

Well, not all of her ghostly skills. 

But that doesn't stop Fran from causing a little trouble - just to protect her granddaughter, of course. 

Now Angela has to find a way to keep her old life intact and help the dead with their unfinished business, all while trying to keep her mother out of trouble. 

And it's a lot for one woman to handle.

Thursday, August 1, 2013


Author Megan Karasch, whose well-reviewed debut novel Tales from My Hard Drive, came out in 2011, is back with a new book - the adventure comedy, Chaperones, and it's just $1.99! Read on for more info on her sophomore release . . .

For Andrea Lieberman, life began at 26. Growing up with parents so protective they made a convent seem like a Sandal’s resort, she developed a catalog of phobias so large, even going into a church seemed risky business. Finally, Andrea had had enough; she wanted to live rather than fear dying. Without hesitation, she accepts a photography assignment for a magazine traveling through England and packs up her camera, her pepper spray and every insecurity she accumulated since birth. Excited but petrified to reveal the news to her boyfriend, he intercepts with news of his own – a marriage proposal, leaving the lingering question of their impending nuptials as she travels abroad.

Upon touching down in England, Andrea flops around like a fish out of water. The magazine’s staff – the idiot, the slut, and the mute – offer little comfort outside of a pint of beer until she’s assigned two blokes as travel companions – a tight-arsed copywriter and a drop-dead gorgeous art director with movie star charm. These two men help Andrea push herself beyond her comfort zone while testing the limits of her fortitude and her relationship with her boyfriend. The photographic journey becomes a comedy of errors thanks to unforeseen obstacles at every turn. As Andrea struggles to complete the assignment, she discovers the most revealing picture she develops will be of herself.

MEGAN KARASCH was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. After college, she worked in a creative capacity assisting with the production of stories for a nationally televised entertainment news program. Following her television stint, she went to law school in Southern California where she earned her J.D. For almost two years, commencing in 2007, while the analytical side of her brain was hard at work in the law, she exercised the creative side writing for a popular Los Angeles lifestyle online magazine, writing music reviews and special interest pieces.

Currently, both halves of her brain remain active while she continues to practice law and has begun what she hopes is a prosperous and rewarding life using the written word to enlighten and enliven. Megan lives in Southern California with her cat, Squeaker, and spends her time reading, watching ice hockey, socializing with her friends and family and playing drums.

Find Megan Karasch Online:

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