Friday, July 10, 2020

Miniseries Review - Life in Squares

Life in Squares
Starring: Phoebe Fox, Eve Best, Christian Brassington, Eleanor Bron, James Clay, Lydia Leonard, Catherine McCormack, James Norton, Rupert Penry-Jones, Ed Birch, Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Jack Davenport, Sam Hoare, Andrew Havill, Elliot Cowan, Edmund Kingsley, James Northcote, Deborah Findlay, Anton Lesser, Al Weaver, Guy Henry, Jenny Howe, Charlie Appleyard, Maximilian Scull, Finn Jones, Louis Fisher, Edmund Digby-Jones, Rosie Ede, Lucy Boynton, Simon Thomas, and Emily Bruni
Release Date: July 27th, 2015 - August 10th, 2015
Rating: ★★
To Watch

Siblings Vanessa, Virginia, and Adrian Stephen have been liberated from societal, conventional, and parental expectations with the death of their father. Though Virginia's mental health remains delicate a hovering Aunt is no match to their desire to freely express themselves and break free of the assigned rolls expected of them. If they use only one spoon for the entire household, so be it! Dishes take up so much time that could be used productively in the pursuit of art! In an effort to give the girls a glimpse of the greater artistic community Adrian invites over his college friends for salons. At first Vanessa and Virginia feel that they are still constrained, being the hostesses of these evenings, but slowly they become equals to the Cambridge and Oxford educated boys. Thus the Bloomsbury Group came to exist, but their relationships would often be fraught. The love triangles were endless and endlessly discussed. Virginia was forever concerned with losing her sister to marriage, the state to which their hovering Aunt approved above all others! The art critic Clive Bell seemed the most likely candidate to whisk Vanessa away. And after the heartbreaking death of their brother to typhoid Virginia lost her sister to Bell and her sisters newfound love of copulation which soon brought about her first child, Julian. But five years later Virginia would marry Leonard Woolf, though wouldn't take as much joy in copulation as her sister and sadly would have a bad breakdown resulting in a suicide attempt. She was able to come back from this and her first book was published in 1915. With war on the horizon a significant portion of the Bloomsbury Group decamped from Bloomsbury. Vanessa, Duncan Grant, and Duncan's lover David Garnett moved to the Sussex countryside where Vanessa and Duncan could paint while Duncan and David worked the land instead of serving in the army. But this move to the countryside would complicate everything, as Vanessa realized that the homosexual Duncan was the love of her life and she decided that they would have a child together, which they did. Years pass in which no one talks about all their trysts and on the eve of another world war everything starts to break apart. 

Dorothy Parker famously quipped that the Bloomsbury Group "lived in squares, painted in circles and loved in triangles." The squares and the circles of this adaptation are pitch perfect. The atmosphere, the rooms with every visible surface decorated, the feeling of a lived in artistic space is spot on, so much so that I've started to look at my door jambs and think that they are lacking something in being painted a flat white. I wanted to walk through those rooms and just absorb the creativity. Unfortunately this miniseries is all about the triangles. And I have a feeling that watching the background as I did wasn't the intended purpose in making this promiscuous miniseries. Comprising of three episodes the first two episodes are all about graphic copulation while the third is the Group clumsily dealing with the fallout of said copulation. Now I'm not one to be a prude, I just feel that graphic sex needs to be in aid of something, in particular, the story being told. Here it just seemed to be shorthand for their freedom, both intellectually and sexually. Yet there was a line that struck me as odd, Vanessa receives a letter from Virginia who is on her honeymoon saying she doesn't think sex is all it's cracked up to be and Vanessa blithely replies that the Duckworths messed Virginia up. This sent me down a Wikipedia rabbit hole learning about Virigina's sexual abuse at the hands of her stepbrothers, the Duckworths. I'm sorry, what!?! There's a real issue here that should be dealt with instead it's glossed over or made bawdy, more copulation please! This was the turning point for me. And this doesn't even cover Vanessa's daughter marrying her father's ex-lover! If something so important could be shoved aside as nothing then how could I enjoy anything I was seeing? This disconnect was made "easier" by the switching of the cast between the second and third episodes. In the first two episodes we see glimpses of their future selves played by different actors, and these glimpses were fine and were meant to cushion the blow of switching to the older actors. The problem was I was invested in the younger actors and their relationships, the older actors, once on their own, had no chemistry. None! Nothing at all, it was horrid. And as for Eve Best as the older Vanessa, do they do Razzies for television?

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Movie Review - Mrs. Dalloway

Mrs. Dalloway
Based on the book by Virginia Woolf
Starring: Rupert Graves, Vanessa Redgrave, Amanda Drew, Oliver Ford Davies, Natascha McElhone, Alan Cox, Hal Cruttenden, Lena Headey, Amelia Bullmore, Rupert Baker, Alistair Petrie, John Franklyn-Robbins, Phyllis Calvert, Katie Carr, Selina Cadell, Michael Kitchen, Robert Portal, John Standing, Margaret Tyzack, Robert Hardy, Denis Lill, Kate Binchy, Sarah Badel, Janet Henfrey, Faith Brook, Tony Steedman, and Christopher Staines
Release Date: September 4th, 1997
Rating: ★★★
To Watch

It is a beautiful summer's day in June. Mrs. Dalloway wonders aloud how is she so lucky to have her party on such a perfect day. When she was young, at Bourton, every day was perfect and spent with her friends, several of whom are coming to her party that night. As she walks to the florist she runs into one of them, Hugh, a rather hopeless case then and now. But he has his purpose. After picking out the sweet peas at the shop, just like her dear friend Sally Seton used to decorate the table one night all those years ago, a car backfires and she sees a young man in distress through the shop window. Septimus Warren Smith is out with his wife Rezia. They are due for an appointment later at the doctors because Septimus keeps threatening to kill himself and sees his dead friend Evans wherever he goes. The image of that young man will stick with Clarissa all day as she prepares for her party. And she has some unexpected hurdles; her daughter, Elizabeth, is insisting she won't attend because she'll be helping her friend Miss Kilman in her charitable work. There is also a little do-to about a boring acquaintance wishing to attend whom Clarissa would rather not. But the biggest surprise is when Peter Walsh walks through the door. Peter has been in India ever since Clarissa threw him over for her husband all those summers ago at Bourton. Peter's life, and in particular his love life, is a shambles and he breaks down in front of Clarissa. He can't help be overwhelmed by what his life has become and the thought that he loved Clarissa. He's uncertain if he still does, but the fact that he did has colored his entire life. Despite saying that under no circumstance would he be invited to the party he gets an invitation shouted after him as he flees the Dalloway's residence. Then finally, the hour has come, the party is to start, and Clarissa is sure it will be a failure. She just wishes to create this one perfect evening for her guests so that they can go out into the world afterwards and look back on the wonder of the perfect memory, the perfect evening, the perfect conversation, the perfect party. She worries that one of her guests, a rather renowned doctor, will ruin everything by discussing the suicide of his patient Septimus Warren Smith, by bringing death into her domain, but sometimes life, love, and memories, are greater than death, which has it's own kind of freedom.   

Remember the days when you'd just channel surf and see what was on because the only other way was to drag out the TV Guide, an actual, physical, small newsprint block of information, not that glossy mag that's still around today, and try to figure out which channel was which because each cable company had a different channel lineup? Well, back then I stumbled on this wonderfully British and evocative movie. I only got to watch about twenty minutes of it because dinner was ready but it left enough of an impression that I bothered to dig out the TV Guide after the fact and figure out that it was called Mrs. Dalloway. Knowing it was based on the book by Virginia Woolf, and at this time I would never watch an adaptation without reading the book first, I went out and got myself a copy of Mrs. Dalloway and it sat on my shelves for years. Then after The Hours came out a new edition of Mrs. Dalloway was released including the short story which was the initial inspiration for the book so I thought to myself, lucky I didn't read Mrs. Dalloway without reading it's precursor first! So the first copy sat around for five years and the second copy sat around for, I'm almost ashamed to say it, seventeen years, until it was finally dug out and read this year. Here's the thing, the book is a lot of work to read whereas this is an easy adaptation that you don't have to work for. Which means it's probably the exact opposite of what Virginia Woolf would have wanted but makes for a pleasurable moviegoing experience. Eileen Atkins, yes, that Eileen Atkins, the Dame, has taken Mrs. Dalloway and made it into a rather sweet coming of age story combined with the wistfulness of aging and first and lasting loves with an edge of social satire that has everything to do with the casting and nothing to do with the source material. In fact, the closer it gets to the source material, especially with regard to Septimus, played by Rupert Graves, and his PTSD, the less the movie works. This movie falls squarely into the time period of Rupert Graves's acting that I hate. He took himself so seriously and overacted so abysmally that I don't know how anyone can watch him in anything he was in from the start of his career to about 2005. In fact it wasn't until Sherlock in 2010 where I started to like him after the loathing and indifference. So if you can stomach some truly bad acting on his part and want a nice summery escape to an England that exists only in dreams of the past this idyll is for you.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Tuesday Tomorrow

A Peculiar Peril by Jeff VanderMeer
Published by: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: July 7th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 656 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A Peculiar Peril is a head-spinning epic about three friends on a quest to protect the world from a threat as unknowable as it is terrifying, from the Nebula Award–winning and New York Times bestselling author of Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer.

Jonathan Lambshead stands to inherit his deceased grandfather’s overstuffed mansion - a veritable cabinet of curiosities - once he and two schoolmates catalog its contents. But the three soon discover that the house is filled with far more than just oddities: It holds clues linking to an alt-Earth called Aurora, where the notorious English occultist Aleister Crowley has stormed back to life on a magic-fueled rampage across a surreal, through-the-looking-glass version of Europe replete with talking animals (and vegetables).

Swept into encounters with allies more unpredictable than enemies, Jonathan pieces together his destiny as a member of a secret society devoted to keeping our world separate from Aurora. But as the ground shifts and allegiances change with every step, he and his friends sink ever deeper into a deadly pursuit of the profound evil that is also chasing after them."

I was excited just by the idea of cataloging a curious house, throw in Aleister Crowley and I'm beyond excited! 

Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power
Published by: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: July 7th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"From the author of the New York Times bestseller Wilder Girls comes a new twisty thriller about a girl whose past has always been a mystery - until she decides to return to her mother's hometown... where history has a tendency to repeat itself.

Ever since Margot was born, it's been just her and her mother. No answers to Margot's questions about what came before. No history to hold on to. No relative to speak of. Just the two of them, stuck in their run-down apartment, struggling to get along.

But that's not enough for Margot. She wants family. She wants a past. And she just found the key she needs to get it: A photograph, pointing her to a town called Phalene. Pointing her home. Only, when Margot gets there, it's not what she bargained for.

Margot's mother left for a reason. But was it to hide her past? Or was it to protect Margot from what's still there?

The only thing Margot knows for sure is there's poison in their family tree, and their roots are dug so deeply into Phalene that now that she's there, she might never escape."

Oh, family secrets and hometown pilgrimages!

Unravel the Dusk by Elizabeth Lim
Published by: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: July 7th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Maia Tamarin proved her skill as a tailor when she wove the dresses of the sun, the moon, and the stars, but it will take more than a beautiful gown to hide the darkness rising up within her. . . . The stakes are higher than ever in this breathtaking sequel to Spin the Dawn, perfect for fans of Six of Crows.

Maia Tamarin's journey to sew the dresses of the sun, the moon, and the stars has taken a grievous toll. She returns to a kingdom on the brink of war. Edan, the boy she loves, is gone - perhaps forever - and no sooner does she set foot in the Autumn Palace than she is forced to don the dress of the sun and assume the place of the emperor's bride-to-be to keep the peace. When the emperor's rivals learn of her deception, there is hell to pay, but the war raging around Maia is nothing compared to the battle within. Ever since she was touched by the demon Bandur, she has been changing...glancing in the mirror to see her own eyes glowing red; losing control of her magic, her body, her mind. It's only a matter of time before Maia loses herself completely, and in the meantime she will stop at nothing to find Edan, protect her family, and bring lasting peace to her country."

I love the epic fableness of this series. 

The Book of Dragons edited by Jonathan Strahan
Published by: Harper Voyager
Publication Date: July 7th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 576 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Scott Lynch, R.F. Kuang, Kate Elliott, Ken Liu, Todd McCaffrey, Garth Nix, Peter S. Beagle, and other modern masters of fantasy and science fiction put their unique spin on the greatest of mythical beasts - the dragon - in never-before-seen works written exclusively for this fantasy anthology compiled by award-winning editor Jonathan Strahan and with art by Rovina Cai!

Here there be dragons...

From China to Europe, Africa to North America, dragons have long captured our imagination in myth and legend. Whether they are rampaging beasts awaiting a brave hero to slay or benevolent sages who have much to teach humanity, dragons are intrinsically connected to stories of creation, adventure, and struggle beloved for generations.

Bringing together nearly thirty stories and poems from some of the greatest science fiction and fantasy writers working today - Garth Nix, Scott Lynch, R.F. Kuang, Ann Leckie & Rachel Swirsky, Daniel Abraham, Peter S. Beagle, Beth Cato, Zen Cho, C. S. E Cooney, Aliette de Bodard, Amal El-Mohtar, Kate Elliott, Theodora Goss, Ellen Klages, Ken Liu, Seanan Maguire, Patricia A McKillip, K. J. Parker, Kelly Robson, Michael Swanwick, Jo Walton, Elle Katharine White, Jane Yolen, Kelly Barnhill, Brooke Bolander, Sarah Gailey, and J. Y. Yang - and illustrated by award-nominated artist Rovina Cai with black-and-white line drawings specific to each entry throughout, this extraordinary collection vividly breathes fire and life into one of our most captivating and feared magical creatures as never before and is sure to become a treasured keepsake for fans of fantasy, science fiction, and fairy tales."

The older I get the more I want to proclaim my love of dragons!

Haunted Heroine by Sarah Kuhn
Published by: DAW
Publication Date: July 7th, 2020
Format: Paperback, 400 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The fourth book in the smart, snarky, and action-packed Heroine series follows Evie Tanaka, Aveda Jupiter, and Bea Tanaka as they combat a new supernatural threat.

Everything in Evie Tanaka's life is finally perfect. As a badass superheroine, she defends San Francisco from demon invasion on the regular. Her relationships with superhero partner Aveda Jupiter, little sister Bea, and hot, half-demon husband Nate have never been stronger. Maybe it's possible for a grad school dropout turned put-upon personal assistant turned superhero to have it all?

Just when she thinks life can't get any better, Evie learns she's pregnant. Everyone around her is overjoyed...but Evie has major doubts about whether she's cut out for motherhood. Before she can dwell on her dilemma, a local women's college reports a string of mysterious "hauntings," and Evie and Aveda are called in to investigate, going undercover as grad students during the creepiest time of the year: Halloween.

As she confronts terrifying ghosts and lives out a bizarre version of the grad school life she left behind, Evie can't help but wonder about the road not taken: what would her life be like if she'd stayed here instead of pursuing superheroing with Aveda? And can an overwhelmed pregnant superhero truly have it all?

She's about to find out."

I love that this series keeps growing and expanding, I love it even more that there are hauntings! 

The Heir Affair by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
Published by: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: July 7th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 480 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Making it up the aisle was the easy part: Rebecca "Bex" Porter must survive her own scandals and adjust to royal British life in this "timely and positively delicious" follow-up to The Royal We that's "just as fun, charming, and delightful as the first" (Taylor Jenkins Reid)

After a scandalous secret turns their fairy-tale wedding into a nightmare, Rebecca "Bex" Porter and her husband Prince Nicholas are in self-imposed exile. The public is angry. The Queen is even angrier. And the press is salivating. Cutting themselves off from friends and family, and escaping the world's judgmental eyes, feels like the best way to protect their fragile, all-consuming romance.

But when a crisis forces the new Duke and Duchess back to London, the Band-Aid they'd placed over their problems starts to peel at the edges. Now, as old family secrets and new ones threaten to derail her new royal life, Bex has to face the emotional wreckage she and Nick left behind: with the Queen, with the world, and with Nick's brother Freddie, whose sins may not be so easily forgotten - nor forgiven."

For your "royals" fix now that Harry and Meghan are off living the L.A. life.

Bodies from the Library edited by Tony Medawar
Published by: Collins Crime Club
Publication Date: July 7th, 2020
Format: Paperback, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"This anthology of rare stories of crime and suspense brings together 16 tales by masters of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction for the first time in book form, including a newly discovered Agatha Christie crime story that has not been seen since 1922.

At a time when crime and thriller writing has once again overtaken the sales of general and literary fiction, Bodies from the Library unearths lost stories from the Golden Age, that period between the World Wars when detective fiction captured the public's imagination and saw the emergence of some of the world's cleverest and most popular storytellers.

This anthology brings together 16 forgotten tales that have either been published only once before - perhaps in a newspaper or rare magazine - or have never before appeared in print. From a previously unpublished 1917 script featuring Ernest Bramah's blind detective Max Carrados, to early 1950s crime stories written for London's Evening Standard by Cyril Hare, Freeman Wills Crofts and A.A. Milne, it spans five decades of writing by masters of the Golden Age.

Most anticipated of all are the contributions by women writers: the first detective story by Georgette Heyer, unseen since 1923; an unpublished story by Christianna Brand, creator of Nanny McPhee; and a dark tale by Agatha Christie published only in an Australian journal in 1922 during her 'Grand Tour' of the British Empire.

With other stories by Detection Club stalwarts Anthony Berkeley, H.C. Bailey, J.J. Connington, John Rhode and Nicholas Blake, plus Vincent Cornier, Leo Bruce, Roy Vickers and Arthur Upfield, this essential collection harks back to a time before forensic science - when murder was a complex business."

If you all knew about this series of anthologies and never told me about it I'm going to be pissed! 

Death at the Dance by Verity Bright
Published by: Bookouture
Publication Date: July 7th, 2020
Format: Paperback, 276 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A masked ball, a dead body, a missing diamond necklace and a suspicious silver candlestick? Sounds like a case for Lady Eleanor Swift!

England, 1920. Lady Eleanor Swift, adventurer extraordinaire and reluctant amateur detective, is taking a break from sleuthing. She’s got much bigger problems: Eleanor has two left feet, nothing to wear and she’s expected at the masked ball at the local manor. Her new beau Lance Langham is the host, so she needs to dazzle.

Surrounded by partygoers with painted faces, pirates, priests and enough feathers to drown an ostrich, Eleanor searches for a familiar face. As she follows a familiar pair of long legs up a grand staircase, she’s sure she’s on Lance’s trail. But she opens the door on a dreadful scene: Lance standing over a dead Colonel Puddifoot, brandishing a silver candlestick, the family safe wide open and empty.

Moments later, the police burst in and arrest Lance for murder, diamond theft and a spate of similar burglaries. But Eleanor is convinced her love didn’t do it, and with him locked up in prison, she knows she needs to clear his name.

Something Lance lets slip about his pals convinces Eleanor the answer lies close to home. Accompanied by her faithful sidekick Gladstone the bulldog, she begins with Lance’s friends – a set of fast driving, even faster drinking, high-society types with a taste for mischief. But after they start getting picked off in circumstances that look a lot like murder, Eleanor is in a race against time to clear Lance’s name and avoid another brush with death..."

A masked ball in the 1920s with a side of murder? Just what I wanted!

Friday, July 3, 2020

Book Review - Virginia Woolf's The Mrs. Dalloway Reader

The Mrs. Dalloway Reader by Virginia Woolf
Published by: Harcourt Books, Inc
Publication Date: November 15th, 2003
Format: Hardcover, 345 Pages
Rating: ★
To Buy

Mrs. Dalloway is having a party and she has gone out to buy the flowers herself, as her maid is busy with other preparations for the event that night. The walk she takes through the parks and streets of London on this beautiful day in mid-June has Clarissa remembering a summer long ago in the countryside at Bourton, a summer where, little did she know it, the rest of her life would be set in motion by choosing the reliable Richard Dalloway over the lovesick Peter Walsh. As fate would have it Peter Walsh has just returned to England after a long sojourn in India. After being rejected by Clarissa he proposed to the first girl he met on the boat to India and has come back to England seeking a divorce because he has fallen in love with a married woman with two young children and they mean to marry, once their respective spouses are disposed of. But seeing Clarissa all these long years later hidden emotions come bursting forth like a damn collapsing and he finds himself crying in her presence. Fleeing her sight the two of them dwell on each other in their thoughts the rest of the day. Clarissa thinking of the failure their marriage would have been and Peter wondering if perhaps it isn't too late for them... As people cross her mind and the past is more relevant than the present, what is and isn't important shifts. Because while it may seem crazy to some, this party Clarissa is throwing is very important to her. It lets her connect to people, show them a little kindness, make it known that she thinks about others above anything else. Be it a book they'd like to read or a certain dish they'd like to eat, she always has others on her mind and at the end of the night one person will be on her mind more than even Peter, a young shell shocked veteran, Septimus Warren Smith. She hears from the young man's doctor at her party that he had committed suicide earlier in the evening. Little did she know that her day mirrored his, as his wife mused on their lives, as we followed Septimus and his Lucrezia, decidedly unable to enjoy this day in mid-June due to their burdens that, in the end, get set down.

The thing about "classics" is some classics aren't for everyone. You can see their historical significance, you can admire their ingenuity, you can even applaud them for breaking down barriers, all while not actually liking the book; and I did not like Mrs. Dalloway. At all. Written in a steam of consciousness style that played like a game of regimented tag with a shifting point of view the book is bound to easily lose your attention when it isn't infuriating you. Right now it's hard to escape the ever growing horror that is the news and reading is a refuge, a refuge that is at the moment hard to escape into even with the most perfect of books. Therefore to have a book so fragmentary and dreamlike, more poetry than prose, I found it simply impossible to connect with Mrs. Dalloway and it's complete lack of narrative. Mrs. Dalloway isn't even the star of her own book for Pete's sake! At times I felt I was going insane, which maybe was Virginia Woolf's goal? I seriously don't know what she meant to do here, because this "Reader" includes a plethora of critical essays and I was supposed to hate the doctors trying to help Septimus when I thought their care was thoughtfully presented... so therefore I'm disconnected from the meaning of individuality over conformity because I wanted him to get better instead of kill himself? Ugh. At least I didn't feel totally alone in my dislike. The author Sigrid Nunez, who wrote a book on Virginia Woolf's monkey Mitz, says that in her opinion Mrs. Dalloway is contrived. I personally think it might have just been overworked, because the book's precursor, "Mrs. Dalloway's Party," read fresher to me, but if you can imagine it, bleaker. And I won't even start on my contempt for The Hours which arose from reading all the critical essays. How can a "retelling" by A MAN win all these accolades? Unacceptable.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Virginia Woolf

Most people know Virginia Woolf. Of course most people know the bare minimum; she was a feminist writer who killed herself. If you know a little more you know she was a feminist writer who was part of the Bloomsbury Group who killed herself with rocks. This is ingrained by high school curriculum and is a simplification of a life filled with brilliance and madness. Virginia Stephens was born into a blended household, with two boys and a girl from her mother's previous marriage to Herbert Duckworth, and a girl from her father's previous marriage to William Mackepeace Thackeray's youngest daughter, Minny. Her parents went on to have four more children together, including her, despite attempts to curtail their family at five children after the birth of Virginia's older sister Vanessa. Over the years it has become accepted knowledge that Virginia's accusations of sexual abuse at the hands of her half-brothers wasn't a product of her active imagination and probably fed into her mental collapses, the first of which happened when she was thirteen with the death of her mother.

She would suffer mental collapses many more times, the final resulting in her taking her life. Yet despite the fact that the death of her father triggered one of these collapses, it also resulted in her liberation. After his death the family moved to Bloomsbury where they lived as they wished, often holding salons for her brothers' college friends. They became known as the Bloomsbury Group, compromised of writers, philosophers, artists, intellectuals, friends, and lovers who's "prime objects in life were love, the creation and enjoyment of aesthetic experience and the pursuit of knowledge." Her first book, The Voyage Out, was published in 1915 when she was 33, under her half-brother's imprint, Gerald Duckworth and Company. But her second book, Mrs. Dalloway, published in 1925 is easily her most famous. This was printed by Hogarth Press, a publishing house that Virginia established with her husband Leonard in 1917. Though married to Leonard until her death her great love was Vita Sackville-West. Though all the love and family in the world couldn't help her with the depression she felt with the onset of the second world war, and in 1941, at the age of 59, she committed suicide.       

Monday, June 29, 2020

Tuesday Tomorrow

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Published by: Del Rey
Publication Date: June 30th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic artistocrat. And a brave socialite drawn to expose their treacherous secrets....

From the author of Gods of Jade and Shadow comes “a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror” (Kirkus Reviews) set in glamorous 1950s Mexico - “fans of classic novels like Jane Eyre and Rebecca are in for a suspenseful treat” (PopSugar).

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find - her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind."

I know Gothic is my comfort zone, but I'm ashamed to say so much of my bookshelves are white authors, so how about this, let's try something new that feels like home? Baby step your way out of your comfort zone.   

Opium and Absinthe by Lydia Kang
Published by: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: June 30th, 2020
Format: Paperback, 384 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"From the bestselling author of A Beautiful Poison comes another spellbinding historical novel full of intrigue, occult mystery, and unexpected twists.

New York City, 1899. Tillie Pembroke's sister lies dead, her body drained of blood and with two puncture wounds on her neck. Bram Stoker's new novel, Dracula, has just been published, and Tillie's imagination leaps to the impossible: the murderer is a vampire. But it can't be - can it?

A ravenous reader and researcher, Tillie has something of an addiction to truth, and she won't rest until she unravels the mystery of her sister's death. Unfortunately, Tillie's addicted to more than just truth; to ease the pain from a recent injury, she's taking more and more laudanum...and some in her immediate circle are happy to keep her well supplied.

Tillie can't bring herself to believe vampires exist. But with the hysteria surrounding her sister's death, the continued vampiric slayings, and the opium swirling through her body, it's becoming increasingly difficult for a girl who relies on facts and figures to know what's real - or whether she can trust those closest to her."

Vampire mania and opium addiction? I'm in!

The Silk House by Kayte Nunn
Published by: Hachette Australia
Publication Date: June 30th, 2020
Format: Kindle, 323 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Weaving. Healing. Haunting. The spellbinding story of a mysterious boarding school sheltering a centuries-old secret by the bestselling author of The Botanist's Daughter.

Australian history teacher Thea Rust arrives at an exclusive boarding school in the British countryside only to find that she is to look after the first intake of girls in its 150-year history. She is to stay with them in Silk House, a building with a long and troubled past, where the shadows hide more mysteries than she could ever imagine.

In the late 1700s, Rowan Caswell leaves her village to work in the home of an English silk merchant. She is thrust into a new and dangerous world where her talent for herbs and healing soon attracts attention.

In London, Mary-Louise Stephenson lives amid the clatter of the weaving trade and dreams of becoming a silk designer, a job that is the domain of men. Arriving in the market town of Oxleigh, she brings with her a length of fabric woven with a pattern of deadly plants that will have far-reaching consequences for all who dwell in the silk house.

Intoxicating, haunting and inspired by the author's background, The Silk House is the exceptional new gothic mystery by Kayte Nunn."

Yep, I'm ALL about the Gothic this week! 

The House on Widows Hill by Simon R. Green
Published by: Severn House Publishers
Publication Date: June 30th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 3190 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Ishmael Jones investigates a haunted house...but is haunted by his own past in the latest of this quirky paranormal mystery series.

"That house is a bad place. Bad things happen there..." Set high on top of Widows Hill, Harrow House has remained empty for years. Now, on behalf of an anonymous prospective buyer, Ishmael and Penny are spending a night there in order to investigate the rumours of strange lights, mysterious voices, unexplained disappearances, and establish whether the house is really haunted. What really happened at Harrow House all those years ago? Joined by a celebrity psychic, a professional ghost-hunter, a local historian and a newspaper reporter, it becomes clear that each member of 'Team Ghost' has their own pet theory as to the cause of the alleged haunting. But when one of the group suddenly drops dead with no obvious cause, Ishmael realizes that if he can find out how and why the victim died, he will have the key to solving the mystery."

See? It's my Gothic week!

Come When I Call You by Shayna Krishnasamy
Published by: Deep Dark Press
Publication Date: June 30th, 2020
Format: Kindle, 216 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"For fans of The Little Stranger and Never Let Me Go comes a riveting and elegantly chilling tale of secrets, lies, and things that creep in the night.

Anna Maron has always been the clever cousin, the older one. The follower of rules. Now sixteen, she attends the prestigious Claymore Manor boarding school, a place where girls find and lose themselves, and boys like Ben offer endless distraction. Where life seems almost normal, and Anna can ignore those things she longs to forget - like the things that she sees...and wishes she didn't.

Anna has almost convinced herself that she’s not all that different, until her cousin Lucia shows up, bruised and battered, and desperate for help. Lucia, with her chilling charm and mystery. Lucia, who shares the same strange gift as Anna, but embraces it even as her hold on reality crumbles away. Now a snowstorm is moving in, and icy weather brings a reckoning of past and present...and the living and dead.

In this deliciously unnerving contemporary gothic novel, Shayna Krishnasamy draws readers into a tale that uniquely explores the ties that bind, the lies we tell ourselves, and how some secrets only come alive in the dark."


Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
Published by: Dutton
Publication Date: June 30th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 400 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In the latest thriller from New York Times bestseller Riley Sager, a woman returns to the house made famous by her father’s bestselling horror memoir. Is the place really haunted by evil forces, as her father claimed? Or are there more earthbound - and dangerous - secrets hidden within its walls?

What was it like? Living in that house.

Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity - and skepticism.

Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father's book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father's death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself - a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.

Alternating between Maggie’s uneasy homecoming and chapters from her father’s book, Home Before Dark is the story of a house with long-buried secrets and a woman’s quest to uncover them - even if the truth is far more terrifying than any haunting."

"True" haunting made meta? YAS!

Murder at Blackwater Bend by Clara McKenna
Published by: Kensington
Publication Date: June 30th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Wild-hearted Kentuckian Stella Kendrick cautiously navigates the strict demands of British high society as the future Lady of Morrington Hall. But when petty scandals lead to bloody murder, her outspoken nature could be all that keeps her alive...

Following a whirlwind engagement to Viscount “Lyndy” Lyndhurst, Stella is finding her footing within an elite social circle in picturesque rural England. Except tea time with refined friends can be more dangerous than etiquette faux pas - especially in the company of Lady Philippa, the woman Lyndy was once set to marry, and her husband, the ostentatious Lord Fairbrother...

Outrage erupts and accusations fly after Lord Fairbrother’s pony wins best in breed for the seventh consecutive year. The man has his share of secrets and adversaries, but Stella and Lyndy are in for a brutal shock when they discover his body floating in the river during a quiet morning fishing trip...

Suddenly unwelcome around hardly-grieving Lady Philippa and Lyndy’s endlessly critical mother, Stella faces the bitter reality that she may always be an outsider - and one of her trusted new acquaintances may be a calculating killer. Now, Stella and her fiancé must fight against the current to catch the culprit, before they’re the next couple torn apart by tragedy."

I just finished rewatching Berkeley Square and am all about American women marrying into the English upper class. 

Her Last Flight by Beatriz Williams
Published by: William Morrow
Publication Date: June 30th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 400 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The beloved author returns with a remarkable novel of both raw suspense and lyric beauty - the story of a lost pilot and a wartime photographer that will leave its mark on your soul.

In 1947, photographer and war correspondent Janey Everett arrives at a remote surfing village on the Hawaiian island of Kauai to research a planned biography of forgotten aviation pioneer Sam Mallory, who joined the loyalist forces in the Spanish Civil War and never returned. Obsessed with Sam’s fate, Janey has tracked down Irene Lindquist, the owner of a local island-hopping airline, whom she believes might actually be the legendary Irene Foster, Mallory’s onetime student and flying partner. Foster’s disappearance during a round-the-world flight in 1937 remains one of the world’s greatest unsolved mysteries.

At first, the flinty Mrs. Lindquist denies any connection to Foster. But Janey informs her that the wreck of Sam Mallory’s airplane has recently been discovered in a Spanish desert, and piece by piece, the details of Foster’s extraordinary life emerge: from the beginnings of her flying career in Southern California, to her complicated, passionate relationship with Mallory, to the collapse of her marriage to her aggressive career manager, the publishing scion George Morrow.

As Irene spins her tale to its searing conclusion, Janey’s past gathers its own power. The duel between the two women takes a heartstopping turn. To whom does Mallory rightfully belong? Can we ever come to terms with the loss of those we love, and the lives we might have lived?"

I need to do a full on Beatriz binge this summer I think...

A Duke, The Lady, and a Baby by Vanessa Riley
Published by: Zebra
Publication Date: June 30th, 2020
Format: Paperback, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Created by a shrewd countess, The Widow’s Grace is a secret society with a mission: to help ill-treated widows regain their status, their families, and even find true love again - or perhaps for the very first time...

When headstrong West Indian heiress Patience Jordan questioned her English husband's mysterious suicide, she lost everything: her newborn son, Lionel, her fortune - and her freedom. Falsely imprisoned, she risks her life to be near her child - until The Widow's Grace gets her hired as her own son’s nanny. But working for his unsuspecting new guardian, Busick Strathmore, Duke of Repington, has perils of its own. Especially when Patience discovers his military strictness belies an ex-rake of unswerving honor - and unexpected passion...

A wounded military hero, Busick is determined to resolve his dead cousin’s dangerous financial dealings for Lionel’s sake. But his investigation is a minor skirmish compared to dealing with the forthright, courageous, and alluring Patience. Somehow, she's breaking his rules, and sweeping past his defenses. Soon, between formidable enemies and obstacles, they form a fragile trust - but will it be enough to save the future they long to dare together?"

We have now moved on from the Gothic to Dukes. 

Daring and the Duke by Sarah MacLean
Published by: Avon
Publication Date: June 30th, 2020
Format: Paperback, 384 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"New York Times bestselling author Sarah MacLean returns with the much-anticipated final book in her Bareknuckle Bastards series, featuring a scoundrel duke and the powerful woman who brings him to his knees.

Grace Condry has spent a lifetime running from her past. Betrayed as a child by her only love and raised on the streets, she now hides in plain sight as queen of London’s darkest corners. Grace has a sharp mind and a powerful right hook and has never met an enemy she could not best...until the man she once loved returns.

Single-minded and ruthless, Ewan, Duke of Marwick, has spent a decade searching for the woman he never stopped loving. A long-ago gamble may have lost her forever, but Ewan will go to any lengths to win Grace back…and make her his duchess.

Reconciliation is the last thing Grace desires. Unable to forgive the past, she vows to take her revenge. But revenge requires keeping Ewan close, and soon her enemy seems to be something else altogether - something she can’t resist, even as he threatens the world she's built, the life she's claimed…and the heart she swore he'd never steal again."

See? Dukes!

Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan
Published by: Doubleday
Publication Date: June 30th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The iconic author of the bestselling phenomenon Crazy Rich Asians returns with the glittering tale of a young woman who finds herself torn between two men: the WASPY fiancé of her family's dreams and George Zao, the man she is desperately trying to avoid falling in love with.

On her very first morning on the jewel-like island of Capri, Lucie Churchill sets eyes on George Zao and she instantly can't stand him. She can't stand it when he gallantly offers to trade hotel rooms with her so that she can have a view of the Tyrrhenian Sea, she can't stand that he knows more about Casa Malaparte than she does, and she really can't stand it when he kisses her in the darkness of the ancient ruins of a Roman villa and they are caught by her snobbish, disapproving cousin Charlotte. "Your mother is Chinese so it's no surprise you'd be attracted to someone like him," Charlotte teases. The daughter of an American-born Chinese mother and a blue-blooded New York father, Lucie has always sublimated the Asian side of herself in favor of the white side, and she adamantly denies having feelings for George. But several years later, when George unexpectedly appears in East Hampton, where Lucie is weekending with her new fiancé, Lucie finds herself drawn to George again. Soon, Lucie is spinning a web of deceit that involves her family, her fiancé, the co-op board of her Fifth Avenue apartment building, and ultimately herself as she tries mightily to deny George entry into her world--and her heart. Moving between summer playgrounds of privilege, peppered with decadent food and extravagant fashion, Sex and Vanity is a truly modern love story, a daring homage to A Room with a View, and a brilliantly funny comedy of manners set between two cultures."

Your perfect summer escapist fantasy! 

Star Wars: Age of Rebellion by Greg Pak, Simon Spurrier, Marc Guggenheim, and Jon Adams
Published by: Marvel
Publication Date: June 30th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 240 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The Age of Star Wars - an epic series of adventures uniting your favorite characters from all eras - reaches the iconic heroes and villains of the original trilogy! Witness the moments that defined them, the incredible battles that shaped them - and their eternal conflict between light and darkness! Solo stories spotlight major figures from Star Wars Episodes IV-VI - from Luke, Leia and Han to Lando, Yoda and more! And on the dark side, Darth Vader is joined by Boba Fett, Jabba the Hutt, Grand Moff Tarkin and the cold, calculating bounty hunter known as IG-88!"

I've been really all about Star Wars lately... 

Friday, June 26, 2020

TV Series Review - Z: The Beginning of Everything

Z: The Beginning of Everything
Based on the book by Therese Anne Fowler
Starring: Christina Ricci, Maya Kazan, Sarah Schenkkan, Jamie Anne Allman, David Strathairn, Kristine Nielsen, Scott Rosenfeld, David Hoflin, Jim True-Frost, Talia Balsam, Matt Malloy, Holly Curran, Jordan Dean, Corey Cott, Andrew Call, Andrew Bridges, Joel Brady, AJ Cedeno, Christina Bennett Lind, Natalie Knepp, Lucy Walters, Bill Phillips, Tony Manna, Cameron Scoggins, Conor Donovan, Randy Kovitz, Sean Bell, Ian Jarvis, Jun Naito, and Gene Jones
Release Date: January 27th, 2017
Rating: ★★★★
To Watch

Zelda is a bit of a whirlwind to the belles of Montgomery, Alabama. She swims, in a nude colored bathing suit, she dances, ballet as well as the more risque numbers, she parties, she drinks, she smokes, she hangs outside the local whorehouse with her friends shaming the men going inside. She isn't like anything that is expected or acceptable, yet she is endearing, even to her exasperated family. She's the baby who is going to break all the rules and when F. Scott Fitzgerald enters her life, he's the biggest break their is. A Yankee who aspires to be a writer who will break her heart again and again, yet she cannot live without him, she cannot give him up. And she does try. But then his book is finally accepted for publication and Zelda finally accepts his marriage proposal and their whirlwind of a life begins. Arriving in New York City Zelda is overwhelmed by how vast and big their new life shall be. They get married and the nonstop party begins that very night in the honeymoon suite of their hotel. Zelda soon realizes that in order to fit in she's going to have to be even bolder and brassier and bare herself to be accepted as Scott's wife. So she transforms into a character straight out of one of Scott's stories. Short hair, sultry dresses, no more frills and furbelows for the wife of F. Scott! But also because she's his wife, no more freedom with her own artistic expression. Any dreams of taking her "it" girl status to the next level in Hollywood is stifled by Scott. She's there to come to his readings, to inspire him, to be on his arm as he parades his success in front of all those who thought he'd never make it. A success that needs a followup if they are to keep living the life they are. Because the bills keep piling up and Zelda keeps spending the money, being kept in the dark by Scott as to their finances. Therefore they must leave New York and they get a house in Westport. There all their troubles are amplified and things come to a head. But one thing is certain, no matter how bad they are for each other they cannot survive apart. 

Therese Anne Fowler's book on Zelda Fitzgerald is an interesting logistical puzzle when you get to adapting it. From the framing device to Zelda and Scott's power dynamic to the narrative style, everything had to be reconsidered within this new medium. First and foremost is switching from a first person narrative to a hybrid which fleshes out the characters as something other than just how Zelda sees them while maintaining her voice. In order to successfully do this I was intrigued that instead of having Zelda and Scott somewhat equals they softened Zelda and hardened Scott, leaning heavily into being "Team Zelda" as Fowler herself puts it. Instead of Zelda's work and influence on Scott as a kind of "collaboration under duress" Scott is all out stealing her words and making them his own. He comes across as a pilfering, hostile, unlikable drunk, who will hurt Zelda any way he can. Now the book didn't endear me to Scott, but this series, it made me really hate him. There wasn't really any grey areas to their relationship, it was much more black and white, and to me, maybe a bit more romantic because there is the victim and the victor, and Zelda is deified as the true genius. While this might feel less realistic, Zelda has spent years being the millstone around Scott's neck in biographies and movies, so perhaps it was time for a little justice. Perhaps it was time for Zelda to be the out and out heroine. It sure made for bingeable viewing! Each thirty minute slice of life flowed into the next until the abrupt ending, which was meant to bridge into a second season which was commissioned and then cancelled. I can see why, once their daughter Scottie enters the picture their life changes and the show wouldn't have had the roaring twenties ritziness that so exemplifies the first season. The look, the feel, the sets, the costumes, everything made this time period come alive, almost more than the book. Because if anything, the twenties is about appearances, and well, no matter how well written a book is, sometimes things have to be seen to be believed.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Book Review - Therese Anne Fowler's Z

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
Published by: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: March 26th, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 375 Pages
Rating: ★★★
To Buy

On the eve of her husband's death Zelda looks back on their life and writes to him about their future, their next great act that she doesn't know will never come. She was the belle of the ball and he was the Yankee soldier with ambitions of being a writer who swept her off her feet despite a lack of prospects and a northern upbringing. But marrying an unpublished writer would be folly. Therefore Zelda broke Scott's heart in order to push him to finish rewriting his first novel. Eight days after This Side of Paradise was published they were married and their decadent life in New York City began. Their bank account would widely fluctuate from being able to afford the most luxurious raccoon coats to not being able to buy groceries. Not that Scott bothered to tell Zelda about their finances, when in need he'd sacrifice his talent and his time writing his next great novel to churning out a story for the magazines he vocally reviled. But New York would prove too costly and with a baby on the way they moved to Minnesota to be near Scott's family. There Zelda found a surprising opportunity besides being a new mother she started to write pieces for the magazines Scott disliked. But he didn't dislike the money or his wife getting credit, even if he often received partial or full credit on her work. Zelda did dislike that. But what was she to do as the wife of a famous author who was notorious for spending more than he could earn. This habit soon led them to a vagrant lifestyle in France where their money could stretch further. They surrounded themselves with artists and authors yet Zelda resented always being the wife. And then Hemingway came into their life. Driving even more of a wedge between the now acrimonious couple. But through the years to come, the ups and downs, the coast to coast relocations, the drinking, the hospitalizations, they always came back to each other, until they no longer could. Until that day in December when Scott left this world.

There's a fine line that is tread when writing a fictional book about a real person, you have to go more for the emotional connection while still keeping enough historical content to ground it in reality. I find this is even more so for wives of authors, and yes, this is a whole subset of historical fiction. Because so much is known about certain authors that their wives, even if they aren't as famous as Zelda, are part of the mystique of the author. Part of their legend. And a truly successful book about a "wife" is one in which she is able to break away from her husband's legacy and be seen for herself. The problem is with Scott and Zelda they are so intertwined that this book is more about their suffocating co-dependence and how that affected Zelda emotional, physically, and artistically. And to get this emotional connection Fowler has gone the logical root of being "Team Zelda" and demonizing Scott, to an extent. Because as she mentions at the end of the book, fans of the Fiztgeralds are all about taking sides. But just the basic facts of Scott viewing the life they lived together as fodder for HIS work ONLY should be enough to make you sympathize with Zelda. Her letters, her stories, her reviews, her diaries, her experiences, all of it, Scott laid claim to. She was his "wife" and nothing more. Fowler shows quite clearly and sympathetically that this is what destroyed them. They destroyed each other because Scott laying claim to Zelda's life forced her into a mental collapse resulting in him becoming her caretaker. So while I felt the narrative got to the heart of the issue I still felt that it could have been presented more eloquently. The beginning of the book is so beautifully written but as the story continues, as Zelda's life disintegrates, the quality trails off, the story becomes more elliptical and suffers. This book is a good start for those interested in Zelda and the Fiztgeralds, but as the author says herself; "Look closer and you'll see something extraordinary, mystifying, something real and true." Just don't look for it here.

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