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


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Review: The Master and Margarita

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,
The Master and Margarita
by Mikhail Bulgakov

Plot Summary:

Suppressed in the Soviet Union for twenty-six years, Mikhail Bulgakov's masterpiece is an ironic parable of power and its corruption, good and evil, and human frailty and the strength of love. Featuring Satan, accompanied by a retinue that includes the large, fast-talking, vodka drinking black tom cat Behemoth, the beautiful Margarita, her beloved - a distraught writer known only as the Master - Pontius Pilate, and Jesus Christ, The Master and Margarita combines fable, fantasy, political satire, and slapstick comedy into a wildly entertaining and unforgettable tale that is commonly considered one of the greatest novels ever to come out of the Soviet Union.

Review:

I really didn't know what I was getting into with this book.  And I'm still not sure how I feel about it.  On the one hand, the whimsy and absurdity of the story is pretty captivating - it's interesting to read all the offbeat things that happen, but on the other hand, I found it rather difficult to connect to the story.  The characters, the plot and even the meaning of the story is wrapped in ambiguity to me because it is seems so allegorical.  The plot about Pontius Pilate was the most straightforward part of the novel, and a very intriguing look at what might have really happened when Pilate allowed Jesus to be crucified.  There are great ideas in this book that made me think, and the representations of Satan and his retinue was surprisingly appealing and funny.

Even though I found it mystifying at times, it is very entertaining, with a wide cast of colorful characters who sometimes are paraded past quickly, but for the most part are very memorable. (Although it is difficult to keep track of their names sometimes!)  While reading I found the novel fascinating and I was always eager to find out more, but ultimately after finishing the story, I find I was very little invested emotionally, and unfortunately I don't think this story is really for me.


My second read for the Classics Club Challenge
Monday, April 29, 2013

Review: Of Folly and Fear

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Of Folly and Fear (The Forgotten Gods #2)
by Tania Johansson

Plot Summary:

In this sequel to Book of Remembrance in The Forgotten Gods Series, Kadin’s quiet family life starts unravelling when he returns home to Predaki. Sinister dreams begin to haunt him – a matter not helped by the wise Cha’s ominous warning to heed these nighttime visions.

Soon, more than simple dreams are stalking his movements. A mere fifteen-cycles-of-the-seasons after defeating Rakadamon at the Battle of Magtisanya, it becomes apparent that Dark Children and Twisted Ones are walking amongst us again. This time it seems they have a new agenda: revenge.

This poses a disturbing question…is the Dark Master back?

Review:

I previously reviewed the first book in this series Book of Remembrance last year, and although it has taken me awhile to get to the second book I am so glad I did!  It's just as entertaining as the first book!

The things I liked about the first book was the action-packed adventure, the complex world-building and the twists and turns in the narrative, and all of that is continued in this second book.  The story starts off with a more mature Kadin because it is several years after the events of the first book, and he is married and has a family.  It was interesting to have Kadin so much more mature and in a family setting.  It changed the dynamic of the story and increased the stakes because of the danger threatening his children.

The story moves very quickly and brings in all the characters from the Alliance in the last book.  They are all a little changed, and have had trials to endure, which I thought gave such depth and realism to the characters.  I had a bit of an issue in the last book with the stilted dialogue, but I felt that the writing was much improved in this book, and overall was very impressed by how well the sequel continues the saga of the Alliance and Rakadamon.  There were things that I suspected early on, and of some I was right, but there were a few surprises along the way.  I definitely enjoyed this second installment of the Forgotten Gods series!

review copy kindly provided by the author


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Suspense Sundays (42) The Pit and the Pendulum

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 Pit and the Pendulum"
Air date: January 12, 1943
Starring Henry Hull
This is based on the well known Edgar Allan Poe story of suspense where a prisoner during the Spanish Inquistion is subjected to some pretty horrifying situations.  First the pit of unknown depth and rats at the bottom, and then tied up with a sharp blade swinging slowly downwards towards him.  Will the prisoner survive?

Since the original story is largely an interior monologue, the adaptor - John Dickson Carr - decided to add the people that the prisoner knows to talk to him in his head.  There is girlfriend (or what it his wife?) and the Interrogator to move the story along, but in a way I didn't feel that this device worked very well.  It just made the prisoner rather annoying actually, because his reaction to what these people are saying to him "inside his head" didn't feel realistic given that he must already have known these things.  It was too obvious a gimmick.  The Poe story is excellent of course, and the idea of this deadly prison chamber is very chilling.
Friday, April 26, 2013

Books to Music: The Phantom of the Opera

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
You will curse the day you did not do
All that the Phantom asked of you

Oh Phantom.  I think most everyone agrees this musical is great.  There is something about it that just resonates. But when looking at the book, it is interesting to see how Andrew Lloyd Webber was able to make this story work so well as a musical.  There are minor changes to the plot, but for the most part, the musical follows the story closely.  And taking the appeal of the Phantom (who's disfigurement isn't nearly as bad as in the book) out of the equation, I think the biggest reason this musical is so much more memorable than the book is the music.

Beautiful voices and beautiful music is a major plot point for the story, and although there have been some iffy choices voice-wise in actors to play the Phantom, generally the music is very difficult to sing, and requires actors with superb voice control.  And there have been many who have pulled it off so well.  There is a lot of power in these songs, from the pure singing side (there are many operatic passages) to the guitar riffs and the overpowering organ.  It brings a level of drama to the story that I don't feel is necessarily in the book (although I haven't read it in awhile) and heightens the tension and dark obsessive romance of the story.

The lyrics bring another side of gorgeous story-telling to the novel, because it highlights the emotions of the characters so well.  "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again" is a song that has never personally enthralled me, but when I took the time to really listen to the lyrics recently, I was struck by how well it captures Christine's inner turmoil and the cause of her character weakness.  So many great lyrics in this show that are able to tell the story and tell you more about the characters at once.

Song Spotlight: Music of the Night
I've youtube linked to the 25th Anniversary performance of Music of the Night where they had 5 Phantoms perform the song! Five awesome singers! What!  Anthony Warlow is my favorite Phantom for the record.  The thing I always think about when I hear this song is that it is hard to sustain a note with the E vowel and so when listening to the song I especially like to listen to how the singer sounds singing 'Let your soul take you where you long to be'.  Just a little thing I do.  This is my favorite song from the musical because I love the lilting seductiveness of the music and the lyrics and the poignancy in the Phantom's need for companionship.  It's so beautifully done just like this whole darn musical!
Thursday, April 25, 2013

Guest Post: 10 Highs and Lows of An Author's Life

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Thank you to Lorraine and Pam - authors of "Looking for La La" and who write as Ellie Campbell - for sharing this fun guest post with my blog today on the Highs and Lows of an Author's Life.

Here is a plot summary of their book:
In a recent survey 65% of mothers admitted feeling undervalued, over-criticised and constantly tired.

Cathy is no exception. Her dull, uneventful days as a stay at home, mother of two, are radically transformed however with the arrival of a heavily lipsticked postcard addressed to husband, Declan. Who is the mysterious La La? Could Declan really be having an affair? And is Cathy actually being stalked?

Whatever – it will definitely prove riveting gossip for the Tuesday Twice Monthlies, Cathy’s 'Mothers Restaurant Research’ group where scandal flows as recklessly as the wine. But what starts as a light-hearted investigation with best friend Raz, soon turns into something much more sinister.

With a possible murderer on the scene, a sexy admirer igniting long-forgotten sparks, and all her friends hiding secrets, it’s not only Cathy’s marriage that’s in jeopardy. Add in the scheming antics of Declan’s new assistant, the stress of organising the school Save The Toilet’s dance and the stage is set for a dangerous showdown and some very unsettling, possibly deadly, revelations.

And now on to the guest post!

THE LOWS


1. Lorraine: The dire feeling all creative people share that they’re not good enough, that their books aren’t the masterpieces they visualized. The ‘mean blues’ when you read someone else’s brilliant prose and decide it’s time to throw in the towel. Both Pam and I try not to read other people’s fiction when we are deep into writing a novel, in case we start comparing or find ourselves unconsciously imitating their style. (Not so great when you start off sounding like Ellie Campbell and end as a bad Ernest Hemingway). If at all, Pam will dip into various autobiographies, while I manage a couple of pages on horse training before I fall asleep.

2. Pam: The walking into a bookstore and seeing millions of books on the shelves and wondering why you feel impelled to add to the madness. Aren’t there enough books in the world, historical novels, romantic novels, horror novels? Bookstores bulging with authors who have profoundly important things to say as opposed to our inane ramblings.

3. Lorraine: The days when you’re stuck and think you’ve forgotten how to write and will never manage another sentence let alone another book. Or someone hears you’re a writer and expects witty imaginative things written on their birthday cards or signed in their copy of your novel. It’s like going up to a comedian and saying “Go on then, be funny. Go on.” Like our heroine, Cathy, in Looking For La La we usually find ourselves scrawling a lowly ‘best wishes’. And then think of a million brilliant alternatives when the moment has gone.

4. Pam: The marketing of your novel, having to sell yourself, when you’d rather hide away in your warm house behind your PCs. Lorraine and I are both naturally quite shy and there was quite a lot of firsts for us when we published our first and second novels, How to Survive Your Sister and When Good Friends Go Bad. First radio interview, first phone interview, first photo-shoot, first book signing. There were all wonderful in their own way and we will be forever grateful to Laura, our great publicist at the time, but boy did we find it hard putting ourselves forward and “tooting our own trumpets”.

5. Lorraine: The * or ** star reviews. Ugh. The minute you see them, all those **** and ***** stars are obliterated from your mind and you immediately start wondering if it’s too late to train for that alternative career… like sword swallower, tightrope walker, cliff diver, tarantula trainer… Or maybe just give it all up and sail off into the sunset.

THE HIGHS


1. Pam: Doing a job you would rather do more than anything else in the world. I work part time in a college, during term time, which I love doing while Lorraine is busy working with horses which she is totally passionate about, but we both still consider writing novels as our main occupation. When it’s going well, you think, gosh I’m my own boss, I get to do the hours that I want, the days that I want. Total freedom. And if I want a holiday (depending on deadlines of course), I can have one. Great thing is, you can take your laptop with you, lie on a hammock maybe, tropical beach and still be “working”.

2. Lorraine: The fantastic feeling you get when you finish a paragraph, a scene, or a whole chapter and love what you wrote. Some days things go perfectly. Words seem to come out of nowhere, pages write themselves. Even better when there’s two of you writing and you wake up and the other has written all the bits you were struggling over. These days we’ve even started enjoying the editing process. There’s a weird satisfaction in cutting out words and characters and huge chunks of text. Sort of like the joy of cleaning out your closet, recycling unwanted clothes and feeling so virtuous afterwards.

3. Pam: Seeing your book in bookstores and especially in the library. I love picking out our Ellie Campbell novels on the library shelves, and seeing that people have actually borrowed them out of all the fantastic old and new books that they lend there. I’ve also spent afternoons looking them up on the libraries’ online sites. Sad I know, but you can see how many copies they have and how many are out and you can visualise those people sitting there, reading and (hopefully) enjoying them.

4. Lorraine: Imagining how proud our parents (long deceased) would be to know we became published novelists. They died relatively young and poor Mum wanted so badly for us to do something – anything - she could boast about. I swear she used to make things up because aunts, uncles, people she worked with, were always complimenting us on great accomplishments that were total news to Pam and myself. She was ecstatic when I got my first short story in print. The sales of Woman magazine must have rocketed that day – I pity the poor neighbours!

5. Pam: Having your agent ring you up and tell you, you have a two book publishing deal. Fantastic. Then seeing one of your books finally in print, glancing through it and realizing it’s your baby and – huge relief - you love it. Sometimes you find bits you’d totally forgotten and actually laugh aloud. Sometimes you can’t believe those words came out of you and when writing in partnership like Lorraine and I sometimes they didn’t. (We get very confused about who wrote what.) Our latest Ellie Campbell novel, Looking For La La, was inspired by a prank love postcard someone sent to my husband and when I look at that opening scene it still makes me chuckle. Especially imagining what the postcard-sender will think if she ever happens to read it.

Here's to you La La!
Check out the Goodreads link for a chance to enter a giveaway for the book!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Awesome Adaptations (35) - Jane Eyre (1943)

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 Atmospheric Adaptation
Title: Jane Eyre
Adapted from: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Normally I wouldn't count this film version of Jane Eyre as "awesome"because I do have a few issues with the script and characterizations, but as a film and not an adaptation, I think it is compelling because the atmosphere of the movie is the most prominent aspect.

Jane Eyre has many Gothic elements and this film plays up those aspects.  The mysterious manor, the eerie moors, the brooding master, and the dark secret in the attic are all elements that are played out very well in this film.  The stark black and white cinematography captures the Hollywood idea of Northern England in the 19th century as stark and forbidding.  And the lighting just adds to the moodiness.  It makes the story much more mysterious and the romance between Jane and Rochester darker and foreboding.

The acting adds to the foreboding atmosphere as well.  Orson Welles as Rochester can especially be very intense and that adds to the unease that builds to the revelation of Rochester's secret.  Joan Fontaine is all innocence and good intentions which makes her Jane rather insipid, but it makes sense to see her matched to Orson Welles' overpowering Rochester and it's completely true to Gothic norms.  Watching this adaptation is a way to watch an approximation of the power and beauty of the original novel, but it is a wonderfully moody and Gothic film from the Golden Age of Hollywood and well worth the time for that alone.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Review: American Goddesses

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
American Goddesses
by Gary R. Henry

Plot Summary:


When two small-town women find themselves with nearly unlimited powers of mind and body, their lives get complicated. Things turn nasty as a shadowy organization attempts to use Megan and Trish for their own evil ends, and destroy them, their town and the USA in the process.


Review:

This novel reads very cinematically.  From the establishing scenes in the beginning that sets up what the rest of the story is and foreshadows the resolution to the clearly delineated characters and the plot that makes good and evil very straightforward.  The story moves at a great pace, full of action and plot twists - moving seamlessly from the actions of the protagonists to the actions of the bad guys.  The story has a wonderful explanation about why some women can have these amazing powers of mind and body, and I love how real and grounded Megan and Trish feel despite their superhuman abilities.  The author describes some realistic relationship and adjustment issues and gives his characters enough detail to make it easy to identify with the problems they run into.  I think the main characters are what drew me into this story the most - they have quirks and humor, and are compassionate which is what makes them so perfect as newly made superheroes.

The villains in this story are not as vivid and realistic as characters - they felt stereotypical and mostly just served their roles of being evil.  It was a little disappointing given how great the protagonists were portrayed, but it keeps the plot simple and moving forward.  But Melnikov especially was deliciously evil and she was a fun character to read.  The story is so well plotted and full of action and great, engaging protagonists that I found it a joy from start to finish, and I highly recommend it as a quick, entertaining read.

review copy kindly provided by the author

Monday, April 22, 2013

Whose Line Is It Anyway? (My TV taping experience!)

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,
Last Saturday I went to a taping of 'Whose Line Is It Anyway?'!  Remember the show where everything's made up and the points don't matter?  I used to watch a lot of Whose Line when I was younger and I was so happy to see they are bringing the show back (the series starts airing July 16th on the CW!)  It was a fantastic experience going to the taping even though it lasted about four hours.

But it's really longer than that.  First is the wait in line to check-in, and the line was outside in the hot unforgiving sun, on the sidewalk where we could breathe in great lungfuls of car exhaust fumes.  Okay, it wasn't that bad.  We were in the shade.  Then we were processed by the audience handlers - firmly told that cellphones, food, and water (water!!) were not allowed in the studio.  And we better use the restroom because we weren't going to be able to when filming began.  Geez.

So I love love love the show, but there was one thing I was concerned about - I didn't want to be picked to go onstage!!  And there was so much seating, that surely I wouldn't have to sit in the front!  What are the odds?  And when we did get to our seat, it was in the front but so far to the side of the stage, that our view was obstructed.  Yikes, not that great.  But I was going to go along with it, until a lady took me and my one friend (we were in a group of four) to different seats.  In the FRONT.  A little off to the CENTER of the stage.  Are you kidding me?  Merde.  But I will tell you now that I was not picked to go on stage, and of that I am eternally grateful.  There was a dicey moment when Colin Mochrie came towards us though, and my mind shut down.  But it all ended well.

The show was hilar, and there were great moments throughout - and some great celebrity guest appearances - Kevin McHale from Glee and Lisa Leslie!  They were fantastic really - just went with the improvisers and were funny themselves!  I know this is the second time the cast has taped episodes, but it really felt like they never stopped- they still work so well together.  And the new host, Aisha Tyler, totally owned the post and was so wryly funny and quick-witted.  She didn't do a game with the cast at the end which disappointed me, but she was so funny throughout the taping, on and off camera that I think I got a good idea of her improv comedy.  And as an aside, I was completely obsessed with Wayne Brady's accurate Nicki Minaj impression!

At one point - about 2 hours into taping - while they were reseting things, Wayne Brady looks into the audience and saw a guy sleeping.  And my friend and I looked over, and saw it was OUR friend!  Wayne got up and went over to him; he couldn't believe he had fallen asleep.  In my friend's defense.... well there really is no defense. He thought it was funny so it's okay.  And they referenced 'sleepy guy' during the taping multiple times.  Now that is definitely the only thing I am going to call him now!  And he might make it into the episode, since they had him sign a release form.

The teddy I got after the Helping Hands game
Despite having a bunch of pick-ups filmed near the end of the four hours, which resulted in us having to clap and cheer numerous times while they filmed opening and ending sequences and connecting dialogue, the experience was totally worth it!  They even threw a prop into the audience and I got it!  So brilliant comedy, fantastic comedians, a great audience, and a teddy bear! = one of the best evenings I have ever spent!

And although this post is getting a little long, one more fun story I wanted to share - the audience asked about a Hoedown which they weren't filming that day, and Aisha told the audience that Ryan Stiles LOVES hoedowns (he absolutely hates them) and to ask him to do one when he got back to the stage.  And when he did, the audience chanted "Hoedown, Hoedown!" and Ryan looked at us in bewilderment.  Then he gave us the middle finger.  The best.  Watch "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" when it comes back on the air (July 16th, CW), because everyone needs new "Whose Line" in their life!



Sunday, April 21, 2013

Suspense Sundays (41)

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 Cave of Ali Baba"
Air date: August 19, 1942
Starring Romney Brent
Based on a Dorothy Sayers short story, Lord Peter Wimsey finds himself caught by a very organized group of criminals, and has to use his wits to get out of being killed as a spy.  And his plans involve a double locked safe that may or may not have some very important information.

Although this story starts off slow, with framing device that involves a friend of Peter's which I thought was unnecessary, when it came to whether or not Peter could get out of his predicament, the story became much more interesting.  It was so suspenseful because it was so hard to tell whether Peter was telling the truth, and I was sure there was something he was hiding because he really seemed to forthright.  The ending is pretty satisfying and this episode was overall very enjoyable.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Books to Music: Once Upon A Mattress

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
And you may be sure way down deep I'm demure,
though some people I know might deny it at bottom 
I'm quiet and pure!
I'm aware that it's wrong to be meek as I am; 
my chances may pass me by.
I pretend to be strong, but as weak as I am, all I can do is try.

Oh this musical, what a delight!  It's based on Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tale "The Princess and the Pea" and changes up several things about the story.  The Queen doesn't want her son to marry a princess, but stay with her always, so the Queen is turned into a great campy villain in this film production from 2005.  Carol Burnett (who played Princess Winifred in the original off-broadway/broadway production) is over the top, but perfect for this bright, colorful, exuberant production.  And of course her vocals are spot on!  They even wrote a new song for this version, sung by Carol's Queen called "That Baby of Mine" which lets Carol really vamp it up and play up the comedy.  I'm a huge fan of Carol Burnett so I'm probably a little biased about how great this show is!

They do have a stellar cast here though.  Matthew Morrison (Broadway actor and now actor on Glee) has a gorgeous voice, and is really perfectly matched with Zooey Deschanel as Lady Larkin.  Their songs are so playful and romantic and are a great foil for the quirky romance between Tracey Ullman's "shy" Princess Winifred, and Prince Dauntless played by Denis O'Hare. (OMG True Blood fans! Russell Edgington can sing!)  The music is mostly the old-style Broadway sound - very glossy and buoyant - and of course catchy and upbeat.  The big dance number song (Spanish Panic) is really fun and shows just what this musical is about - it's entertaining, funny and over the top, and brings a great new spin to the original fairy tale.

Song Spotlight: Shy
This song showcases the Princess's personality, which is very endearing even if she doesn't seem all that shy. Her words belie her very forward and strident voice. Yet even though it seems unlikely that people find her shy when they meet her, it's interesting that you can believe she really is a bit timid on the inside because she has such a unique personality that might not be acceptable to everyone (the Queen for instance.)  There is a little song within this that serves as the prelude and is a part of the dance break in the middle that I also really adore.  It has a lovely, fluttering melody and I wish I could hear it developed into it's own song!
Thursday, April 18, 2013

Book Excerpt: Dangerous Waters

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Dangerous Waters
by Anne Allen

Plot Summary:

Dangerous Waters is a romantic mystery set in Guernsey, a British island near France, and follows the loves and losses of Jeanne le Page. She’s a thirty-something who left the island fifteen years previously after a family tragedy and is now forced to return after her grandmother’s death. The old lady has left Jeanne her cottage but she doesn’t want to live in it, planning to sell and leave again. Heartbroken after the recent end of a long-term relationship, she is feeling totally lost.

But then Jeanne starts to unearth secrets held by the cottage, going back to the German Occupation. She also begins to learn the truth behind the unexplained accident which killed her family. Jeanne had been the only survivor and had suffered traumatic amnesia, but with the help of hypnosis her memory returns. This puts her in danger from an unexpected source. The ghosts of the past have to be faced before Jeanne can learn to live and love again . . . .

Book Excerpt: 

Jeanne went out on deck as the spring sun broke through the clouds. A warm glow spread over green and gold jewel-like Herm and its larger neighbour, grey and white building encrusted Guernsey.

The salt-laden air enveloped her like an old and trusty coat. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and was a child again, playing on the beach with her parents. The image was so powerful that tears formed and she blundered, unseeing, towards the railings.

As her vision cleared she found herself staring at Herm and, without warning, was overwhelmed by such a strong feeling of fear that she had to hold onto the rail. Jeanne’s heart began to race, blood pounded in her head and her breathing came in short, painful gasps. Oh my God, what’s happening to me? After all this time, please, not again! Struggling to breathe she was on the verge of passing out. Letting go of the rail she stumbled, crashing into a man who was walking past.

‘Hey, steady on! Look where you’re going!’ he said angrily, grabbing hold of her to stop them falling. ‘Overdid the duty frees, did you?’

Stung by his accusation, she took a deep breath before replying. ‘No . . .no. I. I just lost my balance.’ The man’s hands were gripping her arms so hard that she could already imagine the bruises. ‘Hey, that hurts!’

He loosened his grip and guided her back to the rail where she clung on, filling her lungs with the sea air.

‘Sorry, didn’t mean to hurt you. OK now?’

Jeanne nodded. As the man stepped back she took in, through still blurred eyes; dark brown hair, deep blue eyes and the muscled arms of a man unlikely to be a pen-pusher. Responding to his slightly warmer tone, she managed a tight smile before straightening up and walking, unsteadily, to the starboard side.

What on earth was that? Is this what I can expect now? Perhaps I shouldn’t have come back though I didn’t have much choice . . . The thoughts whirled around her pounding head. She shuddered as she leant against the railings and Guernsey came into full view. While the ferry headed towards St Peter Port harbour, she felt as if she were approaching a strange, unknown country rather than the land of her birth. The whole of the northern sea front, from Les Banques into St Peter Port, had been transformed. Towering edifices of granite and glass had replaced the old, tired mish-mash of warehouses, scruffy hotels and shops. With a gasp, she realised that even the elegant landmark of the Royal Hotel had been supplanted.

Wow! What’s happened here? It was if a natural disaster had occurred, flattening the old front and replacing it by buildings more reminiscent of London than of the parochial island she remembered. She’d never have thought that Guernsey would move into the twenty first century with such a bang.

The dramatic transformation which lay before her seemed to Jeanne to be an echo of all the change in her own life and she felt a stranger here. She wished that she had stayed in the familiar, dull Midlands town which had been her home these past fifteen years. For a moment the urge to remain on the ferry and return to England, without setting foot on the island, was overwhelming. Her face must have mirrored her inner turmoil as a middle-aged lady standing nearby asked, ‘Are you all right, dear? Only you’ve gone very white.’

‘I’m fine, thanks. Just not very good on boats.’

The older lady nodded sympathetically. ‘My Tom gets seasick too. Has to fill himself up with beer or the odd whisky or two before he’ll set foot on a boat. Just as well I can drive or we’d be marooned on the ferry till he’s sobered up!’ She laughed.

Jeanne grinned weakly.

‘Aren’t these waters supposed to be dangerous?’

‘Yes, they can be, if you don’t know where all the rocks are,’ Jeanne replied. Yet again, her heart hammered against her chest and her breathing quickened. She fought down the feelings of panic to add, ‘but these big boats are perfectly safe,’ wondering who she was really trying to reassure.

Jeanne now joined the throng of eager passengers heading towards the car deck, found her car and sat there feeling sick and trapped in the echoing bowel of the ship. She would just do what had to be done here and then go back – but where? Her body arched with pain at the memory of her loss. Going back would be as painful as going on, she realised. The sound of car horns blaring behind her brought her back to the present. She started the engine and joined the queue towards the gangway and whatever lay ahead.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Awesome Adaptations (34) - Poirot: Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan

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 With Travel
Title: Poirot: Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan"
Adapted from: "Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan" from Poirot Investigates by Agatha Christie
.
After participating in Picture Me Reading's most recent Book Club Extra, I'm in a Poirot mood, so even though there isn't much travel in this particular episode of Poirot, I picked it for this week's Awesome Adaptations.  Because who wouldn't want to visit Brighton circa 1930s?!

The original short story is pretty straightforward.  The mystery, as told, is all in this episode.  This television series has always been very faithful to the characters and the story.  Where the series improves on the short story is by adding a few more red herrings and more humor that emphasizes Poirot's quirks.  In particular his unique look.  The Lucky Len scenes become a recurring joke, with people continually mistaking Poirot for what is supposed to be a very unique person pictured in a newspaper.  And Poirot is very much annoyed.  It's funny and throws Poirot off which is always interesting to see.  And they put a nice button on the joke in the last scene.

Poirot is visiting Brighton for a much needed rest (but of course he can't get away from a mystery!) and seeing a period Brighton - with the gorgeous hotel, the sea and the pier (though I believe for filming all of these things were actually in an adjacent city to Brighton) enhances the reality of the story.  In addition to a great mystery (that reads more like a magic trick), there are wonderful shots of the sea and Poirot and Hastings relaxing in a seaside restaurant.  And again I must mention the hotel they found to represent the Grand Metropolitan - it is so imposing and beautiful.  For the "vacation" episode, they really took advantage of the gorgeous scenery on-location to bring variety to the series.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Review: Struck by Lightning

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Struck by Lightning
by Chris Colfer

Plot Summary:

Struck By Lightning: The Carson Phillips Journal follows the story of outcast high school senior Carson Phillips, who blackmails the most popular students in his school into contributing to his literary journal to bolster his college application; his goal in life is to get into Northwestern and eventually become the editor of The New Yorker. At once laugh-out-loud funny, deliciously dark, and remarkably smart, Struck By Lightning unearths the dirt that lies just below the surface of high school. At a time when bullying torments so many young people today, this unique and important novel sheds light with humor and wit on an issue that deeply resonates with countless teens and readers.

Review:

This book is made up of Carson Phillips' journal entries, some newspaper articles and a literary journal to tell the story.  Carson's darkly sarcastic voice is very entertaining and so funny, as he tries his hardest to make something of his life despite what sounds like the worst high school in existence.  Teenage angst and prejudice and cruelty is very much in evidence, but Carson's lighting wit tears through the superficial layers of the characters and reveals a lot of heart in even the most unlikable characters.  Although Carson is the hero of the story, he has his flaws as well, and although it does seem justified compared to the flaws of his fellow classmates, it grounds the story by making it feel like a realistic study in character.

The story is mostly character-driven, because it is about Carson's underhanded efforts to get into Northwestern University, and how he uncovers the secrets of some of his popular fellow students, and Carson is the one who really carries the story.  Don't expect alot of plot or even many twists and turns (except for the secrets the students are hiding).  The only thing I had trouble with was the ending, which seemed so unexpected and I found it hard to understand why it had to end that way.  But I know this is a personal preference, and it really doesn't change how very enjoyable I found the whole of the story.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Review: Automaton

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Automaton
by C.L. Davies

Plot Summary:

In the not too distant future, after the huge successes of role playing games and virtual worlds such as The Sims, Second Life, and reality shows such as Big Brother, it was only a matter of time before somebody took the next step. A remote island. An android population existing only to entertain. Their lives broadcast around the clock and around the globe. Their actions dictated by their owners. It’s the world’s biggest game played by thousands. Welcome to Gameworld. Dean 3012 is a good guy living on the Island. He loves his girlfriend, Lily, and with their first baby on the way, life is perfect. But when things take a sinister turn, the couple is plunged into a world of darkness and despair. Dean must take control and fight for all their lives.

Review:

Automaton has a great premise that takes reality television and virtual gaming to the next level.  People's lives revolve around watching and participating in the real world lives of Gameworld.  It's a very believable premise, but in execution it didn't feel very believable.  The characters - from the Gameworld players to the ones who controlled them didn't feel life fully realized characters.  And to have some of the Gameworld characters actually be real people seemed unlikely - there's no regulation for such a high profile game/show?  The characters do forward the plot, and the story moves at a very good pace - this is a short and interesting read if you are willing to suspend disbelief.

Because the plot is fast-paced and the story moves to different characters point of view, the gradual unfolding of what goes on in Gameworld was interesting to read about, and some of the actions of the real characters made for exciting twists and turns.  Though sometimes the motivations for their actions were unbelievable again.  Although the story is thought-provoking, I didn't feel in the end that there was a real point or commentary to the narrative.  Personally I felt unhappy with the ending, but it's a story that passes the time and for people who enjoy virtual worlds, it might be an entertaining read.

review copy kindly provided by the author
Sunday, April 14, 2013

Suspense Sundays (40)

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 Body Snatchers"
Air date: November 24, 1942
The episode starts off with a little historical information about how doctors needed to resort to underhanded methods to obtain dead bodies for study in the 19th century.  And then the story starts - with a group of resurrectionists who, in failing to dig up a body from the churchyard, decides to kill a young girl and take her body to the doctor who ordered a body.  Once the body is delivered though, the police catch up and arrest the body snatchers.  And now the doctor is looking at an arrest.

The background of the story is pretty dark, but the approach to it is lighter.  The body snatchers are a bickering group and that takes the seriousness out of their macabre profession. And when they decide they have to get a dead body at any cost and look to the young girl who helps keep the house, there is one character who really doesn't want to participate.  The doctor starts repenting his decision to buy a body as well, so that in the end when the police catch up to the criminals, you feel a little sorry for them.  Of course there is also the twist in the end, which made the whole episode much more enjoyable.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Books to Music: Rebecca (English demos)

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
When we kiss you are thinking of Rebecca
I don't ask you to love me
Let me be just your companion
I know well that you will always love her.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier!  Although this musical did very well in Europe, it hasn't been very lucky getting off the ground in America.  Which is unfortunate because I think it would be a fantastic spectacle dramatic show. Although there is a proper recording of the musical in German, I'm listening to the English demos from 2003 with Maike Boerdam as "I", Uwe Kroger as Maxim DeWinter and the very well-known Dutch actress/singer Pia Douwes as Mrs. Danvers.

First of all the music.  It's properly dramatic and stirring, with beautiful ballads and some dark and sinister overtones.  The recording has a few orchestral interludes (for stage changes?) which are so pretty - I think the music for this show is so gorgeous and rich.  Maike Boerdam's voice is so lilting and pretty and perfect for the shy, retiring "I", and while Uwe Kroger has a very strong voice, I did wish it was a little deeper to capture Maxim DeWinter's darkness better.  Pia Douwes is just perfection.

The lyrics are mostly very solid, but they don't seem very memorable to me.  I have a vague suspicion that the German libretto is better than the English, and I wish I could speak German to confirm.  The musical seems to follow the book very closely though, and I appreciate the fidelity to the source material.  There is one comic relief song for Mrs. Van Hopper which sounds very out of place with the tone of the musical, and a little insulting to Americans, but what can you do?  To get a sense of the story and the direction the composers wanted to take this story, this recording is excellent to listen to, and really makes me hope they will get the musical on Broadway soon!

Song Spotlight: Last Night I Dreamt I Went to Manderley
This is the first song on the recording and I like it the best! It begins with the sound of waves and a reminiscing chorus, and then the main character starts singing of what she remembers.  The music has that touch of something sinister while also being such a beautiful ballad - I love the way it sets up the beginning of the story and is so catchy and pretty.  The last part of the song (before the upbeat transition music kicks in) particularly stays in my head because it's so sweetly dreamy and leads perfectly into the first scenes of the musical.

And for fun, listen to the German version of the song!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Classics Retold (sign up post for 19th Century & Gothic Classics)

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
Classics Retold  is a project hosted by Alison @ The Cheap Reader, Alyssa @ Books Take You Places, Brittany @ Book Addicts GuideCharlene @ Bookish Whimsy (ME!), and Wendy @ Excellent Library.  Similar to Project: Fairy Tale from earlier in the year but for this project we are reading a classic book and then reading or watching retellings, spin-offs, or adaptions of it!

The Details:

  • September 2013 will be our month to post everything.
  • Each blogger will choose a classic they'd like to read.
  • They read their classic and read or watch as many retellings, spin-offs, sequels or adaptions of their classic as they can. They will post reviews or their thoughts on each one during September.
  • 1-4 bloggers can work on a "main" text. They can work independently or work together. You're allowed to all read/watch the same things or split the work up.
  • To participate in this project, you only sign up for one classic (and its adaptions).
    • Optional: You're allowed to work on other classics/adaptions if you'd like. Find the bloggers covering the book you're interested in and ask to do a guest post!
    • Optional: Do other posts about your classic: character analysis, where else to find the characters, the book’s influence on culture, memes, etc. It can be literally anything involving your classic.
    • Optional: Do a sign up post after I clear your classic. It will help spread the word about the project and you’re able to bounce your ideas off of your readers. They may even give you ideas of books/movies to use for your classic!
  • For a classic to be useable for this project, it should have at least 2 adaptions, spin-offs, sequels, or retellings.
  • Sign-ups for the project ends May 25th.
Obviously this project is going to get pretty big so we've split the co-hosting duties up. It's all one big project so you only sign up once for one book (not once on each blog).

Alyssa @ Books Take You Places is in charge of Ancient to Renaissance Lit Classics. (Sign up post)
Brittany @ Book Addicts Guide is in charge of Mythology. (Sign up post)
Charlene @ Bookish Whimsy is in charge of 19th Century & Gothic Classics.
Alison @ The Cheap Reader is in charge of Children's Classics. (Sign up post)
Wendy @ Excellent Library is in charge of American & Misc. Classics. (Sign up post)

Here are some choices for 19th Century & Gothic Classics (but if you think of one not on this list, just comment below and I'll give you the OK for it, if it fits the category. Remember there is a separate category for all American Classics).  I have picked "The Time Machine" by HG Wells for my Classic.
Sign up by leaving a comment on this post with your choice and a link to your blog!

Jane Austen
Emma (Dee @ Dee's Book Blog)
Mansfield Park
Northanger Abbey (Mrs. Silverstein @ Reading on the F Train)
Persuasion (Daphne @ Gone Pecan / Paola & Alix @ A Novel Idea)
Pride and Prejudice (Melissa @ Harley Bear Book Blog / Andrea @ Beauty but a Funny Girl)
Sense and Sensibility

Charlotte Bronte
Jane Eyre (Amy @ Book Goonie / Merin @ Read and Reviewed)
Villette

Emily Bronte
Wuthering Heights 

Charles Dickens
Bleak House
Little Dorritt
Mystery of Edwin Drood
Nicholas Nickleby
The Old Curiosity Shop
Oliver Twist
Pickwick Papers
A Tale of Two Cities
A Christmas Carol

Fyodor Dostoevesky
Brothers Karamazov
Crime and Punishment
The Idiot

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Sherlock Holmes (Alisa @ Picture Me Reading / Alice @ Alice in Readerland)

Alexander Dumas
The Count of Monte Cristo (DoingDewey)
The Three Musketeers (Cassi @ Bright Forest)

George Eliot
Adam Bede
Daniel Deronda
Middlemarch
Mill on the Floss
Silas Marner

Elizabeth Gaskell
Cranford
Wives and Daughters (Whitney @ She Is Too Fond of Books)
North and South (Rachel @ Paper Cuts)

Goethe
Faust

Thomas Hardy
Far From the Madding Crowd
Jude the Obscure
The Mayor of Casterbridge
The Return of the Native
Tess of the D'Urbervilles (Amanda @ Off the Book)

Victor Hugo
Les Miserables (Tory @ The Sleeping Latte)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Gaston Leroux
The Phantom of the Opera (Krista @ Krista's Picks)

Edgar Allan Poe
Masque of the Red Death
Annabel Lee

Ann Radcliffe
The Mysteries of Udolpho

Sir Walter Scott
Ivanhoe

Mary Shelley
Frankenstein (Faith @ StudentSpyglass / Fi @ Bookish Outsider)

Robert L Stevenson
Kidnapped
Treasure Island (InkSpired)

Bram Stoker
Dracula

Jonathan Swift
Gulliver's Travels

William Thackeray
Vanity Fair

Leo Tolstoy
Anna Karenina
War and Peace

Jules Verne
Around the World in 80 Days
Journey to the Center of the Earth
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

H.G. Wells
Invisible Man (Melydia @ Utter Randomonium)
The Island of Dr. Moreau
The Time Machine (Charlene @ Bookish Whimsy)
War of the Worlds

Oscar Wilde
Picture of Dorian Gray

I'll be at Disneyland today, so I'll try to get to comments later tonight, or definitely tomorrow!  
Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Awesome Adaptations (33) - Sherlock "The Hounds of Baskerville"

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 With Sleuthing!
Title: Sherlock "The Hounds of Baskerville"
Adapted from: The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

It was hard to pick one Sherlock episode for this category, obviously because all of them are amazing, but I chose this one because it has such a brilliant mystery, and it is a complex adaptation.  So much is changed from the original story, but the idea of the original remains.  It has that horror element, that scary supernatural hound that is so expertly explained, with clues along the way to point to the correct solution.  But that solution is obscured by the scene where Sherlock sees the hound and begins to doubt himself and the mystery becomes a test of his ideology and rationality.  This episode (like all of them really) is a perfect blend of mystery and character development.

In some of the previous Sherlock episodes, there is more than one mystery to solve, and while it is a brilliant feat of adapting, I love how this episode has just one central mystery.  There are other puzzles that seem unrelated, but in the end everything comes together in a way that only Sherlock can make sense of.  This series' style of visualizing what goes on in Sherlock's head through on-screen graphics and text, creates a great moment near the end where Sherlock goes to his mind palace and starts really analyzing all the information he's gleaned.  The mind palace is an old method of storing memories, and this episode shows how useful it can still be.  And apparently terrifically useful for detectives.

This episode, with it's moody, sinister atmosphere, and a complex mystery that is made more awesome by how well Mark Gatiss can weave elements of the original story and yet create a completely new, modern version that still keeps the idea of this unshakable, haunting curse, is another brilliant example of how fantastic this show is, and how awe-inspiring a unique adaptation can be.
Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Review: A Quarter of Magic

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
A Quarter of Magic
by Zoe Tyson

Plot Summary:

In a World born out of magic lives 14 year old Miloney Merren. In his World humans are ruled by an immortal species of creature. And the creatures have one major rule: A human must never have magic. Unfortunately for Milo, he does... And it’s getting out of control. Will he be able to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to help his family and friends? "When magic becomes dangerous, you need to remember one thing. It will either define you or kill you."
Review:
An immensely entertaining and fast-paced read, the world the author has created is intriguing from the very start.  The children are afraid of their magic being discovered because if they are, they are exiled to another world.  At first I thought this really meant 'the children are killed,' but when Milo faces exile, the story starts on a completely captivating roller coaster ride of action and new revelations.  The story turns into a quest tale where Milo and his friends have a mission to save his world before the unbalance of magic kills everyone.

Although there were a few typos and issues I had with the writing, I thought the world the author created - with it's many different parallel worlds was so interesting, and the fact that the story is so action-packed kept me reading.  The characters are great - Milo and his group of friends all have different powers that work together very well to get them past all the dangers in their path.  I think the ideas behind this story are very solid and the author really knows how to create an engrossing storyline.  The character development isn't very deep, and although the world-building is complex, it isn't all explained (perhaps for the next book) but I think this is a highly engaging quick read for people who love fantasy and magical quests.

review copy kindly provided by the author


Monday, April 8, 2013

Review: Summer Falls (Doctor Who tie-in)

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , , ,
Summer Falls
by Amelia Williams
(James Goss)

Plot Summary:

“When summer falls, the Lord of Winter will arise…”

In the seaside village of Watchcombe, young Kate is determined to make the most of her last week of summer holiday. But when she discovers a mysterious painting entitled ‘The Lord of Winter’ in a charity shop, it leads her on an adventure she never could have planned. Kate soon realises the old seacape, painted long ago by an eccentric local artist, is actually a puzzle. And with the help of some bizarre new acquaintances – including a museum curator’s magical cat, a miserable neighbour, and a lonely boy – she plans on solving it.

And then, one morning Kate wakes up to a world changed forever. For the Lord of Winter is coming – and Kate has a very important decision to make.

Review:

This book appears briefly in the episode "The Bells of St. John" (season 7 part 2) of Doctor Who and is ostensibly written by previous companion Amy Pond.  I do love this new trend to feature books in the Doctor Who episodes and have them actually exist!  It reads like a children's adventure tale, but also like a Doctor Who adventure with the helpful "Curator" appearing to help the children as the Lord of Winter comes.  Kate is an unusually determined and focused girl who doesn't have a lot of faith in grown-ups, and when she wakes up in a wintry landscape with no adults around, she has to step up and figure out how to thwart the Lord of Winter.  This story is very exciting and fast-paced and while Kate bears some similarities to Amy Pond's spunkiness in my mind, Kate is a great character on her own.  I was disappointed that Kate's friend, Armand, doesn't do too much in this story - his inclusion in the story seemed unnecessary, but if this is going to be a sort of series of books, then maybe he'll have more of a part to play later on.

The suspense of the Lord of Winter's arrival was very creepy and well done, and made this book well worth the read.  Especially the twist in the end which I did not see coming.  The nods to Amy Pond's original life in the future (brief mention of a cell phone like invention, and the very Doctor-like Curator) was very entertaining for me, and it seemed like the story worked on two levels for me - the narrative, and the glimpse into Amy's life.  The story is a great, quick and suspenseful read and I hope to read more of Kate's adventures!

And I'm just wondering aloud here - Matt Smith was asked for a clue about the 50th Anniversary special, and he said "paintings."  This book deals with a painting.... I wonder if this story has some clues...

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Suspense Sundays (39)

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.  



"They Call Me Patrice"
Air date: December 12, 1946
Starring Susan Peters and Joseph Kearns
Helen Georgesson is heading home on the train, in the middle of a divorce with her husband.  She meets a newlywed couple and while talking to the wife, Patrice, the train crashes.  When she awakes in the hospital she realizes she has been identified as the wife Patrice, and although the husband died, his family is very rich.  So she goes along with it.  And Helen's unfortunately not yet divorced husband, Steve finds out and blackmails her.

The premise of the story is a great suspenseful tale!  Although Helen/Patrice is definitely doing something wrong, Steve is so slimy, you really hope she will get through it okay.  And Helen's guilt over what she is doing is pretty obvious towards the end of the episode.  It's pretty obvious what has to happen, although the twist near the end is both ironic and unexpected.  This was a great episode to listen to!


Friday, April 5, 2013

Books to Music: Once On This Island

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
The hopes that make us happy
The hopes that don't come true
And all the love
There ever was

I see this all in you
You are part
Part of the Human heart

Yesterday I reviewed the book this musical is based on - "My Love, My Love or The Peasant Girl" - and I decided to read the book because I had heard of this musical and was eager to give it a listen.  The Little Mermaid connection did help!  The book is short, and this musical is also - it's a one act show. And I found that many of the songs tell the story because this musical appears to be mostly sung through.  Although I don't mind songs that tell the story they are usually not my favorite - at least they are not songs that I listen to over and over again.

From the song lyrics, it sounds like the musical is pretty faithful to the book.  But I did find that Daniel's unfaithfulness to Ti Moune had a bit more of a kick, because he tries to tell her that it could never have worked out, and in the book, Daniel was never so blunt.  His feelings about how their relationship might have gone seemed a little more open. The music in this show is beautiful and has lovely Caribbean rhythms and harmonies that showcase the life and community of the peasants. The show is exuberant, and dreamy and tragic, but I did find the change to the ending much more heartening than the ending of the book, so that the musical still maintained that sense of hope that the main character always held dear.

Song Spotlight:  Waiting for Life
I could only find the original actress who portrayed Ti Moune, La Chanze, singing this song on the Rosie O'Donnell show, so the song is a little stripped down, and the wonderful harmonies in the end are gone, but the song is still beautifully sung on the show.  It's about Ti Moune, dreaming about seeing more of life and especially getting to ride in the wonderful cars she sees going past her village.  She's so bright and full of hope in this song and the lyrics and music support that.  I love especially how much belting she does at the end of some verses, she makes it seem so effortless!  For me, this is the best song in the show!
Thursday, April 4, 2013

Review: My Love, My Love or The Peasant Girl

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
My Love, My Love or The Peasant Girl
by Rosa Guy

Plot Summary:

Rosa Guy’s tropical retelling of "The Little Mermaid" is the gorgeous, tragic love story of Désirée, a beautiful peasant girl who devotes herself to the handsome, aristocratic young man whose life she has saved. When his upper-class family feels that Désirée’s skin is too dark and her family too poor for a boy destined for power and wealth, Désirée proves that she is willing to give everything for love.



Review:

This novella is a lush, lyrical read that captures the heartrending emotion of Hans Christian Anderson's "The Little Mermaid".  It reads like a fable, with it's very descriptive and evocative prose, and with the heartfelt and innocent longings of Désirée or Ti Moune as she is also called. Her family discovered her orphaned after a storm, and raised her as one of their own, and although she works hard and loves her family, when Ti Moune hears Daniel Beauxhomme's car crash near her village, she falls immediately in love with him and works tirelessly to save him.  Even when the demon of death comes to claim him she strikes a deal - she promises her life for his.  The four gods that are present in this story - who seem to give Ti Moune the chance for love despite the difficulties that would make it seem impossible - are an interesting addition.  They are the gods of the land, sea, love and death, and it's such a simple economy of power and shows what truly rules the peasants of the island.

Because the story reads like a fairy tale, the reader must take it on faith that Daniel is the only love of Ti Moune's life, even though his greatest asset seems to be his beautiful face.  I thought their connection for a time when Ti Moune was at the Beauxhomme castle was sweet, but always tinged with sadness because the foreshadowing indicates that there can't be a happy ending.  The writing is so beautiful and illustrates the love of Ti Moune for Daniel so well, that when the ending does come, it is so tragic.  The ending is a bit different from the Hans Christian Anderson tale, which I found interesting and rather thought provoking when trying to analyze what the author is trying to say with this story.  I thought this book was a great read and a fabulous retelling of "The Little Mermaid."

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Awesome Adaptations (32) - Les Misérables

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 Adaptation With An Awesome Kid Actor Performance
Title: Les Misérables
Adapted from: Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

And little people know
When little people fight
We may look easy pickings but we got some bite!
So never kick a dog because he's just a pup
You better run for cover when the pup grows up!

Although I had a few issues with the recent movie musical adaptation of Les Misérables, the actor who played Gavroche was absolutely not part of it!  Daniel Huttlestone (and I do have to add that Isabelle Allen who played young Cosette was also excellent!) was so believable and ingenuous in his role!  Gavroche has so much heart, while also being a little too cocksure of himself, but is completely loyal and stalwart.  And in the movie he steals every scene he is in.  Daniel Huttlestone brings all those qualities of Gavroche to life with an adorable twinkle in his eyes to boot!  Not to mention having a very good singing voice!

If you have never read the book/seen the musical/movie, this last paragraph is spoilery, so beware!  The part that made me cry the most in this film has to do with Gavroche - after the final battle and when Gavroche is laid out with the dead and Javert lays a medal on Gavroche.  I admit to be particularly susceptible to that moment in "The Final Battle" song, when some of "Bring Him Home" comes into the music - so I'm already emotional - and to time it with Javert honoring one of the rebels and being so touched by the tragedy of Gavroche's death - somebody hand me some tissues!!  Ugh, so beautiful and so sad!

They did a lot of great casting in this movie, and I was more than impressed by Daniel Huttlestone's realistic and touching portrayal of Gavroche.  
Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Review: Death of a Dowager

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,
Death of a Dowager (The Jane Eyre Chronicles #2)
by Joanna Campbell Slan

Plot Summary:

In her classic tale, Charlotte Brontë introduced readers to the strong-willed and intelligent Jane Eyre. Picking up where Brontë left off, the year is now 1820, and Jane’s life has finally settled into a comfortable pattern. She and her beloved Edward Rochester have married and have a son. But Jane soon finds herself having to protect those she loves…

When the roof caves in at Ferndean, their country home, Jane and Edward accept an invitation from their friend Lucy Brayton to stay with her in London while repairs are being made. Jane is reluctant to abandon their peaceful life in the countryside, but Edward’s damaged vision has grown worse. She hopes that time in the capital will buoy his spirits and give him the chance to receive treatment from a renowned oculist.

Once in London, the Rochesters accompany Lucy to the Italian Opera House, where they encounter Dowager Lady Ingram, who had once hoped for Edward to wed her daughter, Blanche—and who’s still rankled by his subsequent marriage to Jane. In front of a group of society people, the aging dowager delivers a vicious social drubbing to Jane, enraging both Edward and Lucy. In an attempt to rebuild good will, Jane and Lucy decide to speak to the Dowager in private the next day. But the visit is cut short when the Dowager drops dead before their shocked eyes. Lucy is poised to take the blame—unless Jane can clear her friend’s name…

Review:

Having read and loved the first book in this series, "Death of a Schoolgirl", last year, I was so eager to read this new installment of Jane Eyre as a detective.  As with the first book, the author does an excellent job capturing Jane Eyre's voice, and the tenor of her marriage to Mr. Rochester.  We get to see more of Jane's friend Lucy Brayton in this story - a wonderful character introduced in the first book and a perfect foil to Jane's plain thinking and societal naivete.  I was impressed to find that this book has two plots - one that is the murder mystery, and the other one of political intrigue that is set up in the first book.  These two plots worked together very well to maintain tension in a novel that does sometimes move at a leisurely pace.

The mystery was very well set up, and all the clues were clearly delineated - unfortunately so much so that I found it pretty easy to figure out who the culprit was.  I was a bit disappointed in this, and in Jane's ultimate plan to reveal the murderer because it felt a little anticlimactic.  I thought the author did a great job creating a believable and intricate murder mystery but perhaps there were too few red herrings to throw me off from whom I suspected.  The center of the mystery is the Ingrams and their cattiness was a fun element of the story, especially because it was taken to such extremes.  If you are not a fan of them from the original novel, be prepared to enjoy what happens in this book!

The political intrigue with King George IV was integrated into the story very well, and created more tension in my opinion then the straightforward murder mystery.  The author adds a lot of historical detail to ground the action and make the story very realistic.  And the story also addresses some interesting social issues that can be applicable to modern times.  As with the first book, this novel uses very rich and distinct storytelling to realistically recreate Jane's world - the wonderful thing about this series is how believable it is as a continuation of Jane's story - because of the attention to detail and the author's ability to write Charlotte Brontë's characters in a compelling, vivid way.  This was another enjoyable read, and I only wish there were more scenes with Mr. Rochester!

a review copy was kindly provided by the publisher, Berkeley Trade
"Death of a Dowager" is released today!

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2nd book of 20 in the 2013 Books of Eyre Reading Challenge