Monday, December 31, 2012

Tuesday Tomorrow

A Friendly Game of Murder by J.J. Murphy
Published by: Signet
Publication Date: January 1st, 2013
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Why should Dorothy Parker’s friends be the only ones making “enviable names” in “science, art, and parlor games”? Dorothy can play with the best of them—as she sets out to prove at a New Year’s Eve party at the Algonquin Hotel. Since the swanky soiree is happening in the penthouse suite of swashbuckling star Douglas Fairbanks, some derring-do is called for. How about a little game of “Murder”?

Each partygoer draws a card to be detective, murderer, or victim. But young Broadway starlet Bibi Bibelot trumps them all when her dead body is found in the bathtub. No one knows who the killer is, but one thing is for sure—they won’t be making gin in that bathtub.

When more partiers are put in peril, it becomes clear the game is indeed on, and it’s up to Dorothy, surprise guest Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and the members of the Round Table to stay alive—and relatively sober—long enough to find the killer…"

THE BOOK I've been waiting over a year to read! I just adore this cozy series.

Fonduing Fathers by Julie Hyzy
Published by: Berkley
Publication Date: January 1st, 2013
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"White House executive chef Olivia Paras has enough on her plate. But after gaining new information about her father’s death, the First Family isn’t the only family Olivia is concerned about…

Olivia has always believed that her father was an honorable man—until a trip to visit her mother reveals that he was dishonorably discharged from the army. Olivia is even more shocked to learn that he was brutally murdered because someone at his company suspected him of selling corporate secrets. Refusing to believe that her father was a scoundrel, Olivia won’t rest until she proves his innocence.

Enlisting the help of her boyfriend, Gav, Olivia must reach out to her father’s colleagues to discover the truth behind his murder. What she’s about to discover may not only put her at risk, but threaten national security as well…"

My Mother's favorite cozy series, which sadly comes out after Christmas, but right before her birthday, score!

Touch of Demon by Diana Rowland
Published by: DAW
Publication Date: January 1st, 2013
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 448 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Kara Gillian is in Seriously Deep Trouble.

She's used to summoning supernatural creatures from the demon realm to our world, but now she's the one who's been summoned. Kara is the prisoner of the demonic Lord Mzatal, but quickly discovers that she's far more than a mere hostage. He has his own plans to use Kara and keep her from Rhyzkahl-the demonic lord she is sworn to serve. However, waiting for rescue has never been Kara's style, and she has no intention of being a pawn in someone else's game.

Yet intrigue and treachery run rampant amongst all lords, and Kara is hard pressed to keep her wits about her. Her abilities as a homicide detective are put the the test as she seeks the truth about FBI Agent Ryan Kristoff, Rhyzkahl, and herself. But, the answers she finds only raise more questions. She soon discovers that she has her own history in the demon realm-one that goes back farther than she could have ever imagined. But that history may yet spell her doom as she’s faced with a peril beyond mortal comprehension.

She’s going to need all the strength and tenacity she’s developed as a cop and a summoner, or the hell she endures may well last forever."

I haven't read this series of Rowland's, being familiar with her Zombie White Trash series, but, according to Felicia Day it's "amaze-balls" so I'm sold.

Catherine by April Linder
Published by: Poppy
Publication Date: January 1st, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
To Buy

"A forbidden romance. A modern mystery. Wuthering Heights as you've never seen it before.

Catherine is tired of struggling musicians befriending her just so they can get a gig at her Dad's famous Manhattan club, The Underground. Then she meets mysterious Hence, an unbelievably passionate and talented musician on the brink of success. As their relationship grows, both are swept away in a fiery romance. But when their love is tested by a cruel whim of fate, will pride keep them apart?

Chelsea has always believed that her mom died of a sudden illness, until she finds a letter her dad has kept from her for years -- a letter from her mom, Catherine, who didn't die: She disappeared. Driven by unanswered questions, Chelsea sets out to look for her -- starting with the return address on the letter: The Underground.

Told in two voices, twenty years apart, Catherine interweaves a timeless forbidden romance with a compelling modern mystery."

After the way she handled Jane Eyre, it will be interesting to see what she does with another Bronte classic!

The Tutor's Daughter by Julie Klassen
Published by: Bethany House
Publication Date: January 1st, 2013
Format: Paperback, 416 Pages
To Buy

"Emma Smallwood, determined to help her widowed father when his boarding school fails, accompanies him to the cliff-top manor of a baronet and his four sons. But soon after they arrive and begin teaching the two younger boys, mysterious things begin to happen. Who does Emma hear playing the pianoforte at night, only to find the music room empty? And who begins sneaking into her bedchamber, leaving behind strange mementoes?

The baronet's older sons, Phillip and Henry Weston, wrestle with problems—and secrets—of their own. They both remember the studious Miss Smallwood from their days at her father's academy. But now one of them finds himself unexpectedly drawn to her...

When suspicious acts escalate, can Emma figure out which brother to blame and which to trust with her heart?"

Oh, kind of a Jane Eyre Jane Austen vibe going on, which I don't think I can pass up.

The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen by Syrie James
Published by: Herkley Trade
Publication Date: January 1st, 2013
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 432 Pages
To Buy

"The minute I saw the letter, I knew it was hers. There was no mistaking it: the salutation, the tiny, precise handwriting, the date, the content itself, all confirmed its ancient status and authorship…

Samantha McDonough cannot believe her eyes--or her luck. Tucked in an uncut page of a two-hundred-year old poetry book is a letter she believes was written by Jane Austen, mentioning with regret a manuscript that "went missing at Greenbriar in Devonshire." Could there really be an undiscovered Jane Austen novel waiting to be found? Could anyone resist the temptation to go looking for it?

Making her way to the beautiful, centuries-old Greenbriar estate, Samantha finds it no easy task to sell its owner, the handsome yet uncompromising Anthony Whitaker, on her wild idea of searching for a lost Austen work--until she mentions its possible million dollar value.

After discovering the unattributed manuscript, Samantha and Anthony are immediately absorbed in the story of Rebecca Stanhope, daughter of a small town rector, who is about to encounter some bittersweet truths about life and love. As they continue to read the newly discovered tale from the past, a new one unfolds in the present--a story that just might change both of their lives forever."

Syrie James had some success with her Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte lost memoirs, and here she is, hopefully back in stride with those.

The Garden Intrigue by Lauren Willig
Published by: NAL
Publication Date: January 1st, 2013
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 448 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Secret agent Augustus Whittlesby has spent a decade undercover in France, posing as an insufferably bad poet. The French surveillance officers can’t bear to read his work closely enough to recognize the information drowned in a sea of verbiage.

New York-born Emma Morris Delagardie is a thorn in Augustus’s side. An old school friend of Napoleon’s stepdaughter, she came to France with her uncle, eloped with a Frenchman, and has been rattling around the salons of Paris ever since. Now widowed, she entertains herself by holding a weekly salon, and loudly critiquing Augustus’s poetry.

As Napoleon pursues his plans for the invasion of England, Whittlesby hears of a top-secret device to be demonstrated at a house party. The catch? The only way in is with Emma, who has been asked to write a masque for the weekend’s entertainment. In this complicated masque within a masque, nothing goes quite as scripted—especially Augustus’s unexpected feelings for Emma."

What kind of friend would I be if I didn't promote the lovely paperback edition of Augustus finally getting his lady? Who I like to picture as Bernadette from The Big Bang Theory.

Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris
Published by: InkLit
Publication Date: January 1st, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 160 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Lightning-struck sleuth Harper Connelly and her stepbrother Tolliver are experts at getting in, getting paid, and then getting out of town fast—because the people who hire Harper have a funny habit of not really wanting to know what she has to tell them. At first, the little Ozarks town of Sarne seems like no exception. A teenage girl has gone missing, and Harper knows almost immediately that this girl is dead. But the secrets of her death—and the secrets of the town—are deep enough that even Harper’s special ability can’t uncover them. With hostility welling up all around them, she and Tolliver would like nothing better than to be on their way. But then another woman is murdered. And the killer’s not finished yet…"

So, I've always like Harper Connelly more than Sookie, even if some people think there's some grosser aspects to these stories, I'm still a fan. I have also been waiting for this to come out in one edition so I didn't have to hunt up all the issues. What's with Harper looking like Doctor Manhattan from Watchmen though?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Book Review - Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Published by: Everyman's Library
Publication Date: 1843
Format: Hardcover, 180 Pages
Rating: ★★
To Buy

Ebenezer Scrooge is not a nice man. Miserly and miserable. On this Christmas Eve, the seventh anniversary of the death of his business partner, Jacob Marley, the fates will try to change this man forever. Upon arriving home he is visited by the ghost of Marley who tells Ebenezer that tonight he will be visited by three spirits who will try to change his fate. If he doesn't head their warnings he will be forced to carrying the chains of his own making when he leaves this earthly coil. The ghosts will show him the past, present, and future, and they hope that what they have to show will bring joy and love into Ebenezer's heart... or he too will be cursed as Marley's ghost is.

One of my earliest holiday memories is watching Mickey's Christmas Carol, which had a surprising lack of Mickey, being relegated to the role of Bob Cratchit. But then again, it was only right that it stared Uncle Scrooge... who, while created in the fifties, was in fact based on the Victorian penny pincher. Because of this early exposure, not only was the story ingrained on my very being at a young age, but all other versions tend to be judged by this one, even the source material has to be placed side by side with this magical memory. In my lifetime alone their have been eight feature film adaptations, from Muppets to Murray, to scary Jim Carrey performance capture of 3-D horrors, and twelve adaptations for television, including the Patrick Stewart version which I felt was so flat that it should be excised from the cannon. This doesn't even take into account parodies, which category I technically think Scrooged should really be put in... but you get the picture. A plethora of versions exist and each one has been set up as some kind of "special event." None of them seemed that special to me, but were used as an excuse for family time each time.

I remember going to see The Muppet Christmas Carol in the theaters for New Years in 1992. Now I'm the biggest Muppet fan there is, yet still, it was missing something. Now that I have read the book I think the flaws are in the book, not in the adaptations. Mickey's Christmas Carol is beyond censure because of the glow of youthful memories. I'm sure if I were to watch it now it would make me cringe... but that's how our memories work. Somehow shows like Gummy Bears and She-Ra remain wonderful in our memories, but have you ever tried to re-watch them? I actually did with both these shows... the experiment was painful and shall never be repeated, I'd rather have my memories intact regardless of the truth of the situation. Scrooged is also exempt because it takes the material and goes beyond. It becomes this weird, violent, satirical, horrifying, yet oddly touching movie that you can't look away from. Only by going beyond or mocking the source material has any modern adaptation worked and this is all because of the flaws in the book.

One of my friends chided me saying "Bah! Hum-wha? I thought it was mandatory to love this book?" Maybe that's why I dislike it, because by some mysterious alchemy that I can not conceive of, this book has achieved this hallowed place in literature and the holiday season. Now if I was in a theater listening to Dickens read it to me, well, I might see the appeal. But as it lies there on the page, it was just flat and lifeless. Scrooge, as he is written, is a bit of a milquetoast. He is not as bitter and vitriolic as he has been portrayed over the years. What really got me was that his "goodness" seemed to be buried very shallowly. All it took was the the Ghost of Christmas Present to show him a party with games and Scrooge is all, "can we stay and play games, this is fun." Excuse me!?! You're this bad ass evil man, your name is synonymous with any miserly person, it is in the dictionary for Pete's sake, and just one game and you're ready to throw off your evil ways and help everyone? Sheesh. I expected better of this book, but in the end, I was not swayed... it's lucky those ghosts weren't trying to do a number on me!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night! (Which it should be with Dr. Who, Downton, and Miranda)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Tuesday Tomorrow

Unusual Uses for Olive Oil by Alexander McCall Smith
Published by: Anchor
Publication Date: December 25th, 2012
Format: Paperback, 224 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Life is so unfair, and it sends many things to try Professor Dr Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld, author of Portuguese Irregular Verbs and pillar of the Institute of Romance Philology in the proud Bavarian city of Regensburg.There is the undeserved rise of his rival (and owner of a one-legged dachshund), Detlev Amadeus Unterholzer; the interminable ramblings of the librarian, Herr Huber; and the condescension of his colleagues with regard to his unmarried state. But when his friend Ophelia Prinzel takes it upon herself to match-make, and duly produces a cheerful heiress with her own Schloss, it appears that the professor's true worth is about to be recognised.Maddening, idiotic and hugely entertaining, von Igelfeld is an inspired comic creation."

The Professor finally returns in the 4th book in this series... one of like fifty series he's writing, seriously, how does he write this much?

What a Ghoul Wants by Victoria Laurie
Published by: Signet
Publication Date: December 25th, 2012
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 352 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"M. J. Holliday has the unusual ability to talk to the dead. But when it comes to a vengeful ghost and a mysterious drowning, this time she may be in over her head….

THAT SINKING FEELING

Kidwella Castle in northern Wales is rumored to be haunted by a deadly ghost—the Grim Widow, who allegedly drowns unsuspecting guests in the castle’s moat. Not long after M. J. and her crew arrive at the castle to film their ghost-hunting cable TV show, Ghoul Getters, two new victims are added to the Widow’s grisly roster.

Fear ripples through the castle, especially when it’s discovered that the victims may have had help into their watery graves from the land of the living. The local inspector suspects father-son serial killers, but M. J. thinks that theory is all wet. To catch the true culprit she will need to dive deep into the castle’s past and bring some long buried secrets to the surface."

Get ready, it's time to go ghoul hunting!

Guilded by Karina Cooper
Published by: Avon
Publication Date: December 25th, 2012
Format: Paperback, 384 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In the gleaming heights of Victorian London, a world of deception awaits an unconventional Society lady whose taste for adventure makes her a most formidable adversary . . .

Though Society demands that I make a good marriage, I, Cherry St. Croix, have neither the time nor the interest. I am on the trail of a murder with no victim, a mystery with no motive, and the key to an alchemical formula that could be my family's legacy.

Yet the world is not so kind as to let me pursue simple murder and uncomplicated bounties. Above the foggy drift, an earl insists on my attention, while my friends watch my increasingly desperate attempts to remain my own woman. From the silken demands of the Midnight Menagerie—to whose dangerously seductive ringmaster I owe a debt—to the rigorous pressures of the peerage, all are conspiring to place before me a choice that will forever change my life."

What about this book doesn't scream me? Also, yeah for breaks from school and tons of time to read!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Miniseries Review - Little Dorrit

Little Dorrit
Based on the book by Charles Dickens
Release Date: October 26th, 2008 – December 11th, 2008
Starring: Claire Foy, Matthew Macfadyen, Tom Courtenay, Emma Pierson, James Fleet, Arthur Darvill, Alum Armstrong, Judy Parfitt, Sue Johnston, Eddie Marsan, Rosie Cavaliero, Ron Cook, Andy Serkis, Russell Tovey, Bill Paterson, Amanda Redman, Maxine Peake, Freema Agyeman, Eve Myles, Anton Lesser, Pam Ferris, Jason Watkins, Annette Crosbie and Ruth Jones
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

Arthur Clenham has returned from the Orient with his father's dying words on his mind, as well as an entreaty from that man to his wife to "put it right." Upon reaching England, Arthur begs of his mother to not only abide by her husband's dying wishes, but to tell Arthur what he meant by "put it right." Consumed with righting the wrong that his family did, without knowing who the wrong was against, Arthur grasps at a straw. The straw is that recently, his mother took a young Amy Dorrit into her care. His cold, harsh mother who does not believe in charity. Arthur therefore gets it into his head that somehow it must be the Dorrits to whom his family must pay reparations... if only he could figure out exactly how to go about this or even figure out more about the Dorrits.

The Dorrits have spent many, many years in debtors prison. Amy was even born there, earning her father the moniker, the Father of the Marshalsea, which is the prison in which they reside. Yet Amy's life is a happy one, taking care of her father and being his connection to the outside world. The arrival of Arthur Clenham changes everything. It's not only that through his investigations and trials with the circumlocution office that he is able to release the Dorrits from their debts, and therefore prison, it is that he has unknowingly stolen Amy's heart. Though Arthur's work has risen the Dorrits and Amy's father views Arthur as an unsavory connection. Anyone with knowledge of their past ignominy is unsuitable. Therefore the family relocates to Venice, where their lives will be changed, for better or worse, only they will know. But Amy's heart will forever be with Arthur, even if she should know better than to associate with him anymore. Sometimes she dreams that life would be easier if she had never met Arthur... and perhaps she is right.

The cast made me know in my bones that I would love this miniseries. So many names from Doctor Who and of course, Matthew Macfadyen. I have loved Matthew for over a decade now and have watched everything he has ever been in (he owes me for the atrocities of Any Human Heart). But I am a fickle person, I was so excited to watch this originally, I was hesitant to start it in the first place. Obviously, I finally did and I loved it. Perfect and funny and, well, the ending was rushed and confusing and made me thing that our hero and heroine where brother and sister... which, thanks to Wikipedia I learned they are not, because that would have been too eww even for Dickens. I even found things like the absurdity of Andy Serkis's character, the murderer Rigaud to be menacing and enjoyable, diverging with what most critics thought. But overall, I adored it.

Therefore I was a bit hesitant to re watch it for my blog. What if it wasn't as good as I remembered. What if it was the opposite of me and Bleak House and instead of finding more to love in it I found things that bothered me and I then hated the miniseries!?! Yes, I was truly thinking this way. And when I started I was not immediately in the miniseries. There was that part of me going, "oh dear, I was wrong wasn't I?" I wasn't as worried about the confusing ending, having done my Wikipedia research, and also learning from my friend Amy that the book actually is that confusing so it was Dickens's not Andrew Davies fault. But something happened and half way through I was again in love with Little Dorrit. I guess I didn't realize until re watching that it wasn't until the Dorrits had achieved wealth and thrown their old life into stark contrast that everything sort of finally came together. Also, who couldn't love Venice and empathize with Amy (the character not my friend) and the strange new world she was thrust into.

Though with everything I still have gripes... but I won't dwell there, I will dwell on the one thing that makes this miniseries transcendent, and no, I'm not talking about the amusement I feel seeing Arthur Darvill, Rory from Doctor Who being a little pudgy in the face and a lot of a dick. I'm talking about Russell Tovey. Personally, while I love Matthew Macfadyen, I really think that Amy should have ended up with John, the character played by Russell Tovey. I know that Dickens is showing that we can't always choose what the heart wants or who it will love, but Tovey broke my heart. When he is rejected by Amy and has his little soliloquy about the mortal remains of John Chivery, I defy you not to be broken. That is some of the most emotional heartbreaking acting you will ever see. Sure, Tovey has become a master of the sad, lonely and broken hearted in his acting, but this is unparalleled.

"Here lie the mortal remains of John Chivery, Assistant Turnkey and later Chief Turnkey of the Marshalsea Prison for Debt. He was unlucky in love and endured a good deal of sorrow, but he rose above it and performed many an act of kindness, even to his rival. And always engraved, on stone, deep into his very heart, is the name of "Amy Dorrit"."

Monday, December 17, 2012

Tuesday Tomorrow

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9 Volume 2: On Your Own by Joss Whedon
Published by: Dark Horse
Publication Date: December 18th, 2012
Format: Paperback, 144 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"With the Scooby gang on the skids, Buffy finds herself increasingly alone. When faced with some tough decisions grounded in "real world" problems (i.e., not the slaying of pesky demons), Buffy is determined to make her own choices, but that doesn't mean she won't need a little handholding along the way. Cue Spike, compelled to stand by his best friend in her moment of need. Together they'll tackle the increasing zompire population and a rogue Slayer out for blood. The smash hit Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9 continues with Andrew Chambliss, Scott Allie, Georges Jeanty, and Cliff Richards!"

Ok, so apparently the week before Christmas is NOT the week that people buy books so there are no new releases. The publishers must assume that all the people who where buying books as presents had already done their shopping and that after Christmas would be the people who got gift cards, so this is limbo book week... except for geeks, who live alone and will venture forth in the cold and the snow for Buffy. Not sure where in the arc this set lies, it might be where it started to go a little too weird for me, less human problems, more bugs in space problems... but still, Buffy is Buffy, and I will read it.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Silent Night Read-A-Thon

Dickens aside, now that school is over for the semester (well, almost, but in essence, over), and I'm through the worst of the con plague (I swear, going to the moon at Teslacon was riskier and more fun than I thought), it's time to get in some good solid reading. So in other words, Svea's little read-a-thon came at just the right time... so, let's so how many books I can cram in before Christmas! I feel it my duty to make my goal of 115 books this year, that leaves me 9 more books to read this year... I wonder how many I'll do this week...

So far, in day one I read Fables Volume 11 War and Pieces, which is part of my massive Fables read I'm planning (for those who don't know Fables it's a series of Graphic Novels where Fairy Tales are real and live secretly amongst us and it's pretty frakin' awesome.) After that I started the second book in Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, Days of Blood and Starlight, after finishing the first book the day before and needing the second immediately. Well today I have book club, so sadly talking about books will cut into some of my reading books time... but so worth it!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Miniseries Review - Bleak House

Bleak House
Based on the book by Charles Dickens
Release Date: October 27th, 2005 – December 16th, 2005
Starring: Anna Maxwell Martin, Denis Lawson, Carey Mulligan, Patrick Kennedy, Nataniel Parker, Gillian Anderson, Timothy West, John Lynch, Charles Dance, Burn Gorman, Phil Davis, Loo Brealey, Catherine Tate, Alun Armstrong, Pauline Collins, Johnny Vegas, Hugo Speer, Anne Reid and Ian Richardson
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

The case of Jardyce verses Jardyce has spent many years in chancery and destroyed many lives. There are too many wills and no definitive final version. Ada Clare and Richard Carstone have just found out they are at the heart of this case. Having spent years in schools and sheltered, they never knew of their stake in this historic case. But now one of the other possible benefactors, John Jardyce, has taken in these two wards of Jardyce, and hired a companion for Ada, the sweet Esther Summerson. While the case continues to play out in the courts of chancery, Esther and Ada try to come to terms with this new life they have been given, while poor Richard can't detach himself from the fortune he might have if the case where to be settled in his and Ada's favor. Though there are many people who could be effected from the outcome of the case. Lady Deadlock has some stake, though how much is not made clear. Yet it is Lady Deadlock's secret, and the ruthlessness of her husband's lawyer, Mr. Tulkinghorn, that in the end could have a far greater effect on Esther than any court verdict. From a scribe called Nemo to a street boy named Joe, a "childlike" man with more guile that you could imagine, to an odd hoarder who spontaneously combusts, it is the little people, the odd characters that are touched by this case that make the beautiful tapestry that is Bleak House.

The first time I watched Bleak House was when it aired on PBS and I did not enjoy the experience. Yes, I know this is blasphemy and my fellow Anglophiles have derided me for this, just so you know you aren't along in the shock they felt. I just felt it was too drawn out, having to wait weeks for each installment, when what I really wanted to do was marathon it. Also the fact that many things that where scandalous and taboo in Victorian times are rather the norm today. There was also the fact that I didn't really care for the actress who plated Esther. At this time I had only seen Anna Maxwell Martin in North and South. She was good in that and then she died. I just felt she didn't have the strength to carry this show on her shoulders and I kept hoping for her death. I mean, I can't stand her and she's picking up all these people in thrall to her, why exactly? More on that later. But the main problem besides my hatred of Anna (which I have somewhat resolved, either she has become a better actress over time or I've just gotten used to her) was the drastic jump at the end. There is a mood and a feeling throughout the miniseries that jumped in the last scene. Everything is dark and sensibly bleak and then all of a sudden it's happy and jovial and every one's dancing and the music is upbeat and not fitting the tone. Icky jumping the sharkness. Even the music in the end credits is all happy happy joy joy and I think, more than anything, that left me scratching my head and dissatisfied. Now, when I watch, which I have done several times since, I am prepared for this jump and therefore, though I don't like it, I know it's coming and can brace for the impact.

There are other things that just irk me, most are directed more at Dickens than at the production. I'm sorry but John Jardyce is so awesome he deserved a happier ending, stupid Esther and your stupid Doctor. I still hate Richard, weak willed annoying cry baby... which has become a hatred of this actor because of his role in this. Recently he showed up on Boardwalk Empire and I was all, icky, no, can we kill him here too? Guppy to me is fascinating and perfectly played by Burn Gorman. Yet, I want to understand Guppy's motives more. He's totally entertaining, but does he love Esther for her or for her expectations? Because he's obviously one of the smartest characters in the story being able to easily unravel the central mystery of Esther's parentage... but is it this secret that makes him "love" Esther... and yes, I know I need to read the book and maybe this will answer my questions, but still, more closure or explanation was needed with this. And really, what was the draw of Esther. She picks up all these people who have an unwavering devotion to her, but why? What has Esther ever done than be just a boring dull person who never hurt or harmed anyone and shows just a little kindness and young girls and boys are willing to risk their lives for her? Really? If that's true, then a stronger actress was truly needed, see rant above. Also, Esther's stupid Doctor, I've never liked him and just couldn't put my finger on why he was bothering me even more on this re watching and I realized he was on Lark Rise to Candleford as the supposed match for Dorcas in the end, which I totally don't buy. Dorcas deserved so much better.

Yet, the things I love have started to overcome those that bother me. See, repeat viewings are good. Also, I think that Trollope was correct in his attack of this book in that it's the secondary characters that you love while the primary characters are weak and unlikable. I mean, who hasn't watched this miniseries and had a strange urge to yell at people "Shake me up Judy"? Also, I would never have been one to think that Johnny Vegas was suited towards period drama, yet it seems as if the self immolating Krook was written just for him. Then there's just little cameos like Richard Cant as the slightly drunk butler Mercury, that entertain me to no end, oh, and I want to be the mooching cop Bucket when I grow up. I guess I'm just saying, in a round about manner, that yes, I'm sorry I was quick to judge this series originally, but I can still see why I hated it, but have now come to find things that I greatly appreciate that make me overlook the flows, *cough* Esther *cough*.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Great Expectations

Great Expectations
Based on the book by Charles Dickens
Release Date: December 27th, 2011
Starring: Ray Winstone, Paul Rhys, Gillian Anderson, Vanessa Kirby, Douglas Booth, David Suchet, Jack Roth, Shaun Dooley, Mark Addy, Claire Rushbrook, Harry Lloyd, Perdita Weeks, Susan Lynch
Rating: ★★
To Buy

Even if you haven't read Great Expectations, I'm sure you know about Miss Havisham. The slightly dotty jilted bride still in her wedding gown years and years later. She's part of the collective subconscious, there is not a time I didn't know who she was. Also, a bit embarrassing to say, but I haven't read Great Expectations. I've read all about Miss Havisham's exploits with Thursday Next does that count? No... I didn't really think it did. So my first big foray into the world of Pip and Miss Havisham was actually during a very devote, slightly stalkeresque phase in my life when I had to watch everything Ioan Gruffudd was in. Yes, this even led to me watching quite a few crappy movies, 102 Dalmatians... Shooters... Very Annie Mary... I could go on, but I won't. Just watch some Forsyte Saga and Hornblower and you'll get your Ioan fix. Anyway, in the days before I had a DVD player, I was able to get an old VHS copy of Great Expectations with Ioan from the library. It felt very flat to me. All the characters, especially Pip, where very unlikable. I found Russell Baker's intros far more interesting, where he discussed the populist uprising of fellow authors which changed the ending, even if the original was more true to the story. So when the BBC announced the new production with Gillian Anderson I was excited. Firstly I was hoping for something that would capture me more and make me interested in the story. Also I was keen to see which ending they chose, even though rumors where that an entirely new ending had been written.

This production kind of let me down on almost every account. Mainly, the ending was the actual ending! Well, the actual Dickens re-written ending that is commonly held as the "true" ending. What the... oh well, at least it's Dickens and not some weird tangental ending that can't be possible with what came before, I'm looking at you Andrew Davies, you and your Wives and Daughters! Pip has humble beginnings and gets ideas above his station when he starts to visit Miss Havisham and her adopted daughter, Estella. Eventually he gets a great bequest of money and he thinks it's Miss Havisham's master plan to bring him and Estella together, only to find out he was totally wrong. Not surprising that this is a short three-parter when looking at the simplicity of plot compared to say Little Dorrit or Bleak House.

Pip is played by an Ambercrombie and Fitch Robert Pattison wannabe whose acting is so bland the only way his ascension from blacksmith to gentleman is able to be measured is by how tall his hat gets. His accent is never modulated from rich to poor and instead relies on brooding looks and high cheekbones. When you have other characters making fun of a non-existent accent it brings the production down, show not say people. Coupled with Estella, they make the blandest of couples who you couldn't really care if they get their happily ever after or not. I was kind of rooting for the bleaker ending from early on, just so that maybe these two could show something other than their remarkable ability to act like statues. As you can see, the main problem was that the two youth leads are dull as ditch water and when surround by a superb cast made up of some of the best British actors today, they don't just look dull, they kind of become a black hole of suckiness.

The wealth of well acted supporting roles is the only thing that makes this dull version worth watching. The cast is peopled with everyone from David Suchet to Ray Winstone, all nailing it. Claire Rushbrook, whom is most known for a guest appearance on Doctor Who and being in Spice World, just brings it as Pip's evil older sister. I never knew she had that much bile in her, seeing as I've seen her in two rather benign and nice roles. Mark Addy as the uncle, Mr Pumblechook, was hilarious, and proves that he should only be allowed to play slightly drunk men who yearn for greatness, ie, his recent turn as Robert Baratheon on Games of Thrones. Notable is one of Addy's Thrones co-stars, Harry Lloyd, as Pocket, who happens to be Dickens' own great-great-great-grandson. He not only embodies an actual Dickensian presence, but he was born to play this role being both funny, lovable and romantic. I just hope he gets more and more great roles in the future. Also, a menacing award has to go out to Jack Roth, who turns out to be the son of Tim Roth, proving the creepy baddie is an inheritable trait.

Let me finally get to the one actor this whole shebang revolves around. Gillian Anderson. Many thought that she was too young and too pretty to play the role, but after watching it, I don't think you're likely to go, "oh, she did look lovely as she burned to death." Gillian Anderson is very odd as Miss Havesham, with a little girl voice and an almost china doll appearance. As other reviewers have said, she gives the appearance that she has never grown up. She is bat-shit-crazy incarnate. If there was an award for best wacko, she'd win. Also, her little touches, like the worrying of the hand with the wound was spot on. Yet, in the end, she was too small a presence. She was like a nervous mouse skittering around. Her and everyone else could just not rise above being hampered with two dull leads. Such a shame...

Monday, December 10, 2012

Tuesday Tomorrow

Valley of the Shadow by Carola Dunn
Published by: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: December 11th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A cryptic message spurs Eleanor, Megan, and Nick Gresham on a frantic search for a refugee's missing family

While out on a walk, Eleanor Trewynn, her niece Megan, and her neighbor Nick spot a young, half-drowned Indian man floating in the water. Delirious and concussed, he utters a cryptic message about his family being trapped in a cave and his mother dying. The young man, unconscious and unable to help, is whisked away to a hospital while a desperate effort is mounted find the missing family in time.

The local police inspector presumes that they are refugees from East Africa, abandoned by the smugglers who brought them in, so while the countryside is being scoured for the family, Eleanor herself descends into a dangerous den of smugglers in a desperate search to find the man responsible while there is still time."

While I still have the first of Carola's Cornish mysteries on my tbr pile, I have greatly enjoyed the Daisy Dalrymple books she writes, so I'd give this one a try.

Princess of the Silver Woods by Jessica Day George
Published by: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: December 11th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"When Petunia, the youngest of King Gregor's twelve dancing daughters, is invited to visit an elderly friend in the neighboring country of Westfalin, she welcomes the change of scenery. But in order to reach Westfalin, Petunia must pass through a forest where strange two-legged wolves are rumored to exist. Wolves intent on redistributing the wealth of the noble citizens who have entered their territory. But the bandit-wolves prove more rakishly handsome than truly dangerous, and it's not until Petunia reaches her destination that she realizes the kindly grandmother she has been summoned to visit is really an enemy bent on restoring an age-old curse. The stories of Red Riding Hood and Robin Hood get a twist as Petunia and her many sisters take on bandits, grannies, and the new King Under Stone to end their family curse once and for all."

The third in her "princess" series, and the retelling of fairy tales just keeps on coming!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Miniseries Review - Our Mutual Friend

Our Mutual Friend
Based on the book by Charles Dickens
Release Date: 1998
Starring: Paul McGann, Keeley Hawes, Dominic Mafham, Steven Mackintosh, Anna Friel, Peter Vaughan, Pam Ferris, Timothy Spall, David Bradley, Anthony Calf and David Morrissey
Rating: ★★
To Buy

Lizzie Hexam works with her father searching the river for corpses to see if those who have gone into the next world have left anything for those in this world. Lizzie doesn't want a better life for herself, but she wants one for her brother, Charley. One night they pull in the corpse of a John Harmon. John Harmon was returning to England to lay claim to his father's great fortune. His death has several repercussions, which society takes great delight in hearing through the estate's lawyer, Mortimer Lightwood. One interesting provision in the will is that John Harmon was only to inherit if he married a young girl of his father's choosing, Bella Wilfer. Bella is now stuck with her family, while Harmon the elders right hand man, Mr. Boffin, who ran his business operations in dust, is brought out of the muck with his missus and made a very wealthy man. They not only take in Bella to make amends, but also hire the mysterious John Rokesmith.

While the Harmon affair is moving along, things have been happening down at the river. Lizzie's father has turned up dead, and she has sent her brother Charley away to school. Yet ever since that night when her father brought in the body of John Harmon, Mortimer Lightwood's friend, Eugene Wrayburn has become obsessed with Lizzie. Soon he isn't the only one, as Charley's teacher, Mr. Headstone, because violently obsessed with Lizzie and threatens Eugene. This leads Lizzie to flee London, but the two men will not give up that easily.

With all the lives and loves intertwining, money and inheritances in question, people having multiple identities and people hoping to frame others, Dickens has created a story that's denouement will hopefully answer some of the muddle he has made.

The main theme in Our Mutual Friend is obsession. Personally, I know a bit about obsession, not anything like the depths sunk to by the characters in this miniseries, but, obsession on a lesser scale I get. I originally watched this back in the day during my Keeley Hawes obsession. See, I find an actor I like and I tend to then mass ingest their oeuvre, I should mention I'm not as bad as I was, but I still have my leanings in this direction. A famous past obsession was Ioan Gruffudd, which led to watching the horrid Very Annie Mary and Shooters, which kind of quickly made me stop watching his films, though the love is still there (Hornblower!), in that I actually gave Ringers a shot, not for Sarah Michelle Geller, but for him, yeah, that was a wasted attempt too. When I saw Keeley in Wives and Daughters, I was really impressed and decided to do a Keeley binge. Which is one reason I ended up watching Tipping the Velvet, which, I might say, though period drama it is, PG-13 it isn't, oh my. I also ended up being a fan of MI-5, which led to my Matthew MacFadyen obsession, and then oddly they got married in real life... but the one miniseries I really wanted to watch was Our Mutual Friend. I was kind of also doing a Dickens marathon of sorts at the time and this would be perfect, plus, the 8th Doctor was in it. Of course, at the time it wasn't available in the US, so I ordered it from overseas and was mildly impressed, but not in love.

I felt the same way rewatching this miniseries as I did originally, like, not love, also, the US edition made in pan scan, so lots of the framing is awful. I attempted to read the book after watching it the first time and failed miserably. Perhaps I shouldn't have tried reading Dickens's densest and most complicated and final novel as my first Dickens, but I swear, after re-reading a chapter ten times and not known if Dickens was referring to a person or a piece of furniture, I placed him aside and picked up Trollope. I have yet to pick Dickens up again, which is one of the reasons I'm doing my Dickensian Denouement, to force myself. But back to the miniseries. I applaud Sandy Welch, of North and South and Jane Eyre fame, for taking, what I felt a convoluted text, and making it easy to understand and follow. What I had trouble with was the acting. It wasn't cast with actors of equal abilty, or maybe it was the direction, but some of the roles are so flat and lifeless, mainly Steven Mackintosh as John Rokesmith. He smiles maybe once and the only time he shows real emotion it is so violent, if I where Bella I'd be rethinking my choice in husband.

But it's the obsessions with money and women that form the narrative that I find more than a little off putting. Yes, there is true love, but the love is born of deceit and stalking, I'm talking of Eugene's minimal stalking compared to Headstone's terrifying, blood spilling, willing to kill stalking. I believe this was the first film I had ever seen David Morrissey in and I have to say, if that kind of destructive passion was aimed at me, I too would run away, or be looking for a hit man, but watching it, his deterioration is kind of funny. Not funny haha, obviously, but, all that punching and hiding in bushes while looking like death with a feverish look in his eye, it came across kind of laughable. Maybe, it's just that you have to laugh or be scared. Yet, Morrissey as Headstone was at least passionate. The other to male leads where so laid back and ineffectual, that you could not understand why anyone would fall in love with them. Well, Keeley, not to rag too much on her, was kind of boring, so, that made sense. But Anna Friel as Bella! She had warmth and intelligence and a mind and she is tricked into her hearts desire. Because she was manipulated into her happy ending. Ok, yes, she at least got a happy ending, but still, at what cost?

And if you weren't scheming for a woman, you where scheming for money. Wegg, Mr and Mrs Lammle, Riderhood, they where all wanting more. They all believed they deserved more. Personally I feel I should have gotten more out of this miniseries. Instead I'm dissatisfied. The good won, the bad lost, but I couldn't really care about any of the characters enough to give a toss. Sure there was some great acting, but it was so uneven that I longed for something better, something more, something a cut above the rest. Maybe that's the answer as to why Dickens keeps getting adaption after adaption, no one is ever satisfied by the whole production and they must begin again.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Dickens on Film

Most people know Dickens before they know Dickens. That sentence does seem like a tongue twister, yet it relates to the basic fact that people know of his stories and his characters long before they ever hear his name. Miss Havisham works as a secondary character in Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next books because people know of the slightly off lady dressed in her wedding gown as if it where widows weeds even if they haven't read Great Expectations. Dickens's stories have a universality to them. You know the stories, and most of us know them through the medium of film.

I was very young when I first discovered Dickens, again, that name meant nothing to me, what meant something to me was Mickey's Christmas Carol. I remember watching it on tv and being enraptured by it. This was so much better than any other Christmas special on tv. Mickey had Snoopy beaten by a mile. Scrooge was mean and sad and so many things, and awesomely a duck! Also, for the first time I can ever think of, Goofy wasn't just totally lame. As Marley's Ghost, he was actually a little scary, in particular with the door knocker scene. This aired long before such a thing as a VCR existed in my family, so it was something I looked forward to every Christmas. I even remember dreaming about it. This was almost as good as Christmas itself.

Dickens got me at that young age. Over the years I have watched many an adaptation of A Christmas Carol, from plays where my 6th grade teacher's brother was in the production, a production I might add that cast everyone by if they could fit the costumes because they didn't have the money to replace any of them, to Muppets to Bill Murray, to bad animation to Captain Picard to Blackadder. I have watched them all hoping to find the same joy. But none have come up to the wide eyed childish joy of Mickey Mouse. I'm sure my father would be appalled that I chose a Duck over George C. Scott, so I should probably mention that at this juncture. Love live the Duck!

While I connected to a cartoon from the 1980s, Dickens's works have been adapted continuously for the screen since the invention of cinema. Many of his works were adopted for the stage during his own lifetime and as early as 1913 the first film version of his work appeared with The Pickwick Papers. Today there are a least two hundred motion pictures and tv adaptations based on his works. So for the bicentenary, the first question on everyone's lips was, what adaptations will be made? Well, besides the dueling Miss Havishams, for my money, I think Gillian Anderson might be able to beat Helena Bonham Carter in a fight, we had an adaptation of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, as well as the biopic staring Ralph Fiennes slated for early 2013, missing the centenary there Ralph. While not as heavy as in past years, Dickens is a major tent pole for the BBC with its previous star studded adaptations, Bleak House being the most raved about.

Yet, as Ralph Fiennes shows, we have even gone beyond just dramatizing Dickens's works, we are now dramatizing the man himself. Simon Callow has gained a bit of notoriety playing Dickens, much like Hal Holbrook and Mark Twain. Callow has not only played Dickens several times on stage and screen, notably on Doctor Who, in my mind, he has also written a book on Dickens, because Dickens transcends all boundaries of media. Dickens will continue to live on through many mediums, besides the written word. Now is the time to gather your family together, sit back and watch a few Dickensian adaptations, to capture that perfect holiday mood. Might I interest you in a Duck as the protagonist?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress
Published by: Dial
Publication Date: December 4th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 448 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"An action-packed tale of gowns, guys, guns--and the heroines who use them all

Set in Edwardian London, The Friday Society follows the stories of three very intelligent and talented young women, all of whom are assistants to powerful men: Cora, lab assistant; Michiko, Japanese fight assistant; and Nellie, magician's assistant. The three young women's lives become inexorably intertwined after a chance meeting at a ball that ends with the discovery of a murdered mystery man.

It's up to these three, in their own charming but bold way, to solve the murder--and the crimes they believe may be connected to it--without calling too much attention to themselves.

Told with Adrienne Kress's sharp wit and a great deal of irreverence, this Steampunk whodunit introduces three unforgettable and very ladylike--well, relatively ladylike--heroines poised for more dangerous adventures."

Edwardian Steampunk! Downton meets H.G. Wells, bring it!

Touch of Steel by Kate Cross
Published by: Signet
Publication Date: December 4th, 2012
Format: Paperback, 352 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The Wardens of the Realm are a group with extraordinary abilities, dedicated to protecting England from any threat. But in this steam-powered world, there’s a fine line between enemy and ally…

Reeling from her brother’s death, beautiful American spy Claire Brooks has vowed revenge on the member of The Company who she believes to be responsible: Stanton Howard. But when she chases the man to London, Claire is captured by the Wardens of the Realm and placed in the custody of the Earl of Wolfred, the dashing Alistair Payne.

Seeing the prospect of retribution slipping away, Claire convinces Alistair that she has defected and will help him take down The Company. As they travel via steam liner, Claire and Alistair must pretend to be engaged. Claire can’t deny the growing attraction she feels for her pretend husband, but when Howard is finally within her reach, she will have to decide whether her true loyalties lie with The Company or with her heart…

More steampunk fun, yes!

The Accidental Genie by Dakota Cassidy
Published by: Berkley
Publication Date: December 4th, 2012
Format: Paperback, 352 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"She’s all bottled up.

Jeannie Carlyle is a caterer extraordinaire, more than ready to handle any challenge thrown at her. But when her client asks her to open up a rare bottle of gin for a party, Jeannie is shocked when a guy in poofy pants pops out and she gets sucked inside. Trapped in the bottle, Jeannie does the only thing she can think of and uses her cell phone to search the term “paranormal” and finds the number for OOPS—Out in the Open Paranormal Support.

Until he sets her free.

Werewolf Sloan Flaherty isn’t keen on dealing with distraught women, especially since his sister-in-law Marty basically forced him to man the OOPS phones. But when Jeannie calls in a panic, Sloan is the only one available to find Jeannie’s bottle. After giving it a good rub, Jeannie emerges dressed like a character from Arabian Nights and starts calling Sloan “Master.” Now, they need to figure out how to break their unwanted bond, before the wishes Jeannie can’t stop granting get them into more trouble than even the OOPS girls can handle…"

Another cute little entry in Dakota Cassidy's Accidental series. 

Recipe for Treason by Andrea Penrose
Published by: Signet
Publication Date: December 4th, 2012
Format: Paperback, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A diabolical traitor who's always out of reach...

England, 1814. Lady Arianna Hadley and her husband, the Earl of Saybrook, want nothing more than to savor a quiet life embellished by the occasional cup of the finest chocolate. However, when they receive orders to travel to Scotland and capture an elusive traitor, they feel their duty to the Crown must come first.

In a laboratory in Scotland, they discover the coprse of a chemistry professor--and cryptic papers hinting at a dangerous new discovery now in enemy hands. Racing against time, Arianna and Saybrook pursue their most cunning and dangerous adversary yet through a complex network of intrigue involving exotic chocolates, daredevil aviators, a missing inventor, and a secret recipe that must be recovered at any cost...

INCLUDES CHOCOLATE RECIPES AND TRIVIA!"

The first book in this series was fun and I've already picked up the second to read once my semester is over, so one more won't hurt!

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