Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Farwell Hitch

Well, my month long tribute to Hitch has come to an end, as Oz, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer would say, it was a whole lot of hoot and just a little but of nanny. I'm sad I wasn't able to get around to re-reading Rebecca, but I did read three books I haven't, so yeah for new and the old will have to be revisited later... perhaps next August? But, for a little dose of Rebecca, here's an awesome sketch from That Mitchell and Webb Look, which I think not only shows the dynamic of two great Hollywood forces battling it out to create a classic of cinema, but also the best Miss Danvers impersonation ever.

And finially... there is that whole giveaway. The winner of the Hitchcock movie of thier choice is... Ladytink_534!
Thanks to everyone who entered and I hope to see you here again! It's been a hoot (haha, yes ok, I know it's not that funny).

The Guild Season 4 Episode 7: Awkward Bithday

<a href="http://www.bing.com/videos/browse?mkt=en-us&from=&vid=e48c3602-79f4-4de5-a95d-daff4afe1d6f&from=en-us&fg=dest" target="_new" title="Season 4 - Episode 7 - Awkward Birthday!">Video: Season 4 - Episode 7 - Awkward Birthday!</a>

Monday, August 30, 2010

Tuesday Tomorrow

Blameless (The Parasol Protectorate Book 3) by Gail Carriger
Published by: Orbit
Publication Date: August 31st, 2010
Format: Paperback, 384 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"Quitting her husband's house and moving back in with her horrible family, Lady Maccon becomes the scandal of the London season.

Queen Victoria dismisses her from the Shadow Council, and the only person who can explain anything, Lord Akeldama, unexpectedly leaves town. To top it all off, Alexia is attacked by homicidal mechanical ladybugs, indicating, as only ladybugs can, the fact that all of London's vampires are now very much interested in seeing Alexia quite thoroughly dead.

While Lord Maccon elects to get progressively more inebriated and Professor Lyall desperately tries to hold the Woolsey werewolf pack together, Alexia flees England for Italy in search of the mysterious Templars. Only they know enough about the preternatural to explain her increasingly inconvenient condition, but they may be worse than the vampires -- and they're armed with pesto. "

I really don't know how I've been able to hold out for this third installment! I don't know how I can even wait till tomorrow!!! And how will I handle the wait for books four and five? Also, pesto, ewww, me and pesto, oh, we do not get along.

The Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices Book 1) by Cassandra Clare
Published by: Margaret K. McElderry
Publication Date: August 31st, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 496 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"Magic is dangerous—but love is more dangerous still.

When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.

Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What’s more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.

Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by—and torn between—two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length . . . everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world. . . . and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all."

Look at that steampunky goodness of a cover, plus Cassandra Clare, I know what book I want to get!

Spy Glass by Maria V. Snyder
Published by: Mira
Publication Date: August 31st, 2010
Format: Paperback, 432 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"After siphoning her own blood magic in the showdown at Hubal, Opal Cowan has lost her powers. She can no longer create glass magic. More, she's immune to the effects of magic. Opal is now an outsider looking in, spying through the glass on those with the powers she once had, powers that make a difference in the world.

Until spying through the glass becomes her new power. Suddenly, the beautiful pieces she makes flash in the presence of magic. And then she discovers that someone has st olen some of her blood—and that finding it might let her regain her powers. Or learn if they're lost forever… "

The third book in the Maria V. Snyder's Glass series, and I can't count how many people I know who view this and her other series as their favorites.

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
Published by: Harper Teen
Publication Date: August 31st, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals’ glamours.

But Evie’s about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

So much for normal."

Yeah, I know, I shouldn't be going, ooooh, pretty cover, me want... but the synopsis sounds good too... we'll see...

Radiance by Alyson Noel
Published by: Square Fish
Publication Date: August 31st, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 192 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"Riley has crossed the bridge into the afterlife—a place called Here, where time is always Now. She has picked up life where she left off when she was alive, living with her parents and dog in a nice house in a nice neighborhood. When she’s summoned before The Council, she learns that the afterlife isn’t just an eternity of leisure. She’s been assigned a job, Soul Catcher, and a teacher, Bodhi, a possibly cute, seemingly nerdy boy who’s definitely hiding something. They return to earth together for Riley’s first assignment, a Radiant Boy who’s been haunting a castle in England for centuries. Many Soul Catchers have tried to get him to cross the bridge and failed. But all of that was before he met Riley . . ."

Alyson Noel, of The Immortals fame, has a new book with ghosts, sounds cool! Plus English castle? I'm in!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Rear Window

Rear Window by Alfred Hitchcock
Based on the story by Cornell Woolrich
Release Date: August 1st, 1954
Starring: James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Raymond Burr
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy
L.B. Jeffries is on the last week of his cast confinement after stepping into the middle of a race track to get the best shot. He's itching to get on assignment and get his lens back in the loop. Also it will be nice to get away from Stella, his nurse, who keeps trying to persuade him that perhaps a nice quiet life settled down to his socialite girlfriend, Lisa Carol Fremont, is just what the doctor ordered. For a man who craves excitement, watching the lovely, lanky, Miss Torso dance about and entertain gentlemen callers can only keep you diverted for so long. The lives of his neighbors, while interesting, lack mystery... until Lars Thorwald takes away many suitcases in the middle of the night and then ties up a large steamer trunk with heavy rope. Instantly sure of foul play it doesn't take long to convince Lisa and Stella as well, even if the police aren't convinced. Soon they are climbing fire escapes and digging up flower beds in Jeff's stead, as he nervously watches from his confining wheelchair. But will a man who has most likely killed his wife and a poor defenseless dog stop at just the two murders? Or will there be more to follow?

This movie is sheer perfection. The dark sense of humor coupled with voyeuristic tendencies is my nirvana. This is easily one of my favorite movies Hitchcock did. Not just the story but the setting. This little microcosm we see where these people are all aware of each others lives but don't interact. We all wonder what our neighbors are up to and here we have a worst case scenario. You also have to ask, if you saw what Jeff saw, would you react the same? Would you try to catch this man or would you just wait for him to leave and forget all about it. Plus, as many reviewers have noted, the struggle in the relationship between Jeff and Lisa is played out in all the windows. There are the newlyweds, Miss Lonelyhearts, the musician, one thing different and that could be Jeff or Lisa's future. There really is no way for me to elaborate more on this film. I've loved it for so long, I will also admit, I built a little shrine to it... backstory on shrine, in high school, we had to do a project on the concept of "windows" and I decided to depict the world outside Jeff's window, so yeah, little obsessed, and don't listen to my friends who said I had "brick" issues... so yes, shrine. I find it's hardest to talk and quantify that which you care for most, so just go watch this movie, the acting, the costumes, the story, it stands the test of time and repeat viewings and is a fitting movie to end the Hitchcock Hoot'nanny on!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Book Review - Cornell Woolrich's It Had to Be Murder

Rear Window and Other Stories by Cornell Woolrich
Published by: Penguin
Publication Date: 1950
Format: Paperback, 176 Pages
Rating: ★★ (Rear Window aka It Had to Be Murder only)
Out of Print

Hal Jeffries has never been one for reading. So when he's laid up in his swelteringly small apartment he doesn't have the solace of books to turn to, instead he turns to his window and the lives of his neighbors. He becomes fascinated with their routines. The young newlyweds who stay out every night who always forget to turn out the light and come rushing back five minutes later to turn it off. The young mother who tarts herself up every night after tucking her son into bed. The devoted husband who waits on his ill wife. But why he keeps her shut up in that hot apartment while the building is under construction and never calls a doctor worries Jeff. But then again, those people and their worries are all he's got. One night the husband's behaviour strikes him as odd. He surveys the surrounding apartments not in the detached way of one under strain but in the highly observant way of a man who has something to hid from those around him. Soon little things start to pile up, curtains drawn, the man sleeping in the living room but never really succumbing to dreams, his glowing cigarette a reminder of his wakefulness. When Jeff realizes that the wife is no longer in residence he calls his friend Boyne who works homicide. There was no time that the wife could have left without him seeing so it has to be murder. But after a perfunctory check, it turns out the wife left town for her health and that's the end of that. Jeff knows that's not the whole story. He sends his manservant Sam over their to investigate this Lars Thorwald. Sam also comes up empty handed. Jeff decides that perhaps Lars can be baited into confessing... just a look would be enough for Jeff. He sends an anonymous note saying he knew what he did, followed with a phone call arranging a time and a place for the "exchange." Jeff thinking that if Thorwald is willing to pay a blackmailer then it's a sure sign of his guilt. But Jeff sees Thorwald leave for the assignation with a gun and he realizes that not only has this man killed once, but he's willing to kill again to cover up his first crime. Can Jeff save himself from Thorwald and prove to Boyne that it had to be murder all along?

It's very hard to find the suspense in a forty page short story. There's not much time for character development and therefore there is no real connection to the characters. It might have been purposeful, that our look into this world of Jeff's is just as sketchy as his glimpse into the world of his neighbors, but still, what Hitchcock later brought to this story was depth. The plot is surprisingly very similar to the film, with many of the same things happening. It's just that Hitchcock was able to give a pacing and a depth that Cornell Woolrich couldn't in those few short pages. We don't even know what Jeff's injury is till the last page and never learn more than his name. How can you feel for Jeff when Thorwald becomes a threat if you know nothing of Jeff. His death would be just another death, nothing traumatic to the reader, just a fact. That is what I feel this story is, just facts laid out one after the other. Some more substantial than others and then it's over. Jeff thinks it's murder, and murder it is. You don't share his journey of discovering, you don't watch with him, you're just told the facts. Perhaps it's just the bare writing style of the times, paring it down to grim, noir details, but I like a little substance in my literature and I love Hitchcock's Rear Window, so perhaps there was no way I could fully get along with the story, but I think I've come to accept that, and we're good with each other.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Guild Season 4 Episode 6: Weird Respawn

<a href="http://www.bing.com/videos/browse?mkt=en-us&from=sharepermalink&vid=f60dc2c6-db30-497f-8186-3453e05f4f8f&from=en-us&fg=dest" target="_new" title="Season 4 - Episode 6 - Weird Respawn">Video: Season 4 - Episode 6 - Weird Respawn</a>

Monday, August 23, 2010

Tuesday Tomorrow

Mockingjay: The Final Book of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Published by: Scholastic
Publication Date: August 24th, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 400 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she’s made it out of the bloody arena alive, she’s still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what’s worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss’s family, not her friends, not the people of District 12. Powerful and haunting, this thrilling final installment of Suzanne Collins’s groundbreaking The Hunger Games trilogy promises to be one of the most talked about books of the year."

Literally THE BOOK of the summer, sadly my summer ends today with school starting... but still, school be damned! MOCKINGJAY!!!

Spider Bones by Kathy Reichs
Published by: Scribner
Publication Date: August 24th, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"A perplexing death in Quebec occupies Dr. Temperance Brennan in Reichs's fine 13th novel featuring the forensic anthropologist (after 206 Bones). The fingerprints of a man who died during autoerotic asphyxiation indicate that the deceased is John Charles Lowery of North Carolina, but Lowery supposedly died in Vietnam in 1968. Unsurprisingly, Lowery's father is reluctant to allow Brennan to reopen old family wounds, but she's determined to find out who's buried in Lowery's grave if Lowery died in Quebec. Brennan heads to Hawaii to seek the help of an old friend at the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), whose mission is to find the remains of American war dead and bring them home. But instead of clarifying matters, Brennan's investigation only raises more questions, including parallel inquiries into a series of shark attacks and escalating island gang violence. Reichs, who once again uses her own scientific knowledge to enhance a complex plot and continually developing characters, delivers a whopper of a final twist."

I really didn't expect any other books to be released today, seeing as most people wouldn't want to share the day with Mockingjay, but I think Bones' friends are different enough that it shouldn't hurt Brennan one bit.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Birds

The Birds by Alfred Hitchcock
Based on the short story by Daphne Du Maurier
Release Date: March 28th, 1963
Starring: Tippie Hedren, Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy, Veronica Cartwright, Suzanne Pleshette
Rating: ★★★
To Buy
Melanie Daniels is picking up a mynah bird for her aunt when she meets Mitch Brenner. As is the nature of this young socialite who is inclined to play practical jokes, she pretends to be a sales associate willing to help Mitch in his search for two love birds for his little sister's birthday. Of course, it's really Mitch who's playing the joke on Melanie, knowing full well about this girl who likes to wander around Italian fountains naked. Melanie, chagrined, decides to one up Mr. Brenner and shows up later at his home with the love birds only to find he's headed to Bodega Bay to spend the weekend with his family. Never one to be deterred, Melanie heads up there to deliver the birds in the most convoluted and confounding manner. Instead of simply driving up to his house she rents a boat to sneak up on their dock and therefore leave the birds as a surprise. Melanie gets the result she was hoping for, Mitch races back to town to meet her... too bad she's attacked by a bird on the way back, marring her triumphant smile. That night she is invited to dinner at the Brenners, where she gets to meet Cathy, the birthday girl, and Mitch's mother, Lydia. After a persistent Cathy insists that Melanie stay for her party the next day, Melanie stays with an ex of Mitch's and Cathy's teacher, Annie. That night at Annie's a bird kills itself against the door. The next day at Cathy's party birds come out of nowhere to harm the children. The attacks become more and more fierce till the Brenners and Melanie take refuge in a house boarded shut mourning the death of Annie and countless others. There is no end in sight of these ever vicious, ever increasing attacks. We are left with a minor victory, they survive the night, but how much longer will they live?

Perhaps the movie by Hitchcock, more than any other, that could be labeled a summer blockbuster, even if this was before JAWS set the standard. What starts out as almost a romantic comedy with a chance meeting soon spirals into death, death and more death, with a side of a man on fire. Hitchcock wanted to employ every special effect of the day, creating a world of feathers and blood. Aside from the shower scene in Psycho, the scene where Melanie waits outside the school for young Cathy while the birds slowly multiple on the jungle gym is one of the most ominous and scary in film history. The reason why it works so well is the counterbalance of the quietly massing birds with the children's innocent singing. In fact, aside from the singing of the children, this movie has no score, adding to the realism and also showing that the idea of birds turning against us is scary enough with their piercing cries that they don't need a Bernard Herrmann orchestra backing to get the blood pumping. But overall, this is not really my favorite movie. The reason is I kind of take glee in the death and destruction. Melanie is a spoiled rich girl, Mitch is a magnetic man whom women flock too, which I can not see for the life of me, Cathy is a spoiled little girl and Lydia is emotionally remote and almost a cold hearted bitch. This cast of unlikable characters being slowly tortured makes me laugh. I know it's some perverse, dark sense of humor that resides in me, I blame my grandparents, but I take joy in the character's pain. Except Annie. I feel bad for her, she doesn't get the man, only death trying to save that which Mitch does love, Cathy. After reading the short story though I can see how Hitchcock's mind was working. Things jump off the page that you then see in Hitchcock's eye. There's the lone telephone booth and the school bus, which Hitchcock surely thought, how about an attack in the telephone booth, and what good is a school bus full of children when you can put a while school in jeopardy. Plus, just as the story, the ending is bleak. They survive, for one last cigarette? For one last drive down the coast? Hitchcock had wanted to end this movie with a shot of the Golden Gate Bridge covered in birds... interesting thought, birds bringing about the end of days.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Book Review - Daphne Du Maurier's The Birds

The Birds and Other Stories by Daphne Du Maurier
Published by: Virago
Publication Date: 1952
Format: Paperback, 320 Pages
Challenge: Thriller and Suspense
Rating: ★★★ (The Birds only)
To Buy
On December the 3rd life changed forever for Nat Hocken and his family. The day before was like any other, he worked at the farm and ate his lunch on the cliffs overlooking the channel. But the birds seemed agitated. That night, the wind came in from the East and turned fall into winter in Cornwall. While he slept soundly next to his wife, he heard a tapping on the glass. Upon opening the window a bird attacked him and flew off. This happened once more, though his wife insisted in her groggy state that it was a dream. But once the children were attacked in the next room his wife became scared as well. Nat spent the night fight the birds off to find fifty little corpses on the floor by morning. After walking his daughter Jill to the school bus stop he decided to stop in at the farm to see if this was a unique occurrence to his family. They had heard nothing, but on his way back to his family, the home service announced that birds were massing all over the country. Nat went home and prepared his house for the coming attack which he could feel coming deep in his bones. They survived the first night, those at the farm weren't so lucky. But how long can they survive with their supplies ever dwindling and the birds become ever more fierce?

While, you can read a lot into this story, such as the east wind being the Communist threat that could arrive at any moment, this was written during the height of the Cold War after all, I found it very interesting in it's post apocalyptic setting. With the small family trying to withstand an unknown force on limited rations in a desolate landscape, this is just like all good horror films, in particular zombie films. Also the scope is what I find interesting. Knowing the story only because of the Alfred Hitchcock movie I assumed the book would be a small coastal town in Cornwall under siege. While this does deal with the horror on an intimate scale with the Hocken family, it is stated that this is obviously a country wide, and perhaps a world wide problem. While no explanation is given for anything, it's the fatalism that leads Nat to smoke his last cigarette that gives it such a bleak, if ambiguous ending. Also anytime something as mundane yet as omnipresent as birds changes to a treat, it speaks to the fears we all possess. Could we die because of something we took for granted as being peaceful turning against us? Could the known become unknown? You can see why this still appeals to readers today, fear of the unknown, and attack by the previously known will always be a real threat, be it zombies or birds.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Guild Season 4 Episode 5: Loot Envy

<a href="http://www.bing.com/videos/browse?mkt=en-us&from=&vid=4fa00bc9-dee9-4994-9db5-b42f0d46a8d7&from=en-us&fg=dest" target="_new" title="Season 4 - Episode 5 - Loot Envy">Video: Season 4 - Episode 5 - Loot Envy</a>

Monday, August 16, 2010

Tuesday Tomorrow

Prospero in Hell by L. Jagi Lamplighter
Published by: Tor
Publication Date: August 17th, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"In this epic sequel to 2009's Prospero Lost, Lamplighter continues the Amberesque adventures of an ancient family caught up in matters of mythic significance. The immortal sorcerer Prospero is missing, sucked into Hell after one of his plans went awry. His far-flung, quarrelsome children have come together for the first time in years to face down the ever-present threat of the Three Shadowed Ones, who hunt them for the legendary magical artifacts they possess. As Miranda, Prospero's ever-dutiful eldest child, struggles to keep her siblings in line, she's repeatedly thrown off guard by a series of unsettling revelations. The only false note is a pivotal scene where a monster rapes a woman to steal her power. The story is convoluted and occasionally overwrought, but the rich imagery, fast pace, and masterful use of mythology make this a real page-turner."

I picked up the first book in this series due to it's haunting cover, and now I can't wait to add this to my shelves as well.

Gossip Girl Manga by Cecily von Ziegesar
Published by: Yen Press
Publication Date: August 17th, 2010
Format: Paperback, 249 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"The original Gossip Girl cast returns in a reimagination of their high school days in which Blair and Vanessa become unlikely roommates! Blair and Serena were BFFs ...until Blair discovered that her boyfriend, Nate, cheated on her with Serena! As if that wasn't enough, Serena then disappeared without a word. Now she's back and trying to make amends with Blair. Too bad Serena's former best friend has no intention of forgiving her. After seeing Serena with her new boyfriend, Dan, Blair intends to respond in kind! Will a photo of Dan kissing Blair put an end to Serena's budding relationship ...? "

They've made Gossip Girl into a Manga. Please stop, my sides hurt from laughing. The tears they won't stop. Seriously, stop it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Jamaica Inn

Jamaica Inn by Alfred Hitchcock
Based on the book by Daphne Du Maurier
Release Date: May 15th, 1939
Starring: Charles Laughton, Maureen O'Hara, Leslie Banks, Robert Newton, Marie Ney
Rating: ★
To Buy
Wreckers are on the Cornish coast, led by Joss Merlyn, proprietor of Jamaica Inn. They leave no survivors and head back to count their loot. Meanwhile Mary Yellen has come to Cornwall from Ireland after the death of her mother to be with her Aunt Patience. But the coachman refuses to stop at Jamaica Inn and she is forced to beg the assistance of the local Squire Pengallan. The Squire is a generous, over the top fop who is eagerly willing to lead a hand to a pretty face. Once he escorts Mary to the Inn she learns that her Aunt and Uncle never received her letter and that she was not expected, especially tonight after a wreck while the men are in high spirits. Mary is sent to her room while the men carouse downstairs. Drunkenly the accost Joss saying that they think they're being shafted, and there should be more money for them. Picking on the newcomer, Jem Trehearne, they decide to string him from the high beams in the Inn. Luckily for Jem, Mary sees whats happening and rescues him and then makes a run for it with Jem. After a night of evading the rowdies, they beg the help of the Squire, who in fact is the last person they should ask, because unbeknownst to them, he is the mastermind behind the Jamiaca Inn wreckers. Jem, despite being the bad man that Mary thinks he is, turns out to be on the pay of her majesties secret service. The Squire, in a fit of megalomania, decides to see how this will play out, playing both sides of the fence. Eventually fleeing with Mary will he be able to make it out of the country before he is found out?

After this abysmal film, which it must be said, it is, Daphne Du Maurier almost withheld the rights to Rebecca. It's patently obvious why. This travesty of a film made to cater to Charles Laughton's egomania lacks the suspense and nuance of Du Maurier's book. If shown one and then the other, you could barely recognize this movie as having come for the source material. There is no mystery, no suspense, and there is no feeling that this is a Hitchcock film. This could in fact be worse than Marnie, which until now was my most hated Hitchcock film, but at least that had some substance. This was just a headlong rush of wreckers throwing themselves into danger and waiting for the evil genius to be caught. Charles Laughton played the Squire as if he was a Bond Villain, but with all Regency foppery and absurd eyebrows. If I was Du Maurier and saw how they had destroyed my masterpiece I would be furious as well. To take a wonderful psychological drama that draws out the mystery slowly and then gives away everything in the first five minutes of the film and then just has chase scenes and fights with Charles Laughton mugging about with no character development or interest lead to a movie I was praying to end. In fact, if not for being duty bound to review this for my Hitchcockian Hoot'nanny I would have turned off the movie about ten minutes in. Though, the thug Harry did intrigue me, he looked like a 19th century version of Prince, I kid you not! But for you I prevailed, mainly so that I can tell you read the book, avoid the movie at all costs, and hope that the BBC decides to redo this as an Andrew Davies miniseries... I have ideas BBC bigwigs! Call me ok?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Book Review - Daphne Du Maurier's Jamaica Inn

Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier
Published by: Avon
Publication Date: 1936
Format: Paperback, 304 Pages
Challenge: Historical Fiction
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy
Mary Yellan abides by her mother's dying wish and leaves her beautiful Helston behind and travels north to the Cornish moors and Jamaica Inn. There she expects to meet her Aunt Patience, the bubbly beauty of memory and her new husband, Joss Merlyn, who runs Jamaica Inn. Instead she finds a shell of a woman and a terrifying brute of a man in a run down inn where travellers dare not stop. If she will do as she's told and not ask questions, all will be well, her Uncle Joss tells her. It's not long till Mary starts to dream of a way out of her situation for herself and her aunt, taking what solace she can from wandering the moors. It's not long till she learns there are more nefarious aspects of Jamaica Inn, like the barred and locked room. On a fateful Saturday night Mary serves as barmaid to Joss and his rowdy friends. Long after she has gone to bed she hears wagons and then men are silently loading cargo in the dead of night. She sneaks downstairs and believes that he Uncle has committed a murder, though she has no proof, just the rope hanging from the ceiling. She decides that the next time her Uncle sets off across the moors she will follow him, come what may. But she becomes lost and stumbles upon the Vicar of Alturn, Francis Davey, a bizarre albino. She unburdens all she believes to be happening at Jamaica Inn to him and returns to the Inn with new hope in her heart because of this alliance. Soon she will have love in her heart as well, as she falls for Joss's younger brother Jem, a rascal and a horse thief. But when her Uncle is in his cups one night she learns the whole dark truth of Jamaica Inn and realizes why her Aunt has the haunted expression, because she now sees it in the mirror looking back at her. But hearing about the horrors and living through them are two separate things. After the horrors of one night it looks like everything will come to a head and Mary doesn't know if she'll survive, or if her survival matters as long as Joss Merlyn is brought to justice.

First off, why have I never read this book? It screams me! Period drama, Bronte-esque characters, but still all oddly modern and not bogged down in overtly "period" language. I just fell into this book and didn't want to leave. Du Maurier is able to so vividly capture the landscape and atmosphere, you can see how Cornwall needed Du Maurier to tell this story and Du Maurier needed Cornwall. There's a symbiotic relationship that feeds off each other and brings out the best in both through this stunning story. While really there is the barest of plots, young, destitute girl forced to live with evil relations and find a way to survive till the day is saved, it's the characters that drive this story forward. By all reckoning, Joss Merlyn should be a repulsive, horrid man, but there's some magnetism about him, you are drawn to this brute. Mary could see why her Aunt fell for him all those years ago. Which is why I think Mary falls for Jem, a purer, untainted version of Joss. I wonder how much of Joss is a distortion of Du Maurier's own larger than life father Gerald... there is so much about Du Maurier's life that makes you wonder, she herself might be just as big a mystery as the stories she wrote. But one thing is certain, I loved this book and this world. I was drawn in, guessing at the inevitable ending looming nearer and nearer, figuring out that the twist was soon to come, but never guessing at the depravity. Read this book, you won't be let down!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Guild Season 4 Episode 4: Moving On

<a href="http://video.msn.com/?mkt=en-us&brand=v5%5E544x306&from=sp&vid=b6bdd68e-c989-4b96-a9c2-a30069e27ba3" target="_new" title="Season 4 - Episode 4 - Moving On">Video: Season 4 - Episode 4 - Moving On</a>

Monday, August 9, 2010

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Agency: The Body at the Tower by Y.S. Lee
Published by: Candlewick
Publication Date: August 10th, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"Mary Quinn is back, now a trusted member of the Agency, the all female detective unit operating out of Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls. Her new assignment sends her into the grimy underbelly of Victorian London dressed as a poor boy, evoking her own childhood memories of fear, hunger, and constant want. As she insinuates herself into the confidence of several persons of interest, she encounters others in desperate situations and struggles to make a difference without exposing —or losing —her identity. Mary’s adventure, which takes place on the building site of the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament, offers a fictional window into a fascinating historical time and place. "

Oh, how my tbr pile keeps growing, but I vow to read the first before picking up the second. Really, I vow... could someone maybe check on me later today to make sure I don't run to the bookstore?

Dracula in Love by Karen Essex
Published by: Doubleday
Publication Date: August 10th, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 384 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"From the shadowy banks of the river Thames to the wild and windswept Yorkshire coast, Dracula’s eternal muse, Mina Murray, vividly recounts the intimate details of what really transpired between her and the Count—the joys and terrors of a passionate affair that has linked them through the centuries, and her rebellion against her own frightening preternatural powers.

Mina’s version of this Gothic vampire tale is a visceral journey into Victorian England’s dimly lit bedrooms, mist-filled cemeteries, and asylum chambers, revealing the dark secrets and mysteries locked within. Time falls away as she is swept into a mythical journey far beyond mortal comprehension, where she must finally make the decision she has been avoiding for almost a millennium.

Bram Stoker’s classic novel offered one side of the story, in which Mina had no past and bore no responsibility for the unfolding events. Now, for the first time, the truth of Mina’s personal voyage, and of vampirism itself, is revealed. What this flesh and blood woman has to say is more sensual, more devious, and more enthralling than the Victorians could have expressed or perhaps even have imagined. "

Yet more Mina... I really think this is the new tread. No more zombies and werewolves and other supernatural beings trust into classics, just Mina Harker and her take on Drac.

Wigs on the Green by Nancy Mitford
Published by: Vintage
Publication Date: August 10th, 2010
Format: Paperback, 192 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"Eugenia Malmains is one of the richest girls in England and an ardent supporter of Captain Jack and the Union Jackshirts; Noel and Jasper are both in search of an heiress (so much easier than trying to work for the money); Poppy and Marjorie are nursing lovelorn hearts; and the beautiful bourgeois Mrs Lace is on the prowl for someone to lighten the boredom of her life. They all congregate near Eugenia's fabulous country home at Chalford, and much farce ensues. One of Nancy Mitford's earliest novels, Wigs on the Green has been out of print for nearly seventy-five years. Nancy's sisters Unity and Diana were furious with her for making fun of Diana's husband, Oswald Mosley, and his politics, and the book caused a rift between them all that endured for years. Nancy Mitford skewers her family and their beliefs with her customary jewelled barbs, but there is froth, comedy and heart here too. "

Out of print for years, due to the fact that she's so deftly skewering her own family, who were not pleased, this is one of the many Nancy Mitford re-releases due to Deborah Mitford's 90th birthday (she of the Duchess of Devonshire and the last remaining Mitford sister).

The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford
Published by: Vintage
Publication Date: August 10th, 2010
Format: Paperback, 240 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"Nancy Mitford’s most enduringly popular novel, The Pursuit of Love is a classic comedy about growing up and falling in love among the privileged and eccentric.

Mitford modeled her characters on her own famously unconventional family. We are introduced to the Radletts through the eyes of their cousin Fanny, who stays with them at Alconleigh, their Gloucestershire estate. Uncle Matthew is the blustering patriarch, known to hunt his children when foxes are scarce; Aunt Sadie is the vague but doting mother; and the seven Radlett children, despite the delights of their unusual childhood, are recklessly eager to grow up. The first of three novels featuring these characters, The Pursuit of Love follows the travails of Linda, the most beautiful and wayward Radlett daughter, who falls first for a stuffy Tory politician, then an ardent Communist, and finally a French duke named Fabrice. "

Nancy's most famous novel and I just have to say, loving the new covers, this is Nancy as a young deb!

Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford
Published by: Vintage
Publication Date: August 10th, 2010
Format: Paperback, 256 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"One of Nancy Mitford’s most beloved novels, Love in a Cold Climate is a sparkling romantic comedy that vividly evokes the lost glamour of aristocratic life in England between the wars.

Polly Hampton has long been groomed for the perfect marriage by her mother, the fearsome and ambitious Lady Montdore. But Polly, with her stunning good looks and impeccable connections, is bored by the monotony of her glittering debut season in London. Having just come from India, where her father served as Viceroy, she claims to have hoped that society in a colder climate would be less obsessed with love affairs. The apparently aloof and indifferent Polly has a long-held secret, however, one that leads to the shattering of her mother’s dreams and her own disinheritance. When an elderly duke begins pursuing the disgraced Polly and a callow potential heir curries favor with her parents, nothing goes as expected, but in the end all find happiness in their own unconventional ways. "

The sequel to The Pursuit of Love, in other words, a must read.

Don't Tell Alfred by Nancy Mitford
Published by: Vintage
Publication Date: August 10th, 2010
Format: Paperback, 240 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"In this delightful comedy, Fanny—the quietly observant narrator of Nancy Mitford’s two most famous novels—finally takes center stage.

Fanny Wincham—last seen as a young woman in The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate—has lived contentedly for years as housewife to an absent-minded Oxford don, Alfred. But her life changes overnight when her beloved Alfred is appointed English Ambassador to Paris. Soon she finds herself mixing with royalty and Rothschilds while battling her hysterical predecessor, Lady Leone, who refuses to leave the premises. When Fanny’s tender-hearted secretary begins filling the embassy with rescued animals and her teenage sons run away from Eton and show up with a rock star in tow, things get entirely out of hand. Gleefully sending up the antics of mid-century high society, Don’t Tell Alfred is classic Mitford. "

Why did I not know until recently that there was a third book in The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate series!?! Why!?! I want to know how this essential piece of information slipped me by!

The Blessing by Nancy Mitford
Published by: Vintage
Publication Date: August 10th, 2010
Format: Paperback, 256 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"The Blessing is one of Nancy Mitford’s most personal books, a wickedly funny story that asks whether love can survive the clash of cultures.

When Grace Allingham, a naïve young Englishwoman, goes to live in France with her dashingly aristocratic husband Charles-Edouard, she finds herself overwhelmed by the bewilderingly foreign cuisine and the shockingly decadent manners and mores of the French. But it is the discovery of her husband’s French notion of marriage—which includes a permanent mistress and a string of casual affairs—that sends Grace packing back to London with their “blessing,” young Sigismond, in tow. While others urge the couple to reconcile, little Sigi—convinced that it will improve his chances of being spoiled—applies all his juvenile cunning to keeping his parents apart. Drawing on her own years in Paris and her long affair with a Frenchman, Mitford elevates cultural and romantic misunderstandings to the heights of comedy. "

And a final Mitford book to round out your week! Gosh, I have a lot of book buying to do...

Friday, August 6, 2010


Vertigo by Alfred Hitchcock
Based on the book by Boileau and Narcejac
Release Date: May 9th, 1958
Starring: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes, Tom Helmore
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy
John "Scottie" Ferguson has left the police force. After the tragic death of his colleague following a criminal through San Francisco's rooftops he has severe agoraphobia. He spends his spare time hanging around his friend Midge's apparent, which she doesn't seem to mind in the least. One day he gets a call from an old college buddy, Gavin Elster, who wants to see him. Gavin wants Scottie to use his spare time to find out what's wrong with his wife, Madeleine. He doesn't know what's wrong with her. He has not taken her to doctors because he fears that she is possessed, as he tells Scottie "Do you think the dead can live again?" Scottie reluctantly agrees to at least see Madeleine. That night at Ernie's Scottie catches a glimpse of Madeleine and there is no doubt he will accept the case. The following day he trails Madeleine from a florist to a grave to a painting in an art museum to a hotel. The painting being the most unnerving, in that the flowers match those in the painting, as does Madeleine's hairdo. What's even stranger is that the portrait is the woman whose grave Madeleine visited earlier in the day. With Midge's help, they learn the history of the woman, Carlotta Valdes, who lived in the hotel Madeleine visited and committed suicide after her lover took their child for his own. When Scottie presents this information to Gavin, it's clear Gavin knew all this and more, as Carlotta is Madeleine's great-grandmother. But Madeleine does not know this, so it can't be an obsession with her family's history. Scottie continues to trail Madeleine and even hauls her out of the bay after an apparent suicide attempt. Scottie now becomes her protector and they start to fall for each other. But soon a fall from a bell tower will end Madeleine's life and Scottie's will be shattered. Time passes and Scottie wanders the streets he walked with Madeleine till one day he sees Judy. Judy, not only looks like Madeleine, but unbeknownst to Scottie, she is the Madeleine he knew, the one hired to help Gavin murder his wife and use Scottie as a pawn. But Judy, instead of running, decides to stay and hopefully get Scottie to love her for her. But all he wants is to turn her back into Madeleine. Can either of them survive this destructive path they are on?

As Hitchcock said, in regard to adapting a book for the screen: "What I do is to read a story only once, and if I like the basic idea, I just forget all about the book and start to create cinema." This is what takes the fairly good book by Boileau and Narcejac with unlikable characters and no real passion, and turns it into a classic of cinema. Hitchcock added mystery to Madeleine by us going with Scottie on his discovery of her "possession." He also gave the characters a love for each other, that made Judy stay for love, not to play out some sick game. But more than anything, with the score and the beauty of San Francisco, we fall under the spell of the story. Instead of watching the headlong rush to oblivion that the book captures so well, we are wound in the web of a story, slowly building and entwining us like the lissajou spirals of the opening credits. Like the book before, being a love letter to Paris, here we have a love letter to San Francisco. This film is the quintessential film of that beautiful city. I don't think that the film would be what it is if Hitchcock himself was not so in love with the city. Plus, there could not be a worse place for an agoraphobic to live, which gives a certain dark jab to the character of Scottie. Of course, I find it interesting how much the film does mirror aspects of Hitchcock's life. His obsession with Grace Kelly could easily be Scottie's obsession for Madeleine. Whatever it was that made the fates align so perfectly for this movie makes me easily proclaim it one of my favorites and now that I've read the book, it's amazing to me how Hitchcock distilled it down and made a classic out of a decent novel.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Book Review - Boileau & Narcejac's Vertigo

Vertigo (The Living and the Dead/D'entre les Mortes) by Boileau and Narcejac
Published by: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: 1956
Format: Paperback, 170 Pages
Challenge: Thriller and Suspense
Rating: ★★★
To Buy
Roger Flavieres begrudgingly went into the police force, but after his partner dies tragically because of his own fear of heights he quits and goes into the law. One day his old school friend Gevigne looks him up because he is in the midst of a very odd situation at home. His wife, Madeleine, seems remote. She has also been behaving very oddly. Gevigne is convinced it has something to do with Madeleine's great grandmother, Pauline Lagerlac, who killed herself. He's not sure what is going on, but thinks the the spirit of Pauline is inhabiting his wife. Flavieres, thinking it perhaps an act of a dissatisfied wife is thrown when he learns that Madeleine knows nothing of Pauline. Intrigued he agrees to trail her. Flavieres instantly becomes obsessed with Madeleine, whose behaviour bears out Gevigne's theory. She sits in a hotel room in a house that Pauline once lived in and often visits Pauline's grave, but not with a sense of someone visiting an ancestors grave, but of someone visiting their home. After Flavieres rescues Madeleine from a suicide attempt by drowning, the same method Pauline used, he decides not to leave her side. But in the fatalistic days leading up to full out war with Germany, Paris is hardly the place to keep a vibrant, young woman in the here and now, versus slipping into some unhappy past. What Flavieres had dreaded from his first loosing his heart to Madeleine comes to pass. On a frantic drive through the country she rushes out of the car and into a church with a tall bell tower. Unable to follow her to such heights, Flaviers cannot stop the inevitable, Madeleine throws herself off the top of the tower. Having lost the woman he loves and with the war beginning, Flavieres leaves. He leaves Gevigne being investigated for his wife's murder, he leaves his practice and he leaves France. Four years later he returns to Paris a broken drunkard. But a new obsession gripes him when he sees a woman in a newsreel who is Madeleine, but isn't at the same time. Rushing to Marseilles he eventually encounters Renee Sourange, Madeleine's doppelganger. Flavieres becomes more obsessed than ever thinking that Renee IS Madeleine. That it is possible for someone to live again. Just as it took awhile for Madeleine to realize she was once Pauline, he is sure that Renee will eventually realize she is Madeleine. But what if the truth is darker than that, not dealing with spirits, but with the connivances of man?

There is no chance while reading this book that you will be able to separate it from the film it became. Vertigo is one of Hitchcock's best films and one of my favorites. But, it is interesting to see what captured Hitchcock's imagination and what he kept and what he discarded. The book is written in a very basic prose with all the facts laid bare before you. At first there is no mystery. Flavieres has all the information handed to him and he just must bear witness to the veracity of Gevigne's observations. It is more Flavieres inner self loathing and self obsession with Madeleine that is the driving force of the book. None of the characters are very likable, and Madeleine does not seem the type of woman to entrance and capture the ferocity of feelings she receives from Flavieres. Once Madeleine "lives again" it's just a waiting game as to who will break first. Will Flavieres drink himself to death? Will Renee admit she is Madeleine? Or is it all in Flavieres head? If you have seen the film, you will know that the outcome is tragic. But the book is even darker, laying the death of Renee not just on Flavieres conscious but, quite literally, on his hands. Instead of Renee staying for any real affection, she just seems to be playing her part a second time and reenacting the earlier mystery to ride herself of Flavieres. The fatalism of life during wartime is perfectly captured in the downward spiral of these two souls who are desperately lost. The original title, The Living and the Dead, or in a more direct translation, Enter the Dead, is more fitting to the book than Hitchcock's title Vertigo. Even if it is that downward spiral that Hitchcock captured in a more mysterious, more visual way. But the tower, the grey dress, the painting, the drawing, the hair... all of it are essential to both. All of it comes together as a fascinating study of man.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Lauren Willig Cover Re-Design

So, a few weeks back, the cover for the new Lauren Willig book was unveiled. You can kind of imagine my shock when it was the above image, and not the type of classy affair us readers have been used to. To paraphrase the angry letter I wrote to Penguin: "Her followers have voiced their dismay at the change in cover design from that of sophisticated elegance, which greatly compliments her writing, to that of a trashy romance novel with a headless heroine, befitting a mass market paperback, not a New York times bestselling author. I would like to bring your attention to the fan hatred of the new cover, expressed on Lauren's site, in blogs and on facebook, and the fact that you will not gain any new readers with a cover that looks just like every other cover out there. Please realize that this change will hurt a very strong and successful franchise and that people do not want a change from beauty to tawdry. Please keep the integrity of this series in tact and get a new cover." Ok, well, that was actually pretty much the entire letter. The thing is, spending so many years in publishing, I know the author seldom, if ever, gets any say in what happens to their books, coverwise or promotionwise. So there's little chance of getting a change, and therefore my "perfect set will be ruined." Ah, I do loving a matching set, and every time Professor Slughorn comments on having the complete set, even if he was collecting "Blacks," I totally agree.

But Lauren, be the amazing, awesome and truly great writer she is thought of a compromise for the fans! How about a cover re-design contest? This couldn't be the cover, but it could be a limited edition fan cover. Seeing as I was already tinkering with the idea of doing this for myself. As I said to myself, Elizabeth, you are a graphic designer, if you don't like the cover, do a new one... in fact, I've often thought it would be fun to do this for lots of books, but I'd never been given the challenge before. Lauren has thrown down the gauntlet, I have picked it up!

Here are some of Lauren's previous covers. Now I wanted to maintain that "set" look. The feel of a collection and a unity in design. So I had a lot of fun it must be said, and I came up with my three entries.

Entry 1:

This is a painting by Jules Bastien-Lepage, who did one of my Dad's favorite paintings at the MET of Joan of Arc, which I couldn't turn down seeing as it's called Flower Seller, and for a series based on spies with flower monikers, too too perfect. The spine and the banner come from the paperback edition of Pink Carnation, while the flowers are from istock, yes I spent a little money on this. I also exact matched fonts, because, you have to have continuity people!

Entry 2:

For this one, the painting I used is Queen Victoria, it's just so pretty! Plus as Lauren said, "Another prescient cover! One of the pivotal scenes in the book involves an artist’s studio, a crimson velvet throw and Laura letting her hair down. " Oh, I can't wait! The Lace on the spine for this one was taken from Night Jasmine, while the binding is all my own work. The orchids are the same from the previous image (different color of course).

Entry 3:

The final one is actually painted by an ancestor of mine, Jules Joseph Lefebvre, and is just so perfect for this, more flowers! The orchids here are also from istock.

So there you go, a little glimpse into my mind, and you might be wondering, why am I interrupting valuable time with Alfred Hitchcock to bring you cover re-designs!?! Well, because now you can go and vote on them! Now I'm not saying to go and vote on mine (*cough, numbers 20, 21 and 22 cough*) but you're totally welcome too! But just go and look at how awesome the other entries are and see how much time and devotion Lauren's fans have to her books. She really is the coolest author, with some of the coolest fans around! So go check it out (*cough 20, 21, 22 cough* Man, I have to get this tickle in my throat looked at!)

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