Monday, November 30, 2009

Thriller & Suspense Challenge 2010

Book City Chick is hosting a Thriller and Suspense Challenge for the coming year that I just can't ignore... I must participate, if just for the cool logo alone. I am a sucker for good graphic design.

Let's get to the nitty gritty!

Timeline: 01 Jan 2010 - 31 Dec 2010
Rules: To read TWELVE (12) thrillers in 2010


• You don't have to select your books ahead of time, you can just add them as you go. Also if you do list them upfront then you can change them, nothing is set in stone! The books you choose can crossover into other challenges you have on the go.

• If you decide to participate in this challenge please use the links I have set up below with the buttons to post on your sidebar, this way others can find their way back to this post and join in the fun.

• If you decide to join this challenge be sure to create a post telling others, please make sure you add a link back to this post so others can join in.

• You can join anytime between now and the later part of next year.

• There will be a place for you to link your reviews, but this is optional.

Now, there are many different sub-genres of thriller, so don't go thinking that you don't actually read these kinds of books because I bet you read more than you think. As I mentioned above you can choose from the numerous sub-genres, from cosy mysteries such as Agatha Christie to the more hard-boiled kind like V I Warshawski by Sara Paretsky, or even supernatural/paranormal suspense written by the likes of Laurell K Hamilton (Anita Blake) and Kelley Armstrong. So, there you have it, this challenge will have something for everyone I'm sure! :)

To help you figure out and decide, J. Kaye has kindly given me the sub-genre list that she compiled when hosting the challenge. To view this list go HERE.

If you have trouble signing below, please email me the name you want posted below with your blog's link HERE.

The Game is afoot! Are you going to join me?

December Tomorrow

So I decided that, perhaps instead of featuring my Tuesday Tomorrow new books of the week, I'd do a more seasonal post, a Christmas is fast approaching, what to get the bibliophile in your life for Christmas post. And no, it's not because I didn't like the new books out this week... well, that's not 100% true... but I had planned on doing this, and it's timely, and just seemed to have stars aligning and whatnot. So onto the gift ideas. The answer? Gift Cards! I know what you're thinking, it's crass, it's not thoughtful, don't they always make fun of people who give book tokens for holidays? It's just because there are a lot of non-readers in the world, and those non-readers don't get that there's nothing readers love more then new books and more precisely new books they pick out for themselves! For some reason, people who don't read books like to buy the newest bestsellers for friends around the holidays. And while it's sweet that they are openly embracing the book worm in their friend, a lot of readers either a) have already read said bestseller before it went on mega clearance for the holidays or b) are a true book snob and tend to shy away from bestsellers and stick with their favorite more obscure authors.

I'm not saying that you can ONLY buy Gift Cards for the bibliophile, it's just usually the easiest, least painful, stress free present... hell you can them direct from Barnes & Noble with any of many cool pictures and you don't even have to venture outside! Plus you can give a little or a lot... if only someone would stuff my stocking with that $1000 one... no sugar plum fairies dancing in my head at Christmas, it's that little black card! Enough with the fantasy... no, that wasn't drool! And my computer screen is not fogged up either, thank you! But this is too impersonal you say? Well... there are many options and avenues still available sans Gift Card... you could always, dare I say it? Ask which books they want! Novel isn't it? (haha) Of course that does lack an element of surprise... There are also always exceptions to the rules of bad book givers. I have one friend who always gives the best book gifts, she always knows what I'll like and cherish and never asks in advance, she has a magical secret power. So if you think you to might have this ability, try it out, but don't expect success the first time, because it is not guaranteed, especially by me. But they will know you cared and tried, and sometimes it is all in the thought.

Speaking of cognition... Now onto the most thoughtful gift of all! A book that has inspired you or changed your life passed on to someone you love. Say Jane Austen inspired you... give her to a friend with a little note. Thomas Hardy you say, pass it on with a little dedication. Not only will you be giving something that means a great deal to you, but hopefully you'll be giving a keepsake that will inspire and fill them with love year round, because every time they pick up that book or think about something in it that they loved, they will think of you. There's nothing that angers me more then being in a used bookstore and finding a book that is lovingly dedicated to someone and thinking that this person didn't even care enough about that person's feelings to hang onto it even if they didn't like it. They could have at least cut out the page. Savages is what I say! Because there could not be a more thoughtful gift in my mind.

I hope that I gave you a few things to think on... when in doubt or despair the Gift Card saves the day, but if you want to make a lasting impression, give from the heart, as all gifts should be given. But you know there's always a nice bookmark when in a funk and short of funds... everyone needs to mark their book somehow!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Book Review - Patricia Briggs' Moon Called

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
Published by: SFBC Science Fiction Book Club
Publication Date: 2006
Format: Hardcover, 710 Pages
Rating: ★★★
To Buy (different edition than one reviewed)

In the Tri-Cities in Washington State, a "walker"(derived from skin-walker) named Mercedes Thompson runs a garage specializing in fixing cars of German engineering. One day a lost and confused werewolf shows up at her shop and she takes pity on "Mac," despite her better inclinations for her own safety. But he brings a mess of trouble down on Mercy's head. Some government types show up and Mercy ends up killing an unknown werewolf, quite a feat for a little coyote. She realizes that she has to do what she was hoping to avoid, call in the local pack Alpha, her acrimonious neighbor, Adam Hauptman. Things go from bad to worse once the pack is involved. Mercy is woken up in the middle of the night by Mac's body being dumped on her doorstep. She realizes something must have gone horribly wrong at the pack meeting Adam was holding. She rushes over to his house where there are corpses littering his house and he's barely alive. Worst of all...his daughter, Jesse is missing.

Mercy is scared and she doesn't know who to trust...perhaps one of the pack has gone turncoat. Adam needs help, but more importantly, he needs an Alpha stronger than him to protect himself and others while he heals. So she turns to the only person she knows she can trust and can control Adam, even if they haven't spoken since she shot like a bat out of hell away from Aspen Creek, Montana, and her old pack, headed by Bran, the Marrock (leader) of all North American werewolves. But confronting Bran is the least of her problems. Samuel is there. The werewolf who she almost ran away with at 16. The man who was perhaps her true mate. The man she has avoided for so long. Thankfully they are able to help her and Adam heads on the road to recovery, and then on the road back to the Tri-Cities, with Samuel in tow. But while there Mercy realizes that perhaps the wolves being secret won't last much longer, Bran is pushing for a "revelation" like the Fae did 20 years is making it harder and harder to conceal their presence and they are now a commonly known secret to the government. But she can only deal with one hurdle at a time and luckily the small band of travelers trusts Mercy's inclination that something is wrong with the pack and they ask her who she would trust...Warren, the only gay werewolf she knows is their bet for safety. Now back in the Tri-Cities with a secret base of operations, Warren's duplex, they start their hunt for the weird government types and Jesse. But first they have to tangle with some other Fae, who lead them into the path of the Vampires, and finally they have to find the traitors, because not just a werewolf has betrayed them...and if they're lucky, at the end of the day all will be well and Jesse will be safe.

This book is the first in the popular Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs. I picked this book up because it's likened to other authors I like, in particular Charlaine Harris. I can see the similarity and my attraction to the subject matter that made me pick up the Sookie books will definitely lead me to pick up the rest of the series of a strong supernaturally inclined independent, neigh, kick ass female lead. Mercy is a great character, she is a successful female working in a male dominated society, and werewolf society breaks the definition of how dominant a male society can be. She's quirky, funny and willing to do whatever she wants and whatever it takes to get where she's going or needs to be. I also like that she's all inclusive and not bigotted in anyway. The werewolves seem to be all "shifters for themselves" whereas Mercy has an ex-boss who's a gremlin and a good friend who is a vampire, and it doesn't matter to her if a werewolf is gay.

I felt this book was very uneven though. There were times I totally loved this book and couldn't put it down and other times when I just couldn't be bothered. The world creation that Briggs has given us is a nice unique spin on our world, similar enough to ours that we can relate, but different enough that it's fascinating and an interesting possibilty, but also different enough from other writers that it's unique. But the plot was occasionally cliche ridden, some working while others falling flat on their face. In particular I take issue with the girl always having two guys fighting over her, even if she previously thought she had no prospects. That's just too convenient and not really realistic. I know escapism is what people are after, but it's just too predictable to have the males fight for the ladies hand. But I did not have nearly as many issues with that as I had with the "child in danger" plot. If there is a child WHY MUST THEY ALWAYS BE ENDANGERED?!? The second Jesse showed up I was very intrigued by this nice little punky character that is surrounded by wolves and views Mercy as a kindred spirit, and then she's kidnapped! I'm actually more interested to see how Jesse develops as a character in later books because I find her so interesting and she was relegated to a plot point for the convenience of the author to get Adam to do her plots bidding. Stop doing this folks! Just because it's a cliche doesn't mean that your using it makes it fresh and new again!

Finally, one little niggling point, I had issues with Buffy being mentioned. I should really say, I love Buffy and I love that the vampire friend of Mercy, Stefan, loves Buffy, but I think in a world were fairies have been public knowledge since the 70s that a show like Buffy would be inherently different.
I love Stefan and his Scooby Doo and Buffy obsession, but the Buffy thing just struck me a little odd, I know it would still exist, but it would be more of a mainstream tv show cause it mimics reality to an extent in Briggs' world, then a cult hit. Maybe it's just too much a call out to the demographic that reads this type of book, but it grates on me.

Personally, despite all the little gripes I have, I'd recommend this to anyone who likes urban fantasy. It's a quick, fun read that anyone who likes a little bit of a kick ass lead and a little bit of a mystery will thoroughly enjoy. Basically if you like Buffy you'll like this...maybe the author was onto something there...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Desperate Romantics

Desperate Romantics
Based on the book by Franny Moyle
Release Date: Septmeber 21st, 2009 (Region 2), TBD (Region 1)
Starring: Aidan Turner, Amy Manson, Rafe Spall, Jennine Jacques, Tom Hollander, Zoe Tapper, Samuel Barnett, Timothy West and Sam Crane
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy (UK)

This miniseries encapsulating the lives of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood from first laying eyes on Lizzie Siddal to her death was one of the most captivating and energetic adaptations I've seen in recent years. Narrated by the fictitious reporter Fred Walters, we follow the brotherhood of William Holman Hunt (Spall), Dante Gabriel Rossetti (Turner) and John Everett Millais (Barnett) as they set out to change the face of art forever. We first encounter them as outcasts trying to break into the Academy, despite the derision of those around them, Dickens himself even being a detractor. But upon finding Lizzie, they all become inspired and realize their best hope is to secure the patronage of John Ruskin, the artist and art critic. As there lives become more and more entwined with lack of inspiration and women troubles they gain more and more prominence in the art world. Their artistic achievements being encapsulated in the mess of their love lives. While each artist is his own character, from the naive child protege Millais, to the spiritually troubled pugilist Hunt, to the womanizing centrifugal force that is Rossetti, it's their friendship that is the driving force of their lives and their art.

What I think will really draw and keep the viewers is, that while this is based on a more historical text, there is a vibrancy and humor to the characters. The writing is willing to let you laugh and not bog you down with dusty old lectures on how life was back in the day. There's life in these artists! Some people I see have taken umbrage that this is too sensationalist, not real, but that's not the case. Sure they change things here and there and contract time, but overall the basic facts are correct. Plus they've done a great job on integrating the art into the show with each episode culminating in one piece created. The first three episodes concentrate on Millais' work, spotlighting Christ in the House of His Parents, Ophelia and The Order of Release. The next episode concentrates on Hunt's The Scapegoat, because who doesn't love a painting of a pretty goat? The final two episodes deal with Rossetti's Bocca Baciata and Beata Beatrix. The BBC's website has a great interactive page so you can learn more about the pieces used in the series. I also felt that this was perfect timing for me to watch this because a few weeks ago I went to the Art Institute of Chicago where they are hosting an exhibition on the Arts and Crafts movement, Apostles of Beauty, where they had not only original drawings from the Pre-Raphaelites, but they had Rossetti's Beata Beatrix, the idealization of his dead wife as Dante's Beatrice. To see the art in the flesh but then to see it celebrated in the series was too much to be hoped for.

Of course, not every miniseries is flawless, I have two issues with Desperate Romantics. The first is the music. It was atrocious, skipping from overtly Gothic to Beatles rifs... it was almost as if a madman had done the score, someone with no knowledge of musical time periods who just threw it all together at the last minute. You can have over the top slightly modern music, look to Murray Gold's work on Casanova. This was just shite. The second is the PR on was billed as kind of a Victorian Entourage, or an Entourage with easels, thankfully it's anything but, no matter what the PR department thought. The main reason being Aidan Turner can act, whereas I've never seen any evidence of that fact with Adrian Grenier... I just think that saying that it's like this other thing that is popular but not very good is going to lead people to make unfair comparisons. The joy and exuberance that Aidan Turner lends to Rossetti, or the desperately psychotic stares of Hunt or the sweetness of Millais could never be captured by the actors or the writers of Entourage. I cry fowl! Just because it's fun and enjoyable doesn't mean you have to sell it by comparison to something similar but not quite, it should sell itself. I'm hoping once this hits stateside you'll get to see what I'm saying.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Betrayal of the Blood Lily Giveaway! THIS GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED

I'm sure ever since September, when I casually announced that I had gotten Lauren Willig's new ARC in the mail... okay, I know there was really a lot of exclamation points and dancing around, none of which was very casual, but... you were all excited, yes? I have a feeling you've been waiting with baited breath since I said I would be giving my ARC away in my review of the book. Well the time has come my friends, to talk of many things, of spies and lies and secret trysts of dangerous flower rings of why India is boiling hot and whether marigolds have schemes... In other words... you want to win this don't you? I know you do, I know you can't wait till January, and here's where I come in to save the day.


The Prize:
One shiny new ARC (carefully read only a few times) of Lauren Willig's The Betrayal of the Blood Lily, not in stores till January 12th, 2010!

The Rules:
1. Open to EVERYONE, just because you haven't been following me all along doesn't mean you don't matter.
2. Please make sure I have a way to contact you if your name is drawn, either your blogger profile or a link to your website/blog or you could even include your email address with your comment(s).
3. Contest ends December 11th at 11:59PM CST (1 month before the release of the book)
4. How to enter:

Answer me this: Who is your favorite character in Lauren's books?

What is your favorite scene they are in? Could it be Amy and Richard meeting on the boat? Jane and her sheep?

5. And for those addicted to getting extra entries:

  • +1 for answering the question(s) above
  • +5 for becoming a follower
  • +5 for commenting on my review located here
  • +10 if you are already a follower
  • +10 for each time you advertise this contest - blog post, sidebar, twitter (please @MzLizard), etc. (but you only get credit for the first post, so tweet all you like, and I thank you for it, but you'll only get the +10 once). Also please leave a link!
Thanks for stopping by and checking out my blog, and don't forget to come back frequently in the weeks leading up to the release of The Betrayal of the Blood Lily, there's going to be lots of Napoleonic fun, including my dream casting if these books were ever made into a miniseries as part of my Spotlight series. Also do you have a question you've been dying to ask Lauren? She's going to be doing a little Q & A for me in the coming weeks, so post your questions and I'll pick the ones which I myself would like to hear answered!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

You Look Just Like Your Brother in Drag!

"Is that supposed to be a compliment!?!" Carole Barrowman, sister of John Barrowman, the infamous Captain Jack, quipped last Wednesday night at her book signing at Boswell Books in Milwaukee. Carole was promoting I Am What I Am, the follow up to the successful biography of her brother she co-wrote with him which came out last year. Now of course there are those people who went to see her just because of her relation to John (yes, this means you weird lady on the futon who spent the hour before the talk sorting your pictures of Ianto and Jack while dicussing the week you saw all seven performances of La Cage)... and I won't say that I'm not guilty of the odd hope that for no reason whatsoever, John would accompany his sister to the signing... but the fact is she doesn't need her brother. I was lucky enough to see her speak last year and I have to say, she didn't disappoint this time either. She's witty, self deprectaing, energetic and knows how to work and interact with a crowd. Her reminiscences and stories are lively and humorous, the fact that they contain John Barrowman is just an added bonus, because these stories would be captivating even sans Captain Jack. She did a little storytelling, a little reading, and of course just the tiniest hint of spoiling with regard to Doctor Who and Torchwood. Because as she said "I know all the secrets of the next season of Torchwood." Followed after a beat, wherein the small child who I think is too young to be watching the show held his breath, by saying: "I'm so lying."

Carole said the reason for a second book, delivered 3 weeks before the book was due in stores (apparently following John around doesn't work any better than emailing him for getting him to keep deadlines) was that readers felt they got the grand sweep of John's life in the previous volume, but they wanted the details, the rants and opinions that John has no qualms in sharing. The paperback will even contain another chapter just devoted to the backstage antics of John's current run in the West End in La Cage Aux Folles as Albin. She went on to say the perks of being related to John is all the famous people she's met, from Whoopi Goldberg to Liza Minnelli. I personally was impressed that she got to meet Dawn French. Of course the down side is, with having to accompany him to all these events, she gets stuck with the people he doesn't want to talk to. One such lady was a stately grand dame at this gorgeous family seat where a fete was happening for a local school. Carole was placed next to this old lady and as she said, she understood maybe 3 words the lady said all night, and she was talking constantly. She thinks the words were: "Charming, Triffle and Sausage." But she amended: "Ok, not Sausage, I just wanted to say that." It later transpired that not only does this old lady have her own bodyguard who acts as her interpreter (as Carole said, "you think they could have told me about him before the meal!") but she's quite literally the BFF of Queen Elizabeth! She also gave Carole a tour of the house, which included a stop to the bathroom, where Carole said, she didn't know what was going on with this old lady telling her to sit on the toilet... it transpires that there's an original Constable etching on the wall opposite the toilet. As Carole said, "We don't have room for towels in my bathroom and they have a Constable!"

She went on to recount her families recent outing on the British version of Family Feud, All Star Family Fortunes, which they bitterly lost because of not knowing that the number one word for an attractive man is "Fit." Of course she said she thinks it was rigged, they polled 100 taxi drivers and what do they know about attractive men? Afterwards to ease the disappointment of loss John suggested stealing all the hangers in the green room, which they did. She then went on to recount a chapter in the book dealing with the kids show John hosts where they went to a zoo. A zoo run by Cybil and Basil Fawlty, where they could not tell who had it worse, the animals or the children who were staying there for their holidays. While she couldn't disclose the zoo for legal reasons I think it sounds suspiciously like the zoo from that one episode of Top Gear where the lions tried to destroy the convertible.

To conclude she gave us two little spoilers... Torchwood Four looks like it will eventually happen when time clears in Russell's, Julie's and John's respective schedules. But more importantly in my mind... Captain Jack will be there to say good bye to the 10th Doctor, but more intriguingly... he's working with the new Doctor! John had dinner with Matt and he said it felt like he was cheating on David. So it looks like perhaps Captain Jack will be on our screens in the near future... if there was one person who could bring Jack back to earth after season three of Torchwood, it's The Doctor!

After the talk she did a book signing, where my brother and I were second in line. She was very gracious and thanked us for coming to see "Just Her!" Also she asked where we came from and we said we drove over from Madison, turns out she'll be having a signing here in the not too distant future for the book Chicks Dig Time Lords, which she contributed too. Yeah! I don't have to drive to Milwaukee in the fog and in the rain... but you know what? It was worth it! She doesn't need Captain Jack. In fact, I think it would be pretty damn awesome to have her as a teacher.

Also for those who I know need it after the reference above, her's the Barrowman clan on Family Fortunes... (Sorry part 1 wasn't on YouTube, but I found it anyway!)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

In My Mailbox

So what did my BFF's at Penguin send me today? (And yes, they are quite literally my BFFs, no one treats me as good as they do, Viking, Dutton, you all rock). They sent me the new Jasper Fforde book Shades of Grey! And not just a crappy reviewers copy. Oh no, my BBFs treat me very well. They sent me a 1st Edition hardcover, with all the lovely press info. And, I think just to make my day a little brighter, it was addressed to: Elizabeth Lefebvre - Blogger, Strange and Random Happenstance. How cool is that? Very I do declare. Blogger! (Imagine Kryten from Red Dwarf saying it and then silently laughing... yes I'm a little loopy, so? This is how my brain usually works best.) Also I'm working out doing an interview with Mr. Fforde either by phone or Skype! The coolness never ceases here. So if you have any question you've been dying to ask Jasper Fforde, just post away, and maybe I'll get around to asking him for you! Well I'm off to go read and also figure out how to properly pronounce his last name, I think that would be a good thing to find out before the interview, those wacky Welsh!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Random Magic Penultimate Tour Stop!

So, if you've been keeping track and following Winnie around the blog, you know that the Random Magic Blog Tour is coming to an end... tomorrow. So let's revel and dance and make with the marry because tomorrow it could all be over (and technically I'm 100% right in this case). But don't look glum, the book isn't disappearing into an abyss... Winnie has not left the book to parts unknown making the pages vanish before your very eyes like some characters we've read about. You could even win your own copy to treasure always!

You haven't been following you say? Well, never fear, I have my review of the book up, plus if you go here, you can go to all the tour sites with your little Baedeker's in hand and look at what all the other blogs have to say about Sasha Soren's book (I've added a little hint at what each site contains)! Oh, and there's always the book trailer:

So wander about, because today there's a little bit of magic on this site. But don't forget to enter my giveaway!


The Prize:
Sasha Soren's Random Magic, Signed by the Author Herself!!!

The Rules:

1. Open to EVERYONE, just because you haven't been following me all along doesn't mean you don't matter.
2. Please make sure I have a way to contact you if your name is drawn, either your blogger profile or a link to your website/blog or you could even include your email address with your comment(s).
3. Contest ends November 30th 11:59PM CST (Right before the witching hour!)
4. How to enter:

Answer me this: If you could visit any book ever written, which book would that be?

5. And for those addicted to getting extra entries:

  • +1 for answering the question above
  • +2 for becoming a follower
  • +5 if you are already a follower
  • +10 for each time you advertise this contest - blog post, sidebar, twitter (please @MzLizard), etc. (but you only get credit for the first post, so tweet all you like, and I thank you for it, but you'll only get the +10 once). Also please leave a link!

The Colors of Random Magic - RED

Red is easily one of my favorite colors. So powerful and consuming, like fire, but there's also a warmth and peacefulness to it... so lets read how it ties into Random Magic! But don't forget to enter to win a signed copy of the book!

Everyone who’s read the book says that the world of Random Magic is so colorful and vivid that they can actually almost see the world right in front of them, as if it were a movie.

It was definitely written that way, since that world actually is a lot more magical and overwhelming than our own world. Everything would be more powerful and startling, including something as basic as the colors surrounding Henry and Winnie as they search for Alice.

But a lot of the colors in Random Magic aren’t just there for decoration, but actually have some particular significance.

Here are some quick reader notes about the more symbolic uses of color in Random Magic. This post is about the use of the color red:

Red is the color of fire and blood, and it’s associated with passion, vitality, strength, courage and love. But it’s also the color of rage, violence, power and war.

Red is an intense color that’s generally detected very quickly by the human eye, which is why stop signs, stoplights, and other warning signs or signals feature red. All three characters are associated with the color red, but in very different ways.

The color red is associated very strongly with Winnie. She even wears a red tunic. In her case, it symbolizes bravery, feistiness, a strong will and a passionate and undauntable nature, because she possesses all of these traits.

Winnie’s inner fire is the fire of a strong character, of someone who thinks and moves with decision, and shows defiant courage in the face of overwhelming odds.

Callie, the First Muse, has startling, bright red hair. It’s not just a vibrant and attractive shade of hair, but symbolizes the power of creative vision and the dark side of being blessed – or cursed – with the ability to see things that no one else can see.

Callie’s hair isn’t just a reflection of her sunny spirit, it’s also a warning that incurring the wrath of a Muse could be dangerous.

Callie’s inner fire is the fire of creativity, fueling artists, musicians and writers with feverish inspiration. Her promise is that, though they might be consumed by the inner fire that drives them, they’ll also rise from the ashes again and again.

The Red Queen:
In the case of the Red Queen, we see, not a bonfire or an invigorating hearth fire on a cold day, but a forest fire raging out of control, insensible to anything it destroys.

The Red Queen’s fire is the reflection of hell, and the apotheosis of war and chaos.

Spoiler ahead... these waters be teeming with revelations about a character you might wish to discover on your own! Well... don't say I didn't warn you!

On a more obscure note, a flash of red is also seen in connection with Lady Witherspoon, who wears a deep red choker. Lady Witherspoon is French by birth. Red ribbons were worn by the relatives of French aristocrats who’d been guillotined during the Reign of Terror.

In morbidly romantic fashion, ‘Bals des victims,’ or victims’ balls were allegedly held, where red ribbons were worn around the neck, signifying the wearer’s connection to a victim of the Reign of Terror.

The implication, in the book, is that Lady Witherspoon is undeniably of aristocratic or even royal extraction. The further implication, though, is that she might very possibly not be altogether human. Because, of course, if the Bals des victims occurred in 1795, she’d be several centuries old in our time.

Of course, she might just be paying a very extended tribute to her lost relations on her scandalous family tree. Perhaps.

Random Magic Trivia

In the spirit of what this day is... Random Magic Day I present you with something very neat. Here is some interesting Random Magic Trivia!

* The name of the artist, Rasa Oddvilla, is an anagram for Salvador Dalí.

* The Floating City can be considered to be allegorical.

* Only 2000 copies of the first edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland were printed, then discarded as waste paper.

* “Two fathoms” refers to Mark Twain.

* Anagrammatic homage to Douglas Adams in -- Ch. 42, of course.

* Ergot-tainted rye can cause hallucinations. Historians suggest that ergot-tainted rye was the spur for the Salem Witch Trials in 1692.

* Guédé is a voodoo entity; he guards the gates of the cemetery, and is privy to all the secrets of the dead. He's also known as Baron Samedi. Although he is a much-feared entity, he has a wicked sense of humor. He is fond of children, and will sometimes intervene to spare the life of a dying child.

* The invention of the word game of "doublets" is attributed to Lewis Carroll.

* Hypatia of Alexandria was a mathematician and the victim of a political assassination -- she was torn to pieces by a mob in 415A.D.

* Professor Literati's eyes are the color of absinthe, a drink which was popular with artists, writers and poets in the 19th century. Absinthe is also referred to by the moniker "The Green Fairy."

* Gone is the feline retort to the paradox of Schrödinger's Cat. He's rumored to be related to the Cheshire Cat, but we can find no definitive proof.

* The nickname "Wiggy" refers both to Beethoven and to Ludwig II of Bavaria, a/k/a the Swan King, the Dream King, and, natch, the Mad King of Bavaria.

* Mort = la mort (death, Fr.)

* Nyx is the goddess of night.

* Charon is the ferryman of the dead. The ancient Greeks buried loved ones with a silver coin under their tongues for Charon, to ensure safe passage.

* Moirtha the cook (one of the Wyrd sisters, related to the Norns) is one of the Moirai.

* Nevermore is named for the well-known poem, "The Raven," by Edgar Allen Poe.

* The book Winnie and Henry read in the library is Der Struwwelpeter, a ghastly/funny children's book of cautionary tales published in 1845. Mark Twain translated the book into English in 1891.

* The woman in the Garden of the Nine Muses is actually a tarot card representing hidden knowledge.

Book Review - Sasha Soren's Random Magic

Random Magic by Sasha Soren
Published by: Beach Books, LLC
Publication Date: November 16, 2008
Format: Kindle Edition, 420 Pages
To Buy

The family solicitor has been called because Henry has been missing for three weeks. The usual suspects have been gathered and then a strange little girl with blond hair and a pinafore appears out of nowhere. She is, without a doubt, Alice, from the beloved children's classic. Alice explains that Henry is where Henry should be, where he went years ago when Alice herself was misplaced by Professor Random, a teacher at Henry's school. She then recounts the tale of how Henry saved the world by finding her. One night Henry was out of bed late and ended up hiding from the head mistress in Professor Random's classroom. Random himself shows up quite distraught because he had just popped into Alice in Wonderland to have tea with Alice and somehow he inadvertently lost her, because he foolishly used a first edition for his literary escapade. He pleads with Henry to find Alice because if she disappears forever the world will be destroyed because there is no book that has had a greater influence on children then Alice's book has. Henry gets handed an hourglass and a compass to find his way back, gets doused in fairy dust and ends up in the wrong book, without the compass to bring him back. But as Random sees it, perhaps he was supposed to be in Myths and Legends, not Wonderland.

Henry falls straight into the middle of a mob scene. At the center is Winnie a doodle witch who Henry kind of saves and then flees with. Lucky for Winnie Henry showed up and lucky for Henry Winnie seems to know her way around this bizarre world Henry has fallen into. After fleeing villagers with pitchforks and navigating the white forest, crossing a chasm barred by riddles and entering the block forest they ride the back of a whatwolf and spend some time with vampires straight out of a Charles Addams cartoon. From the castle of the De Morgue's to the home of the Muses, from submarines to Pirates, from floating cities to vicious chess matches to evil witches, they must brave the vast unknowns in the hope that by tea time they will find a little girl in a blue pinafore somewhere in this wilderness.

Henry, in a very Arthur Dent move tries to save the world by tea time in his pajamas. Of course to save the world he must first find Alice, who is missing from Wonderland. Those two sentences embody for me what is at work in this book... other books all mashed together to make something new... something that doesn't quite work for me. There's obviously Lewis Carroll, but there are so many different authors at play and homages that it's hard to find Sasha Soren's voice. From characters disappearing, like in Fforde's Eyre Affair, to pirates reminiscent of Walter Moers' Captain Blue Bear, to just out and out re-imaginings of scenes from Labyrinth to Alice in Wonderland to Harry Potter... I could just not get past this literary mash-up of randomness. I think I might have accepted the vast array of references if not for two glaring problems. The lack of plot and the lack of definition of place. This book is what the title implies, random. The overall arc is the tenuous thread of finding Alice, but there's just too much time spent going through these weird vignettes of bizarre folk and there overly clever banter peppered with literary allusions. I will say that sometimes the banter is well written, but it is overall so nonsensical that you don't care what they are saying and just wish they would get on with it.

But what bothered me most of all was the creation of this world. Alice in Wonderland works because Wonderland is such a very distinct world. There are laws and logic that Carroll created that govern the world, no matter how illogical it seems. There are no laws, there is no logic, and the world is so vastly different from one sector to the next that you can't envision them as part and parcel of a whole world. Plus Wonderland had a distinct time and place. It was a mirror image of the Victorian society that Carroll lived in. Here? I have no idea. What time period is this to take place in? At first I thought Victorian because of the initial set up and the general descriptions. But then there was a reference to a Bentley, which puts this square in the 1920s, at the earliest. But then other anachronisms would pop up, references to The Blair Witch Project, Disney Land, ships with motors, Martha Graham, Cirque du Soleil, The Beatles and their Yellow Submarine, Greenpeace, Bingo grannies, Douglas Adams and neon (yes I kept track). These would break into the world she was trying to create, like little seeps of other time periods, and while an author like Terry Pratchett can make this work, because it fits in the (disc)world he has created, it doesn't work here. There needs to be something fixed in this world to make it believable to some extent. Wonderland is believable, this world is not.

In the final analysis, this book is not suited to my tastes. With no structure and no driving force there was no reason, other than this post, to keep reading. Other people might enjoy the witty dialogue and the vignettes of weirdness, but I was just rankled by the Carroll rip offs. There is homage and there is rewriting. Sasha Soren has just re-purposed parts of Alice in Wonderland. Using lines of dialogue and scenes to make it all self referential. This makes it less her story and more just a bad parody. If these were eliminated I think the book would be more it's own creation. You can never do it better than Carroll so why try? Create a loving homage, switch it up, don't use the same material from rote. Do what Lynn Truss did in her short story, Tennyson's Gift, about Charles Dodgson, mirror, reflect, don't copy. Or look to Return to Oz! In one breath a loving tribute, but in another, a horrific nightmare that could have easily happened to Dorothy. Sasha Soren could one day be a great writer, I truly feel that, which I think is why this book so disappointed me.

The Guild Season 3, Episode 12: Hero

Season finale times folks! Best cliffhanger EVER!

<br/><a href="" target="_new"title="'The Guild' Episode 12: Hero">Video: 'The Guild' Episode 12: Hero</a>

Monday, November 23, 2009

Terry Pratchett 2010 Challenge!

So how cool is this... The Reading Adventures Blog is hosting a Terry Pratchett reading challenge for the coming year (coming year starting December 1st!) I am so there! I love Terry Pratchett and have been trying to read all his books in order (I'm currently on number 21, Jingo). Could there be any better way to get my ass in gear and read some more? I don't think so and I'm now super hyped!

Here is the official patter from Marg's website:

"If you have been reading my blog for any length of time, you will probably be aware that I am something of a sucker for reading challenges. One thing I have never done though is hosted a challenge but all that is about to change!

I mentioned in my blogiversary post that I was going to be hosting my first ever challenge, so now it is time to reveal the details!

I have been reading Terry Pratchett for years. I have distinct memories of being on a bus in Adelaide more than 15 years ago and having other passengers looking at me very strangely because I was laughing out loud at something I had read in a Pratchett novel. I read a number of his books and then stopped, I think mainly because I went off traveling and stopped reading full stop. I always intended to come back to them.

Over the last few years I have read a couple of Discworld novels, but not as many as I would have liked. As far back as March 2007 I blogged about the possibility of reading the Discworld series in its entirety, but it never happened. You know that means just one thing! Time for a Terry Pratchett reading challenge!

The challenge will start from 1 December 2009 and run through to 30 November 2010. There are several different levels of participation for you to choose from:

1-3 books - Cashier at Ankh-Morpork Mint
4-5 books - Guard of the City Watch
6-8 books - Academic at the Unseen University
9-10 books - Member of Granny Weatherwax's Coven
10-12 books - Death's Apprentice

You can either be reading the books for the first time, rereading, or even watching the TV adaptations if you like! As long as everyone has fun I will be happy! Please also do not feel limited to only reading the Discworld books as any books by Terry Pratchett will count for this challenge.

For a full list of the Discworld books in publication order, check out this page on the author's website for his page at Fantastic Fiction. The number of books either written by Terry Pratchett or about his work is a bit mind boggling really.

Each month, I will put a Mr Linky up so that you can link your reviews or Pratchett posts if you want to do more general posts say on individual characters, places, events etc.

To sign up just leave a comment on this post with a link to your intro post if you do one. I look forward to seeing what people post about over the next 12 months."

Well I'm ready to go and I will not settle for anything less than Death's Apprentice! (Also for all those people who've doubted me when I said that Pratchett's Young Adult novels don't count in the overall Discworld cycle... look to his website, what's that you see... they're counted! Doubt me no more!!!)

Tuesday Tomorrow

Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton
Published by: Harper
Publication Date: November 24th, 2009
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"From one of the best-loved authors of all time comes an irresistible adventure of swashbuckling pirates in the New World, a classic story of treasure and betrayal.

The Caribbean, 1665. A remote colony of the English Crown, the island of Jamaica holds out against the vast supremacy of the Spanish empire. Port Royal, its capital, is a cutthroat town of taverns, grog shops, and bawdy houses.

In this steamy climate there's a living to be made, a living that can end swiftly by disease—or by dagger. For Captain Charles Hunter, gold in Spanish hands is gold for the taking, and the law of the land rests with those ruthless enough to make it.

Word in port is that the galleon El Trinidad, fresh from New Spain, is awaiting repairs in a nearby harbor. Heavily fortified, the impregnable harbor is guarded by the bloodthirsty Cazalla, a favorite commander of the Spanish king himself. With backing from a powerful ally, Hunter assembles a crew of ruffians to infiltrate the enemy outpost and commandeer El Trinidad, along with its fortune in Spanish gold. The raid is as perilous as the bloodiest tales of island legend, and Hunter will lose more than one man before he even sets foot on foreign shores, where dense jungle and the firepower of Spanish infantry stand between him and the treasure. . . .

Pirate Latitudes is Michael Crichton at his best: a rollicking adventure tale pulsing with relentless action, crackling atmosphere, and heart-pounding suspense."

So, despite being surrounded by friends who dislike him, I must proudly say, I love Michael Crichton! He is one of the reasons I became such a bibliomanic... instantly devouring his whole back catalog once I was able to find all the books (Electronic Life being the one that was elusive for so long, but an old computer manual does not a trilling book make). Anyway, this book was found on his computer after his sudden death from Cancer. No one knows when it was written, but I don't care really! It's a new Crichton novel when I thought I'd never get another. Even if it's not his best it will make me fondly recall all the wonderful hours spent reading his books. Sure I haven't really loved a book of his since Prey, but when this man was on, he was on! So, in anticipation of cracking open the spine of his latest novel I bring you my favorite of his books:

5) The Lost World - Any book that starts out with the line from The Princess Bride: "He was only mostly dead" is wonderfully amusing to me. Plus, Michael wrote this for Spielberg to make a sequel for the successful Jurassic Park, and then what does Spielberg do? Not use the book at all and make a total piece of crap. Dinosaurs on the mainland? Youngish overly athletic adopted daughters? Total BS! Plus the forced watching of this by Amtrak as the only other form of entertainment besides Leave it to Beaver, the edited version, makes my blood boil! Yes it's been over ten years... guess what? Still bitter! Also I'm now oddly concerned that my computer has a secret agenda... why is Spielberg in the spellcheck?

4) Sphere - Creepy under water dealings with possible aliens, will keep you up late into the night to see what is going on. The movie did not do it justice.

3) Congo - Wonderfully creepy African adventure, which again was destroyed by filmmakers. Once Jurassic Park was a hit, every Crichton book was pulled off the shelf and given a make over in film, and most were horrendous. This I think was the worst. They took a logical scenario, of an ape who can learn sign language and her interpreter and made the interpreter her nanny and had her have a speaking glove! "Amy sad, Amy, Amy, crap!" (Say it in a bad femalish/childlike computer voice).

2) Travels - This non fiction book is fascinating. The best part in my mind though is his description of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, it inspired me to maybe one day do the same. To see the curve of the Earth from solid ground, just awe inspiring.

1) The Great Train Robbery - His best movie AND book! Well, he did adapt the book himself, so no surprise there that it was therefore good. The book is just a fascinating portal into Victorian England and just an amazingly detailed plotting of a heist. Plus, awesome movie with Sean Connery, Donald Sutherland and Lesley-Anne Down. Makes all other movie heists pale in comparison!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Spotlight: Richard Armitage

Name: Richard Armitage

First Impression: North and South. Richard's John Thornton is sexier the Mr. Darcy BY FAR! I'm sorry Colin Firth, but your hold over my heart has waned... how can your wet shirt compete with the scene at the train station? See, you can't...

Lasting Impression: Vicar of Dibley. If you're going to marry my Vicar, you better leave a lasting impression! A wonderfully bookish bloke, plus he'd marry Geraldine even if she was just in her pajamas! (Which, incidentally, she was).

What else you've seen them in: Well, despite being in the horrid Star Wars prequel, he's gone on to achieve lasting fame. Aside from that whole John Thornton obsession that's griped all I know, he's gone on to many mysteries, from Lynley to George Gently, Marple to Malice Aforethought. But his two most memorable roles are probably Guy of Gisborne in the now defunct Robin Hood and Lucas North on Spooks (MI-5 stateside).

Can't believe it's them: Star Wars! Sure it's a Naboo fighter pilot, but still, Star Wars!

Wish they hadn't: Again, Star Wars... he was in a movie with Jar Jar! Enough said, because the less said, the better.

Bio: Well, all you really need to know is that he's developed such a strong fan base the are literally an army! The Armitage Army is one of the most prolific and powerful of fan sites in the world. Go check it out!

Spotlight: Rafe Spall

I'm starting a new recurring post where I'll be spotlighting the actors and actresses I love the most. Some will be well known, others well known to those who frequently watch the BBC like me. But all the best at what they do! I'll discuss where I first saw them, what made them finally memorable to me, taking them out of the ranks of, "you know that actor in part three of that miniseries" to me actually remembering their name and looking for it in upcoming productions. I will also have a, I didn't realize it was them segment, were apon rewatching a series I will have the "by jove" moment where I realize I knew them longer than I thought I did. There will also be the occasional, I wish they hadn't done that, as well as the obligatory bio and what to look forward to. So here goes, the premiere post of "Spotlight!" Which I thought I'd give a Desperate Romantics slant, because that's what I'm immersed in currently.

Name: Rafe Spall

First Impression: One of the two Andy's in Hot Fuzz, cause talking to them is always an uphill battle. Also great sunglasses.

Lasting Impression: George Emerson in Andrew Davies' A Room With a View (watch it if you haven't seen it!)

What else you've seen them in: From The Chatterly Affair to Dracula, to Wide Sargasso Sea to Desperate Romantics, Rafe has made a name for himself in the costume dramas. But his talents aren't just limited to waistcoats and corsets... he's also stared in more modern period pieces, such as the biopic of Frankie Howerd with David Walliams, and the gritty He Kills Coppers. There is also the modern fair of Hot Fuzz and Cracker.

Can't believe it's them: Remember that really chunky no necked employee at Shaun's work in Shaun of the Dead? That was, surprisingly Rafe Spall! I still can't believe that the tall, good looking man who's been a focal point in recent miniseries is the same as that chunky acne ridden teen who gets turned into a zombie!

Wish they hadn't: Kidulthood... not that it's bad, it's just written by my nemesis, Mickey Smith from Doctor Who, aka Noel Clarke.

Bio: Acting must run in his veins, because his father is none other than Peter Pettigrew, Timothy Spall. In fact his father co-stared with him in A Room with a View as his character's father, Mr. Emerson.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Twilight Time

Well, unless you've somehow found yourself in a cave for the last year or so, I'm sure you know all about the rabid fan following of Twilight. Of course... if you've been in a cave I'm not sure they have Wi-Fi or DSL, so you wouldn't really be reading this then... But suffice it to say, everyone has probably had an encounter with these Twihards... If not, look to your local cinemas today, there will be squealing, fainting and all around swooning, the likes of which The Beatles and Elvis would be jealous of (they also crashed and have made this the best preselling movie of all time). Personally, I enjoyed the first movie enough to be willing to see the second... of course I hated the books. They're absurd, badly and extremely overwritten with florid prose and typos aplenty. But a book that takes a significant investment in time is nothing compared to 90 minutes of fluff you can watch to laugh at. I'm going, I expect to enjoy myself as I climb over the teens who've passed out on the floor from sheer over-excitement. Maybe I should bring some smelling salts? But then again, they would just repeat the swoon... best to leave them unconscious and enjoy the movie in peace. Also for those who have different feelings towards vampires (like Buffy does, if you discount Spike and Angel)... this parody is for you!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Your Favorite Books Brought to Life - Cranford News Redux

Today is just a BBC Miniseries news day. Shortly after I announced that we had an airdate set for Return to Cranford, PBS then followed it up with a DVD release date! On January 19th you could be the proud owner of the next chapter in the village of Cranford. My guess is that they will split the show up onto two consecutive Sunday nights, the 10th and the 17th of January, with the release on the 19th, as they have been known to do in the past. Great news for those who love repeat viewings of classic miniseries, which this is sure to be.

Need more details? Other than the fact it's 180 minutes and will have a 20 minute featurette called "Cranford in Detail." Let's look to the press release for "the official patter":

"Judi Dench, Imelda Staunton, Francesca Annis and Julia McKenzie return in the Emmy-winning drama based on the novels by Elizabeth Gaskell. Miss Matty's house is full of life and bustle. Her dream of having a child in the house has been realized in the birth of Tilly, daughter of her maid Martha and carpenter Jem. Elsewhere, the shadow of the railway still looms, but the line has been halted five miles outside of Cranford - a disaster as far as Captain Brown is concerned.

Meanwhile, as Mr. Buxton returns to town with his son, William, and his niece, Erminia. Miss Matty becomes concerned about another young person - Peggy Bell - who lives in an isolated cottage with her mother and domineering brother. She decides to intervene and engineers an invitation that will bring the four young people together. But when tragedy strikes, she fears she has opened a Pandora's box that Cranford will never recover from."

But not only was there Cranford news today... oh no! We also got Jane Austen Emma news! I recently reviewed (yesterday is recent right?) the new adaptation, indicating that it would be shortly stateside... well the wait to know when is over. I know the wait since yesterday has been unbearable for you! Anyway, the DVD will be out February 9th. Indicating that it will air sometime after Cranford and before the release date, around the 24th (confirmed on their facebook page, and yes, they have a facebook page, kind of shocking) till the 7th, indicating to me that they might be doing some "creative editing" to make it three one hour hour and twenty minute episodes versus four one hour... they do like there "creative editing," having done some heavy handed things in recent memory just to fit it in it's time slot or remove objectionable content... Prime Suspect anyone? Or all Captain Wentworth's scenes in Lyme Regis in the new Persuasion! But that's another rant, not the fun filled, yeah Emma that I'm here to announce. So yeah Emma! Can't wait for the extras either, hopefully that costume special will explain why they made Jodhi May all boxy.

Till the next announcement! I'm sure there can't be anymore today! Can there?

Your Favorite Books Brought to Life - Cranford News

What's that I hear? Could it be really good news for those Cranford devotees out there? Why yes it is. Due to the overwhelming popularity of Cranford, PBS is astonishingly doing something that benefits us viewers. Since when has PBS ever done this? But in a move worthy of a chess appease the masses starting on December 20th Cranford will be repeated till... wait for it... Return to Canford airs on January 10th! Kicking off the new Masterpiece No-Longer-Theater Classics season! Mere days after airing in England we will get the new season, thankfully no longer called Cranford 2. I hate being patient... and luckily for us stateside, PBS is granting us our Christmas wish!

Book Review - Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl

Artemis Fowl: Artemis Fowl Book 1 by Eoin Colfer
Published by: Miramax
Publication Date: April 2001
Format: Paperback, 277 Pages
Rating: ★★★
To Buy

Artemis Fowl is in a dire financial situation, his father is missing and his mother has suffered a mental breakdown, while the Fowl fortunes have dwindled making them (gasp) millionaires. But the conniving boy genius has thought of a fool proof plan to get the Fowls firmly ensconced back in the billionaires club. Artemis, along with Butler and Butler's wrestling loving younger sister, Juliet, are going to con the fae. Step one is easily accomplished, getting one of the fae's personal books that has all their cultural and magical knowledge. Step two takes some time, but it doesn't take long for a boy with a mind like Artemis' to crack the book's code using a little bit of imagination with a little Egyptian hieroglyphics and a lot of computer skills. The final step takes even longer, waiting for the right time and place...but eventually they find a fairy low on power and kidnap her to hold for ransom. Because Artemis' end goal is he just wants the Leprechaun's gold...and not that gold of legend, but the LEP squad's ransom fund. Because the fae have not been hiding underground wasting their time living in the past. Oh no! Shalali carrying and pot o'gold toting fairies are a thing of the past. They've got the newest in technology with everything from computers to strap on wings. They are techno fairies in the extreme, with Foaly, their centaur, as their one stop IT squad. The fairy that Artemis happens to capture is none other than Holly of the LEPrecon division of underground police. She's the squad's first female officer and she's got to do her best. So getting captured is not exactly something that will keep her employed for long, especially after that night's incident in Italy with the troll. Luckily her boss, Commander Root holds a soft spot for Holly and he and Foaly make it their goal to get her back safely. The stakes set, the two parties converge on Fowl manner outside Dublin. This is a simple hostage negotiation like any other, only with fairies. Each side tries to one up or out smart the other, but in the end can they both get what they want? Will they work together or back-stab each other? And can Artemis really do what has never been done by any mortal before?

As other reviewers have aptly stated, this is Die Hard with fairies. Take away all the magic and it's a very simple hostage plot. Now add back in the techno savy fairies and you have a book that took me a really long time to get into. My problem was I really like Artemis and his evil machinations, but the fairies just pissed me off. There is so much time spent on the minutiae of the fairies' gadgets that you don't really get to like or know the characters for a long time. Plus for a society that is so technologically advanced they spend way to much time harping on the destruction that the "Mud People," aka humans, wreak on the world. Isn't it all the cars and computers and electronics that cause this destruction...the same things the fairies are using IN ABUNDANCE under the Earth's crust? Hypocritical much? I think unless these are run differently than our gadgets then the fairies are just as much to blame...and please Eoin Colfer, do not take this as an invitation to explain in even more detail pointless fairy techobabble!

I picked this book up in anticipation of the new Hitchhiker's book that Colfer wrote. I was going to a signing of his (you can read all about how that went here), and I wanted to be mildly informed of his other works. Plus I really wanted to see what kind of writer he is and how his style might lend itself to Adams' writing style. I think it might work...I probably will pick up a few more books in this series down the road too, after I read And Another Thing. Because despite almost putting down this book several times, once the hostage standoff started I began to enjoy myself, which I didn't think I would. While the technojargon got to be too much, the characters did become interesting. The fairies kind of went from overly annoying to more just there, but the humans, fascinating! Artemis is so complex. He's such a wounded traumatized genius with parental issues. I kept thinking he was of a Joss Whedon ilk, the likes of Warren Meers or Fray's twin brother. I'm really interested to see how he matures and what kind of evil genius he becomes...extremely evil or Dr. Horrible evil? Plus the "files" indicate that his ways are not quickly mended. Bring on the evil!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Another Emma Adaptation

Based on the book by Jane Austen
Release Date: November 30th, 2009 (Region 2), TBD (Region 1)
Starring: Romola Garai, Johnny Lee Miller, Michael Gambon, Jodhi May, Tamsin Greig, Blake Ritson, Christina Cole
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy (UK)

You may remember back in August I had a mini rant about the Andrew Davies Emma Adaptation. This was a very flawed adaptation, but I don't think anyone could have succeeded given only 90 minutes to tell the story and labored with a creepy Mr. Knightly. But lucky for us Austen fans the BBC loves to constantly redo the classics. Therefore we've finally been given an adaptation of Emma which had the time to tell the story! Four glorious episodes, four glorious hours so that they don't relegate Mr. Woodhouse to a chair and only vaguely reference him (which once you cast Michael Gambon, you'd be hard pressed to do!) I think that this adaptation was the best so far, and for all you naysayers out there, it's an adaptation, of course they're allowed to fiddle with it! And you know what? The little bit of fiddling made Emma that little bit more relatable without deviating from the Austen script.

I'm going to ruminate a little here before becoming lazy and just doing a bullet point yeah/nay list. While every adaptation has Emma as her own little queen of the castle, a spoiled brat who always gets her way and views people as her own private dolls, none have really addressed how this came to be. This adaptation tackled more the psychological impacts of great events on the characters. All around the same time, the Bateses lost all their money, the first Mrs. Churchill died and Emma's own mother died. While we learn about this stuff in the book, more as just bare facts, they never really go into the impact. The Bateses, besides losing everything, loose the little girl they love. Frank is sent away from the person who loves him most and Emma and her sister become shut-ins due to their father's paralyzing fear that he might loose them too. These are all profoundly sad incidents that are pushed aside in most adaptations because Emma's a little scheming matchmaker. But the loneliness of these events shape the rest of their lives. Then when Emma, through her own doing, loses Mrs. Weston, the woman who became her mother, she is truly alone. She might be the queen of the castle, but it's a sad castle with a shut-in she loves dearly, but a shut-in none the less. This adaptation brings a little humanity to Emma by showing her as coping bravely with the loneliness of her life by being outgoing and scheming. While Austen purists might say "but that's not the book." Who's to say really? There is nothing done in this adaptation that isn't supported by the text! Emma, despite her youth, never leaves home, never leaves her father, so she has never seen anything but her own little world consisting of Highbury. A lonely existence no matter how little there was to distress or vex her. I can't help but also wonder about how much Jane Austen actually put of herself in Emma. A character Austen was quoted as saying: "no one but myself will much like." Perhaps she, in her close family circle was very much like Emma, all show with an undercurrent of sadness.

Things I loved:
Mr Woodhouse's clothing. He looked like Frank Lloyd Wright ready to brave the elements. Totally hilarious.

Johnny Lee Miller. He's a quite, kind of goofy Mr. Knightly. But you really believe he would take care of his estate and property, as well as his people well.

Romola Garai's smile. Just infectious, mischievous and totally Emma!

When Harriett, as a Greek maiden, steals Elton's pencil while trying to maintain her pose. So funny, plus she's so selfconscious while also trying to be unobserved.

Mr. Elton. Blake Ritson was able to out smarm Alan Cumming! That alone is worth the watching of this miniseries.

The actress Christina Cole's (Mrs. Elton's) character was murdered in the TV Show Hex by the actress who plays Jane Fairfax... too, too funny... and yet somehow completely appropriate!

Mr. Woodhouse and Doctor Perry's scene with the cake at the Weston wedding. And to think Doctor Perry took the leftovers home!?!

Box Hill. Never has there been a more awkward outing!

I want the Woodhouse's house. The gardens in back are so pretty and just a little Georgian.

Mrs. E on a donkey! Don't need to say more, it's just that. Mrs. E + Donkey = Hilarity!

Christina Cole as Mrs. E. She could have pushed it further, but I think this problem was all in the writing.

Mrs. Weston's clothes. They were very boxy and stiff. I'm not sure if this was due to how she would "fill out" later on or just to show her lower rank.

Mr. John Knightly...funny, yes, slightly mean, most definitely.

Mr. Knightly dances with Harriet. This was just not set up right, like the slight on her was not so obvious and therefore tried to compensate with a few too many significant glances.

Mrs. Bates. One line at the end? What the hell? She was like a piece of furniture, never used but always lugged around. More of a prop piece for her belabored daughter than a character in the show.

People who complain the vernacular was too modern (this being a problem I have with other bloggers and reviewers!) It was the book's dialogue people! Like those people I sat behind in the theater when I went to the Gwyneth version of Emma, "that ending was SOOO Hollywood!" WTF! It's so Austen!

And a final note, it has been confirmed that this is part of the 2010 Masterpiece Classic lineup!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

In My Mailbox

So here I am prattling on yesterday about how excited I am for the new Theodosia book and what should arrive in my mailbox today? That's right! Thanks to felicitous serendipity I have the new Theo book in my hands. (Also felicitous serendipity goes by the name of Houghton Mifflin if you were interested). So many hard decisions now... should I abandon what I'm currently reading and go for Theo or should I wait, finish what I'm reading then do a quick re-read of all the previous Theo books and then crack open the new one... such a hard decision... how ever will I decide... as she reaches for Eyes of Horus...

The Guild Season 3, Episode 11: LAN Off

<br/><a href="" target="_new"title="'The Guild' Episode 11: LAN Off">Video: 'The Guild' Episode 11: LAN Off</a>

Monday, November 16, 2009

Doctor Who - Waters of Mars

Time Lord victorious... but remember pride goes before the fall and the 10th Doctor's song is coming to an end... no matter how much I hope that it wouldn't. In the third of the much touted Doctor Who specials that are bringing the 10th Doctor's time with us to an end we finally get a somewhat relevant special. I have, personally, never been a fan of the Russell T. Davies specials. He seems to be under the delusion of us wanting to see some sort of variation on disaster movies, like The Towering Inferno. Therefore the specials are usually fluff, not very important in the canon, roll out the guest stars (Kylie anyone) add some fire and let's see what happens. Until now. "The Waters of Mars" was oddly good, closer to the dreamed of 5th season instead of cramming all the guest stars possible into David Tennant's few remaining episodes. Of course there is the obligatory guest star with Lindsay Duncan, but I doubt many people are going, "OMG, it's Servilia of the Junii from Rome!" Or likewise, "Lady Bertrum from the worst ever adaptation of Mansfield Park"... except for me of course... But the action, obviously, takes place on Mars. (This episode will air stateside on the 19th of December)

Coming up in the next paragraph, as River Song would say: "Spoilers!"

Lindsay Duncan plays Adelaide, the head of Bowie Base One, the first off planet colonization of humans. The thing is, like Pompeii, what happens on November the 21st, 2059 is a set point in time. The Doctor can't interfere. Of course, he did interfere with Pompeii, and of course it turned out that he had to cause it. But the chain of events is already in motion here. The Doctor must leave. Whatever caused the destruction on Bowie Base on this day must be allowed to happen. Adelaide's death is a fixed point that will shape history. But the Doctor makes a terrifying choice, and choice that could change everything. The Doctor is who he is because he obeys the laws of time, the laws of his people. But he comes to the conclusion that if he is the last, there's no one there to say he's wrong. He decides to save those he can. The horror he faces as he walks away and hears the agonizing death screams of the crew make him snap. Even though he has to walk away, he doesn't. This one act leads him to be above all, to no longer be a monitor of time, but the master of it. Nothing stands in his way... he could save Rose, he could save Donna, he could no longer be alone. Nothing stands in his way except Adelaide. She who realizes the mania that has taken ahold of him. She who realizes that he thinks he's better than everyone. She stops him.

With Adelaide's death the Doctor realizes that he has gone too far. He was on the path to becoming the master. The fear of his impending death has him so scared that he's lashing out at time itself. He knows the inevitable is here. I think this is the best special so far, in that it actually tells an important story. This is a Doctor we've never seen before. He never turns his back. We see the desperation that has gripped the Doctor. He knows he can't stop what's coming, and though he should have left this fixed point on Bowie Base alone, the mania that gripes him seems to indicate that he believes that perhaps, if he can change what should and couldn't be changed, perhaps his future will be different as well. But when the realization hits that it's the end of the line, as he kneels in the snow and pleads to Ood Sigma... I hope his final story is worthy of what a great Doctor he was.

Also for you Doctor Who freaks out there, anyone else notice that one of the crew was also on a Sarah Jane episode? "Warriors of the Kudlak" anyone? And if you religiously watch Confidential... Russell is SO wearing Steed's coat from The Avengers, and Danny Hargreaves eventually makes an appearance near the end describing the 14ft explosion he rigged. And as a final treat... the trailer for the end...

Newer Posts Older Posts Home