Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Jane Austen Skateboard AKA The Darcy Deck

While looking for ideas as to what to make for the Jane Austen crafting exchange for the bicentenary of Pride and Prejudice I had with Miss Jessica my eye wandered to this skateboard deck I had had for many years. You might at this time be asking why I had a random skateboard deck just in my office, well, I'll tell you how that came about. A handful of years earlier when I had just started as the secretary of Madison College's Art Club the board thought it would be fun to have a screen printing workshop run by an acquaintance of the club's president. One of his specialties was doing skateboard decks and he offered to sell anyone who wanted one a deck at cost. I couldn't come up with a reason not to get a deck because there were so many interesting designs I saw people doing and I thought it would be fun. It became a fixture in my office that often fell on my foot, usually when I wasn't wearing shoes and as time moved on, more and more of an annoyance that was just taking up space. But then when the crafting exchange came about I knew that the time had comes to use this deck.

One of the first things I remember about Miss Jessica when I met her was that she was a skater. There was a time when I visited her in New York and she was getting back into it and I actually went shopping with her for a new helmet at this way trendy store in Times Square. Why it took this crafting exchange for me to connect my blank deck with a present for her is beyond me. Originally I had this idea of just having her favorite Austen quote done up in fancy hand-lettering that a friend and fellow Madison College student was doing for me but in the end, what with the squareness of the workable area, I decided to go for a more graphic old time advertisement approach similar to a design I had submitted to Madison's Frosty Dog Jog a few years earlier. I already had many of the icons I ended up using from doing The Jane Austen Centre brochure redesign for a class assignment. What I added was not just a story of Jane's life, but many of the recurring jokes that Miss Jessica and I over the years shared about Jane Austen and the various adaptations her work had spawned. This finished design has such jokes as Mr. Hurst's nickname being Fatty Fat Buckle. Seriously, just watch how he "sits" on a couch in the 1995 miniseries and you'll understand why. As for the "Dancing" and "British" you must shout the former when they say it on screen and the latter when a particularly British male dancer appears! The key is usually their teeth.

Originally I was going to do this all by wood burning, and even bought a nifty wood burning kit. The thing is I had never actually done any wood burning up to this point and I was on a tight deadline as I was seeing Miss Jessica in a few weeks and I really didn't have time to master it. Because, to say that my first attempt was dreadful is an understatement. I quickly saw there would be no way to maintain the thin lines and the delicacy of the type. What was interesting though is that the process for transferring the design onto the wood actually looked really good. You print an inversion of your design and then get it photocopied. The key is that it has to be a photocopy because it needs the static and the heat set on the paper which you will then transfer onto the board using the wood burning kit you have not bought in vain. And this looked really cool. Of course because of the wood burning snafu I had had to sand some sections and this distressing that resulted looked even cooler. Therefore I decided to just go with it, distressing some sections, emphasizing others. And yes, I did add gesso. Because, if you haven't guessed by now gesso is one of my most favorite things in the world and can literally be used for and on anything. After the gesso had dried I then sealed the deck and now it hangs proudly on Miss Jessica's wall, showcasing her love of Austen and her love of skateboarding. Two things that you'd think would cancel each other out but just make her that much cooler. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors by Curtis Craddock
Published by: Tor Books
Publication Date: August 29th, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 416 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A delightful and engrossing fantasy debut featuring an intelligent heroine and her guardian, a royal musketeer.

In a world of soaring continents and bottomless skies, where a burgeoning new science lifts skyships into the cloud-strewn heights, and ancient blood-borne sorceries cling to a fading glory, Princess Isabelle des Zephyrs is about to be married to a man she has barely heard of, the second son of a dying king in an empire collapsing into civil war.

Born without the sorcery that is her birthright but with a perspicacious intellect, Isabelle believes her marriage will stave off disastrous conflict and bring her opportunity and influence. But the last two women betrothed to this prince were murdered, and a sorcerer-assassin is bent on making Isabelle the third. Aided and defended by her loyal musketeer, Jean-Claude, Isabelle plunges into a great maze of prophecy, intrigue, and betrayal, where everyone wears masks of glamour and lies. Step by dangerous step, she unravels the lies of her enemies and discovers a truth more perilous than any deception."

Anyone else thinking this sounds so weird it has to be awesome?

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo
Published by: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 29th, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 384 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The highly anticipated, entirely new coming-of-age story for the world's greatest super hero: WONDER WOMAN by the # 1 New York Times bestselling author LEIGH BARDUGO.

She will become one of the world's greatest heroes: WONDER WOMAN. But first she is Diana, Princess of the Amazons. And her fight is just beginning...

Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mere mortal. Even worse, Alia Keralis is no ordinary girl and with this single brave act, Diana may have doomed the world.

Alia just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn't know she is being hunted. When a bomb detonates aboard her ship, Alia is rescued by a mysterious girl of extraordinary strength and forced to confront a horrible truth: Alia is a Warbringer—a direct descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery.

Together, Diana and Alia will face an army of enemies—mortal and divine—determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. If they have any hope of saving both their worlds, they will have to stand side by side against the tide of war."

I don't know which aspect I'm more excited about, that this book is about Wonder Woman or that it's written by Leigh Bardugo...

The Dazzling Heights by Katherine McGee
Published by: HarperCollins
Publication Date: August 29th, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 432 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The sequel to the New York Times bestselling novel The Thousandth Floor.

New York, 2118. Manhattan is home to a thousand-story supertower, a breathtaking marvel that touches the sky. But amidst high-tech luxury and futuristic glamour, five teenagers are keeping dangerous secrets…

LEDA is haunted by memories of what happened on the worst night of her life. She’ll do anything to make sure the truth stays hidden—even if it means trusting her enemy.

WATT just wants to put everything behind him…until Leda forces him to start hacking again. Will he do what it takes to be free of her for good?

When RYLIN wins a scholarship to an upper-floor school, her life transforms overnight. But being there means seeing the boy whose heart she broke, and who broke hers in return.

AVERY is tormented by her love for the one person in the world she can never have. She’s desperate to be with him… no matter the cost.

And then there’s CALLIOPE, the mysterious, bohemian beauty who arrives in New York, determined to cause a stir. And she knows exactly where to begin.

But unbeknownst to them all, someone is watching their every move, someone with revenge in mind. And in a world of such dazzling heights, just one wrong step can mean a devastating fall.

The sumptuous second book in the bestselling Thousandth Floor series has all the drama, romance and hidden secrets that landed the first book in this series at #2 on the New York Times bestseller list."

The masochist in me says bring this on. Why masochist? Because I am SO afraid of heights! 

Glass Houses by Louise Penny
Published by: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: August 29th, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 400 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"When a mysterious figure appears in Three Pines one cold November day, Armand Gamache and the rest of the villagers are at first curious. Then wary. Through rain and sleet, the figure stands unmoving, staring ahead.

From the moment its shadow falls over the village, Gamache, now Chief Superintendent of the Sûreté du Québec, suspects the creature has deep roots and a dark purpose. Yet he does nothing. What can he do? Only watch and wait. And hope his mounting fears are not realized.

But when the figure vanishes overnight and a body is discovered, it falls to Gamache to discover if a debt has been paid or levied.

Months later, on a steamy July day as the trial for the accused begins in Montréal, Chief Superintendent Gamache continues to struggle with actions he set in motion that bitter November, from which there is no going back. More than the accused is on trial. Gamache’s own conscience is standing in judgment.

In her latest utterly gripping book, number-one New York Times bestselling author Louise Penny shatters the conventions of the crime novel to explore what Gandhi called the court of conscience. A court that supersedes all others."

Anyone else thinking that Tree Pines is starting to rival Midsomer County as a haven for criminals and death? 

Further Associates of Sherlock Holmes edited by George Mann
Published by: Titan Books
Publication Date: August 29th, 2017
Format: Paperback, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Once again, famous associates of the Great Detective – clients, colleagues and, of course, villains – tell their own stories in this collection of brand-new adventures. Meet Lucy Hebron years after Holmes’s only ever failed deduction; follow your nose down the streets of London with Toby the Dog; join Mrs Hudson on her first ever case; greet an ambassador from Mars alongside Lord Holdhurst; and confess your sins to your cellmate, Professor James Moriarty…"

Yeah George! Also yeah to Stuart Douglas, and all other writers I love in this collection!

Victoria and Abdul by Shrabni Basu
Published by: Vintage
Publication Date: August 29th, 2017
Format: Paperback, 352 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Soon to be a Major Motion Picture starring Dame Judi Dench from director Stephen Frears, releasing September 22, 2017.

Tall and handsome Abdul was just twenty-four years old when he arrived in England from Agra to wait at tables for Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. Within a year, Abdul had grown to become a powerful figure at court, the Queen's teacher, or Munshi, her counsel on Urdu and Indian affairs, and a friend close to the Queen's heart. "I am so very fond of him.," Queen Victoria would write in 1888, "He is so good and gentle and understanding....a real comfort to me."

This marked the beginning of the most scandalous decade in Queen Victoria's long reign. Devastated first by the death of Prince Albert in 1861 and then her personal servant John Brown in 1883, Queen Victoria quickly found joy in an intense and controversial relationship with her Munshi, who traveled everywhere with her, cooked her curries and cultivated her understanding of the Indian sub-continent—a region, as Empress of India, she was long intrigued by but could never visit. The royal household roiled with resentment, but their devotion grew in defiance of all expectation and the societal pressures of their time and class and lasted until the Queen's death on January 22, 1901.

Drawn from never-before-seen first-hand documents that had been closely guarded secrets for a century, Shrabani Basu's Victoria and Abdul is a remarkable history of the last years of the 19th century in English court, an unforgettable view onto the passions of an aging Queen, and a fascinating portrayal of how a young Indian Muslim came to play a central role at the heart of the British Empire."

Firstly I was clued into this by Judi Dench on Graham Norton, then I saw the preview with Eddie Izzard, now I can't wait for the movie OR the book!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Jane Austen Centre Interactive Brochure

What's interesting about certain projects is what do you do when you're asked to take them further. I remember in undergrad I hated going back and having to re-conceptualize The Cherry Orchard yet again, this time for film instead of stage. Yet I think that was just my underlying hated of that Chekhov play. In fact I think it might be a hatred of Chekhov overall, stupid Three Sisters. But taking something I loved working on to the next level? Well, that's a fun challenge. Here I had to take my paper brochure and repurpose the content as an interactive pdf. Like a "brochure" you could download and watch from the Jane Austen Centre's website. Yes, I had to embrace the digital age while thinking of Austen! I was also required to add new photographic imagery that would be sourced from Getty Images, one that would be rights managed and one that would be royalty free so that I'd learn how to purchase and use the different kinds of stock imagery. But the one thing I was certain of when taking my brochure to the next level was that I still wanted to maintain that special feeling of reading a letter.

Therefore the opening shot was setting the scene of the Regency corespondent. Ink bottles, wax seals, letters, quills, and don't tell anyone that book on the left is actually Cranford. It's our secret OK? This tableaux I created from what I had lying about my office, and yes I'm so OCD that the wax seal is the letter 'A.' While you're not getting the animation here with my static imagery I can easily walk you through it, because the animation is almost secondary to the design and information, just a little something something for fun. If you compare this photo to the one above you'll notice there's now a letter unopened on the desk! It actually flies in from the upper right and lands on the desk and you click on it to turn it over and open it.

And at the click of a button the letter opens and if you're not one of those people who constantly leave their speakers off you will be surrounded by the theme music by Carl Davis to the 1995 miniseries adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. This was to get you in the Regency mood. Because seriously, what fan of Austen can hear that music and NOT get excited? In fact even though my DVD set has the option to watch all the episodes strung together as one I still prefer to watch them as they were originally broadcast and then distributed on VHS with the theme music playing every hour! 

Once past the desk space the design becomes more utilitarian. There's a hyperlink on the lower left to the centre's website and in the lower right a 'previous' and a 'next' button. I still maintain the language of correspondence with the cordial invitation, but again, this is a far more straightforward design. The large section in the center is actually the centre's welcome video which I embedded in the design but which can also be viewed on their website for the curious.

The next few pages are just the information from the previous paper brochure in a new format with added imagery. What I had the most fun with though was the little hidden gems. When you role over the icon of Jane she gets a little speech bubble quoting the opening line of Pride and Prejudice, and yes, it was spoken too! The teacup had the sound of tea being poured. On the following pages the reticule icon had coins jingling and the teapot whistled as it came to a boil, and yes, I know it's a decorative kettle, but it was fun. As for the umbrella icon? That open and closed with the sound of rain. Yes, I fully admit to being a design dork. But I embrace it heartily.

Again this design all came down to the map. Here I could do so much more now that it was interactive! In fact I started to call this my interactive masterpiece because I took Jane Austen sightseeing in Bath to a whole new level! Not only can you click on a dot and bring up facts you can click them all on or off as well as turning the highways on and off to highlight just one route. The details, the facts, the facets, everything about Jane's life and her novels as they are in Bath. The only thing that makes me sad is that between going from CS5.5 to CS6 Adobe really did away with all their interactive content, and they're even now phasing out Flash, which is good in the long run, but that means I can't really view this project anymore as the technology has changed. Therefore it's more a project in memory. Which kind of brings me around to the fact that while this was the culmination of this brochure project it's the first iteration that will have longevity. Technology changes, but paper and ink? Well, they stand the test of time as Austen herself would attest.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Jane Austen Centre Brochure

I am a brochure hoarder. Anywhere I go I grab one. The problem is what to do with them later? What's their purpose? They just take up space and yet you don't want to part with them. Unless they have a  place in a photo album or have a secondary function they are a waste of space and right now I'm all about downsizing. Therefore a brochure redesign is like a dream project for me. Because I can take it to the next level, making it functional and collectible. Though this assignment for school had two requirements, I had to use all the existing text in a current brochure while also using an interesting and unique fold. So I worked backwards. Whose brochure would I love to redesign and the answer quickly came to me, obviously The Jane Austen Centre in Bath. The next question was, what kind of fold? Well, for anyone like me who spends way too much time watching Jane Austen adaptations they covet getting a letter like Austen's characters, getting to crack the seal and unfold the paper. Therefore the fold became obvious, I would use a typical Regency letter fold.

What's unique about this fold is that it's based on one of Jane's own letters, which I scanned in and used as a background, drastically toned down to not interfere with the legibility of any information I needed to convey. While any brochure is functional to an extent I love that this made it a keepsake, like getting a letter from Austen herself. As for that red seal? No, it's not wax, but a faux wax seal sticker which can be purchased in bulk and used to add an air of authenticity. Ironically the seal in the picture is from another fandom I'm a part of. Yes, it's a seal for Hogwarts. Originally I wanted to take the wax seal further and create one in the centre's colors, but then I found out that during Jane Austen's time you could use only red or black wax, so it stayed red. Yes, I'm a stickler for certain things, also, the more you know, right?

The information in the brochure could basically be broken down into five categories: Jane Austen, Touring the Jane Austen Centre, the Gift Shop, the Tea Room, and Jane Austen's Bath. Using the centre's own logo as a starting point, I created four more icons to go with the subsections, a teacup, a reticule, a teapot, and an umbrella. These categories then easily divided the content into the sections that could correspond to the various panels the folds created. When you first open the brochure you get this nice little text area with all the information you could need with the headings set in a font based on Austen's own handwriting. In the smaller sections at the top I placed the valuable information of location, hours, and admission. But for me it was all about the interior of the brochure where I placed the map, where form and function combined in happy symmetry.

The entire interior was turned over to a map I drew in Photoshop with my Wacom. Yes. I drew a map of Bath with all the locations important to Jane Austen's life clearly marked. Why would I draw a map other than being totally OCD and always having a need to take a project to the next level? Because, to me, I find maps the most useful thing a brochure can give you. Therefore I figured I HAD to have a map. And while I haven't been to Bath I feel like I know it now. I drew out all the streets, and looked up all the names, I was not just an armchair traveler but an armchair detective, following Jane's life through the city she loathed. I hope one day to go to Bath, and before you ask, yes, I'm taking my own map. Though I also kind of want to see what would happen if I was left without a map. After this project could I find my way without any help? I have a feeling I could...

Monday, August 21, 2017

Tuesday Tomorrow

The New Voices of Fantasy edited by Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman
Published by: Tachyon Publications
Publication Date: August 22nd, 2017
Format: Paperback, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"What would you do if a tornado wanted you to be its Valentine? Or if a haunted spacesuit banged on your door? When is the ideal time to turn into a tiger? Would you post a supernatural portal on Craigslist?

In these nineteen stories, the enfants terribles of fantasy have arrived. The New Voices of Fantasy captures some of the fastest-rising talents of the last five years, including Sofia Samatar, Maria Dahvana Headley, Max Gladstone, Alyssa Wong, Usman T. Malik, Brooke Bolander, E. Lily Yu, Ben Loory, Ursula Vernon, and more. Their tales were hand-picked by the legendary Peter S. Beagle (The Last Unicorn) and genre expert Jacob Weisman (The Treasury of the Fantastic).

So go ahead and join the Communist revolution of the honeybees. The new kids got your back."

Just everything about this screams yes to me. Also come on, a supernatural portal on Craigslist? How much does that sound like an episode of Angel? 

Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton
Published by: Marian Wood Books/Putnam
Publication Date: August 22nd, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 496 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Of #1 New York Times-bestselling author Sue Grafton, NPR's Maureen Corrigan said, "Makes me wish there were more than 26 letters." With only one letter left, Grafton's many devoted readers will share that sentiment.

The darkest and most disturbing case report from the files of Kinsey Millhone, Y is for Yesterday begins in 1979, when four teenage boys from an elite private school sexually assault a fourteen-year-old classmate—and film the attack. Not long after, the tape goes missing and the suspected thief, a fellow classmate, is murdered. In the investigation that follows, one boy turns state’s evidence and two of his peers are convicted. But the ringleader escapes without a trace.

Now, it’s 1989 and one of the perpetrators, Fritz McCabe, has been released from prison. Moody, unrepentant, and angry, he is a virtual prisoner of his ever-watchful parents—until a copy of the missing tape arrives with a ransom demand. That’s when the McCabes call Kinsey Millhone for help. As she is drawn into their family drama, she keeps a watchful eye on Fritz. But he’s not the only one being haunted by the past. A vicious sociopath with a grudge against Millhone may be leaving traces of himself for her to find…"

She's doing it folks! Home stretch! Who would have ever thought that she'd actually get to the end of the alphabet. I SO didn't. She probably won't get out of the 80s though...

Friday, August 18, 2017

Jane Austen's Cross-Stitch Sampler

Long before Miss Jessica and I created our Jane Austen crafting exchange for the bicentenary of Pride and Prejudice I had made another Jane themed present for her. I had ordered two of the Jane Austen's Cross-Stitch Kit Sampler from The Jane Austen Centre in Bath. I have always had a love of embroidery and cross-stitch from a very early age when at a friend's birthday party I was given a little kit to cross-stitch a Scottie dog. I was hooked. I even started making my own patterns and designs, much to the delight of my grandmother, as I was her only grandchild who showed an interest or aptitude in a home art that she excelled at. What I love about vintage embroidery is that someone slaved over it and even a hundred years later it's still around, the home arts preserved for generations. What's more, if you are recreating a sampler that was made by someone you know or admire, either a family member or an author, doing the same task unites you across time.

At least that's the joy I anticipated when The Jane Austen Centre released their first two kits. Jane and I would be connected through this task! The other kit was a portrait of Jane, and personally, it wasn't the best design. But this design? It's taken from a sampler Jane herself worked probably when she was about twelve years old but adapted here to fit an oval composition. I'd never worked a kit bought from England before, so I didn't know if this is common or not, but they use a different amount of embroidery thread. Usually when cross-stitching, at least stateside, you double the strand so that it doesn't disappear against the ground of the fabric. The kit said to use only one strand. I did try this, but just as I knew would be the case, the thread just disappeared against the background. Luckily I had ordered two kits, so I had double the thread. Which means if I ever get around to making one for myself I seriously need to do some DMC color matching or order myself two more kits, which seems a bit of a waste of money.
  But I seriously love how it turned out. I love that center of flowers and while not a religious person, knowing that Jane is the daughter of a rector growing up in parsonage the religious overtones are to be expected for various reasons. What I really love though is the use of very light yellow and cream threads that give the piece depth while at the same time not making the composition feel crowded. I had it simply but very elegantly framed by my friend Chuck at Meuer Art and Picture Frame Company. In fact Chuck framed it perfectly, with that silver frame being just the right counterbalance to the green matte and the colors in the piece. Complimenting but not overpowering. Also, an interesting note for those who want to get any cross-stitch framed, firstly look online for how to iron it, it's tricky but really works. But more importantly, because the fabric used is porous due to the nature of cross-stitch, make sure you get it stretched over a board that compliments the colors of the piece. If I had used a dark colored board behind the work, let's just say that it wouldn't have that airy elegance that it does.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Miniseries Review - Lost in Austen

Lost in Austen
Release Date: September 3rd-24th, 2008
Starring: Jemima Rooper, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Daniel Percival, Gemma Arterton, Hugh Bonneville, Alex Kingston, Morven Christie, Ruby Bentall, Florence Hoath, Perdita Weeks, Michelle Duncan, Guy Henry, Tom Mison, Christina Cole, Elliot Cowan, Genevieve Gaunt, Rae Kelly Hill, and Lindsay Duncan
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

Amanda Price is sick of the crassness and just general lack of manners in the modern world. Therefore whenever she can she escapes into the genteel world Jane Austen created in Pride and Prejudice. After a particularly unromantic proposal from her boyfriend the unexpected happens; Lizzy Bennet appears in her bathroom. At first she thinks she's gone mad, but Lizzy soon returns and is quick to enter Amanda's world while Amanda takes her place in the Bennet household. Though with Lizzy absent things quickly start to go awry. Mr. Bingley doesn't fall immediately for Jane and instead fixes his amorous attentions on Amanda. Amanda, being a true fan of the book, tries her hardest to right this wrong, even claiming she is a lesbian in order to unite the destined lovers. Amanda can see her presence is a baffling imposition and her "gifts" of insight after years of reading their story confuses all the characters around her. But she is determined to keep the story on it's track. Lizzy will return and marry Mr. Darcy and everything will be fine. Amanda meanwhile just has to not fall for the man she's been fantasizing about since she was twelve. And at first this is very easy. Darcy knows that there's something not right about Miss Price. She's forward, she's awkward, she's everything that he should be against, and yet, she's the one he wants to dance with. She's the one he's drawn to. But Amanda couldn't ruin the happily ever after of all happily ever afters could she? It's her duty as a fan of Jane Austen to live within the narrative as best she can. But what happens when the characters become real humans to her and love becomes the most important thing of all? 

If one looks at the fandom surrounding Jane Austen, the festivals in full costume, the balls recreated down to the tiniest details, it's clear that the greatest dream of any Janeite would be to find their way into one of her books. This would be the greatest wish fulfillment ever and that is what we get with Lost in Austen. Amanda Price as our avatar has stumbled upon this magical portal in her bathroom and what results is a trip down the rabbit role via Jasper Fforde and the cupboard to Narnia. Amanda gets the chance at catching Mr. Darcy, a dream that every girl for over two hundred years has dreamt upon picking up Pride and Prejudice. But what's so interesting about Lost in Austen is that Amanda is such a fangirl that while she is living her dream she is also trying to maintain the story's narrative. She is almost completely selfless as she keeps trying to keep everything intact while Lizzy is absent. All the while she is fighting her feelings for Darcy. Amanda is at sea when meeting the man she's loved since she was twelve. All these emotions coupled with knowing he is meant for a woman he has never met give us the pull on our heartstrings that the original story does, maintaining the "will they won't they" that is so necessary in keeping the narrative moving. Just like Lizzy she is fighting against what she really wants, and in the process this brassy and bolshy Brit wins our heart as well as Darcy's. When she gives in to her feelings it is sublime, because as Lady Catherine said, perhaps she was too scared to admit what she really wanted, and what Amanda really wanted, despite every instinct in her Pride and Prejudice loving body, was Darcy for herself.

This what-if story is so meta and so wonderful each time I watch it something else catches my eye. It's digging fully into the story that Austen wrote while also playing with every fangirl fantasy or idea that has been posited in two hundred years. Think of not just all the adaptations to film and stage over the years of Austen's work, think of all the alternative tellings, the retellings, the what-ifs, the and-thens, the fanfic, all of it, and yet somehow Lost in Austen found a unique and new story. This takes the characters as we know and love them and throws them on their heads. Some changes are purely for comedic value, such as Caroline Bingley's sapphic interests, others are more poignant, such as the true worth of Mr. Wickham, while still adhering to the strict narrative Austen wrote. Yet what I find most fascinating is that while you could spend years arguing who the "pride" and who the "prejudice" refer to among our hero and heroine, with Amanda we are given a character who has these faults as well. Because Amanda is belabored with her preconceptions of years of escaping into the pages of Pride and Prejudice. She sees the characters as Austen wrote them not thinking that they would have a life beyond the confines of the story. I often wonder when I'm not reading a book if the characters are just all sitting around waiting for me to read them so they can say their lines and act out the scenes or if perhaps they're off somewhere else having a good time until I come and force them into their proscribed roles. Here they are very much off having fun. They have unexpected first names, character traits that one would never expect, and most of all, even more humanity than you'd think a character out of a book could possess. And this throws Amanda for a loop. She is constantly fighting an uphill battle between what she expects, what should be, and what is, and I loved every second of it.       

Yet oddly enough it's Elizabeth Bennet that effects the story the most because of her absence. Pride and Prejudice without Elizabeth Bennet is almost like chaos theory in action. Yes, it's not the dire situation that Jasper Fforde shows in his first Thursday Next book, The Eyre Affair, because Jane Eyre is nothing without it's narrator, whereas without Elizabeth Bennet there are still enough characters to make up a story, it's just a very different one. Because Lizzy is the vibrant core of Pride and Prejudice, always keeping everyone in line with an arched eyebrow or a well placed smile. Without her everything is off, everyone feels off and comments on her absence being so unlike her. And that is my one problem with Lost in Austen, Lizzy leaving. Yes, there is a mutual need that Amanda and Lizzy feel for each other, a desire to be in the others place in some version of Freaky Friday, yet I think Lizzy's need is out of character. Yes, she would fare very well in our modern times, yet she is about family and loyalty and caring for those she loves. How can she justify just leaving them behind and throwing Amanda in their place? I seriously don't get it. As I've said before the adaptation is all about exploring the way the characters are different outside the lines that Austen has drawn for us yet with Lizzy it's like her lines were erased and an entirely new character who is more than a little selfish was drawn in her place. In her modern life she's a nanny and taking care of a family, so why would she take care of this family and not her own? Later when she is able to discuss things with her father it makes a little more sense, but up until then I just don't feel Lizzy's presence. And perhaps they did this on purpose, because if Lizzy were truly herself you'd never root for Amanda and Darcy. But still, my heart breaks for Charlotte Lucas.     

But, much like Pride and Prejudice, this adaptation is a fine balance of comedy with the obligatory ripping out of your heart and gleefully trampling on it. The modern Amanda and her clashes with what the past lacks, especially in regard to dental health, is where the comedy really lies for the first two episodes. Her observations on things she would have never guessed at, like how revolting Mr. Collins really is, or how her randomly misplaced modern vernacular would effect Lydia, or how, like in Austenland, the only song she can perform is wonderfully modern and anachronistic, this are comedic highlights. Yet as the adaptation proceeds the comedy gives way to the heartfelt. The stark truths, such as Darcy having to marry a virgin, and what happens when Bingley becomes unhinged because of Jane's fate. Also, the knowing how it's supposed to be versus what it has become isn't just a thorn in Amanda's side but a knife to the heart. The scene where Jane pleads with Bingley to be happy for the both of them because she never will be, I dare you not to ugly cry. Lost in Austen taps into those universal truths of love and despair that Austen herself wrote about and that makes this adaptation shine. It is so different from Austen, it takes such liberties, and I know this might annoy some viewers, but down in it's bones it shares the same DNA. But I wouldn't expect anything less from the writer, Guy Andrews, looking at his track record he has worked on some of my favorite British shows, but most importantly is Blandings. This was adapted from the Blandings books by P.G. Wodehouse and shows a similar comedic base that taps into true feeling while also strongly hinging on nostalgia.

Though I must sadly end in a rant. This rant has to do with the DVD release. As you have obviously read here on my blog I have issues with substandard releases. What I want is the show as it originally aired in the best quality possible preferably in a really pretty package. That's why I actually am advising you to not buy this release because it is not complete. As anyone who pays attention to DVD releases knows one of the hardest things is licensing of music. I'm not talking about music written for the show but the popular songs and standards that appear in it. Look to the TV show Freaks and Geeks. The DVD release was delayed years because they refused to release the show in any format other than the one that aired, and hence I was a happy camper when I bought my DVD set and all the beloved eighties songs were there. Other shows take a more lackadaisical approach. Look to Northern Exposure, a show which was lauded for it's use of music when it aired and yet the DVD sets, well, the music is noticeably absent and filler music is used, thus making the show less than. Other shows that I've long awaited like Ashes to Ashes I have a feeling will never be released in the US because of the copious amount of eighties songs used and yet I couldn't buy the set unless ever single song was there because it wouldn't be the same. Two of the best jokes in Lost in Austen are destroyed because of these omissions on the DVD. The first is just a quick side joke in that Amanda's ring tone is the theme from the Andrew Davies adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. But the second is a more egregious error. When Amanda is asked to sing she sings Petula Clark's "Downtown." Yes, it's very funny and watching the DVD when it skips from Amanda being asked to sing to the party at Netherfield Park clapping for her I was taken aback. It's not just the removal of this hilarious scene but what the song comes to mean, especially for Bingley in his search for peace after losing Jane that makes the removal unconscionable. Of course there's still time to fix this... just a nice BluRay release, song intact. That's all I ask for. Please?

Monday, August 14, 2017

Tuesday Tomorrow

Hail to the Chin by Bruce Campbell
Published by: Thomas Dunne Books
Publication Date: August 15th, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Introduction by New York Times bestselling author and famous minor television personality John Hodgman.

Hail to the Chin is the new raucous and sardonic memoir from Bruce Campbell, a follow-up to the New York Times bestselling If Chins Could Kill. It’s been 15 years since his first memoir but Bruce is still living the dream as a "B" movie king in an "A" movie world.

Bruce Campbell makes his triumphant return from where he left off in If Chins Could Kill with further hilarious, gut-wrenchingly honest confessions.

Bruce brings us through his life in the decade since his first memoir and his roles as varied as they are numerous- from his roles in the Spider-Man movies to his self-referential My Name is Bruce to his role on #1 show Burn Notice and his new STARZ hit series Ash vs Evil Dead.

Over the last 15 years, Bruce has become a regular on the Wizard World convention circuit, has created his @GroovyBruce twitter account with over 400,000 followers and a Facebook page with almost 250,000 likes. His profile and reach is lightyears beyond where it was for Chins.

Hail to the Chin will be bursting with pictures and the signature humor that Bruce brought to If Chins Could Kill and will be devoured by his legions of fans across the country."

If you don't know of my love of Bruce Campbell I don't know what blog you've been reading. 

Return to Your Skin by Luz Gabás
Published by: AmazonCrossing
Publication Date: August 15th, 2017
Format: Paperback, 476 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Past and present are interwoven in this story of everlasting love, where the shadow of witchcraft and man’s greed are defeated by one woman’s passion that transcends space and time.

Brianda, a young engineer, leaves her comfortable life in Madrid to learn more about her ancestors. When she travels to a cold, isolated village high in the Pyrenees to explore her roots, Brianda discovers a family secret—and a new love interest. The mysterious Corso, who is challenging destiny by restoring the neglected manor he has inherited, offers to help Brianda in her research. Together they uncover another woman named Brianda in the family archives, a woman who lived four centuries ago.

Heiress to the distinguished lord of Orrun, Brianda of Lubich defied convention by refusing to marry and carry on the family lineage. In a land convulsed by wars, twenty-four women were accused in one of the most dramatic episodes in the history of Spanish witchcraft. Due to her unconventional ways, Brianda became a target. She makes a promise to her true love, a promise she may not live to keep."

A shadow of witchcraft and I'm sold. 

Sleeping in the Ground by Peter Robinson
Published by: William Morrow
Publication Date: August 15th, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"See why in Sleeping in the Ground, the gripping new novel starring Alan Banks — featuring an opening scene you'll never forget, and a finale you won't see coming.

At the doors of a charming country church, an unspeakable act destroys a wedding party. A huge manhunt ensues. The culprit is captured. The story is over.

Except it isn't. For Alan Banks, still struggling with a tragic loss of his own, there's something wrong about this case — something unresolved. Reteaming with profiler Jenny Fuller, the relentless detective deeper into the crime... deep enough to unearth long-buried secrets that reshape everything Banks thought he knew about the events outside that chapel.

And when at last the shocking truth becomes clear, it's almost too late."

It's always nice when characters you feel in love with on TV Shows that got cancelled keep going in book form. 

I Know a Secret by Tess Gerritsen
Published by: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: August 15th, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles—the inspiration for the smash hit TNT series—continue their bestselling crime-solving streak, as they pursue a shadowy psychopath keeping secrets and taking lives.

Two separate homicides, at different locations, with unrelated victims, have more in common than just being investigated by Boston PD detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles. In both cases, the bodies bear startling wounds—yet the actual cause of death is unknown. It’s a doubly challenging case for the cop and the coroner to be taking on, at a fraught time for both of them. As Jane struggles to save her mother from the crumbling marriage that threatens to bury her, Maura grapples with the imminent death of her own mother—infamous serial killer Amalthea Lank.

While Jane tends to her mother, there’s nothing Maura can do for Amalthea, except endure one final battle of wills with the woman whose shadow has haunted her all her life. Though succumbing to cancer, Amalthea hasn’t lost her taste for manipulating her estranged daughter—this time by dangling a cryptic clue about the two bizarre murders Maura and Jane are desperately trying to solve.

But whatever the dying convict knows is only a piece of the puzzle. Soon the investigation leads to a secretive young woman who survived a shocking abuse scandal, an independent horror film that may be rooted in reality, and a slew of martyred saints who died cruel and unusual deaths. And just when Rizzoli and Isles think they’ve cornered a devilish predator, the long-buried past rears its head—and threatens to engulf more innocent lives, including their own."

And speaking of cancelled shows...

Donna by V.C. Andrews
Published by: Pocket Star
Publication Date: August 15th, 2017
Format: Kindle
To Buy

The official patter:
"Book Two of the Girls of Spindrift. From the New York Times bestselling author of the Flowers in the Attic and My Sweet Audrina series, now Lifetime movies, continues a haunting new series featuring highly intelligent teenage girls who struggle to survive a specialized high school and find their place in a world that doesn’t understand them."

Anyone else in for some V.C. Andrews?

Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popovic
Published by: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: August 15th, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 416 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Fans of Holly Black and Leigh Bardugo will be bewitched by Lana Popovic's debut YA fantasy novel about a bargain that binds the fates—and hearts—of twin sisters to a force larger than life.

All the women in Iris and Malina’s family have the unique magical ability or “gleam” to manipulate beauty. Iris sees flowers as fractals and turns her kaleidoscope visions into glasswork, while Malina interprets moods as music. But their mother has strict rules to keep their gifts a secret, even in their secluded sea-side town. Iris and Malina are not allowed to share their magic with anyone, and above all, they are forbidden from falling in love.

But when their mother is mysteriously attacked, the sisters will have to unearth the truth behind the quiet lives their mother has built for them. They will discover a wicked curse that haunts their family line—but will they find that the very magic that bonds them together is destined to tear them apart forever?

Wicked Like a Wildfire is the first in a two-book series. Readers will be rapt with anticipation for the sequel."

Yeah, the whole, Leigh Bardugo/Holly Black thing got me.

Call of Fire by Beth Cato
Published by: Harper Voyager
Publication Date: August 15th, 2017
Format: Paperback, 416 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A resourceful young heroine must protect the world from her enemies—and her own power—in this thrilling sequel to the acclaimed Breath of Earth, an imaginative blend of alternative history, fantasy, science, magic, and adventure.

When an earthquake devastates San Francisco in an alternate 1906, the influx of geomantic energy nearly consumes Ingrid Carmichael. Bruised but alive, the young geomancer flees the city with her friends, Cy, Lee, and Fenris. She is desperate to escape Ambassador Blum, the cunning and dangerous bureaucrat who wants to use Ingrid’s formidable powers to help the Unified Pacific—the confederation of the United States and Japan—achieve world domination. To stop them, Ingrid must learn more about the god-like magic she inherited from her estranged father—the man who set off the quake that obliterated San Francisco.

When Lee and Fenris are kidnapped in Portland, Ingrid and Cy are forced to ally themselves with another ambassador from the Unified Pacific: the powerful and mysterious Theodore Roosevelt. But even TR’s influence may not be enough to save them when they reach Seattle, where the magnificent peak of Mount Rainier looms. Discovering more about herself and her abilities, Ingrid is all too aware that she may prove to be the fuse to light the long-dormant volcano . . . and a war that will sweep the world."

And here it was San Francisco...

The Stone Sky by M.K. Jemisin
Published by: Orbit
Publication Date: August 15th, 2017
Format: Paperback, 464 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:

The Moon will soon return. Whether this heralds the destruction of humankind or something worse will depend on two women.

Essun has inherited the power of Alabaster Tenring. With it, she hopes to find her daughter Nassun and forge a world in which every orogene child can grow up safe.

For Nassun, her mother's mastery of the Obelisk Gate comes too late. She has seen the evil of the world, and accepted what her mother will not admit: that sometimes what is corrupt cannot be cleansed, only destroyed."

Whereas here it's just Jemisin...

Friday, August 11, 2017

Movie Review - Austenland

Based on the book by Shannon Hale
Release Date: August 16th, 2013
Starring: Keri Russell, J.J. Feild, Bret McKenzie, James Callis, Jennifer Coolidge, Georgia King, Ricky Whittle, Rupert Vansittart and Jane Seymour
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

Jane Hayes has had it with her modern life of lewd men who lack manners. She wants to go back to the time of her favorite author, Jane Austen. Luckily for her, if not her bank account, there's Austenland, which caters to those who have a similar inclination, one might say fervor. She puts all her money on this last ditch attempt to find some happiness, or, as her friend Molly says, as a way to cure her of her obsession once and for all. She is greeted by the discovery that all her savings only bought her the copper package and her fellow female guests are given better rooms, better clothes, and better options. Jane becomes Miss Erstwhile and is soon turning away from the cold glances of Mr. Nobly and the other men whom are assigned to others and is cavorting with the servants, mainly the rather easy on the eyes Martin, who also has a taste in easy listening music. But Jane realizes that this "relationship" with Martin is just another way to step away from her life and she makes a decision. Austenland will cure her of happily ever afters and she is going to take control of her narrative. She decides that before she leaves she will become "engaged" to the man of her dreams, her own assigned Mr. Darcy, and move on. But what if her Mr. Darcy wasn't acting? What if she has bewitched Mr. Nobly and instead of a drastic cure she could come away from Austenland with her very own happily ever after?

If given half a chance I don't think there's any Janeite out there who wouldn't jump at the chance to vacation in the world of her novels. It's like Westworld but with parasols instead of pistols, unless you're watching the season seven Austen inspired episode of Red Dwarf "Beyond a Joke" and then it's both! Yet despite my love of Shannon Hale when I first read her book from which this movie is adapted I wasn't in love. Austenland was all right book wrong time and it just rubbed me the wrong way. I was like a dissatisfied cat. The joy at finding the book on my local Barnes and Noble shelves days before it's release was quickly overshadowed by my feelings after devouring it in one sitting. Like bad food it left an aftertaste I couldn't shake. I had been waiting so long for the book that I had certain expectations that couldn't possibly have been met and my dislike was almost a foregone conclusion. Luckily I was nudged into re-reading Austenland due to a well placed recommendation and the fact that a sequel was looming on the horizon. So I eventually embraced both Austenland and it's sequel Midnight in Austenland for what they were, chick lit that was subtly thumbing their noses at the Jane Austen Mafia, aka JASNA (an organization whom I have no doubt Jane wouldn't have just hated but is peopled by those she would have mercilessly parodied.)

With this new-found appreciation you can imagine that the announcement of a film adaptation was a pleasant surprise. Then when James Callis was announced, well, I started actually counting down the days to filming, then post production, then release. Once J.J. Feild was announced, I knew I was a goner. Ah J.J., you made me come to love Northanger Abbey. You and you alone! OK, the fact it's an awesome book making fun of the Gothic Genre is very important, but don't tell Jane it was really you. With each cast announcement and my mounting excitement you'd think that I was once again raising my expectations to have them shattered but that wasn't the case here! Austenland lived up to and exceeded my expectations. This movie is near perfection, but more than that it celebrates all that is Jane and is one of the funniest love letters to her you'll ever see. If Clueless and Bridget Jones's Diary had a baby who was then handed off to Monty Python for their education you'd arrive at Austenland. Even years later I can honestly say it's one of the funniest films I've ever seen and that first viewing in the theater was the hardest I'd laughed in a long time. The entire script is a goldmine of hilarious and memorable quotes. But it's not just the dialogue! The physical comedy, the subtle expressions of the actors, the sets, little things happening in every frame in the foreground and background that make repeat viewing not just a treat but a necessity to grasp the totality of not just James Callis and his constant murmurs, but of the love and talent that went into this production.

Let me break it down for you as to why this movie is just full of win. The perfect casting. Keri Russell is able to not only be the perfect surrogate, for me, the Austen loving audience member, but the chemistry with both the male leads makes for a believable and funny love triangle. Also, can we say genius casting with Bret 'Flight of the Conchords' McKenzie? But if it wasn't for the fact that every character was cast perfectly and every actor and actress seemed to be having so much fun, the three leads would not have been able to sustain the film. Then there's in-jokes of calling Bret a Hobbit reject, when everyone knows he's in ALL of The Lord of the Rings films, and Keri having hair Felicity hair in the opening flashback! As for Jennifer Coolidge, she is beyond charming, she is divine. In fact it's my firm belief that only she could be Miss Charming, and I have a sneaking suspicion that even in writing the book Shannon Hale was picturing her. And James Callis, what can I say, but I've always admired you, Bridget Jones, Battlestar, you made me want "evil" to win... you have some serious comedic talents, so while I love you in period pieces, do more movies like this! In fact, why aren't there more movies like this? With Georgia King skipping out of rooms or Ricky Whittle finding yet another way to strip off his clothing? But I must say, the casting of Mr. Wattlesbrook was by far the best. Because Mr. Wattlesbrook, aka Rupert Vansittart, aka Fatty Fat Buckle, is none other then Mr. Hurst from the 1995 Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice! Say what? Yes, he has cornered the market on laying about in unattractive positions proudly displaying his paunch.

Yet Mr. Wattlesbrook is also the one flaw of the film. The thing is he's a little to rapey. He's always drunk and more then handsy. He attempts to force himself on Jane thinking she's a little more lax in her morals due predominately to her piano performance and cavorting with the "staff." This is also an apparently recurring problem from what Colonel Andrews says. Yet nothing has been done about it!?! This is a thorn in the side of the movie. Why have this creepy aspect? You could say it's to get the two men to fight over Jane at the airport and to have her doubt Mr. Nobley's intentions when he shows up at her door, but I'm sure that all the people behind this clever production could have thought of a way around this. Because as it stands it trivializes a predator and for a film that is produced, written, and directed by women by not focusing on the danger this man poses it condones rape culture. Which, when you think more about it is so odd because Austenland is about female wish fulfillment, with all the men being beefcakes verging on male prostitutes, and yet there's a snake in the garden with Mr. Wattlesbrook. If there was some dire need to keep him in the narrative maybe make him a lesson in what life was like? A throwback to the times when men used their droit de seigneur? Because as it is if this aspect of him would somehow just disappear this could easily be up there with Clue and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Bridget Jones's Diary as one of my favorite films ever. I mean, as is it's so close. It's just the width of Mr. Wattlesbrook away... 

But what I found most interesting in this re-watching of Austenland was that until I was swept away by the happily ever after I found myself thinking how happy I would be just to be there in the clothes, staying in that house, and just pretending I was in Regency England. That would literally be enough for me. I don't need overly muscled men and fake fantasies, I just need the historical element. It's a lesser wish fulfillment, but a far more realistic one. In fact I'd say the stages of Jane Austen wish fulfillment would be reading all the books, then seeing all the movies, then visiting all the sights, then dressing up in costume, then finding your own Mr. Darcy would be the ultimate stage that I think many of us are grounded enough in reality to know that that is not very likely to happen. But when Jane is complaining to her friend Molly about how she thought it would be different... I think the non-deluded fan would say that Jane is getting just what they want. Which makes it interesting when Jane decides to view the whole experience as immersion therapy to get over her obsession. Yes, perhaps she did take it a little too far with the wooden letters over her bed, but what's wrong with some teacups? And I truly think a cut-out of Colin Firth could provide some much needed support in case of a burglary. I think anyone would think twice seeing his manly silhouette in a dark apartment. What all this comes down to is why hasn't someone made Austenland a real thing and how soon can I go? As you can see I, unlike some, have realistic expectations, I don't need a proposal at the ball! Though J.J. Feild would be nice...

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Playing the Tourist: In Real Life

Austen wrote what she knew, therefore in playing the tourist for her books we've covered a lot of places she went to. Yet this journey would be incomplete without the three most important places to her life; where she was born, where she lived, and where she died. Jane Austen was born in Steventon in Hampshire where her father served as rector. Many times when looking into the past it's about looking at where buildings used to be and that is sadly the case with the parsonage. Though the new parsonage which still stands was actually built by Jane's brother Edward some time after Jane's death. But the place of prime interest is the church, St. Nicholas's, where Jane went for twenty-six years of her life with her family to hear her father preach. A spire has been added since Austen’s lifetime, bearing a wind vane in the shape of a pen in her honor. Though that is probably small comfort to Jane who expected to live her entire life in this small community and instead ended up moving to the odious Bath when her father retired, making way for her brother James at the rectory. It must have been bittersweet to visit him in what was once her home. 

Though thankfully after time spent in Bath and various family homes Jane found her own home in Chawton where she resided for the last eight years of her life, which is now Jane Austen's House Museum. The cottage was part of Jane's brother Edward's nearby estate, Chawton House, but we'll get to Chawton House in a minute. It's eerie visiting a place where a revered author lived. A place that was their everything has become a point of pilgrimage to others. When I went to Orchard House it was a little hard to connect it to Louisa May Alcott. I'd been to house museums, but somehow knowing who lived there adds another layer. You're wandering the rooms they wandering. This structure housed their mind and gave birth to their creations. I look back fondly of that trip to Orchard House despite the searing heat and I am jealous to all who have been to Austen's house. Because there is the little table Jane wrote on. Here's a quilt she and her sister labored over. She revised and wrote in this building and strolled through the gardens. And if the cottage wasn't enough, nearby Chawton House is now a library that is The Centre for the Study of Early Women's Writing, 1600-1830! 

As for the sad conclusion to Jane's life... she was ill with what, we can not know for certain, but she was brought to Winchester by her sister and brother Henry for treatment. She died there on July 18th, 1817, at the age of 41 and was buried in Winchester Cathedral. She was much too young to die and could have given us so much more than just six novels. Thankfully Winchester Cathedral is a building she admired, because can you imagine how annoyed her ghost would be to be in a place she disliked? If she had died in Bath she'd be haunting the heck out of it! Her grave marker in the cathedral doesn't mention that she was a writer, so over the years through family and fans she now has a brass plaque and a memorial window. While in Winchester you can also see the house she died in on College Street, but I think that's a little morbid. Instead sit in quiet contemplation in the cathedral, look to her window and watch the light shine through. And perhaps think of Mr. Collins and have a good laugh because she, like Lizzy Bennet, was never one to take life too seriously.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory
Published by: Touchstone
Publication Date: August 8th, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 528 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The latest novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory features one of the most famous girls in history, Lady Jane Grey, and her two sisters, each of whom dared to defy her queen.

Seventeen-year-old Jane Grey was queen of England for nine days. Her father and his allies crowned her instead of the dead king’s half-sister Mary Tudor, who quickly mustered an army, claimed her throne, and locked Jane in the Tower of London. When Jane refused to betray her Protestant faith, Mary sent her to the executioner’s block, where Jane transformed her father’s greedy power-grab into tragic martyrdom.

“Learn you to die,” was the advice Jane wrote to her younger sister Katherine, who has no intention of dying. She intends to enjoy her beauty and her youth and fall in love. But she is heir to the insecure and infertile Queen Mary and then to her sister Queen Elizabeth, who will never allow Katherine to marry and produce a Tudor son. When Katherine’s pregnancy betrays her secret marriage she faces imprisonment in the Tower, only yards from her sister’s scaffold.

“Farewell, my sister,” writes Katherine to the youngest Grey sister, Mary. A beautiful dwarf, disregarded by the court, Mary keeps family secrets, especially her own, while avoiding Elizabeth’s suspicious glare. After seeing her sisters defy the queen, Mary is acutely aware of her own danger, but determined to command her own life. What will happen when the last Tudor defies her ruthless and unforgiving cousin Queen Elizabeth?"

For anyone else suffering from The White Princess withdrawal... even if it was nowhere near as good as The White Queen. 

The Paris Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal
Published by: Bantam
Publication Date: August 8th, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"American-born spy and code-breaker extraordinaire Maggie Hope secretly navigates Nazi-occupied France to find two brave women during the darkest days of World War II in the latest novel in this New York Times bestselling series—“a treat for WWII buffs and mystery lovers alike” (Booklist, on The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent).

Maggie Hope has come a long way since serving as a typist for Winston Churchill. Now she’s working undercover for the Special Operations Executive in the elegant but eerily silent city of Paris, where SS officers prowl the streets in their Mercedes and the Ritz is draped with swastika banners. Walking among the enemy is tense and terrifying, and even though she’s disguised in chic Chanel, Maggie can’t help longing for home.

But her missions come first. Maggie’s half sister, Elise, has disappeared after being saved from a concentration camp, and Maggie is desperate to find her—that is, if Elise even wants to be found. Equally urgent, Churchill is planning the Allied invasion of France, and SOE agent Erica Calvert has been captured, the whereabouts of her vital research regarding Normandy unknown. Maggie must risk her life to penetrate powerful circles and employ all her talents for deception and spycraft to root out a traitor, find her sister, and locate the reports crucial to planning D-Day in a deadly game of wits with the Nazi intelligence elite."

Is this the first in the series to be released as hardcover? I think it is, so bravo to Susan Elia MacNeal for reaching the "making it" category. 

Emma in the Nights by Wendy Walker
Published by: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: August 8th, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"One night three years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn't add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister's return might just be the beginning of the crime."

I mean, seriously, does anyone reading that description say no to picking up this book?

Serenity: No Power in the 'Verse by Chris Roberson and Georges Jeanty
Published by: Dark Horse Books
Publication Date: August 8th, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 152 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Tough times haven't ended for Mal Reynolds and his crew aboard the Serenity. When a call for help to find a missing friend takes them to an Alliance post on the Outer Rim, they encounter a new force building strength to fight the battle of the Browncoats--soon leading the crewmembers to question their individual values . . . Discovering that their friend is in Alliance custody and that an Alliance Operative is on the way, Mal concentrates his energy on the problem at hand and strikes an uneasy partnership for a daring rescue. But this is only the beginning of the story. Success will be when the Serenity's crew makes it off this planet alive and all accounted for..."

This is THE FIRST Firefly comic that I actually felt captured, for the most part, the feeling of the show. Though a whole run it only is really the length of an episode... 

Friday, August 4, 2017

I Go Uncertain of My Fate

"I Go Uncertain of My Fate" is a piece that is different than all the rest I've done and is actually my most recent. The difference isn't just medium here. This piece starts a shift of the entire series which I hope to continue in future pieces by actually mixing and matching vintage illustrations by the brothers Brock from different sources. While this piece might take it's title and the female figure from Persuasion the little feline companion is actually from Sense and Sensibility. My idea is to use the brothers Brock's consistent style and illustrate new scenes from the works of Austen by interchanging figures from different Austen books but also other books the brothers illustrated. This way I'd not only be bringing my own interpretation of the scene not just through medium choice and omissions, but through new and unique compositions. Stepping even further out of their shadow and trying to make this art even more my own instead of a one-sided collaboration. And while I could say that the reason I chose Anne looking back over her shoulder at a cat instead of at the letter Captain Wentworth is imploring her to read is so she can meditate on her past and the cat is just a friend this would be only half the truth. Because the whole truth is I totally made this piece to showcase the cat and everything else just fit into that narrative. As for the medium? Yes, you're not imagining it, I did embroider it. Well, cross-stitch with some alterations. The hardest aspect of this was actually scaling the piece. I wanted the figure to be the same size as all the figures that came before so this took some time and then I translated that into cross-stitch squares. Only the image was a little blocky, almost pixelated at the edges. So I went over the squares pulling them into a more linear shape. So for those people who have asked me for a pattern... yeah, it's a pattern that only worked to an extent and then my artistic nature and experimentation took over. Sorry.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Of All the Consequence in Their Power

"Of All the Consequence in Their Power" was such a fun piece to make because for a moment I imagined myself in the mindset of a group of characters I really have nothing in common with. This scene is taken from the musical night in Bath where the Elliots are to attend with their venerable cousins, Mr. Elliot, Lady Dalrymple and Miss Carteret. They view themselves as the reason everyone else is there. It's not for musical enjoyment but to see them. When Lady Russell finally arrived "the whole party was collected, and all that remained was to marshal themselves, and proceed into the Concert Room; and be of all the consequence in their power, draw as many eyes, excite as many whispers, and disturb as many people as they could." I mean, it's the equivalent to rolling up with your entourage today to make as much of an entrance at a club or event. Look how that one guy in the front is actually turning around to view this spectacle. Because that's the thing, it's about others viewing and adoring them, all eyes are on them. That quizzing class, it's there to watch them being watched! Therefore I thought, if I was one of these attention seeking, self-impressed, vainglorious people what would I request if the moment was to be forever immortalized in any medium. Well, obviously, lots of red. While purple might be more royal, there's nothing that gets the attention like red does, just ask a bull. Then there must obviously be gilding. Lots and lots of gold. Not just to signify their supposed wealth, which we know from the leasing of Kellynch Hall is non-existent, but to make them shimmer, shine, and sparkle. I'm sure if Sir Walter were to see this piece he'd ask for even more sparkle. Also to probably flatter Lady Dalrymple's figure a little more too. But apparently his judgment isn't too harsh on those he seeks to ingratiate otherwise we'd have heard his commentary on her weight.

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