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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Awesome Adaptations (49) Rebecca

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
This meme celebrates an awesome adaptation related to a weekly category. Any format of adaptation (television series, film, web series, etc.) is acceptable as long as it is based in some form on a book. This meme is hosted by Alisa Selene at PictureMeReading. Check out her site and join in on the fun!

An Awesome Adaptation of a Gothic Story
Title: Rebecca
Adapted from: Rebecca by Daphne duMaurier

The novel by Daphne duMaurier is a very atmospheric exploration of the influence a strong woman has after her death.  What gives this story it's Gothic flair is the hint of a supernatural element, the obsessive attachment to Rebecca and the myriad of secrets many of the characters are keeping.  The story also uses the dark, mysterious manor, a forbidding older hero and a young innocent girl to keep up with the Gothic tones.

And this film lives up to every element of the story while also making it even more atmospheric and creepy.  The actors are excellent in their roles, especially mousy, nervous Joan Fontaine as the main character.  Since the mystery of this story exists largely because of the main character's psychological state, her acting is so important to the story and she carries the film well.  Lawrence Olivier somehow brings a great sympathetic touch to Maxim while keeping him a strong character, which I love.  And of course Alfred Hitchcock's directing brings this whole film together.  It's such a moody piece, because there is a feeling that something bad is going to happen, and soon, and it's hard to know where the danger is coming from.

The movie features a great cast, a wonderful story and a sympathetic character arc in the main character's journey towards becoming a confident and self-possessed woman.  It's dark, sinister and full of mystery and utterly fantastic!
Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Book Excerpt: The Survivors

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
The Survivors
by Daniel Harvell

Plot Summary:

When seven strangers impossibly survive a horrific airplane crash, they find themselves changed in remarkable ways. The survivors are endowed with powers that defy explanation. Some are blessed. Some are cursed. Going their separate ways, they adapt their extraordinary "gifts" to their ordinary lives. The results, however, aren't always pretty -- particularly when one of them engages in a killing spree. With little more to go on than the psychic link that they all share, the survivors seek out one another to uncover the murderer and bring him or her to justice. The fireman, the grandmother, the psychiatric patient, the basketball player, the mute girl, the rich blonde, and the man in the wheelchair -- they all have secrets worth hiding. They can't trust each other. They can't even trust themselves.

Read the Prologue:

Dakota Raintree was baffled as to what he’d done to earn this spot in fiery Hell—a place surely reserved for murderers, thieves and people that send Farmville requests on Facebook. He’d angrily spent the last half hour in line behind a foul-mouthed, stocky man with a bad comb-over, whose drooping pants revealed wildly inappropriate thong underwear.

When Dakota finally made it to the counter, he shoved his airplane ticket under the agent’s nose. Instead of a bark or an angry finger-shake, a smile blossomed on the woman’s face. She took an enormous whiff of the flight voucher, as if it were a bouquet of flowers. “Do I smell a hint of gingerbread? I’m glad to see that these long lines aren’t dampening your Christmas spirit,” she said with a toothy grin.

She slipped the ticket out of his hand and replaced it with a plastic toy snowman. With a squeeze, its tiny coal eyes bugged out at Dakota, who broke into laughter. He was suddenly as serene as a tabby cat, and for a moment, he thought he might even purr.

“Where to today, sir?” the agent asked Dakota without looking at his ticket. “Let me guess . . . D.C.?”

Dakota squinted at her nametag, which was mostly covered with blonde hair that was shaped a little too perfectly. “Am I that easy to read, Rhonda?”

She recoiled slightly, quickly looked down at her badge, but then went right back to her keyboard. “It’s the suit, sir. You look as if you’re ready to mix and mingle with people worth knowing.”

Producing his driver’s license, Dakota said, “Spending Christmas with my fiancé and her father, the Senator.”

“I’m sure it’ll be a lovely holiday, although maybe a little chilly with that blizzard they’re expecting. I bet you’re the warm weather type.”

He raised an eyebrow in agreement. “You’re right. I hate the cold. But we’re wrapping up wedding plans. Finally. Everything I’ve been working on is coming together.”

“Are we talking about a marriage or a business deal?”

Dakota opened his mouth, but the words hung in midair. At last he said, “Are we almost done here?”

Rhonda closed her eyes and gave him an almost imperceptible nod. She finished processing his paperwork and luggage, all the while humming Winter Wonderland. Handing him his ticket, she said, “Have an extraordinary flight, Dakota.”

Air Way Airlines’ Flight 300 left Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport on time at precisely 8:00 p.m. The woman sitting next to Dakota tried making small talk about her three ferrets, but he pulled out his headphones and immediately passed out.

Despite his unconscious state, he felt the intense bumps of turbulence and the hand of the woman next to him as she gripped his arm. The music continued to blare in his ears, but it suddenly vanished beneath the sounds of a deafening explosion. Dakota’s head began to spin—or was that the plane? His eyes flung open in time to see a flight attendant crash down the aisle. Dakota looked up to find a barrage of luggage barrel at him from above. He took several blows to the head, but it didn’t drown out the screaming from his fellow passengers. He felt his eyes close again, but against his will this time. His last thoughts were of his goals and well-laid plans, and how they were all going down.

When Dakota woke, he was enveloped in complete darkness. He smelled what he thought was burning flesh and wondered if this was Hell. The distant sounds of ambulances and fire trucks told him otherwise. He pushed against a sheet of metal that radiated heat but felt oddly cool. He heard someone whisper behind him, and he was suddenly overcome with a surge of strength. He broke through to open air and found himself standing in the middle of a field that was engulfed in a fiery blaze and littered with what had once been an airplane.

Local law enforcement, paramedics, firefighters and the Georgia State Patrol were scattered throughout the area. Many were just arriving, stumbling out of their vehicles and running searchlights over the blackened metal that blended into the inky night sky. Had there been daylight to work by, the airplane still would’ve been unrecognizable. Its torn hull was scattered across the field. Its jagged edges looked like the razor teeth of Godzilla. The cockpit had been crushed to a quarter of its original size.

Firemen lifted hoses from the red engines even though the flames were nearly dead now. Paramedics wheeled out gurneys, but slowly, as if they knew no one would need them. Radios and walkie-talkies squawked out orders and inquiries, but none of the rescue workers responded. They seemed in awe of the disaster’s magnitude.

Finally, Dakota found his voice and forced it past his choking throat. “We’re alive!” he called out.

An unshaven EMT jerked and frantically pointed to a large pile of charred metal behind which Dakota stood. Dozens of lights flashed to the area. There was complete silence as Dakota crawled over the broken and warped hull, and flashlight beams followed him like spotlights zeroing in on the star of a Broadway play. As he examined his soot-covered suit, he heard something shuffle behind him. He reached down and flipped over a panel, revealing a young girl. “We need help!” he yelled as he lifted her out of the rubble. Dakota didn’t wait for the firemen and paramedics to respond. He turned the wreckage upside down on his own, despite the weight and sizzling temperature of the metal hull. Barely a minute later, seven weary survivors, apparently unharmed, were dusting themselves off and eyeing one another. The paramedics tried helping them on to gurneys, but an elderly black woman smacked one of the young men on the hand, saying, “Can’t you see we’re fine, child?” As near as Dakota could tell, the surviving passengers stood without a single burn, cut or even bruise between them. The flesh of their fellow travelers was seared and gnarled, unrecognizable. No one was supposed to survive a crash like this. Some of the burly state troopers were weeping; others made the sign of the cross. A young cop’s knees buckled as Dakota walked past her. No one dared speak for a long time, but as the survivors were loaded into the ambulances, Dakota heard a few of the older men say what he’d been thinking all along. “How could anyone walk away from that?” Had one person survived, even beaten and battered, it would’ve been hailed a miracle. But when seven come away entirely unharmed? This was beyond miraculous, beyond impossible.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Review: Froi of the Exiles

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,
Froi of the Exiles (Lumatere Chronicles #2)
by Melina Marchetta

Plot Summary:

Blood sings to blood, Froi . . .
Those born last will make the first . . .
For Charyn will be barren no more.

Three years after the curse on Lumatere was lifted, Froi has found his home... Or so he believes...

Fiercely loyal to the Queen and Finnikin, Froi has been trained roughly and lovingly by the Guard sworn to protect the royal family, and has learned to control his quick temper. But when he is sent on a secretive mission to the kingdom of Charyn, nothing could have prepared him for what he finds. Here he encounters a damaged people who are not who they seem, and must unravel both the dark bonds of kinship and the mysteries of a half-mad Princess.

And in this barren and mysterious place, he will discover that there is a song sleeping in his blood, and though Froi would rather not, the time has come to listen.

Review:

So I reviewed Finnikin of the Rock awhile back and was blown away by the storytelling and the characters and the world the author created, and in Book Two, the awesomeness just continues!  It's a book that has a darker tone than the first, probably inescapable due to the darker, volatile nature of Froi and the mad, complex little Queen Quintana.  I was surprised (though I shouldn't have been) that this book is really very High Fantasy and gritty and realistic while keeping the close perspective angle common in Young Adult novels.  And while it was a little slow to get into this book - it does take place three years after the first and establishes some of the changes made during that time - the story definitely picks up quickly and starts throwing a lot of characters and history at the reader.  It was a little confusing at times, especially when it came to twins, but I think that was only because I was trying to read so fast, I couldn't wait to know what was happening next.  There's so much that goes on this book - so many perspectives opened up and revelations made, that I am yet again amazed by how rich and involved this world is!

The characters are what really make this book work because they are so complex - with their flaws and more importantly with their secrets.  I just loved how a new (sometimes devastating) reveal was made about a character's past just opened up so much understanding about their character and put to rest that little question in the back of my mind of why they are acting they way they are.  The author just has such masterful control of who these characters are and what their role is in the story; it's beautiful to read it unfold.  Froi in the beginning was a difficult to character to like, but he is one to admire, and the journey towards understanding him and finally liking him is labyrinthine, but so worth the investment.  As is getting to know Quintana, but there is definitely more to explore for her character and I can't wait for that!

There are a lot of political machinations in this book that tear apart Charyn, and while I don't usually find that angle very interesting, the fact that it's rooted in the characters and their beliefs really help make the political angle relatable and intriguing.  Charyn is almost nothing like what I expected from the first book, and it was great to find out the truth in this story.  Again there are just so many revelations made that completely overturn expectations set when the series began.  So by the time I got to the last few pages of the book I really did not know what to expect.  I can't even believe some of the things that did happen!  Consequently I need the third book in my hand NOW.  Froi of the Exiles is an absolutely fantastic ride of a novel, with such a compelling narrative and ridiculously intricate characters.  I haven't read the last book yet, and I'm not sure how I'll feel about it (I have to say I'm a little scared because there is so much at stake) but I am sure everyone should read this series!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Suspense Sundays (55) The Cross Eyed Bear

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
Suspense was a radio series from 1942 to 1962.  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.  For Suspense Sundays I'll give a short review of an episode.   {My archive list of episodes}


"The Cross Eyed Bear"
Air date: September 16, 1943
Starring Virginia Bruce and John Loder
>>Episodes here<<

The Cross Eyed Bear or the great Swedish Nickel King has died recently and left behind three sons.  Sons he hated, and separated at birth, giving them each a piece of a check for 3 million dollars - with the idea that one son would kill the others - survival of the fittest.  One son has been killed by the eldest, but undercover government officials know where the last son is - he's been going under an assumed name in America.  And to get him to admit who he is, the officials hire a pretty girl to talk to him and convince him to confide.  But is this really her mission?

This seems like a much more complex story than I usually hear on Suspense.  There's a lot of backstory and an interesting criminal set-up.  I did find it funny how Virginia Bruce's character - who seemed like she was hired to sweet talk the last son, was really not very good at the job.  While the story of the three sons is rather hard to believe, the suspense of who can be trusted and uncertain motives makes the story very intriguing.  And the twists and turns this story takes is pretty intense for 30 minutes!  This is definitely a story that is worth a listen - so many ups and downs, and surprise murders!
Friday, July 26, 2013

Review: Of Beast and Beauty

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Of Beast and Beauty
by Stacey Jay

Plot Summary:

In the beginning was the darkness, and in the darkness was a girl, and in the girl was a secret...

In the domed city of Yuan, the blind Princess Isra, a Smooth Skin, is raised to be a human sacrifice whose death will ensure her city’s vitality. In the desert outside Yuan, Gem, a mutant beast, fights to save his people, the Monstrous, from starvation. Neither dreams that together, they could return balance to both their worlds.

Isra wants to help the city’s Banished people, second-class citizens despised for possessing Monstrous traits. But after she enlists the aid of her prisoner, Gem, who has been captured while trying to steal Yuan’s enchanted roses, she begins to care for him, and to question everything she has been brought up to believe.

As secrets are revealed and Isra’s sight, which vanished during her childhood, returned, Isra will have to choose between duty to her people and the beast she has come to love.

Review:

Of Beast and Beauty is a very complex fantasy reworking of the fairy tale.  The world-building has touches of science fiction, dystopian and traditional fairy tale feel that adds to the mysterious and elaborate world of Yuan.  With such an intriguing backdrop, I thought this story of inner beauty and tolerance played out very well.

Isra and Gem are the main characters, and while they both have their own agendas, they get to know each other and reluctantly start to respect each other and fall in love.  The story mostly switches back and forth between their points of view (with one additional POV sometimes inserted later in the book) and the gradual unfolding of their relationship created a lovely romance between two people who at first seem not to have anything in common.  It's a very believable relationship - that is not easily achieved - and it becomes so romantic, the suspense of when they would acknowledge their feelings was delicious!  I thought the characterization of Isra was stronger than of Gem - I didn't feel as if I knew him as well as Isra.  Isra was a strong character - determined, despite her disability, and very brave to confront the things she had to face.  Totally admirable.

I loved the role the roses had to play in this story - it's such a creepy and very vivid concept!  The secondary character - Bo (possible villain or love interest - it kept me guessing!) worked so well in this story, I thought his character arc was so touching and almost redemptive.  The history behind the creation of the domed cities and the Monstrous was well-explained but somehow it didn't feel as believable as the rest of the story.  I think if more time was spent on the origin it might have felt more real, but it did seemed rushed over in the beginning.

The moral of this story, like any good fairy tale, is pretty clear, and very timely I think especially for young adults.  This is a beautifully written story with such a unique take on Beauty and the Beast.

I received this book from the publisher or author for a fair and honest review.  I was not compensated for this review.

Amazon  Goodreads

(I decided to start giving star ratings to my reviews, since I give them anyways for Amazon and Goodreads, and I've found that I like looking for the rating on other blogs so I can see immediately if the blogger liked the book.)
Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book Excerpt: Smoke, Wings and Stone

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Smoke, Wings, and Stone
by Marijon Braden

Plot Summary:

Carrie and Sara Fleming are as different as two sisters can be. Both in high school, Carrie is an outgoing soccer jock, trying to navigate the minefield of Varsity sports –and dating. Sara is a talented musician, who wants to spend her senior year focusing on graduating and getting into a great music school. Both of their lives change forever when Sara inadvertently finds herself engaged to marry Lucien Gargouille, prince of an ancient race of gargoyles.

Sara has no interest in marrying anyone, but a vow spoken in the moonlight has bound her to Luc – forever. To make matters worse, there is a war brewing. For centuries, the gargoyles have protected mankind from all the dark forces in the world. But someone is making trouble, and trying to break the fragile treaty that has kept evil at bay, and Sara has become a target.

Carrie sees the danger around her sister, but can only watch and wait, hoping that Luc and his Family can keep Sara safe. After all, this is what they were born to do – protect the world from vampires, and all the other creatures, who would try to break out of their darkness. But when the enemy makes a daring move, it falls on Carrie to not only save her sister, but to keep the two worlds from crashing together.

Book Excerpt:

We ran out the sliders, across the deck and down the steps to the backyard. I turned to look at the house. There was no smoke coming out from anywhere. No flames. Was it a trick?

“Keep moving,” Chris ordered, and he moved across the yard. It was almost dark, and the backyard was all shadows. The dogs were running around happily, thinking it was playtime.

“We need to cut through and get back on the street,” Chris said. “Let’s go.”

We all followed him across the grass, when suddenly Fred started growling again. I glanced over my shoulder. Six dark figures were coming from around the house, following us.

“Run,” Chris yelled.

We ran. Kevin grabbed Becca’s hand and we raced towards the street. I could hear the dogs panting behind me. I was suddenly afraid, because the air was ice cold and there seemed to be smoke everywhere. I could barely see.

“It’s not real,” Chris screamed. “Keep running.”

I dodged the forsythia bush by the sidewalk. I knew every inch of the neighborhood. I’d been running through these streets my whole life. So had Kevin and Becca. The vampires were so far behind us, they would never be able to catch us. I figured we needed to get to Kevin’s house. Once we were back inside somewhere with the door closed again, we’d be safe. I swerved and pounded down the pavement.

I glanced quickly over my shoulder. I could see the vampires behind us, much closer than they should have been. How had they managed to move that fast?

Kevin and Becca were right behind me, Chris bringing up the rear. Kevin’s house was at the end of the block. We’d be there in less than a minute. We’d make it, no problem.

And then the street opened up. I could see it cracking open, like an earthquake or something. The ground was shaking and I stopped short, panicked. The dogs kept running. Couldn’t they see that the street was no longer there?

“It’s not real,” Chris screamed again, but it was real. It was right in front of me. I yelled for the dogs to stop, and whirled around. Kevin and Becca ran right into me. The ground to the left of us started opening up as well. What was happening? The vampires were so close that, even in the growing darkness, I could see that one of them was wearing a happy face tee shirt.

Chris stopped and turned to face them. The ground to the right of us was cracked and open. We were trapped. Chris stood still. I saw his shoulders lift. Then he started to change. As he grew, the vampires slowed. I heard Kevin swear under his breath, and Becca was whispering ohgodohgodohgod. Chris dropped onto all fours and roared. He reached out and swiped at one of the vampires with a giant paw, and the vampire went stumbling to the side of the road. The others began moving, two to the left of Chris, two to the right, and one right in front. Chris moved towards one, but the vampire danced away quickly, like a video on fast-forward.

“You can’t take us all,” one of the vampires said. The sixth, the one who had been slapped away, was back on his feet. “Just give us the bride.” Bride? They wanted Sara. They thought I was Sara. They were after me. And there were six of them.

Chris snarled. Fred growled. Chris spun quickly and took another swipe, but missed. They were keeping just far enough away that he couldn’t hurt them. And the three of us were stuck behind Chris, with no place to go but down a gaping hole in the earth.

Fred started yapping. What was that dog thinking? Then, from behind us, there was a low, whooshing sound, and a winged figure swept down. It was a giant frog, over six feet in length. It opened its mouth and bit off the head of one of the vampires. The body slumped to the ground and turned to gray ash.

“Yes!” Kevin yelled, pumping his fist in the air.

The remaining vampires turned and ran. They were gone in the blink of an eye. So were the craters that had surrounded us on the road. The pavement was smooth and unbroken. The smoke was gone, and the cold.

Chris turned to us slowly. He was back to his human form. Toad had landed on the road and was now a slightly plump, middle-aged man with thinning hair and glasses. Toad walked over to Chris and gave him a long hug. The older man leaned in close and said something to Chris. Chris nodded, and the two of them walked over to us.

“Are you all okay?” asked Toad.

We nodded. Becca was gray-faced. Kevin was glowing with excitement.

“Where are the craters?” Kevin asked.

“I’ll explain in a minute. Now, get back into the house,” Toad said, glancing around as he herded us back up the street.

Chris grabbed Toad by the arm. “They weren’t Brunel,” he said.

Toad nodded. “I know. I didn’t recognize them.”

Chris took a deep breath. “So, is the treaty intact?”

Toad shrugged. “I don’t know,” he said.

Becca grabbed my hand.

“What just happened?” she whispered.

“You have just become a member,” I told her, “of a very select club.”


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Awesome Adaptations (48) The Phantom of the Opera

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
This meme celebrates an awesome adaptation related to a weekly category. Any format of adaptation (television series, film, web series, etc.) is acceptable as long as it is based in some form on a book. This meme is hosted by Alisa Selene at PictureMeReading. Check out her site and join in on the fun!

An Awesome Adaptation Featuring a Love Triangle
Title: The Phantom of the Opera
Adapted from: The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

Say you love him and my life is over
For either way you choose he has to win

Of course I'm talking about the film based on the musical, which is a far more awesome, tension filled story than the one in the original novel in my opinion.  I think the music adds to the beauty of the story, but I also think the far more alluring nature of the Phantom helps as well. He's more seductive and less um, physically scarred than in the novel, and that makes the love triangle aspect of this story much more feasible.  And I think the movie emphasizes the tragic nature of the Phantom's love for Christine.  Because without the focus being on that, what have we got here?  The Phantom doesn't care about murdering people (although Buquet had it coming!), Raoul is very nice and chivalrous but bland and cardboard and Christine or Little Lotte lets her mind wander and doesn't know if she is "fonder of dolls or of goblins or shoes" or her mysterious angel of music or her childhood friend.  Okay.  The only interesting and redeeming point of the story (besides the lovely Gothic overtones) is the complicated nature of the Phantom and Christine's relationship which sets the stage for a dark and tense love triangle.

And to see it played out by the actors in this adaptation makes it completely enthralling as well.  There is so much chemistry between the Phantom and Christine, emphasized in the music, and also a sweet romance between Christine and Raoul, again so much better when put to music, that I think the story is elevated by the emotional and passionate feelings between all of the characters.  Even though all of the characters are flawed the emotional impact of Christine's choice and that it pretty much ruins the Phantom's only hope makes their story so moving - yes a little over the top, but gorgeous to revel in.

The sumptuous music, design and the directing all add to the beauty of this adaptation - feeding off of the setting of a glorious Parisan opera house; and this movie with its wonderful acting and rich emotional tapestry makes it one of my favorite film adapted musicals.
Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Review: Etiquette and Espionage

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Etiquette and Espionage (Finishing School #1)
by Gail Carriger

Plot Summary:

It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners—and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine's, young ladies learn to finish...everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage—in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year's education.

Review:

There are some books that just fit the word "romp" all over.  This is one of them.  In addition to making me feel like I need to carry a handkerchief and some sewing scissors about my person at all times, this book was just so much fun.  And the voice of Sophronia is the main reason for this.  Sophronia is practical and forthright and clashes with her conventional, proper family.  She is proud of the scrapes she gets into and her inquisitiveness means she fits into the unconventional finishing school she is sent to.  The quirky steampunk world the author has created fits in well with Sophronia's wayward nature and is just as fun to explore as a reader as it must be for Sophronia.

The cast of characters at the school are varied and all sparkling with idiosyncrasies and quirks.  They are all just so much fun to read about!  The fact that supernatural creatures are also included in this world makes it that much more interesting and varied.  I liked the new twist the author put on vampires and werewolves. And I haven't come across a book with so many characters that I want to hang out with in such a long time.  The intrigue surrounding the finishing school felt secondary to the fun of Sophronia's adventures and her explorations of the school to me.  But the mystery does give Sophronia the opportunity to show off her ingenuity with a strong suspense-filled resolution that felt very satisfying.  And the burgeoning romance was nicely placed, as it was incidental to the narrative and appropriate for Sophronia's personality.  But I hope to read more develop between the couple!

The writing is lively and humorous, and the author has created a great collection of characters at this school. With such a fiesty and admirable main character, this is definitely a great book to read as a treat to yourself.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Review: Bitterblue

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Bitterblue (Graceling Realm #3)
by Kristin Cashore

Plot Summary:

Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck's reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle - disguised and alone - to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the 35-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.

Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck's reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn't yet identified, holds a key to her heart.

Review:

Oh, I so wanted to love this book!  I really enjoyed Graceling and to a lesser degree, Fire, but this book, with it's political machinations and the insecure and damaged Lady Queen Bitterblue, felt slow paced and drawn out.  The political intrigue at the court and in Bitterblue's kingdom took a long time to develop and although there were a lot of really well drawn characters, I still felt the story could have been shorter and still captured all the gradual unveiling of the mysteries behind Leck's 35 year rule.

I think personally Bitterblue was a major part of why I was dissatisfied with this book.  She's so unsure, immature and wavering that I wanted to shake her sometimes to stop complaining.  I didn't sympathize with her character very much, and I didn't really feel very invested in her romance, because they both seemed so immature and unreasonable at times.  I was a little annoyed by them.  There are some really great characters though and I was very sympathetic to one of Bitterblue's advisers for the things he went through and the ultimate decision he makes in the end.  Katsa and Po were definitely the best part of the book - their banter and flirting, and their loyalty and capability made them strong, admirable characters that stole every scene.  I hope I am not too biased since I loved Graceling!

It is interesting how everything comes together in the end - events in the previous books ties together nicely and there are facets of each book that reflect on the other, so that as a trilogy I think this series was a great accomplishment in complexity of world-building and the building of history.  There is a theme in the importance of stories, and I think this series celebrates the importance of storytelling which I really identified with.  The last half of the book, though still a little slow paced, had more revelations and interesting twists of plot that kept me reading, so while this is definitely not my favorite book in the series, I found it a very fitting and complete end to the mythology.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Suspense Sundays (54) Murder Goes for a Swim

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
Suspense was a radio series from 1942 to 1962.  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.  For Suspense Sundays I'll give a short review of an episode.   {My archive list of episodes}


"Murder Goes for a Swim"
Air date: July 20, 1943
Starring Warren William and Eric Blore
>>Episodes here<<

This radio episode featured an apparently well known fictional detective at the time - one named Michael Lanyard but who went by the name The Lone Wolf.  And I have never heard of him before! His sidekick - or rather gentleman's gentleman - Jamison are invited to a party at an estate and just before leaving, they get a mysterious call from a woman pleading with them to hurry so they can prevent a murder.  And of course that is something that is in their wheelhouse.  But when they get there, a woman is found drowned, dead for over a day, and The Lone Wolf is on the hunt.  After a murder attempt on the detective and another murder, he finally figures it out.

This episode was a lot of fun! It made me want to check out The Lone Wolf books, because the banter between Lanyard and Jamison was funny and was a nice touch against the terrible murders.  And it was obvious the two characters have a great rapport.  The story felt like the cozy mysteries of old - in the vein of Agatha Christie, and I really enjoyed listening to it.  There are red herrings of course, but I sussed out who did it pretty early - only because that person was the least likely. The adventure in solving mysteries and the camaraderie of two good friends seemed to be the highlight of this story - it's an excellent listen!
Friday, July 19, 2013

Review: Jane Eyre Austen

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,
Jane Eyre Austen
by Doyle MacBrayne

Plot Summary:

Jane Eyre Austen has found her perfect match in her new boss, Grayson Poole. Of all the qualities she could desire, the most important is that he’s kind to her mother. Her very sweet, loving, adoring mother whose mind has chosen to remain in the Regency Era. Gray finds himself inexplicably drawn to a young woman who by all conventional standards is too young and peculiar. Gray never believed he would find love again and then Jane Eyre Austen turned his world upside down.

Review:

This was an interesting story in many ways.  The story seemed very fanciful and light - definitely chick-lit, but with a tribute to the refined manners of the past in the unusual way Jane and Grayson would talk among themselves.  They spoke like in Victorian times, but this book's setting is contemporary which just felt odd to me, especially as they didn't acknowledge it in the beginning, just sort of settled into those speech patterns when they first met.  There was a lot of banter and wit, which was great fun and gave their interactions interest but unfortunately little depth.  The story is light on character development with a romance that is not subtle at all.  It is pretty blatant that they like each other and will get together soon.  And the switching of POVs with every chapter was okay (not as well done as I have seen) but to have the POV switch within a chapter was very off-putting.  I was sometimes not sure who was speaking, and I felt like the story could have been worked better to have just one POV per chapter.

With the title it's expected that the story would combine elements of Jane Eyre and Austen, and the story did that - though with more Eyre and less Austen (they did have Regency balls though) and the "secret" in the story was more translated to a dangerous situation Jane was in, but it wasn't as intriguing as it could have been because the culprit and the resolution were pretty straightforward, no twists or turns really.

While this story felt a little bland, it is a very sweet, straightforward happily ever after romance with a vintage touch that might be appealing to some readers.

Amazon  Goodreads

Fourth book of 20 in the Books of Eyre Reading Challenge

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Guest Post: Drayling

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Drayling
by Terry J. Newman

Guest Post:
Greetings from across the pond!

My name is Terry J. Newman, and I'm an English writer. I'm indebted to Charlene for giving me this opportunity to tell you about my first novel, "Drayling".

It's speculative fiction/sci-fi, and was originally published in paperback in March 2011. It has now been made available as an ebook on Kindle. To be honest, I'm not keen on the label "science fiction". It satisfies the book sellers, of course, because it tells them what shelf to put it on (and it's the most appropriate of a limited number of alternatives) but, in the case of “Drayling”, I think it's misleading. Sci-fi, to me - and I guess to many others - conjures up images of spaceships and little green men... and "Drayling" isn't like that.

It just happens to take place in the future.

One lady confirmed this one day when she contacted me to say that she "didn't normally like science fiction, but loved Drayling". She suggested that it would be better described as "futuristic drama".

Here's a brief synopsis:
The small district of Drayling, in Southern 25th Century Britain, is typical of communities throughout the country, and its citizens live in harmony and contentment.

Following the death of the head of the national government, however, there is a significant shift in approach - which forces a small group of ordinary people to conclude that they have no alternative but to take radical action to protect their way of life. This is their story.

Not wishing to spoil the read, suffice to say that this is a different kind of "science fiction" book - for the intelligent reader. To quote from the back-cover synopsis, "Reality collides with fantasy and philosophy as they embark on a mission of suspense, danger, deceit and death - with far-reaching ramifications."

One of the things that never ceases to amaze me about the book world is its subjectivity. Two peoples' views about the same book can vary so wildly that you'd think they were describing an entirely different book...and, of course, Drayling's no exception. The reviews have spanned the whole spectrum. One reviewer very politely said that it would be better if she didn’t write a review, as it would do sales no good at all. On the other hand, Laura Carter wrote the following review for “Readers Favorite”. (I promised to credit her if I quote it):

“This is such an astonishingly well-thought out book. The world building is fantastic and the author has created a thorough history as to why the world has ended up this way; something which is often neglected in other books of this genre. The book is so detailed it almost appears at times to be a true story, something which I as the reader personally found incredibly enjoyable. I found myself thoroughly engrossed in this masterpiece of a book as it is simply perfect in every way. This is a book that will be loved by all fans of dystopian fiction and mysteries but also by anyone who just wants to read a book that will blow them away with every detail.”

I try to focus on the positive, and tell myself that you can't please all of the people all of the time. I honestly don’t mind if someone says it’s rubbish. I’d be far more disappointed if no one read it.

So I say, "Go on - read it! Paperback or Kindle. See what you think - then send your comments to Charlene!

Thank you Terry for sharing your book with my blog! 
Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Awesome Adaptations (47) Bridget Jones's Diary

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
This meme celebrates an awesome adaptation related to a weekly category. Any format of adaptation (television series, film, web series, etc.) is acceptable as long as it is based in some form on a book. This meme is hosted by Alisa Selene at PictureMeReading. Check out her site and join in on the fun!

An Awesome Adaptation Based on a Diary or Journal
Title: Bridget Jones's Diary
Adapted from: Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding

Sadly I haven't read the book this film is based on, but the film is so enjoyable - hilarious, romantic and sweetly endearing - that it just has to be an awesome adaptation!  Awkward, impulsive Bridget Jones starts keeping a diary chronicling her plans to improve her self-image and finally get into a meaningful and healthy relationship.  Of course it isn't easy, and there are many missteps along the way.

The diary aspect keeps Bridget Jones's wry, self-deprecating sense of humor at the forefront of the film, and brings so much depth to her struggles.  It makes the story much more like a journey, because the audience can see what her intentions are and the effects.  The cast also brings so much to the film.  Renée Zellweger captures the wit and quirky charm of Bridget so well, and I completely forget she's American!  And with Colin Firth and Hugh Grant as her two potential love interests, swooning is guaranteed!  The romance does not need much more to develop than the choice between these two guys!  (That might be personal opinion, but I highly doubt it.)  Add to that the timeless romantic appeal that is behind the structure of this story (which is reminiscent of Pride and Prejudice) and this film is pretty much the definition of what great chick-lit film-making can be.

The humor and fun, and more importantly the emotional development of the characters makes this such a wonderful film, and very definitely an awesome adaptation.  I really love this film!
Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Love Triangles 101: Shadow and Bone

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Check out the Event Schedule!
Love triangles in stories have been around for a long time.  And I usually don't bat an eye when one comes up in those stories.  Classic literature examples are usually well developed, believable dilemmas that add to the heroine's (or less often it seems - hero's) journey in the narrative.  What I find interesting in some of the classic literature examples I can think of (Wuthering Heights, Romeo and Juliet) is that it is very clear who the heroine loves the most.  And depending on her decision there's tragedy or bliss.  (Um, but in the above named examples it's tragedy both times)  Young adult novels today have quite a bit of love triangle dependent plots and while I can get cranky when a perfectly lovely romance is developing between two characters and a character from left field gets thrown into the mix just to highlight the heroine's indecisive and weak-willed nature (You guys, but I do love Twilight), there's something about my chosen topic book, Shadow and Bone, that makes me pause.  Because it is clear who the heroine loves the most.  And that person is definitely worthy - nice, but not bland, very passionate and romantic and of course he doesn't hurt in the looks department.  But there's that other guy, the Darkling, who is just so darn interesting.  And somehow I'm rooting for both guys.  How did this happen?  Let me tell you.

(I'll try not to be too spoilery here, but it is better if you have read the book.  Because it's really good.)

Alina Starkov, Mal Oretsev and the Darkling (real name yet to be revealed).  Here's the thing about all three of these characters.  They are all likable.  Alina is surprisingly not whiny or bratty - lovesick and vulnerable, yes - but her character isn't the reason she's in this love triangle in the first place. (Second place and third place - as in 2nd book and the as yet unreleased 3rd book might be different.)  The fact that this romance first started off as Alina's unrequited love for her best friend and Mal's realization of his feelings for her later in the book gives the triangle a different kind of structure.  Alina isn't sure of Mal's feelings at all in the beginning, and then to realize that her love for him is strangling something important inside of her which the Darkling can develop and encourage is an entirely new dilemma.  Alina's relationship with Mal was hurting her physical well-being but she still loves him deeply.  Is Mal able to accept Alina for who she really is? Or maybe the Darkling could be better for her in that respect.

So Alina is a pretty strong, relatively decisive character, and Mal is actually exceedingly romantic and charming; how is the Darkling likable?  He's the bad boy in the love triangle but is there any love triangle where the bad boy is not delicious?  I mean as long as he's not kicking puppies, he's hot. And bad boys, when they are charismatic and magnetic, are very attractive indeed.  Likable may not be just the right word, but I definitely like him in the story.  So what is it about the Darkling that makes him such a good candidate for Alina's love?  And makes me hope for two kinds of ending scenarios for this series, one of which will not happen?  For me, I think it's less about what he can do for her, but what she can do for him. Love can be redeeming - if love can banish the brooding (brooding is most always a direct symptom of being the bad boy in a love triangle) and hidden hurt that defines the bad boy character - then who wouldn't want poor baby that character to feel better?  And it's so romantic to have the heroine be the one to save him.  I'm reminded of a scene from the film "The Sound of Music" where the Baroness asks the Captain what he would call her and he says:

Capt Von Trapp: Lovely. . . charming, witty, graceful, the perfect hostess. . . and, you're going to hate me for this. . . in a way, my savior.
Baroness: Oh, how unromantic.

No Baroness.  In this and in your estimation of Maria, you are wrong.  It is very romantic to be the only one who can redeem a damaged soul.  Especially if that soul is suave and seductive. (I'm talking about the Captain and the Darkling now I think.  And the Phantom from The Phantom of the Opera musical too. Can you imagine the Darkling singing "Music of the Night"?  I CAN.  ...I digress.)  But with the Darkling there is more to his character because he is so mysterious.  His motivations, his past, his true feelings are all cloaked. Does he truly think he is doing good?  Does he even truly love Alina?  Can Alina help him at all?  All these questions make him such an interesting triangle participant because he such a wild card and there is a level of suspense in what Alina's decision will mean.  Many love triangles have a pretty clear outcome, were the protagonist to choose one guy over the other.  And most cases, especially in YA, the outcome IS that she will end up with one guy or the other, happy ending, Le Fin.  But in this book, that choice might just be the means to the end, an ending which is still very unclear.  It is very clear though, that there will be tears and I should probably get that order of a truckload of Kleenex in soon.

So there it is.  This series is not yet finished, so it was great to work out my thoughts on the story before I know where it is heading.  Mal is a great choice for Alina because they have a strong connection, and I feel like he is better for her in the long run, and will be her choice in the end.  (But I don't want to even begin to talk about what Book 2 did to this triangle!)  But maybe the Darkling needs Alina more, and it does seem like he understands her better than Mal does.  Sometimes Love Triangles are not always just about who the main character loves the most.  In this case I think Alina has to choose between her love or what is best for her well-being and/or the well-being of Ravka.  It's a difficult choice with so many pros and cons on either side. It's a real dilemma of a love triangle, and I love it.  And either way I don't think I will be upset with the ending because I'm rooting for both.  But if this series turns into a Love Quadrangle, so help me God, I'm done.  Although I really like Sturmhond!  ...Oh no.

My fancasting, although there is a movie deal in development, hurrah!
Monday, July 15, 2013

Review: The Crown

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
The Crown
by Nancy Bilyeau

Plot Summary:

In this debut historical thriller, an aristocratic young nun must find a legendary crown in order to save her father’s life and preserve all she holds dear from Cromwell’s ruthless terror.

When novice nun Joanna Stafford learns her rebel cousin is condemned by King Henry VIII to be burned at the stake, she makes the decision to break the sacred rule of enclosure and run away from her Dominican Order in Dartford to stand at her cousin’s side.

Arrested for interfering with king’s justice, Joanna, along with her father, Sir Richard Stafford, is sent to the Tower of London. Joanna’s father is brutally tortured by Stephen Gardiner, the Bishop of Winchester who leads the Catholic faction bent on saving England’s monasteries from destruction. In order to save her father, Joanna must submit to Gardiner’s will and become a pawn in the struggle between religious extremes. Gardiner forces Joanna to return to Dartford Priory with a mission: find the long hidden crown worn by Saxon King Athelstan in AD 937 during the historic battle that first united Britain. Gardiner believes the crown itself to possess a mystical power that will halt the Reformation.

Uncovering only dark betrayals and murder at Dartford, Joanna flees with Brother Edmund, a troubled young friar, and with time running out, their hunt for the crown leads them through royal castles, to Stonehenge, and finally to the tomb of the mysterious King Athelstan under Malmesbury Abbey. There Joanna learns the true secret of the crown, a secret tracing all the way back to Golgotha and the Relics of the Passion. Now, as Cromwell’s army of destruction advances, Joanna must finally determine who to trust and how far she is willing to go to protect a way of life that she passionately loves.

Review:

I haven't read historical fiction in awhile, and boy was this a great one to get back into the habit! (excuse the pun)  The detailed, well-researched history described in this book created a completely immersive background for which a story of espionage, mystery and betrayal was woven perfectly throughout.  For such a densely detailed novel, with so much history to establish, the writing is compulsive and completely engaging, and the author made these characters from a different time so relatable to today with their basic heroism and failings in human nature.  Human greed and lust battles against intentions of goodness and the spark of the divine.  The story and characters are complex in their motivations and because they are under the political pressures of a very demanding King.   I was completely caught up in this vision of the past and the complications and pitfalls the characters found themselves in.

Joanna, as the main character, is a complex personality.  She has many facets or hidden depths, which reveal themselves as she bears her struggles.  I was never quite sure what she would do, but at her simplest she was inquisitive, intelligent, and observant and that made her a very admirable character to me.  She's both transparent and not, and it's refreshing to have a heroine who does not easily fall in love or is so impulsive as to get herself constantly into scrapes.  Although she does get into rather a lot of scrapes but they can't be helped.  She's mature and intriguing and full of life.

The heart of this story is a the mystery of the Crown, and the labyrinthine windings of the Crown's story and the secrets of the Abbey made for some startling twists and revelations.  It was a completely unpredictable conclusion to me, and yet one that of course made sense after the fact.  The story is just a really good mystery, set in an interesting and volatile time period with well-drawn out and engaging characters and with great, fluid writing.  I found every page compelling.

I received this book from the publisher or author for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review. 
Special thanks to TLC Book Tours

I'll be reviewing the sequel, "The Chalice" on my blog August 1st!


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Suspense Sundays (53) Last Night

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
Suspense was a radio series from 1942 to 1962.  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.  For Suspense Sundays I'll give a short review of an episode.   {My archive list of episodes}


"Last Night"
Air date: June 15, 1943
Starring Margo and Ken Smith
>>Episodes here<<

Mrs. Jacqueline Blaine narrates as the mysterious and hasty departure of Mr. Burroughs from their ranch gets more and more suspicious.  Mr. Blaine was supposed to ask him for a loan of $25,000, and when he has it, and Mr. Burroughs is gone without his luggage or his return ticket home, Mrs. Blaine is very nervous about how her husband got the money.

This is a perfect storm of red herrings, with all the new clues pointing very suspiciously to the husband's guilt. (So of course it's very likely he didn't do it)  And yet he seems quite unconcerned about the missing Mr. Burroughs.  Fortunately Mrs. Blaine is rather good at detective work and uses her intuition to get to the bottom of the matter.  This episode was a good listen and definitely delivered on the suspense.  For some reason it just feels rather unmemorable to me.  
Friday, July 12, 2013

Derren Brown's Infamous

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,


I saw Derren Brown's newest show twice while I was on holiday in England (once in Hull and again in London) and it was wondrous both times!  Derren is an illusionist/hypnotist/magician/modern Sherlock Holmes (but not as antisocial!).  I find his work on television so fascinating, because they explore so many different things and highlight the power of the human mind.  And I am also fascinated by what seems to be Derren's dual personas - as a performer he is commanding and intense (sometimes even sinister) but his real personality seems much more self-effacing, a little shy and empathetic.  But his humor is evident all the time and his shows - with their combination of mind-boggling feats, quick wit and dry humor, and intelligent exploration of humanity's assumptions and beliefs are incredibly captivating and thought provoking.

In London at the Palace Theatre
Unfortunately this new live show "Infamous" will be touring for awhile and I mustn't reveal anything that happens in the show.  It's important to experience the show not knowing what happens.  But having seen Derren's previous live shows, which are always recorded and released after the end of the show's run, I can compare this show to his others.  The simplicity of the show's poster and the bareness of the stage highlights the stripped back nature of "Infamous".  Derren involves more stories and anecdotes from his life to shape what he does onstage.  There is also an inspirational side to the show that I love - I always love the shows Derren has done that try to inspire people.  Overall, "Infamous" is less "showy" than his previous shows, but no less dazzling because it is still impossible to figure out how he did the things he did.  Even after seeing the show twice!

In London, I did sit among what I think were a group of American students who were unfamiliar with Derren's work, and it was so fun to see their reactions in my periphery vision - reactions that mainly consisted of blatant denial and disbelief at what they were seeing.  I know something incredible is always around the corner in Derren's shows, but to see their reactions made the reveal so much more entertaining.  And interesting, because it seemed like their answer seemed to be that it was all a complete sham - the people from the audience were faking it or something like that.  And although it is a little bit of a sham - there is a trick somewhere, and not everything Derren says is to be believed, I believe Derren when he says there are no stooges in the audience because he has been doing this for many years, and surely someone would have come out with that story by now?  I think the real trick is how unaware we are of what the human mind is capable of.  And thanks to Derren, I think I am more aware.

I did wait stagedoor for Derren both times, and it was a crush of people, but even though both times Derren said he could only stay for "a few minutes" he stayed until everyone got an autograph which was so awesome of him!  I have to say, Derren Brown is sort of my idol so I was pretty starstruck, and I didn't say much, but at least I didn't faint!  Watch out for him on TV, because he has some sort of minor role (or major??) in Sherlock when it comes back!  And if you are in England and are in the mood to be amazed, puzzled, frustrated, creeped out, hypnotized, or rapturously delighted go see his show!

Watch clips on youtube!

And my Vine video at the stagedoor from when I saw the show in Hull.  Good times.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Review: Finnikin of the Rock

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,
Finnikin of the Rock (Lumatere Chronicles #1)
by Melina Marchetta

Plot Summary:

Finnikin of the Rock and his guardian, Sir Topher, have not been home to their beloved Lumatere for ten years. Not since the dark days when the royal family was murdered and the kingdom put under a terrible curse. But then Finnikin is summoned to meet Evanjalin, a young woman with an incredible claim: the heir to the throne of Lumatere, Prince Balthazar, is alive.

Evanjalin is determined to return home and she is the only one who can lead them to the heir. As they journey together, Finnikin is affected by her arrogance . . . and her hope. He begins to believe he will see his childhood friend, Prince Balthazar, again. And that their cursed people will be able to enter Lumatere and be reunited with those trapped inside. He even believes he will find his imprisoned father.

But Evanjalin is not what she seems. And the truth will test not only Finnikin's faith in her . . . but in himself.

Review:

Wow.  An intelligent YA novel with rich fantasy world-building and a plot rooted in the characters yet with fast-paced action.  This is absolutely how it's done.  Finnikin of the Rock is such a wonderful, immersive book with full, rich storytelling!

The amazing-ness starts with the characters because of the depth to them - both good sides and bad - they are complex and believable and because they feel so real, the emotions this book delves into sometimes gave me chills, I was so in tune with what the characters were feeling.  Although heroic Finnikin is the title character - and the one who must lead his people to their destiny (as foreshadowed in the beginning) - Evanjalin is my favorite character.  So strong, stalwart and capable, she is an amazing heroine who doesn't back down from hard truths, and has a resolute, strong will that makes for dramatic clashes in personalities with other characters (I'll give you three guesses for who wins through) but she works for the admiration of everyone around her, including this reader.  I love how smart, perceptive and adaptable she is, and the fantastic role she has in this story.

With such deftly created characters I was very invested in the romance and it helped that the story gave it time to grow and develop between the characters - which made the complications that arose feel real and important enough to be the undoing of the couple.  It was a balanced relationship - not all sugar, but definitely sweet, but not all darkness either.  And it's so interesting in my opinion when an author creates a character that comes off a bit negatively or unlikable in the beginning and then have the reader's opinion completely turn around by the end (or halfway) because to introduce such a complex character seems like a real feat and this book does it twice!

The world-building is richly detailed - the more so because of a history that haunts the main characters which the author has to gradually unfold as the story progresses, and it is done in such a way that the pace never flags, and the reader is never confused, but always kept interested.  And the twists and turns in plot help keep the interest up.  There are some major surprise reveals, especially when it comes to Evanjalin!

The plot really felt masterfully executed because pieces of a puzzle were slowly given to the reader - in the way Finnikin's life changes, and the importance of the quest that he is pulled into, and the true events of the dark days in Lumatere's past.  Yet the story fits the pieces together so well, in an admirable feat of storytelling with lyrical writing and incredible characters.  There is so much that happens in this story - some really interesting character arcs and intricate world building - that it has an epic feel without it being a lengthy tome, which is great but I am glad there are two more books in the series for me to savor! This outstanding fantasy adventure novel is highly recommended!  Enjoy the world, enjoy the action, and especially enjoy the characters!


(And many thanks to Paola at A Novel Idea (also #FinnikinAmbassador) for the recommendation!  I'm glad to announce that if you have read this book, there is help for all the feels at #PostFinnikinSupportGroup!)
Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Awesome Adaptations (46) The Brontës of Haworth

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
This meme celebrates an awesome adaptation related to a weekly category. Any format of adaptation (television series, film, web series, etc.) is acceptable as long as it is based in some form on a book. This meme is hosted by Alisa Selene at PictureMeReading. Check out her site and join in on the fun!

An Awesome Nonfiction Adaptation
Title: The Brontës of Haworth
Adapted from: The Life of Charlotte Brontë by Elizabeth Gaskell

The story of the Brontë family is sprawling and full of tragedy.  The personalities of five people and other important figures in their lives had to be captured in this five hour mini-series and this production did a fantastic job of bringing their story accurately to life.

In keeping with the fact that this mini-series is largely based on the biography by Elizabeth Gaskell, the "author" narrates the story through voice overs which serves to bridge many time gaps and give important information about the significance of what was happening on screen.  And the actors to play the Brontës were all ridiculously perfect for their characters.  The attention to detail in their dress and mannerisms - especially important to highlight the difference in temperament between the Brontë sisters - were so spot on.  And it was truly astonishing how much the actor Alfred Burke looked like Patrick Brontë!

With a miniseries that covers the lives of the family from a young age to the end of their lives, there were many scenes and events that had to be covered and were surprisingly all touched on.  The affair of Branwell, Anne's governessing and her relationship with that family, Charlotte's crush on her Professor, and Emily's stalwart, homebound nature were all captured, with many important scenes besides.  And all while making their story very engaging!  It does move fast, but still takes the time to dwell on the more tragic events in their lives with respect and poignancy.  This miniseries presented the lives of the Brontë's in a way that made it seem like I was really getting to know them, and understand their genius and their tragedy.
Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Review: Eyre House

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,
Eyre House
by Caitlin Greer

Plot Summary:

When eighteen-year-old orphan Evan Richardson signed up to work at Eyre House, on the sleepy tourist getaway of Edisto Island, SC, he never expected to find himself dodging ghosts. But Eyre House seems to have more than its fair share of things that go bump in the night, and most of them seem to surround his employer’s daughter.

Back from her freshman year of college, Ginny Eyre is dangerous from word one. She’s a bad girl with ghosts of her own, and trouble seems to follow her everywhere she goes. But living or dead, trouble isn’t just stalking Ginny. When her ex-boyfriend is found murdered in the pool, Evan knows he’s got two choices – figure out what’s going on, or become the next ghost to haunt Ginny Eyre.

Review:

I'm always excited to read Jane Eyre derived fiction.  Always! And what's really interesting here is the gender role reversal in Evan Richardson being the orphan and the one being paid the salary.  But it's clever because power dynamics shift a lot between Ginny and Evan. And because this is from Evan's point of view, the story seemed much more gritty and realistic than I think it would have been had it been from Ginny's point of view, which gave an interesting perspective on the subservient position Evan found himself in.  When it comes to the romance in this story, I felt like it was a bit of a let down.  The emotional connection that grew between them was often sidelined by flirting and sex scenes which started to get repetitive.  I wanted to read about them getting to know each other more.

The mystery was very much unpredicatable for me - even when I was already thinking it would be along the lines of Jane Eyre!  I loved that aspect, and the paranormal sort of things that kept happened made me wonder if this story might take an entirely new direction.  The characters were the main focus of the story though, and the minor characters and the subplot with Ginny's father showed more about Ginny than I felt she showed herself.  It was difficult to get to know her and really feel emotionally invested in her.  I liked that Ginny fought so hard to keep her secrets, but in the end I wondered why she was so set on keeping them, when things were actually revealed.  Her character was sadly not very clear to me.

I liked Evan's down-to-earth, hardened, sensible voice and the way the South was depicted (though I have never been there, it sounded so very appealing) and the ingenuity in the story telling provided some twists and turns I definitely was not expecting.  Although the romance let me down, I think this is a very intelligent reworking of Jane Eyre with more than a few surprises, and great for fans of the New Adult genre.

I received this book from the publisher or author for a fair and honest review.  I was not compensated for this review.


Third book of 20 in the Books of Eyre Reading Challenge
Monday, July 8, 2013

Jane Eyre: A Review in Gifs

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , , ,
Jane Eyre
by Charlotte Brontë

If you haven't read this book, I must warn you this review has spoilers!  I love this book so much, and I think gif reviews are fun, so I wanted to use them to celebrate my favorite story! (And it gives me an excuse to use all these gifs from my favorite fandoms!)  This isn't so much a review as a silly lovefest, mostly for my own amusement.  Sorry!


Now it's time to enter:












Sunday, July 7, 2013

Suspense Sundays (52) The Locked Room

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
Suspense was a radio series from 1942 to 1962.  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.  For Suspense Sundays I'll give a short review of an episode.   {My archive list of episodes}


"The Locked Room"
Air date: January 27, 1944
Starring Virginia Bruce
>>Episodes here<<

Mr. Seton has acquired a diamond worth over a million dollars and before the final sale, he locks himself up in his office with it.  His secretary and colleague were talking outside his office when they hear a crash from the room and rush in.  Mr. Seton is on the floor, knocked out, the door and windows were locked and the diamond is gone.  There are four suspects - the two outside the office, the Doctor who was just in to visit, and Mr. Van Houten who wanted to see Mr. Seton about the diamond and just walked in after the crime was discovered.  Whodunit?

I love locked room mysteries!! The set-up for this one is particularly diabolical since there doesn't seem to be any way someone could have come into the room.  And there is a ladder leaning up against the outside - but the windows were locked from the inside! What?  There are lots of red herrings in this episode, and I must admit that the criminal was literally the last person I suspected.  Out of four people.  Oops.
Friday, July 5, 2013

Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
The Ocean at the End of the Lane
by Neil Gaiman

Plot Summary:

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

Review:

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a slim volume, but it packs so much within it's pages!  Neil Gaiman weaves a magical story, delicate as memory with so many layers and unspoken emotions beneath its words, that it is a book that will continue to reveal new things on every reread.  While reading this book, I found the atmosphere created to be totally enthralling and rich, even with the deceptively simple prose style that I've come to associate with Neil's work.  The way he wields words is wondrous to me, because the words in themselves are ordinary, but somehow when he puts them together they become so much more.  I always feel like there is a need to savor his stories because of the unique way in which he tells them, and this book is probably the most richly multi-faceted one of his that I have read.

The story begins with the awakening of memory and layers a story of a potentially normal childhood with one of fantasy disguised as myth, moving from the mundane - made somehow especially so when seen through the sincere and candid eyes of a young boy - to things that are timeless and both dangerous and comforting at turns.  I think it is difficult to tell you what this story is truly about, mostly because it has so much depth that it can have many different meanings.  I found the story entrancing and magical and completely beautiful in a touching and melancholic way.  There is also the need once you have finished it to immediately reread it, because there are things that are said in the beginning that are given new meaning by the end and it changes the story significantly.

This is a lovely book from a master storyteller, with a glorious mixture of mystery and emotion and magic.  If you are a fan of Neil Gaiman, don't miss this book!