I've moved bookishwhimsy.com to tumblr! This blog is now an archive of my past posts.


Thursday, January 31, 2013

Guest Post: Storm Child: Naomi Kryske's "The Witness"

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
I am pleased to present this guest post on the orgin of Naomi Kryske's novel "The Witness".  This novel is a police procedural of sorts involving the assault and battery of Jennifer Jeffries, and follows her journey to recovery.  Thank you so much Naomi for sharing your story.

All writing begins as a shadow, a faint image, a specter without substance. Then something steps out of the mist and engages a living mind. What is it? Who? Where? This process of discovery is called imagination, and it seeks a home in which to grow.

Evacuating from Hurricane Ivan, forecast to hit the Gulf Coast of the United States in September, 2004, I was dying of boredom during my more than nineteen hours behind the wheel. I thought of a detective, a crime, and a victim. What would their relationship be? If the victim is an American but the crime takes place in London, the setting as well as the violence would alienate her. How would an experienced detective bridge the gap?

Twenty-four hours later, Ivan skipped a little to the east, sparing my house. I headed home, but the gestation process continued, and my ideas developed into skeleton of a story, a police procedural in which the two cultures would be compared and contrasted.

Nearly a year later, Hurricane Katrina unleashed her fury, and I feared for my safety. Evacuation was mandatory, but I had nowhere to go and nowhere to hide. When the winds and the waves come, I wondered, will I survive them?

I did survive, but my home was a victim of Katrina's cruel power. As the days passed and I tried to rebuild my life, I understood Shakespeare's lament: "O! that I were as great / As is my grief, or lesser than my name, / Or that I could forget what I have been, / Or not remember what I must be now." I understood what it meant to be a victim, how difficult recovery was, and how relentless trauma could be. My skeleton of a story now had a heart and soul.

When Red Smith wrote, "Writing is really quite simple; all you have to do is sit down at your typewriter and open a vein," I believe he was referring to the power that comes from being on the inside looking out rather than the outside looking in. If you've felt fear, you know when a breath becomes a gasp. If you've suffered grief, you know that hearts can break and bleed. If trauma has changed your life, you know how it will change the lives of your characters and how difficult recovery will be for them. My experiences following Hurricane Katrina taught me how my characters would feel and what they would do.

I now had two of the three factors that every story requires: imagination and experience. For the story to capture others' attention, however, I needed to move beyond my own experience. Research added the ligaments, tendons, and muscles to my living skeleton, and The Witness, my storm child, was born.

Detective Chief Inspector Colin Sinclair, called to investigate the case of a brutally beaten young woman, finds the seventh victim of a serial killer. If she survives and identifies her attacker, he must convince her to testify against him. Jennifer Jeffries, however, doesn't want to be a witness. She wants to return to her Texas home, to "see London in her rear-view mirror."

During her stay in the hospital, a second attempt is made on her life. Sinclair now realizes that nothing less than witness protection will suffice, but his witness is too frightened to trust even the police. Without her cooperation and testimony, they have no case against the killer. How can Sinclair secure her willingness? "Fear may be what you are feeling," he tells her, "but courage is what you are doing."

"Into the valley of death rode the six hundred," she responds, using Tennyson's words to illustrate her fear of what she considers to be a suicide mission.

How long will it take for her to recover from her horrific injuries? Her emotional ones? Will living in a flat with police protection officers traumatize her further? One of the officers is an ex-special-forces sergeant with sufficient medical knowledge to treat her injuries but few social skills and no bedside manner. Sinclair knows that preparing the case for trial will take months, and she will be isolated from her family. Will Jenny be able to deal with her fears and face her attacker in court?

Those who have been affected by any kind of trauma will understand Jenny's struggles and find hope in her determination to triumph over her circumstances. Others will be engaged by an entertaining, well researched novel and characters that step off the page.

In The Witness, the reader will encounter the issues involved in fear and trauma; anger and violence; law and justice; trust and love; and the nature of freedom. Blogs on my website, http://www.naomikryske.com, expand on some of these topics. The Prologue and first chapter are also posted there. Visit my Pinterest page for visual scenes of the London landscape and background on the characters. The Witness is available from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and in both Nook and Kindle formats.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Awesome Adaptations (23) - The Velveteen Rabbit

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,

Awesome Adaptations is a weekly bookish meme, hosted at Alisa Selene’s books blog, Picturemereading.  Anyone can play along! Each week there is a new category of adaptation to blog about. Any format (television series, film, web series, etc.) is acceptable as long as it is based in some form on a book. If you’re playing along on your own blog, just mention Picturemereading in your post and include the banner above. Let them know which film you’d pick and why it is an awesome adaptation worth watching. Oh, and don’t forget to share the link to your own post in the comments for that week’s challenge so that everyone can read your thoughts!

An Awesome Adaptation of an Animal Tale
Title: The Velveteen Rabbit
Adapted from: The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

This short animated film from 1985 adapts a children's story I have always held dear.  I was very attached to my stuffed toys when I was young, and harbored a secret hope they would become real, or at least cared that I loved it.  This story helped with my delusion. :)

This cartoon makes a few changes to the story.  There are some scenes of the bumbling toy soldiers as comic relief, because they wish to oust the Velveteen Rabbit from the Boy's attentions and they are always thwarted.  And this adaptation makes the interesting decision to not have the Rabbit move or speak even while the other toys can and that changes the dynamic of the scene where the real rabbits talk to the Velveteen Rabbit.  It definitely makes the real rabbits less malicious this way.  Of course then in the end when the Rabbit becomes real and can move, it is all the more touching.

I've always thought this story was pretty sad, even though it has a happy ending.  The Rabbit goes from being the favorite to being thrown out, with the message that love makes things real. Though it seems more like a blue fairy is what makes things real.  Well, at least in the cartoon, the fairy makes it clearer that the fact that the Rabbit was loved was what made it possible for her to make him real, while the book made it seem like all old well-used playthings get to be transformed.

This is a lovely story and a very cute cartoon that has the added appeal of being narrated by Christopher Plummer.  Watching this cartoon brings me such a sense of nostalgia which made me enjoy it even more.  Although some might think this adaptation does not fit 'an animal tale' because it is a toy, I beg to differ.  The Velveteen Rabbit is REAL. :)
Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Review: Prodigy

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Prodigy (Legend #2)
by Marie Lu

Plot summary:

June and Day arrive in Vegas just as the unthinkable happens: the Elector Primo dies, and his son Anden takes his place. With the Republic edging closer to chaos, the two join a group of Patriot rebels eager to help Day rescue his brother and offer passage to the Colonies. They have only one request—June and Day must assassinate the new Elector.

It’s their chance to change the nation, to give voice to a people silenced for too long.

But as June realizes this Elector is nothing like his father, she’s haunted by the choice ahead. What if Anden is a new beginning? What if revolution must be more than loss and vengeance, anger and blood—what if the Patriots are wrong?

In this highly-anticipated sequel, Lu delivers a breathtaking thriller with high stakes and cinematic action.

A Note:

I read the first book in this series, Legend, before I started this blog, so I never wrote a review, but I really enjoyed it and highly recommend it!  Obviously I was very eager to read the second book. And lemme just say after reading this book, I'd goddy well kill for the third, yeah?  I just read recently that the author was inspired by Les Misérables when she created Legend, and because I'm actually listening to the musical at the moment (movie soundtrack if you are wondering) I wanted to do things a little differently in my review and drop in some leading Les Mis quotes.  It's a beautiful musical, this is a beautiful story, let's get into it!

Review:

"Take my hand, I'll lead you to salvation"
The novel begins right where Legend ended - June and Day are headed to Vegas where they receive help from the Patriots.  Where Legend describes a dystopic Los Angeles with specific details and real landmarks, the author's revision of Las Vegas was just as inventive and I liked how she melded the ideology of the repressive Republic with the legacy of sin city.  June and Day join up with the Patriots, and I have to admit, from that I assumed this story would take a certain direction that it did not take.  I felt like the author sets up a few familiar scenarios and spins them masterfully into different, unexpected directions. The plot of this book felt tighter and more intricate then the first (which is saying something!), especially as more was revealed of the post apocalyptic world and their politics, and a new perspective cast on the Republic and the Colonies.  I can't say how much I loved how the Colonies were developed.  It was an interesting twist on a dystopian future and the perfect balance to the Republic.

"There was a time when love was blind"
June and Day's romance was more deeply explored in this book.  Their backgrounds and life experiences are at odds, and the realistic issues that must come of their relationship are addressed very intelligently.  Now I didn't feel like the romance overpowered the plot and the political conflict of the story but their romance was built in a way that had me sighing and wringing my hands because they have to be together!  Especially with the introduction of other people who might keep June and Day apart.  What keeps the romance side of this story so compelling is how easy it is to imagine June and Day with these other people, because I can equally sympathize with how they feel and see what good couples they would make.  I just kept hoping June and Day will find the way to each other.

"The turning of the years"
There's even more intrigue and surprises and nail-biting suspense in this book than the last, and the world-building felt more vivid, intelligent, and realistic. The last third of this book especially had me riveted and breathlessly turning pages. And what a cliffhanger!  How on earth will that be resolved!!?   This wonderfully smart series seems to be gearing up to a profound finish, and I can not wait for the next book.

a review copy was kindly provided by the author
Prodigy is released today, check out the links below and get a copy!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Review: The Vesuvius Club

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
The Vesuvius Club
by Mark Gatiss

Plot Summary:

Meet Lucifer Box: Equal parts James Bond and Sherlock Holmes, with a twist of Monty Python and a dash of Austin Powers, Lucifer has a charming countenance and rapier wit that make him the guest all hostesses must have. And most do.

But few of his conquests know that Lucifer is also His Majesty's most daring secret agent, at home in both London's Imperial grandeur and in its underworld of despicable vice. So when Britain's most prominent scientists begin turning up dead, there is only one man his country can turn to for help.

Following a dinnertime assassination, Lucifer is dispatched to uncover the whereabouts of missing agent Jocelyn Poop. Along the way he will give art lessons, be attacked by a poisonous centipede, bed a few choice specimens, and travel to Italy on business and pleasure. Aided by his henchwoman Delilah; the beautiful, mysterious, and Dutch Miss Bella Pok; his boss, a dwarf who takes meetings in a lavatory; grizzled vulcanologist Emmanuel Quibble; and the impertinent, delicious, right-hand-boy Charlie Jackpot, Lucifer Box deduces and seduces his way from his elegant townhouse at Number 9 Downing Street (somebody has to live there) to the ruined city of Pompeii, to infiltrate a highly dangerous secret society that may hold the fate of the world in its clawlike grip—the Vesuvius Club.

Review:

I'm a big fan of Mark Gatiss from his work for Doctor Who and Sherlock.  I love his style and that indefinable something about his personality.  He's just so adorable.  So delving into this audiobook, read by the author, was inevitable.  And this book delivers in everything I was expecting from a novel by Mr. Gatiss.  It's sharply witty, a touch macabre and grotesque, and a thorough romp.  The absurd names he gives his characters is already a hint that this story is just a fun ride that should not be taken too seriously.  It starts off a little rambly, as the reader gets to experience a few days in the life of Lucifer Box as he does a little research into his assignment and has to deal with the consequences of his very active social life.  But when circumstances snowball and the need to solve the mystery of the missing agent becomes urgent, the story picks up it's pace.

With the twists and turns of the plot, the story also becomes more bizarre and less believable.  Lucifer gets into some ridiculous scrapes, and the eventual resolution plays on all the tropes of the maniacal uber-villain.  The resolution does come at you fast, with about a dozen things happening at once which made for a very compelling listen.  It's a light and fun story with broad, comical characterizations, a charmingly egotistical dandy as narrator and multiple plot threads that are resolved neatly in the end.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Suspense Sundays (31)

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
"Now let's see... Suspect... Suspectant... Suspend... Ah here we are, Suspense.  The condition of mental uncertainty usually accompanied by apprehension or anxiety.  Fear of something that is about to occur, as 'Do not keep me any longer in SUSPENSE.'"

Suspense was a radio series from 1942 to 1962, claiming to be "radio's outstanding theater of thrills."  I have a fondness for "Old Time Radio" as we call it now, and Suspense is my favorite show.  It sets up weird, dark, scary, or intriguing stories with a plot twist in the end, and all in half an hour.  I love the old-fashion story-telling and I thought it would be fun to give a short review of an episode every Sunday.  



"The Singing Walls"
Air date: September 2, 1943
Starring --
It starts with a man with a "frog" voice talking to our unknown hero who seems to be out of it (drunk?).  The man is leading our hero around, convincing him to keep this key, and not mind the body with blood on it.  When our hero wakes up in the morning, he realizes he was drugged last night, but he can remember a body, a closet, and "singing walls".  He calls his detective friend who tries to solve this murder mystery (?) before it is discovered and he is framed for the job.

The way this episode began - with an unknown person obviously leading and manipulating the main character sets up the perfect amount of suspense and tension that makes you want to hear more.  Unfortunately the interest didn't carry all the way through for me.  The "singing walls" turns out to be the major clue - not a huge revelation though - it's pretty obvious.  This was just an okay story for me - a very interesting concept, but pretty limp in execution.
Saturday, January 26, 2013

Muse: The 2nd Law concert

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , , ,

On Thursday I went to the 2nd show of Muse's concert at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.  Awesomeness squared.  Muse is one of my very few favorite current bands, but also fave all-time band.    This is my go-to music for writing.  I love their sound - such an interesting mixture of classical, theatrical, rock and alt-rock, and the lead singer Matt Bellamy has a stunningly gorgeous, fluid voice.

I bought a new camera with a better zoom, so the pictures in this post are my own, but I was pretty far away from the stage.  Even so, I must remember next time to take an aspirin before the concert, cause boy was that loud.  I should have expected it though because I know their music, and they pretty much rocked it the entire time!

Some of the things that were awesome about seeing Muse live (my first time!) was:
  1. The energy of the crowd, especially when the really popular songs began.
  2. Those very interesting musical intros to some songs, that I wish I could buy - they were gorgeous! 
  3. The pyramid and multimedia graphics were really cool - great visuals for each song.
  4. I also really liked their "roulette" to decide whether to play "Newborn" or "Stockholm Syndrome" (It landed on "Newborn" though I was hoping for the other song!)
  5. And then there were the graphics for "Isolated System" near the end of the show, that seemed very Hunger Games-ish.  I think of the Hunger Games a lot when it comes to Muse though, I feel like their previous album "The Resistance" is pretty much a soundtrack for the whole series.
My favorite moment was "Knights of Cydonia" - one of my favorite songs anyways (it's a space opera western song - how can one not love it!).  They had the screens show key words, and then the moment in the middle when the music cuts, and everyone is singing:
No one's gonna take me alive
Time has come to make things right
You and I must fight for our rights
You and I must fight to survive
Just gave me chills!  Totally pumps you up! :D  And the eerie wailing harmonica intro they created for the song was totally beautiful! I was so confused when it began though, because a harmonica is not what I was expecting from Muse.  But I should have known better - they don't limit themselves.
(Edit: just found out the harmonica song is "Man With a Harmonica" from the film Once Upon A Time in the West and was composed by Ennio Morricone.  I am now in love!)

Other songs that are my general favorites and I really loved hearing live were:
"Madness"
"Uprising"
"Isolated System"
"Map of the Problematique"
"Undisclosed Desires"
"Starlight" (always makes me think of Doctor Who!)

From the latest album I was really hoping to also hear "Explorers" which is so pensive and lovely, but I think they played that the night before.  I also wished Matt interacted more with the audience, but they had moments where they wanted the audience to sing the lyrics, and he also went into the pit to touch hands with people so that was really cool.  I wish I could have been in the pit!  Totes awesome night, I hope to see Muse again in the future for the next album!
Friday, January 25, 2013

Q&A with Andy Gavin, author of "Untimed"

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Please enjoy this interview with author Andy Gavin on his wonderful YA time travel adventure novel "Untimed".  I reviewed it yesterday and thought it was such a fun enjoyable read, and was very glad to be able to ask Andy some questions about the story.

Thank you so much Andy for your time and for your very interesting and thoughtful answers!

Q & A


What sparked the idea for this story?

Typically, Untimed began from a fusion of ideas. Lingering in my mind for over twenty years was a time travel story about people from the future who fell “downtime” to relive exciting moments in history (until things go wrong). I worked out a time travel system but had no plot or characters. Separately, in 2010, as a break from editing The Darkening Dream, I experimented with new voice techniques, especially first person present. I also read various “competition.” One of these was The Lightning Thief (the first Percy Jackson novel), which has an amazing series concept (if a slightly limp execution). I love mythology and history, and liked the notion of something with a rich body of material to mine. I wanted an open ended high concept that drew on my strengths, which brought me back to time travel.

Some of the mechanics from my earlier concept merged well with a younger protagonist, voiced in a visceral first person present style. I started thinking about it, and his voice popped into my head. I pounded out a chapter not too dissimilar from the first chapter of the final novel. Then the most awesome villain teleported into the situation. I can’t remember how or why, but it happened quickly and spontaneously. Tick-Tocks were born (or forged).

Benjamin Franklin is a key figure in the story and it is obvious you did your research to integrate him into the narrative. Why did you decide to use him? Does he have any personal significance?

Somehow, I always imagined Charlie in Philadelphia, and that led me quickly to Ben Franklin, who is a favorite of mine. In an alternate dimension there exists a simpler Untimed, woven between modern and 18th century Philly. No London. No France. No China. That book would have been more like a Hollywood story, all packaged up neat and clean, but neat and clean isn’t the Andy Gavin style.

I was reading several Ben Franklin biographies, his own autobiography, etc. and I noticed he was in London as a young man. I found this out of print little book called The Road to Tyburn which vividly painted the sordid reality of the 1720s. It had me at kingpin. Also great fun was combing through the two cant dictionaries I found, one from the 1737 and the other published in 1811. The number of hilarious sexual slang words is uncountable and it was a blast to disguise the nasty bits of Yvaine’s and Donnie’s dialogue with obscure cant.

The rules of time travel are pretty complicated in this world you created. How were you inspired to create these rules and make time travel so complex?

First of all, I had to come up with a unique new system that allowed multiple visits to the same time period, but wasn’t too overpowered. If your characters are too powerful, there is no jeopardy. So I had to invent all the restrictions and deal with the issues of paradox (and I think I have a crafty new solution there). Then I had to figure out how to make returning to the SAME action actually interesting for the reader. That was even harder.

This novel brings to life a lot of history and seems very realistically detailed. Are you a history buff?

Oh yes. I love history and at first I thought about going to the ancient world, which is my real passion, but I wanted to avoid over-indulging myself and for this first outing stay with a time, place, and celebrity that wasn’t so alien. If I was going back that far, I’d want to capture the monumental shifts in mindset, and it was too much for the first in the series. I’ve read very wildly on European history, both ancient and “modern” (my interest steps down after Napoleon’s second exile and then again after the treaty of Versailles and plunges to nil after WWII).

There are some mature themes that you include in the story, such as sex, teen pregnancy and drug use. It's realistic given the time periods, but I was personally surprised because it felt a little too mature for the younger end of the YA range. Did you have a specific reason for including these topics in your story?

Tough question. My wife gives me grief over this, but I don’t really write with genre in mind. The story is its own thing. I also watch a lot of serial TV and teen shows. Many, like Gossip Girl and Vampire Dairies, are quite edgy. They feature copious (and I mean copious) high school drinking, pot smoking, sex, murder, and more. Amazingly, teen books seem to be more conservative (on average) than network television. And I didn’t want to be tame. I like to deal with the real issues at hand when they come up, which I feel makes for better drama. I really think that adults are more offended by this stuff than the kids.

But more fundamentally, while the central two conceits of Untimed are fanciful (time travel and Tick-Tocks), I tried to keep everything else realistic (if sometimes comic). Teens do have sex. They do drink. Fifteen year-old boys are raging balls of hormones and anyone claiming otherwise is either in denial or never was a fifteen year-old boy. And even more importantly, teenagers in the 18th century were not adolescents but adults. Adolescence is for the most part a post WWII invention. Neither the law nor society treated a fifteen year-old any different than a twenty-five year-old. 1720s London was also a pretty sordid place. It had a population around half a million at an estimated 50,000+ prostitutes, most younger than 15. All with no police. The reality of being a young woman on your own in this period was brutal. I hint at that, but hardly do it justice. To ignore it would have been criminal. Just check out Hogarth’s A Harlot’s Progress. One of the main messages of Untimed is that things really do get better, and to make that point, I have to show the other side.

As a video game designer and co-creator of the video games Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter, do you feel there are any skills from video game programming that helped you when constructing and writing stories?

As a serial creator (having made over a dozen major video games) it was interesting how similar the process was to any other complex creative project. Video games and novel writing are both very iterative and detail oriented. They use a lot of the same mental muscles.

Of course I have to ask - if you could travel to any time and place where would you go and why?

For cool factor, I’d want to be an incredibly rich Patrician Roman, living by the bay of Naples a good 80 years BEFORE the eruption of Vesuvius. They had heated pools, awesome frescos, three day banquets, and… slave girls (just kidding). Actually, today is really the best, and that’s one of the themes of Untimed. We have more personal freedoms, more overall wealth, and much, much better medicine. Try getting an infection in the second century BC.

Untimed is the first book in a series - is there anything you can share about the next book? Will it center around another historical figure?

It will involve several both real and made up. The Regulator, or at least his influence, is going to be a big part. As to historical figures, I’m leaning both into the future and much further back into time. At the moment, both Hammurabi and Archimedes have important roles, but this could change. Drafting needs to be fluid.

Amazon  Goodreads  Author's Website
The ebook is on sale today!
Thursday, January 24, 2013

Review: Untimed

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Untimed
by Andy Gavin

Plot Summary:

Charlie’s the kind of boy that no one notices. Hell, even his own mother can’t remember his name. And girls? The invisible man gets more dates.

As if that weren't enough, when a mysterious clockwork man tries to kill him in modern day Philadelphia, and they tumble through a hole into 1725 London, Charlie realizes even the laws of time don’t take him seriously.

Still, this isn’t all bad. In fact, there’s this girl, another time traveler, who not only remembers his name, but might even like him! Unfortunately, Yvaine carries more than her share of baggage: like a baby boy and at least two ex-boyfriends! One’s famous, the other’s murderous, and Charlie doesn’t know who is the bigger problem.

When one kills the other — and the other is nineteen year-old Ben Franklin — things get really crazy. Can their relationship survive? Can the future? Charlie and Yvaine are time travelers, they can fix this — theoretically — but the rules are complicated and the stakes are history as we know it.

And there's one more wrinkle: he can only travel into the past, and she can only travel into the future!
Review:
What a super-engaging and exciting time travel romp!  There's fast-paced adventure, romance, clockwork villains, and Benjamin Franklin! The novel's lead character - poor, unmemorable Charlie Horologe - is thrust into adventure when he makes the split decision to jump after a clockwork man who has just disappeared into a time whirlpool.  From then on the story is tightly packed with adventure, humor, and distinctive, lively characters. There are also vivid, historical descriptions that capture the time period and enhance the story telling. Charlie's fast romance with worldly, saucy Yvaine is sweet but moves very quickly.  Their need for each other is on many layers (companionship, time traveling, survival) which makes their evolving relationship interesting.

The clockwork men who regulate time and are inexplicably after Charlie and Yvaine are delightfully sinister.  Bad guys who don't speak, who are unable to be reasoned with, and don't give up always make for compelling, creepy antagonists.  The time travel aspect of the novel is perhaps the cleverest set-up I have read yet.  There are many rules and restrictions to time travel, and even variations per person that make planning a jump forward or backward almost a logic puzzle. I loved how a new aspect of time travel is revealed slowly throughout the story, with definitely more questions and depth to be explored in later books.  A complex, intelligent, young adult, time travel, historical adventure novel, I think this is fantastic reading for just about everyone, and I can't recommend it highly enough!

a review copy was kindly provided by the author
Check back tomorrow for an interview with the author, Andy Gavin!


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Awesome Adaptations (22) - Dracula the Musical

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,

Awesome Adaptations is a weekly bookish meme, hosted at Alisa Selene’s books blog, Picturemereading.  Anyone can play along! Each week there is a new category of adaptation to blog about. Any format (television series, film, web series, etc.) is acceptable as long as it is based in some form on a book. If you’re playing along on your own blog, just mention Picturemereading in your post and include the banner above. Let them know which film you’d pick and why it is an awesome adaptation worth watching. Oh, and don’t forget to share the link to your own post in the comments for that week’s challenge so that everyone can read your thoughts!

An Awesomely Musical Adaptation
Title: Dracula the Musical
Adapted from: Dracula by Bram Stoker

Now that we've found where the enemy's lurking
Nothing can stand in our way.
Since we are facing the forces of darkness
We must be the cold light of day.

I haven't had the good fortune to see this musical live, so my thoughts really stem from my favorite recording of it - the recent Studio Cast Recording starring James Barbour.  Though I feel like I would really enjoy the show as well!

Frank Wildhorn's musicals are usually catchy, pop or rock inspired and hugely entertaining.  With Dracula there is a large dramatic feel to the music that, to me, fits the Gothic nature of the story and also gives it a cinematic, epic feel.  Dracula is given a much more sympathetic, romantic role in this musical compared to the book, and the story of the musical focuses and enlarges on the romance of Dracula and Mina, while also being relatively faithful to the main plot points of the book.

Dracula is obviously a story that has had a huge affect on the genre of Gothic and vampire stories, and has been reinvented time and time again.  Although this version doesn't shake up the usual interpretation of the book it brings all the sinister danger of the vampire, the now obligatory sensitive, brooding and troubled portrait of the Count, and combines it with lush orchestration, gorgeously powerful voices and stirring, emotional songs.  I would love to see this musical live!


Book Blog 411
On another note, I'd like to recommend visiting Book Blog 411 (if you are a book blogger) and getting your blog listed!  The Readingista is trying to put together a one-stop, up-to-date resource to find fellow book bloggers and also see a list of ongoing memes and challenges.  I think it can be tremendously useful, especially to see all the memes and challenges in one place.  Check it out and spread the word!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Review: Persistence of Vision

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Persistence of Vision (Interchron #1)
by Liesel K. Hill

Plot Summary:

In a world where collective hives are enslaving the population and individuals have been hunted to the verge of extinction, Maggie Harper, and independent 21st Century woman, must find the strength to preserve the freedom of the future, but without the aid of her memories.

After experiencing a traumatic time loss, Maggie is plagued by a barrage of images she can't explain. When she's attacked by a creep with a spider's web tattoo, she is saved by Marcus, a man she's never met, but somehow remembers. He tells her that both he and her creepy attacker are from a future in which individuals are being murdered by collectives, and Marcus is part of the rebellion. The collectives have acquired time travel and they plan to enslave the human race throughout all of history. The flashes Maggie has been seeing are echoes of lost memories, and the information buried deep within them is instrumental in defeating the collective hives.

In order to preserve the individuality of mankind, Maggie must try to re-discover stolen memories, re-kindle friendships she has no recollection of, and wade through her feelings for the mysterious Marcus, all while dodging the tattooed assassins the collectives keep sending her way.

If Maggie can't fill the holes in her memory and find the answers to stop the collectives, the world both in her time and in all ages past and future will be doomed to enslavement in the grey, mediocre collectives. As the danger swirls around her and the collectives close in, Maggie realizes she must make a choice: stand out or fade away...

Review:

This is such an interesting high concept dystopian novel.  The discoveries that have occurred in this author's vision of the future is backed by some very convincing science that is very well explained and adds depth to the world-building.  It is very detailed though, so the reader must really pay attention to take it all in.  The mystery of Maggie's past is maintained throughout as pieces of the puzzle are gradually revealed.  It's a very intriguing way to develop a story that keeps you turning pages, eager to know the what and why behind Maggie's past.  The cast of characters that make up Maggie's team are wonderfully varied and bring an X-Men vibe to the story.

Because there is so much world-building to establish, I felt the pace slows down in the middle, but the tension and surprising revelations made towards the end makes up for the uneven pace.  With the interesting ideas the author brings to the hidden power of the mind, she also takes a compelling look at the power of individualism and the comfort in mediocrity.  It seems like an easy choice, if one had to choose between them, but the book does make you think and that's always a good thing.

The story does switch perspectives between key characters which I'm not always a fan of when done inconsistently, and I found it sometimes jarring in this story.  But this is a great beginning to a series with a strong heroine just realizing her inner strength,  a lovely romance with just a hint of a love triangle, and fascinating, complex world-building.

a review copy was kindly provided by the author
This book is released January 29, 2013


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Monday, January 21, 2013

Review: Wicked Rose

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Wicked Rose
by Madalynn Davis

Plot Summary:

Still reeling from her father's murder, sixteen-year-old Noelle Hart returns to Whisper Preparatory Academy, an exclusive private boarding school in the sleepy town of Whisper, Connecticut. She tries to move on with her life, but things get off to a rocky start. Arguing with friends, dodging the overbearing Headmaster, and staying out of her nemesis' line of fire are almost her undoing.

​ Until she meets Gabriel Merriweather.

​ Over night, Noelle's luck takes a turn for the better. For the first time in her life, Noelle is the girl that every other girl at school wants to be. Once and for all, Noelle is able to step out of her older, perfect sister's shadow and be the center of attention. At last, her world is perfect.

​ But, all good things must come to an end.

​ When one of her friends is brutally murdered, Noelle becomes the prime suspect. Noelle's world is turned upside down when she learns that a secret sisterhood known as the Hive may be responsible for her friend's death and others. If Noelle and Gabriel cannot fight their way through the labyrinth of lies and secrets surrounding the Hive, then she may be next.

Review:

Ooh isn't that a gorgeous cover!  One of the reasons I really wanted to read this story.  When I started it, I found the petty drama of the prep school pretty entertaining - very Mean Girls-esque, and I was drawn onwards through the story by Noelle's group of friends and their antagonists - the Witches.  Unfortunately I did have some issues with this novel.  It's pretty superficial - the characters never touched me or felt real, the novel's set up of Noelle's past issues seemed so integral to the story I sometimes thought I was reading book two in a series - like I was missing something.  This also happens when another key scene comes up later - it is something important that is barely hinted at in the beginning, and is given a lot of space later.  I think it comes down to editing problems, of which also include grammar mistakes.  The plot summary makes it seem like Noelle and Gabriel are bound together to fight against the Hive, but Gabriel doesn't do much in the story, and his character felt very one-dimensional.

The structure of the novel is also quite curious.  The sinister activities of the Hive is hinted at, but when the main characters are about to finally take some action, the novel ends - setting up the second book.  With such a set-up, this book feels more like a prologue than a novel in and of itself.  This does seem like it would be an intriguing series - the Hive is a compelling idea of an evil secret society - I hope it will live up to potential.  And the writing in itself is pretty good with touches of humor.  At the moment though, I'm afraid there's not much to recommend this book, unless you are planning to read the second.

review copy kindly provided by the author


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Suspense Sundays (30)

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
"Now let's see... Suspect... Suspectant... Suspend... Ah here we are, Suspense.  The condition of mental uncertainty usually accompanied by apprehension or anxiety.  Fear of something that is about to occur, as 'Do not keep me any longer in SUSPENSE.'"

Suspense was a radio series from 1942 to 1962, claiming to be "radio's outstanding theater of thrills."  I have a fondness for "Old Time Radio" as we call it now, and Suspense is my favorite show.  It sets up weird, dark, scary, or intriguing stories with a plot twist in the end, and all in half an hour.  I love the old-fashion story-telling and I thought it would be fun to give a short review of an episode every Sunday.  



"Thieves Fall Out"
Air date: November 16, 1943
Starring Gene Kelly
Art Kramer is part of a group of black market thieves.  His take for the month has been all used up because of a truck accident and other mishaps.  When one of his group invites him to his house for a little rest, he gets an idea.  Kill his host, take his money and then frame another group member who is staying close by.  Unfortunately, these thieves seem to think alike.

Even though I'm bound to enjoy anything with Gene Kelly, I found this episode a little convoluted and dry.  There's a lot of set-up and characters, but a really brilliant twist that makes it worth it.  Gene Kelly playing against type also helps make this a much more interesting story to listen to.
Saturday, January 19, 2013

Books to Music: By Jeeves

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
"It's just another episode
Of the Wooster moral code"

Here's a rather under appreciated Andrew Lloyd Webber musical based on the Jeeves and Wooster books by P.G. Wodehouse. One of my favorite series of books EVER!   The musical weaves different scenarios from various books to form the story, and the fun thing about the cast recording are the alternate tracks of Jeeves and Wooster talking to each other about what is happening in the plot, which means listening to the recording is like listening to a radio show with music.  Very easy to follow, and humor is interjected with Wooster's reactions to events because he doesn't really remember what happened.  And of course events become increasingly farcical and outrageous.

Although it's hard not to compare this to the BBC series "Jeeves and Wooster" with the perfect Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry, the voices of the actors capture just the right tone of Wodehouse's world and the songs are charming and reminiscent of the period - the 1930s.  It sounds like a simple small jazz band, which means the focus is on the voices and the humor.  P.G. Wodehouse's books are all so gently and cleverly humorous and the music captures that whimsy perfectly.

Song Spotlight: Half a Moment
Two people in love, but kept separate because her father wouldn't approve.  And they sing of their devotion in this lovely romantic ballad.  I love how it begins especially because it can move so easily from spoken ardor to song.  The main conceit, that even half a moment is so full of their love that it is like eternity (time they say is relative) is so gorgeous!  Seriously the lyrics of this song touches me with it's simplicity and beauty and cleverness.  It really echoes Wodehouse's style in that way.
Friday, January 18, 2013

Review: Vigilare

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Vigilare
by Brooklyn James

Plot Summary:

Where One System Fails, Another Never Gives Up!

Detectives Gina DeLuca and Tony Gronkowski investigate a string of murders among Vanguard's most loathsome population, rapists and pedophiles. With fed up citizens, the city is on the verge of a vigilante uprising in support of their seemingly superhuman Vigilare with the sparkling emerald green eyes.

Friend or foe, Vanguard Police Department has a job to do in bringing the vigilant one to justice, causing their own internal battle with right and wrong, immoral and just. Following their leads, Detectives DeLuca and Gronkowski find themselves pulled into a mysterious world of super blood and super powers, and closer to the Vigilare than ever expected.

It's a race to the finish between Detectives DeLuca and Gronkowski and the Vigilare to figure out who she is and why she exists. The first in a Trilogy. Vigilare-the one who watches over-comes to light.

Review:

This story begins as told through the eyes of an awakening superhero.  The suspense is derived from reading about the Vigilare coming into her powers but not understanding how or why that power has been given to them.  The direction the author takes this aspect of this story was definitely unexpected, especially in when almost all is revealed in the end.

The other side of the story, the police procedural, is driven by the dynamic personalities of Detectives Gina and Tony and their exchanges are full of biting sarcastic wit and competitive rivalry as they investigate the serial murders.  Their rapport is very entertaining and the author has created two very appealing characters with great chemistry.  The writing overall in this story is very sharp and vividly detailed, with an abundance of sarcastic barbs coming from most of the main characters.  Because the story takes the point of view of both the police and the victims of the rapists and pedophiles that are being stalked by the Vigilare, there is an interesting commentary on the nature of justice and the roles of government officials.  It's thought-provoking, and deals with the theoretical conflict between superheroes and the police very intelligently.

The story has fast-paced, thriller elements, and well-paced courtroom scenes which are balanced very well within the narrative.  The mystery and suspense of who and what the Vigilare is builds til the end, when there are some very surprising reveals.  I found this a very enjoyable read.

review copy kindly provided by the author

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Weird Circle - Jane Eyre

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
I've wanted to review all the radio adaptations of Jane Eyre that I have (Warning! I have a few!) for awhile now.  A year ago I would have put this on my website for Jane Eyre adaptations but now, I want to post them here and maybe interest a reader into listening to the episode. They are all mostly from the forties and fifties and really entertaining.  Check out all the radio adaptations of Jane Eyre here.

I'll start off with the adaptation for the radio series "Weird Circle" that aired December 26, 1943.  Unfortunately I have been unable to find any information on the cast.  Amidst the sound of rolling waves it begins:

In this cave by the restless sea, we are met to call from out of the past, stories strange and weird.  Phantoms of a world gone by speak again the immortal tale... Jane Eyre.

Dramatic much?  This should be called Weird Adaptation because it doesn't really take much from the book.  Absolutely none of the original dialogue is used, pretty much all scenes disregarded except for the interrupted wedding, goodbye faithful characterizations, and Mrs. Fairfax is inexplicably changed to Mrs. Campbell and clearly ripped off from sinister Mrs. Danvers from Rebecca.  (Rebecca the film was released in 1940 by the way)  The creep factor is turned way up by Mrs. Campbell's sneering threats, very unnerving noises coming from the attic, and a Bertha who maniacally says she likes death and fire.  But let's get back to the plot being pathetically stripped down to just include scenes that indicate 1) timid Jane has a new position as governess, 2) Something strange is going on in that attic 3) poor Adela is scared 4) Mr. Rochester and Jane have nice conversations (off microphone) but even Jane is surprised by how abruptly he declares his love, 5) Interrupted wedding, 6) as Jane is leaving she turns around and sees the house afire, and 7) she sits by Rochester's bed waiting for him to wake up so she can love him.  Wow.  I guess this vaguely reminds me of Jane Eyre.

Obviously this is a ridiculous, over the top adaptation.  It turns the multi-faceted story into a hackneyed ghost story with no ghost.  And yet I find it hilarious and very entertaining.  I'll leave you with my favorite part - twice Jane asks Mr. Rochester about the noises in the attic and this is what she gets:

Jane: Then why is the attic shut off that way?
Rochester: It saves fuel.
Jane: Well that's nonsense, the attic's heated.
Rochester: Let's say it saves fuel, and let us go with that.

Rochester: You had a nightmare probably, Jane
Jane: It wasn't the first time I heard those footsteps.
Rochester: Probably Mrs. Campbell rummaging up there.  She has insomnia at times.
Jane: Mrs. Campbell doesn't walk on all fours, Edward.
Rochester: Well, uh, probably the wind.
Jane: Adela heard it too.
Rochester: Let's say it's the wind and forget it, shall we?

Omigod what?  Jane, you are INSANE to just let those feeble answers go!   It's so terrible it's kind of brilliant!
Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Awesome Adaptations (21) - Avenue Q

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,

Awesome Adaptations is a weekly bookish meme, hosted at Alisa Selene’s books blog, Picturemereading.  Anyone can play along! Each week there is a new category of adaptation to blog about. Any format (television series, film, web series, etc.) is acceptable as long as it is based in some form on a book. If you’re playing along on your own blog, just mention Picturemereading in your post and include the banner above. Let them know which film you’d pick and why it is an awesome adaptation worth watching. Oh, and don’t forget to share the link to your own post in the comments for that week’s challenge so that everyone can read your thoughts!

An Awesome Adaptation Musical with Puppets!
Title: Avenue Q

What is my life going to be?
Four years of college and plenty of knowledge
Have earned me this useless degree
I can't pay the bills yet
Cause I have no skills yet
The world is a big scary place.

I'm totally cheating on today's Awesome Adaptations post because Avenue Q is not an adaptation of a book.  It's just a musical I really like with puppets.  I could not think of a good pick for this week's theme!  I don't watch enough films with puppets sadly.

Avenue Q is a stage musical with puppeteers who are onstage as they manipulate their puppet characters and some human characters thrown into the mix.  The show is like Sesame Street for adults, where the puppets learn real life problems that include post-college adjustment, relationships, making money, racism and homosexuality and just growing up in general.  It's about finding your direction in life, with little nuggets of wisdom in every song.  It's hilarious and irreverent - definitely not for people who are easily offended.  And what adds to the humor is the contrast between seeing these very nice puppets saying and doing such um... unexpected things.  And my favorite puppets are definitely the Bad Idea Bears.  They look and sound so sweet, but do not listen to them!

I've seen the stage show a couple times, and I think part of the fun of seeing this show live is seeing how the actors manage the different puppets - many double up on manipulating one, and some play more than one character. It's even interesting to see the actors faces as they play the puppets.  They are emoting along with them.   What I love so much about the story is how it moves from silly and fun to poignant and thoughtful, with such an upbeat but realistic resolution.  The music is catchy and almost every song has that unexpected-direction punchline that keeps you laughing.  It's so entertaining!
Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Review: Flowers in the Attic

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Flowers in the Attic
by V. C. Andrews

Plot Summary:

Such wonderful children. Such a beautiful mother. Such a lovely house. Such endless terror!

It wasn't that she didn't love her children. She did. But there was a fortune at stake--a fortune that would assure their later happiness if she could keep the children a secret from her dying father.

So she and her mother hid her darlings away in an unused attic.

Just for a little while.

But the brutal days swelled into agonizing years. Now Cathy, Chris, and the twins wait in their cramped and helpless world, stirred by adult dreams, adult desires, served a meager sustenance by an angry, superstitious grandmother who knows that the Devil works in dark and devious ways. Sometimes he sends children to do his work--children who--one by one--must be destroyed....

Review:

So many thoughts for this book!  The things that happen to these children are so horrific and disgusting, I just wanted to stop listening (I had an audiobook) but I couldn't.  I wanted the children to fight back, to wise up, to get the heck out of the attic!  But it was so insidious how this story is unfolded.  It's idyllic at first, with a loving mother and father and four loving, beautiful children - such a perfect family.  But then the father dies, and it's just the start of an utterly uncontrollable nightmare for these children.  The mother has promises and keeps the children complacent with hope and trades on their ignorance.  And gradually each layer of gilded gold is stripped away and the children as well as the reader becomes aware of the horror of what these children have to endure.  I think what is so compelling about the story is how much helplessness is imbued in the characters and in their actions. They are forced to comply with their Mother and their Grandmother's plan, and having everything the reader knows filtered through the the preteen narrator Cathy, keeps the reader handicapped as well.  So much is going on outside the attic that with each visit and small revelation made by their Mother and Grandmother, the sense of foreboding grows.

Cathy as the narrator is easy to empathize with.  She's innocent and naive, but strong-willed and intuitive. And her older brother is equally admirable (so when certain things happen with him, it's a pretty big blow) but all the Dollanganger children are so likable and sweet - it makes it doubly horrific to see everything stripped away from them.  Grandmother's antagonist role as the religiously fanatical, cold-hearted attic-prison keeper is strikingly villainous and yet complex to define because with the complicity of the children's Mother it's hard to see who truly is at fault.

This is certainly a strange story yet sensational, so it's understandable that it was so popular when it was first released.  It's very poignant and earnest, yet there was such a sense of oppressiveness when I listened to this book because of how these horrible things were so inevitable.  It was so brilliantly crafted by the author, yet so difficult to bear sometimes.  It's like this book isn't just a story, it's an experience.  And one that I think is going to stick with me for a very long time.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Review: A Rendezvous to Die For

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
A Rendezvous to Die For
A Cassandra Cassidy mystery
by Betty McMahon

Plot Summary:

Photographer Cassandra Cassidy landed in the picturesque northern Minnesota town of Colton Mills, and started photographing weddings to pay the bills, but got her creative kicks making portraits of some noble, and some not-so-noble Indians on and off the nearby rez.

The Duluth, Minnesota newspaper hired Cassandra to cover a local 1830s Rendezvous reenactment. There would be trappers, mountain men and, of course, Indians. So Cassandra and her cameras headed north -- not knowing that her nemesis Eric Hartfield, a defrocked newspaper reporter, was heading there as well.

Not long after settling in and photographing some of the Rendezvous’ colorful characters, she and Eric crossed paths and exchanged some scathing words on the very public Rendezvous grounds. She would live to regret her parting taunt to Eric: “The next time I see you, I’ll fire two warning shots – straight into your head!”

The sheriff took their verbal scuffle into account after Cassandra discovered Eric in an Indian sweat lodge outside the grounds—with a tomahawk buried in his skull. Eric was well beyond any future such scuffles.

But a dead Eric may have the last laugh over his adversary as Cassandra becomes the main suspect in Eric’s demise. Now she’s up to her f-stops trying to sort out who is responsible.

Can a female photographer-amateur-sleuth, dragged into such a nightmare situation somehow dig herself out – and reveal the real murderer?

Review:

A photographer turned amateur sleuth must solve the mystery that increasingly casts suspicion on herself.  It's a great premise, and especially the idea of the camera being the one to catch all the little clues that can help solve the mystery is smart.  I didn't feel like this story completely delivered on it's promise however.  The structure of the mystery felt haphazard, as clues and information were revealed in too many coincidences and in reconnaissances that felt illogical or at least a jump in logic.  It made the story feel a little unrealistic and that took me out of the story.  I do like mysteries that make you feel that in the end you could have figured it out because the building of it was so methodical and well-designed.  With this novel I felt the way the information was presented was too slapdash and rushed sometimes to give a proper perspective on the solution, which made the reveal of the murderer feel like it was shoehorned to fit the expected least likely suspect.

But.  Although the mystery is a little flat for me, the characters that made up the small town and Cassandra's list of suspects were well fleshed out and dynamic. There was also a great attention to detail of the reality of people who participate in historical reenactments, photographers and cowboys.  I liked the gradual reveal of some of Cassandra's mysterious and troubled background and how she had to use her experiences from her past to deal with her present.  As a mystery I wanted more, but as a set-up for a new sleuth series, I think this series shows a lot of promise.

a review was requested by the author

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Suspense Sundays (29)

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
"Now let's see... Suspect... Suspectant... Suspend... Ah here we are, Suspense.  The condition of mental uncertainty usually accompanied by apprehension or anxiety.  Fear of something that is about to occur, as 'Do not keep me any longer in SUSPENSE.'"

Suspense was a radio series from 1942 to 1962, claiming to be "radio's outstanding theater of thrills."  I have a fondness for "Old Time Radio" as we call it now, and Suspense is my favorite show.  It sets up weird, dark, scary, or intriguing stories with a plot twist in the end, and all in half an hour.  I love the old-fashion story-telling and I thought it would be fun to give a short review of an episode every Sunday.  



"Cabin B-13"
Air date: November 9, 1943
Starring Margo and Philip Dorn
Ann and Richard Brewster board an ocean liner for their honeymoon trip to Europe.  Since they have $10,000 in cash for their three month trip, Richard takes it to the ship's purser for safekeeping while Ann goes on deck to watch the departure.  While talking to a nice Austrian Doctor she discovers that the ship has no cabin number 13 for superstitious reasons.  But that is her room number!  And no one believes her.  And no one has heard of Richard Brewster.

That is a brilliant plot set-up for a mystery.  Ann mentions the urban legend of the Vanishing Lady to her husband in the beginning which sets up the basis of this mystery.  In short, The Vanishing Lady is about a mother and daughter who visit the World's Fair in Paris in 1889.  The mother is ill, and the daughter is sent out by the hotel doctor to get some medicine.  When she returns her room is different, her mother is missing, and no one knows what she is talking about.  The answer given in the show is that her mother died of the bubonic plague, and there was a huge cover-up so other tourists wouldn't get scared off.  That's not exactly what's happening in this story, and I don't want to give anything away.  It is pretty easy to figure out, but because the scenario is so chilling, this episode gets high marks.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Books to Music: Jane Eyre the Musical

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,
Musicals make up a large part of my iTunes content,  so I wanted to try out this possible weekly feature on my blog where I talk about a cast recording or sometimes one song that is from a musical based on a book.  I really want to focus on the music and not the stage show, and talk about how the music captures the novel for me.

Jane Eyre was my gateway musical to theatre love.  I liked a couple of musicals before I listened to this, but I wouldn't say I generally liked the genre.  Being the obsessed Jane Eyre fan, I finally got around to listening to this recording and at first wasn't too impressed! There were aspects and a song or two that I liked, but I feel like the transition from straight story to story told through song does need getting used to.  There is something in me that clicked after a few repeated listens in which the beauty of the story shone through the lyrics and music of the songs.  Now it's almost always that way for me.  If I see the show for the musical, it is much more likely I will add the cast recording to my collection.  I need the context, because my understanding of the story and the emotion behind the scene can transfer to how I enjoy the songs.

With Jane Eyre, the mood of the music is the first thing that drew me in.  It's haunting and meditative, and dark and intense at times.  It matches the power and passion of the novel, and with Marla Schaffel's glorious mezzo-soprano voice, she brings that down to earth, proper quality that fits Jane's character so well.  Her voice does sound more mature than I would wish Jane to sound, but the passion Marla brings to the character makes up for that.  James Barbour's powerful baritone is perfect for Rochester and sounds fantastic matched to Marla.  I love the inflections that James brings to certain songs as well - especially when imitating Celine or teasing Jane in the Proposal song.

Some songs adapt some surprising scenes.  The Gypsy song - a scene often omitted from adaptations of the novel - is included and captures Rochester's whimsy as he talks to his guests and then to Jane in song.  This musical also makes the interesting choice to have a 'greek chorus' narrate Jane's story at times, with interstitial songs sung by the cast that help build the Gothic, sometimes foreboding tone of the music.  It's a wonderful atmospheric recreation of the story that is often more faithful to the book than some of the film adaptations.

Song Spotlight:  Brave Enough For Love
This song isn't my favorite from the album (that would be "Sirens") but I picked this song because the themes that have been building throughout the musical - of love and forgiveness - are woven together perfectly in this finale.  And the title "Brave Enough For Love" echoes musically and lyrically Helen Burn's advice to Jane from the song "Forgiveness".  Beautiful call-back!  This song completely captures the lessons and experience that Jane and Rochester have learned throughout the show, and that is why I think this song is a fantastic example of the beauty and intelligence of this musical.
Friday, January 11, 2013

The Dead Authors Podcast

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , , ,
I love listening to podcasts, and I wanted to share the only literary related podcast that I listen to (though it is more comedic than enlightening, but they do sometimes read from the works of the featured author/s)  The podcast is hosted by comedian Paul F. Tompkins - oops!  I mean H.G. Wells, author of The Time Machine.  But in this world, H.G. Wells' time machine is real and he uses it to transport famous authors to present day Los Angelees and interview them in front of a live audience.  (You can get tickets to see the show in L.A.)

Recent episodes have seen H.G. interview the Grimm Brothers, the Gospel writers, Mary Shelley, J.R.R Tolkien, Arthur Conan Doyle and on and on.  Hopefully he'll have Charlotte Brontë on sometime soon!  The show/interview is mostly improvised as H.G. Wells and the actor/comedian representing the featured author have a conversation about their life and their work.  The first episode had Andy Richter as Emily Dickinson whose first reaction was outrage that anyone knew about her poetry.  Hilarious.  There are some anachronistic references but that is of course explained by the fact that there is TV and internet in the time machine for the guests to enjoy.  I love the irreverent, silly humor and the hilarious characterizations the comedians bring to the dead authors. H.G. seems to delight so when an unexpected and/or unlikely facets of the author's personality or obsessions are revealed. (P.G. Wodehouse and donkeys!)   H.G. Wells' antipathy towards Jules Verne's uncreative science fiction (as he sees it) always makes me laugh too - an episode with an H.G and Jules faceoff would be awesome!

It's for charity, it's completely free to listen to the podcast, and it's funny, silly, and entertaining.  Check out the links below!

Official Website  -   Itunes  -    Facebook
Thursday, January 10, 2013

Review: Amongst the Ruins

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Amongst the Ruins
by Saewod Tice

Plot Summary:

In the year 2220, only about 15% of Earth's population have survived and thrived after the Nuclear Disaster of 2020.

With the collapse of modern society, the population has regressed into eight clans.

Amongst these clans, an unusual girl grows from child to adult.

Raised on the run and in hiding, Shilo wants to be free of the expectations of women. But in a ruined world where anyone could be an enemy, only the radiation-twisted mutants are clearly identifiable. A fertile female is a precious treasure, and any lapse in caution can mean a loss of the freedom she longs for.

Training as hard as a soldier would, in order to free herself from social constraints, she finds herself faced with an offer from a new clan--an offer that provides her with what she desires. But her recently found independence brings discovery, and discovery brings two very different men from her past—and each of them is determined to claim her.

One is obsessed with owning her, the other desires her as the only person who can make him love again.

Review:

A great, fast-paced dystopian romance, with a strong female heroine who has to battle the expectations set on women's roles in society.  The author's vision of a post-apocalyptic society where repopulation is the major goal is especially vivid and detailed.  The story moves quickly as Shilo and her family go from one clan to another, in an effort to survive since the military state of society doesn't really give her many choices.  I loved how fierce and spiky Shilo is despite her feminine beauty, and how many times she gets to kick major butt in her sparrings and battles.  I also felt her confusion over her sexual attraction to men when she really wasn't interested in becoming a man's property was an intriguing angle to work the romance, especially with Kain who is interested in her, but has trouble showing that.

The story takes many twists and turns as Shilo learns to fight and realizes her need to be independent.  The author explores many different clans, and I was impressed by how well all the information was worked into the story - with a pace that never flagged.  The many different characters that Shilo met, that shaped her personality were well-delineated and believable.  The romance wasn't as strong - it really only kicks in during the last third of the book, and I would have liked it to have seen more of it.  But the story is more about Shilo's journey.  But the cliffhanger though!  I don't know what to think!

Although I felt at rare times, the writing had awkward moments and some typos, I really enjoyed this story for the action and the romance, and I hope to continue reading the series sometime.  This is highly recommended!

a review copy was kindly provided by the author

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Awesome Adaptations (20) - The Reichenbach Fall

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,

Awesome Adaptations is a weekly bookish meme, hosted at Alisa Selene’s books blog, Picturemereading.  Anyone can play along! Each week there is a new category of adaptation to blog about. Any format (television series, film, web series, etc.) is acceptable as long as it is based in some form on a book. If you’re playing along on your own blog, just mention Picturemereading in your post and include the banner above. Let them know which film you’d pick and why it is an awesome adaptation worth watching. Oh, and don’t forget to share the link to your own post in the comments for that week’s challenge so that everyone can read your thoughts!

An awesomely action packed adaptation
Title: The Reichenbach Fall from the TV show "Sherlock"
Adapted from The Final Problem by Arthur Conan Doyle

Omigod, this series.  Every episode could be featured somehow on Awesome Adaptations.  And maybe it will be!  But for now I want to focus on my current favorite episode of the show's run, and the one episode that had me shocked, scared, crying, and curled in the fetal position as I tried to process everything that just happened.  In terms of action packed, this episode has so many highs and lows and shocks and surprises, it truly is mind boggling.   If you haven't seen the recent BBC update of Sherlock hie you to Netflix post haste!  And meet your new obsession. :)

In terms of adaptation, this episode uses only a little from the original story.  Moriarty in the story is more of a plot device to end Sherlock Holmes.  His master criminal efforts are described and Holmes' efforts to find enough evidence to convict him and his whole agency of criminals are mentioned but nothing concrete is described.  The story is not a mystery at all, but Holmes on the run.  However in the TV show, Moriarty's behind-the-scenes criminal activities are fleshed out throughout the run of the two series.  So when you come to this episode (3rd episode of the 2nd season), you know all about Moriarty's villainy and especially of his character.   Moriarty of the show is especially complex - unhinged, obsessed and sinister.  He sees Sherlock as his equal and is determined to match wits with him to the death.  Moriarty's agenda drives the action and the choices Sherlock must make in this episode.  It is Sherlock on the run again, but this time Moriarty is calling the shots.  From committing outrageous crimes and getting away with it, to spreading lies and rumors about Sherlock that takes away all public regard for his accomplishments; Moriarty undermines Sherlock's beliefs and tests his mental acuity.  All leading to the fall Moriarty wants Sherlock to take.  The final scenes of this episode are tense to the extreme and brilliantly played by all the actors.

I don't want to reveal too much about what happens in this episode because it is more fun to be taken on the roller coaster ride of insanity.  This episode is absolutely compelling.  It's audacious.  Suspenseful.  Emotional.  Brilliant.  And of course, awesome.
Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Review: The Mist on Brontë Moor

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
The Mist on Brontë Moor
by Aviva Orr

Plot Summary:

When fifteen-year-old Heather Jane Bell is diagnosed with alopecia and her hair starts falling out in clumps, she wants nothing more than to escape her home in London and disappear off the face of the earth.

Heather gets her wish when her concerned parents send her to stay with a great-aunt in West Yorkshire. But shortly after she arrives, Heather becomes lost on the moors and is swept through the mist back to the year 1833. There she encounters fifteen-year-old Emily Brontë and is given refuge in the Brontë Parsonage.

Unaware of her host family’s genius and future fame, Heather struggles to cope with alopecia amongst strangers in a world foreign to her. While Heather finds comfort and strength in her growing friendship with Emily and in the embrace of the close-knit Brontë family, her emotions are stretched to the limit when she falls for Emily’s brilliant but troubled brother, Branwell.

Will Heather return to the comforts and conveniences of the twenty-first century? Or will she choose love and remain in the harsh world of nineteenth-century Haworth?

Review:

I love the Brontës.  I find their short, insulated lives fascinating, especially given their writing genius.  So when I read the synopsis for this book I was very keen to read this YA take on a day (or days rather) in the lives of the Brontë family.  Heather has a great character arc - her insecurities due to her alopecia makes it difficult for her to open up to her family and friends but with the Brontë sisters and Branwell, she can gradually forget her fears.  The infatuated love she feels for Branwell who - true to the real man - is charming and troubled at turns, was well captured by the author's prose.  I felt she brought teenage love and angst to life in this story, even creating a Victorian equivalent that slightly mirrors elements of Wuthering Heights.  This added a welcome element of danger and suspense to what is a simple time travel romance and coming of age story.

What I most appreciated about this story was the faithful re-imagining of the teenage Brontës and their lives in Haworth.  The author obviously did much research and used real life facts to support her characterizations and drama.  I felt like I was really seeing into their minds, and I loved how well the author brought them to life.  The historical details makes this an excellent immersive read that made me feel the cold and beauty of the moors in the nineteenth century and the unique relationships between the Brontë family.

This is a relatively short, sweet novel about acceptance and love with the bonus of including such dynamic personalities as the Brontës.  I would highly recommend it to readers who like character-driven stories with historical fantasy elements and light romance.

a review copy was kindly provided by the author


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Monday, January 7, 2013

Review: City of Dark Magic

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
City of Dark Magic
by Magnus Flyte (Meg Howry and Christina Lynch)

Plot Summary:

Once a city of enormous wealth and culture, Prague was home to emperors, alchemists, astronomers, and, as it’s whispered, hell portals. When music student Sarah Weston lands a summer job at Prague Castle cataloging Beethoven’s manuscripts, she has no idea how dangerous her life is about to become. Prague is a threshold, Sarah is warned, and it is steeped in blood.

Soon after Sarah arrives, strange things begin to happen. She learns that her mentor, who was working at the castle, may not have committed suicide after all. Could his cryptic notes be warnings? As Sarah parses his clues about Beethoven’s “Immortal Beloved,” she manages to get arrested, to have tantric sex in a public fountain, and to discover a time-warping drug. She also catches the attention of a four-hundred-year-old dwarf, the handsome Prince Max, and a powerful U.S. senator with secrets she will do anything to hide.

City of Dark Magic could be called a rom-com paranormal suspense novel—or it could simply be called one of the most entertaining novels of the year.

Review:

From the title, and a little from the plot summary I thought this novel would have more magical elements, but after reading it it seemed more in the vein of The Da Vinci Code with secrets long buried in history, and a thriller pace as Sarah and Prince Max try to discover who is behind the disruptive plots against the planned opening of the fabulous Lobkowicz museum.  There is a lot of historical detail, murder, intrigue, and the very cool idea of a time-traveling drug.

The characters of Sarah and Prince Max were engaging, and perfect to take us on this journey through the underside of Prague.  The writing is also clear and fast-paced - with the historical details never bogging down the pace of the story.  In fact, I found all the additional information about Beethoven's life and Prague's past especially fascinating and I loved how it was all worked into the narrative.  The only problems I had with the novel were the details over the "hell portals" which felt vague yet were important in the story and the sex scenes that seemed unnecessary and didn't really add much to the characters' development. Mostly it seemed like a shortcut for developing the characters' romance.  But these are small issues I had with the book because I found it very difficult to put it down and was drawn on by the many surprises and the gradually unfolding mysteries.  This is a great story with richly immersive detail, and excellently written characters.  I highly recommend this book!

a review copy was kindly provided by the publisher through Netgalley