I now blog over at The Eyre Guide! This blog is an archive of my past posts.

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Quintessential Phase

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
The last phase!  All our characters are scattered in the universe doing their own little thing and the Guide is glitching -  transitioning to an updated version. What's also interesting about this phase is how the Secondary phase which was previously negated now happened - though in a different dimension.  Multiple dimensions and the search for purpose and meaning is the focus of this last story.

Because Arthur Dent has had so many odd and wonderful experiences it is very understandable that all he wants is a normal life.  In a somewhat Earth-like planet that is more primitive than ours but he gets to do things like make sandwiches.  Because he's so ordinary and every-man.  I think playing on that aspect of Arthur makes this series so relatable because Arthur is the average human and is so human in his responses to things - he's very British of course but that elevates the humor when he's reacting to things that are impossible.   And when he has to deal with his daughter, who is very angry and emo, he is even more relatable.  Poor, well-meaning Arthur.

This story again features a focused storyline - one that revolves around why the Guide has been updated and what it is capable of.  Most of the characters are gradually brought to one place on Earth, and it is wonderful to have them together again.  If you have read the book though, there is a little issue about the end of "Mostly Harmless."  One that's pretty depressing.  But the good news is that this adaptation changed the ending!  And it's a little too perfect, but definitely preferable to the book's ending.

The series has some great moments - I love the explanation of the Perfectly Normal beasts, and Ford Prefect in every scene! Somehow he became the highlight of this phase for me - he's so matter-of-fact and never takes things too seriously.  As the final installment of Hitchhiker's this is great, and very importantly develops the characters believably.  Especially Trillian and Arthur.  There are some occurrences from the first parts of the series that becomes important in this and I love that continuity.  I'm so glad I revisited this for Sci-Fi Month and hopefully got a few people interested in listening to the radio versions of this series!

My posts on:
The Primary Phase   |  The Secondary Phase   |   The Tertiary Phase   |   The Quandary Phase   |   The Quintessential Phase
Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Awesome Adaptations (66) The Autobiography of Jane Eyre

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. Awesome Adaptations was created by Alisa Selene at PictureMeReading.

An Awesome Adaptation I'm Thankful For
Title: The Autobiography of Jane Eyre
Adapted from: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

This web series has Jane, a 21 year old university student, working as a nanny for Mr. Rochester's daughter Adele.  She vlogs about her life, and through the videos we get to meet all the people in her lives.  Of course, as a huge fan of Jane Eyre, I was so glad that someone decided to adapt this book in a style similar to the Lizzie Bennet Diaries.  Jane Eyre is a bit harder to adapt in this style than Pride and Prejudice but the cast and crew have been doing an amazing job so far retelling the book as a realistic, modern life story.

I do have some issues with this as an adaptation though.  Sometimes I lose focus on what some episodes are trying to adapt from the novel - it doesn't always flow well for me, and I had an issue with Jane taping people in the beginning without their consent.  I mean she can accidentally leave the camera on, but she doesn't have to post it.  But the reason why that bothers me is because Jane is supposed to have better sense than that.  She can be a bit naive, but she always knows what's right and wrong.  But then again, it is difficult to adapt this kind of story!  The audience would want to see these people!  The series is also only about halfway through, so I'm sure all the kinks in trying to start this series and find a way to make the format work for the story are practically ironed out, and now the best is yet to come.

At the moment, we have a clear idea that Jane and Rochester are interested in each other and I am really enjoying seeing them interact.  While the side characters are really well done (Blanche is very believable, the Reed sisters were just as exasperating as they should be, and I loved the scenes that sassy Suzanna, the maid was in) it is very important that Jane and Rochester's relationship develops believably and I believe it so far!  I really look forward to seeing how they will adapt Rochester's secret and Jane's reaction to that!

I am so thankful to the cast and crew of this series for creating another adaptation of Jane Eyre I can scrutinize, sigh, and exclaim over, and I am particularly grateful that so far this has been such an excellent adaptation!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Film Review: Ender's Game & Catching Fire

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,

Ender's Game

I came to read Ender's Game pretty late, as I think it's a book a lot of people read in high school, so I did not have many years to build up expectations for a film adaptation.  So I think the film exceeded my expectations with how well it brought Ender's story to life.

The actor to play Ender, Asa Butterfield, was stellar!  I totally believed in his compassion and his intense drive to win and the inner turmoils that resulted.  He more than held his own against the older actors he played against, and he did so well with looking physically inconsequential, but having that inner fire that made him someone you definitely don't want to mess with.  But I think the humanity of Ender was the most touching part of the movie.  Despite all the terrible things that happen to him, and the attempts made to make him into the ultimate weapon, he holds on to empathy and I loved how well Asa Butterfield showed all of that.

The special effects in this film was amazing.  I was completely mesmerized by the zero-g competitions and how realistic it looked.  There were times when it was confusing to understand what was going on in them though, because the space was so big and it was all lights and tiny people.  I can't imagine being able to actually fight in that scenario since it seems to easy to confuse your enemies with your teammates.

The film is more focused on Ender and less on his siblings which makes sense, and I the most important points in the book made it to the film and is explained in a way that made the dilemmas in the story very poignant and relatable.  As an adaptation I think they did the best they could to bring such a complex story to life, and I was so impressed by the work all the actors did in this.  This is a great science fiction film.

Catching Fire

I think the first film was a fantastic adaptation of the first book, so I had high expectations going into the second film.  And I am happy to say that I was completely impressed by this film.  The story packs so much emotional power, and it is not glossed over at all in the film.  The desperation the people in this future have for freedom and independence comes across so well, and the way Katniss struggles with the role of symbol she accidentally stumbled into comes across beautifully genuine and poignant.  There's so much depth to these stories, and the film captures that so well, making this such an immersive, emotional ride of a film.

Jennifer Lawrence has to be one of my favorite actresses, because she's just amazing as Katniss.  Compassionate, wry, determined, traumatized - she needs to keep everyone safe, but is helpless to do so.  I can't imagine any other actress capturing all those sides to Katniss like Jennifer Lawrence does.  I think that final moment when she just says everything with her eyes, is enough to get her another Oscar.

When I first read The Hunger Games, I have to admit I was very Team Gale (I switched over later) but if I had seen Catching Fire before reading the books, there is just no possible way I would have been Team Gale.  Peeta really steals the show in this - he's everything that should be right for Katniss, and his devotion to her is heartbreaking to see when Katniss doesn't appreciate him enough.  Josh Hutcherson was just amazing, and I already feel depressed about what's in store for him in the last two films.

I really enjoyed what some of the other Tributes brought to this film, but the sassy Johanna was the best in my opinion.  I love when characters say what everyone else is afraid to, and her defiance was inspiring.  As was all the moments when the tributes did or said something that was like a slap to President Snow.  

This film captured all the heart and suspense and surprises of the second book and was an excellent adaptation.  I was truly affected by the characters all over again and I can't wait to watch the next movie!
Monday, November 25, 2013

Doctor Who 50th - The Day of the Doctor

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
I'm not sure I can be very coherent about the most momentous episode of Doctor Who - the episode that celebrates 50 years of the timey wimey adventures of a Time Lord - that aired a couple days ago. I've been looking forward to it forever it seems but I don't believe I had many expectations for this episode, because I had absolutely no idea what to expect.  That we would learn more of the Time War and of the circumstances that would lead the Doctor to make a decision that would haunt him through all of the past New Series adventures seemed like such a grave and significant event, that I couldn't imagine how this episode would also celebrate the show and have the light-hearted antics that usually accompany multi-Doctor stories.  I think the only expectation I did have was that Matt Smith and David Tennant would be awesome and that expectation was more than fulfilled.  One hope that I had, not so much an expectation, was that the Classic Doctors would make it in the show somehow as they are now, but I am glad they were acknowledged and even had a part to play in the end.  But really there were so many things that exceeded anything I was hoping for that I am definitely not complaining!  And I think I need to break down my thoughts into bite sized paragraphs!  But first, beware:

The Intro: Classic Who B&W opening credits that fade into color? Brilliant!!  I almost wanted to cry right from the get go with all the nostalgia that those credits invoke.  I was just watching a 2nd Doctor serial earlier (The Enemy of the World which was FANTASTIC) and seeing those credits gave me such a feeling of awe at the connection between the Classic series and the New series.  It's so different, yet the same.  I think it was brilliant to acknowledge the beginning and the now like that.  (and Clara is a teacher at the same school where the Doctor's granddaughter was a student!)

Rose Tyler: From the trailer it seemed pretty clear that this was not the Rose we know, but a form of Bad Wolf, but when I finally saw what her function was in the episode, I was so grateful to Steven Moffat.  Because she was there for the fans - there was really no reason it had to be Billie Piper, it could have been any interface at all.  And while it is a little heartbreaking that she didn't get to interact with 10 or 11, I have to admit to liking that Steven Moffat did not dredge up any of the Rose/10 angst.

Gallifrey:  This is one of the biggest things to be grateful for in this episode.  Not only do we get to see Gallifrey and other Time Lords, but Steven Moffat made it possible for the Doctor to return to Gallifrey once more.  I think it's a bit funny that Steven has finally undone everything Russell T Davies did with the series!  And now the show has returned to it's roots.   With the casting of Peter Capaldi, I feel like we will really see how Steven Moffat sees Doctor Who for a modern audience.  And now there is a way for the Doctor to get more regenerations!

The Doctors: With 3 Doctors together (and one we don't really know yet) it's always interesting to see how they play off each other and how they can all make a worthwhile contribution to the problem at hand.  It's wonderful that Steven Moffat worked in the tragedy of Gallifrey with an alien menace story when I'm sure it could have all just been about Gallifrey.  The Doctors all got their time to shine and there were so many witty and clever lines and situations in this to make the episode fun.  I also got a clear picture of each Doctor as well in how they approach things.

Tom Baker:  I should also mention the appearance, however brief, of all the Doctors in this, but seeing Tom Baker now with his own unique eccentric way of delivering lines, made me love him even more, which should be impossible since I love him a whole lot.  When Clara told the Doctor the curator was looking for him, I was practically bouncing in my chair at the prospect of it being Tom.  And the whole exchange was just perfection.  It seemed like a nod to the fans the whole way, and yet saying something important.  And even opening the doorway for more appearances by Classic Who Doctors!!  So much brilliance.

Peter Capaldi: It was only a moment, but when they showed Peter Capaldi both me and my friend said "What!" at exactly the same time and the same high pitch.  It was fun! And fantastic to see that 12 (or 13? Whatever) made it to the Anniversary special.

Breaking this down to my favorite things, I feel like I didn't do justice to the great way UNIT was worked into the story, as well as Kate Stewart and the science-y Osgood (I would love to cosplay as her - I already have the labcoat!).  I wasn't familiar with the Zygons before this, so now watching Terror of the Zygons is high on my priority list.  Because it's quite scary they can morph into anyone. Clara didn't have to do too much, but I did like how she helped the Doctor remember who he really is. And how about that final scene with all the Doctors!  Just brilliance.  This whole episode can be summed up with that word.  I am so glad to be a Doctor Who fan when it does things like completely change it's own history and bring back beloved actors.  Happy 50th Anniversary indeed!  I am sure there will be 50 more!

Edited to add -UMMM HOW DID I MISS THAT DERREN BROWN REFERENCE!! Just saw it on the tumblr, and I can't believe I didn't hear it when I watched the show! I must have been reaching for a Dalek cupcake!  Made of win!  Can he just be on the show now??  He already made it onto Sherlock!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Suspense Sundays (72) The Blue Hour

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 Blue Hour"
Air date: September 25, 1947
Starring Claire Trevor
>>Episodes here<<

Beautiful dancer Lois LaPaul has been recently hired by nightclub The Blue Hour, and when she arrives she finds the boss would rather she took a two week break to rest from the stress of what just happened to her.  The murder of her boyfriend - which many people would like to question her about.  Including the nightclub owner, Anthony LaCada- and a cute reporter - Mahoney- who accosted her at the airport when she arrived.  But she is upset that Anthony is sidelining her when interest in her is so hot, and in a fit of pique she makes a confession to Mahoney.  She was at the scene of the crime when her boyfriend was murdered, and she realizes that her boyfriend passed on to her a very expensive diamond before he died.  Which Anthony LaCada is after.

This is episode has a very film noir-esque feel, which is compounded by the banter between Lois and Mahoney.  Who of course really really like each other.  While it was easy to see that Anthony was the villain of the piece, there was suspense once Lois tried to bait him and it looked like Anthony had the upper hand.  Nasty piece of work that Anthony.  This was an enjoyable episode which gave me my new favorite put down - "There are two things I want you to do for me.  Drop dead."  Zing.  Of course she doesn't want Mahoney to drop dead toward the end.  
Friday, November 22, 2013

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Quandary Phase

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
The last two phases are shorter than the previous three - just four half-hour episodes where things start to get a little somber.  And where Douglas Adams introduces a little lovely romance.  Arthur Dent has had so much misfortune in his travels that it is nice for him to catch a break with his instant attraction to Fenchurch who is a little strange herself.  Of course in keeping with Arthur's life, things don't remain happy for too long.

This was such a different story to the previous phases because not only is there romance, but Zaphod and Trillian only tangentially appear, and Marvin has only one scene in the end (and believe me it's depressing).  Ford has more of a part to play, but this phase is really about Arthur and how he copes after his long sojourn into the universe.  He is more attuned to the oddities that go on around him - which means there are still things to poke fun at closer to home.  While there aren't as many conceptual comedy pieces in this phase, I do love how the absurdity of Arthur's unlikely life is the focus and there is still so much humor in that.

There is one idea in this that I found particularly eye opening - when we hear about Wonko the Sane, who's house is inside out - where framed photos and carpets and sofas are all on the outside, but the inside looks like a well-tended garden.  Because when you go outside the house you are now in the asylum where all the crazy people live.  Us.  And it started with a box of toothpicks.  Because the box of toothpicks had detailed instructions on it which explained how to use them, and if humanity needed instructions on how to use toothpicks then there is no hope for us.  Gosh, this phase really is quite depressing.

The way this phase ends sets up some great questions to be answered in the last phase (hence the "quandary" part I guess?), and then we will finally know what it was all for.  Or maybe we'll just get a few more laughs amid the tears...

My posts on:
The Primary Phase   |  The Secondary Phase   |   The Tertiary Phase   |   The Quandary Phase
Thursday, November 21, 2013

Doctor Who: The Light at the End

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
Big Finish fills the need for more Classic Who adventures by recruiting the original actors from the Classic Doctor Who series and releasing new audio dramas.  Which I absolutely love listening to!  And they recently released their 50th Anniversary tribute with this multi-doctor story that technically involves all the Doctors from 1-8, but of course only the original 4-8 Doctors lend their vocal talent to this story.  With the 50th Anniversary very nearly upon us (this Saturday!! Eeeeee!!!!) I wanted to talk about this fun story where all these Doctors get to interact.  It must be difficult to find a way to feature five Doctors and their companions in a two hour drama, but I think Big Finish did a great job giving each Doctor their moment to shine.

I have to say though, there is a lot going on in this story and I had to listen to it a second time to even begin to comprehend what the Master's (yay, he's here too!) dastardly plan was, and even with the second listen I could probably do with another one to catch all the little nuances and references.  I don't want to say that this is a fault though, because again with such an ambitious plot, it makes sense that things get convoluted, and I really like the idea of going back and finding something new with each listen.  The story itself is a little thin when it comes to the Master's big plan because it is basically ridiculous to believe it would have ever worked, but the real focus of this audio should be the Doctors' interactions, and that is definitely the highlight.  I absolutely loved how all the Doctors' worked together!

Individually I felt like each Doctor's quirkiness was captured in the scenes and lines they were given.  I especially loved Tom Baker's one-liners!  And the way Sylvester McCoy rolls his 'R's' is always fun to listen to.  And Ace had a genius scene where after she had seen the incarnations of the other Doctors filter through the TARDIS like ghosts she clarifies with her Doctor (#7) about all the guys she saw.  Namely:
"Old man, white hair
Beatles haircut,
Frilly shirt,
Long scarf, big eyes
Cricket boy,
Joseph and his amazing technicolor dream coat
Lord Byron"

The best!  There are other opportunities in this audio for the Doctors to take the mickey as it were out of themselves and their past and future incarnations.  It was interesting to have some pair up with each other as well - 4/8 and 6/7 had to team up, and they did such a good job bouncing ideas off of each other.   I suppose with a multi-doctor adventure you want a story that captures the individual Doctor, gives them an opportunity to react to each other (in some case in how they turned out) in a humorous way and also have a story that fundamentally needs multiple Doctors to solve it.  And this audio does a great job fulfilling those requirements.  It's going to be very interesting to see what Steven Moffat has done with his multi-doctor adventure this Saturday.  And while it's disappointing that all the surviving Doctors couldn't make it onscreen for the 50th Anniversary special (although it looks like there is a surprise up Moffat's sleeve!  ILU Tom Baker!) it's wonderful to hear the Classic Doctors all together in "The Light at the End."

And here's the trailer for the story!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Awesome Adaptations (65) Agatha Christie Poirot "Curtain"

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. Awesome Adaptations was created by Alisa Selene at PictureMeReading.

An Awesomely Tragic Adaptation
Title: Curtain: Poirot's Last Case
Adapted from: Curtain by Agatha Christie

It's difficult to have "awesome" anywhere near this adaptation because I'm so depressed and I can't imagine myself ever describing the way this episode made me feel as "awesome."  Yet, the adaptation itself is stellar and completely in keeping with the book, while also adding extra pathos in the fantastic way the leads captured this last adventure of Poirot and Hastings.

This is Hastings' story to tell once more, and because Poirot is now so ill he must be in a wheelchair, Hastings is also Poirot's eyes and ears.  And the actor who plays Hastings, Hugh Fraser, takes on the role like he never left.  Although Hastings is grieving for his wife who just passed away, he is ready to look after Poirot and protect his daughter who is staying at the guest house of Suspicious People.  While there are plenty of things to distract Hastings in his mission to help Poirot catch a murderer, he does his usual, ineffective best to get Poirot all the information he needs.  But in many ways this story is about human weakness and the lengths to which we go to protect our loved ones.  For the final hurrah, this episode was not a celebration, but a solemnization in keeping with the steadily faithful, sensitive, and moving approach of the novel.  Even though Poirot and Hastings are the best of friends, there are some sharp moments between them where their aggravation with each other seeps through and it just makes the intimacy of their friendship even more touching and real.  To add to the underlying melancholy (and by that, I mean also in addition to the fact that Hastings is grieving and Poirot is ill) is the very stark lighting and monochromatic cinematography of the whole film.  Even while I was happy at all the touching moments, there's just no escaping that this is a somber and serious story, with a life-changing decision at the end for Poirot.  Through my sorrow though, I was really impressed by the approach and the quality of the acting in this episode!

So spoiler alert if you haven't read the book! ---

Since this is truly Poirot's last case, the tragic part of this story is that Poirot dies, and I didn't think I could handle the emotion of seeing Poirot pass, and I was right.  I read this story when I was in high school, and it was strange how things would come back to me as I was reading - like all the tears when I finished the book.  While I think Agatha Christie wrote a powerful ending for her character, it just seems more depressing when a fictional character can't live on happily in ones mind - never aging or becoming frail - and I think that tragedy, that there is an ending for Poirot, makes all of his previous cases poignant because "they were good days" and now they are over.

This was a momentous episode, and gorgeously adapted and I am so grateful for all the wonderful adaptations of Poirot's stories that have been produced over the years.  I find with this final series, my interest in the show is revived and I look forward to re-watching the show and celebrating this great detective.  If you have yet to see this episode, prepare your heart and mind, because it is a gut-wrenching journey to the end.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Review: The Night Itself

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
The Night Itself (The Name of the Blade #1)
by Zoe Marriott

Plot Summary:

When fifteen year old Mio Yamato furtively sneaks the katana - an ancestral Japanese sword - out of its hiding place in her parent's attic to help liven up her Christmas party costume, she has no idea of the darkness she is about to unleash on modern day London, or the family secrets that she is going to uncover.

The paralysing paranoia that descends on her before she gets to her friend's party is her first clue. The vivid and terrifying visions that nearly get her killed are a pretty good warning too.

The giant nine-tailed cat demon that comes after the sword and tries to rip her throat out? Overkill.

Seconds away from becoming kitty-food, Mio is saved by Shinobu, a mysterious warrior boy. But it's already too late. Mio has ruptured the veil between the mortal realm and the Underworld, and now the gods and monsters of ancient Japan stalk the streets of London, searching for her and the sword.

With the help of her best friend Jack, a fox spirit named Hikaru - and the devoted protection of the betwitchingly familiar Shinobu - Mio attempts to discover the true nature of the sword and its connection to the Yamato family. Because if she doesn't learn how to control the katana's incredible powers, she's in danger of being overwhelmed by them. And if she can't keep the sword safe from the terrible creatures who want it for their own, she'll lose not only her own life... but the love of a lifetime.


I loved Shadows on the Moon - a fantasy retelling of Cinderella by Zoe Marriott, so I was really looking forward to getting into this urban fantasy tale with Japanese mythology.  I didn't enjoy this book as much as Shadows on the Moon but this was still a great read!

This book has excellent world-building - I love the interweaving of Japanese culture with modern London and the parallel world with the Kitsune.  It's a bit dark and bloody, but it captured both cultures so well I think.  And the mystery behind the blade - the katana - is so intriguing as well.  There's still more of the blade's story to reveal, but I liked that the katana has it's own agenda that is very mysterious. I think that sets up the main conflict of the book very well - I really want to know more.

I was very disappointed by the romance - there's an instalove aspect of it that does have a good reason, but the level of devotion so soon was really too much at times and just not that believable to me. I wish Mio was more level-headed in this aspect even if the object of her affection is a very nice and supportive romance lead.  The friendship between Mio and Jack made up for this though, because I loved their banter and camaraderie!  They were so fun together and I was so happy that Mio didn't forget about Jack once the strange things started happening to her.  There's not enough great friendships in the YA books I read and I really love it when I come across one that feels believable and gives the main character a great person to bounce ideas off of.

There are many interesting elements to this book - it felt like a whirlwind of a story often with all the things that were after Mio and the katana and I think this is a great start to the series.  The ending was particularly exciting - well there was one part that didn't feel believable, but I really have high hopes for this series!


Monday, November 18, 2013

Review: Doctor Who: The Wheel of Ice

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,
Doctor Who: The Wheel of Ice
by Stephen Baxter

Plot Summary:

She had no name. She had only her mission - she would return Home. And bathe in the light of a long-dead sun... Even if it meant the sacrifice of this pointless little moon to do it.

The Wheel of Ice: a ring of ice and steel turning around a moon of Saturn, home to a colony mining minerals for a resource-hungry future Earth. A bad place to grow up.

The Wheel has been plagued by problems. Maybe it's just gremlins, just bad luck. But what's the truth of the children's stories of 'Blue Dolls' glimpsed aboard the gigantic facility? And why won't the children go down the warren-like mines? And then sixteen-year-old Phee Laws, surfing Saturn's rings, saves an enigmatic blue box from destruction.

Aboard the Wheel, The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe find a critical situation - and three strangers who have just turned up out of nowhere look like prime candidates to be accused of sabotage ... The Doctor finds himself caught up in a mystery that goes right back to the creation of the solar system. But it's a mystery that could have dire repercussions for the people on the Wheel. It's a mystery that could kill them all.


This novel presents a highly sophisticated and intelligent Doctor Who adventure.  The author does a wonderful job of making a colony built around a moon of Saturn believable because there are so many little details in how and why such a colony can exist.  And with those details, the author drives home the awe and danger of traveling in space which I relished.  I think it added a very complex dimension to the wonder of what the Doctor is capable of in his TARDIS, and the very tenuous hold humanity has on controlling their environment in this story made the danger they are in very immediate.

When it came to the characterizations of the Doctor and his companions, I think the author did a great job - his characterization of Jamie was especially fun and brought out all that is likable and irascible in him.  Zoe was also well rounded - she had fears that she tried to hide and which made her more sympathetic.  The author brought in her past as well which gave her more depth of character.  I did not feel very attached to any of the other characters though - the mayor and her kids and the council.  For some reason I didn't connect with them and that brings me to some odd feelings about this book.  Because while I really admire the way the author crafted this story, I didn't feel very involved with the characters.  I felt like it was lacking somehow in heart, as if there was so much technical skill in the writing and in the details, that the human connection was left out.  It's hard to describe, and I'm probably in a minority to feel this way because this is a really good story.   I just would not call it a page-turner - I was not driven to find out what happens in the end because I didn't really feel invested in the fate of this colony.

And the ending was a bit predicable I have to say.  The bad guy was not very convincing, and I didn't see why the bad guy who was clearly unfit for the job, was allowed to continue with it.  But with such an intelligent, and thought-provoking look at the potential humans have at conquering their solar system, I thought this was a very enlightening story and I think Doctor Who fans should check it out.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Suspense Sundays (71) Neil Cream Doctor of Poison

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}

"Neil Cream Doctor of Poison"
Air date: September 17, 1951
Starring Charles Laughton
>>Episodes here<<

Neil Cream is devastated that his wife has passed on.  Just kidding, he's been poisoning her slowly and he's really a bit miffed that it took her so long to die.  Then, for some reason Dr. Cream writes a scientific paper on the resistance his wife had to the poison and of course the police are alerted to the fact that a crazy murderer is loose.  Dr. Cream moves to London and becomes interested in his landlady's daughter and it's very clear that someone is going to die again soon.  Will he get caught?  Or will this smart man make a fatal mistake?  Other than writing a paper on how to poison people.

This is actually based on a real-life murderer (who also confessed to being Jack the Ripper but it's unlikely that he was) and while the real story is much more disturbing and sordid, this poisoner is still scary in his ruthless determination to get rid of people he thinks are in his way.  The episode itself was only okay for me though - there's definitely no reason to have any sympathy for the Doc, and the way in which he is caught isn't terribly exciting.
Friday, November 15, 2013

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Tertiary Phase

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Like I mentioned in my post on the Secondary Phase, this phase came 24 years later, after the author Douglas Adams passed away, so this phase is a very faithful adaptation of the third novel "Life, the Universe and Everything."  And because the rest of the phases will now follow the books, the Secondary Phase no longer makes sense, and is explained away as one of Zaphod's hallucinations.

Probably my very favorite concept in the whole Hitchhiker world is in this phase - that one Being is constantly reincarnated only to be killed by Arthur Dent every time.  That Being goes by the name Agrajag and because it has happened so many times, Agrajag remembers Arthur and decides he's going to kill him.  But first he brings him to a Cathedral of Hate where all of his incarnations are memorialized so he can explain to Arthur why he's going to kill him.  Arthur's bewilderment and Agrajag's unreasonable anger (well he has a reason, but like Arthur says it's just a humongous coincidence) makes for the funniest scenes, even while I'm sympathizing with both characters.  There's a twist to it near the end of course which for Agrajag means it's impossible to kill Arthur and this will have a pay off down the line in the Quintessential Phase.  The other reason why this scene is so awesome, is that the producers of this audio took Douglas Adams' voice from the audiobook he read, to play Agrajag.  And Douglas does a great job, I really need to listen to the audiobooks!

This phase feels more cohesive as a story than the previous two phases - because the previous phases were more about the group being tossed into different adventures, the group has a purpose in this phase - to prevent the xenophobic Krikkiters from destroying the whole universe.  With a tongue-in-cheek connection between Krikkit and Cricket, the English sport, these mass murderers are somehow whimsical even though they are deadly.  With the Krikkiters, the story takes a look at the kind of narrow-minded, intolerance you see all the time in humanity, and it's scary how there is really no difference in types of unreasoning intolerance.

Even with the focused storyline, there are plenty of asides and fun ideas thrown into this phase - including the Somebody Else's Problem field (or SEP) which builds on the idea that if someone is not expecting to see something than they are more likely to not see it, and makes it a scientific device to prevent people from seeing spaceships for example.  As usual, this series is the height of cleverness and wit, and the characters are just so fun and quirky - I think this phase does a great job in continuing Douglas Adams' legacy.

My posts on:
The Primary Phase   |  The Secondary Phase   |   The Tertiary Phase   |   The Quandary Phase
Thursday, November 14, 2013

Review: The Darkest Minds

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
The Darkest Minds (The Darkest Minds #1)
by Alexandra Bracken

Plot Summary:

When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something alarming enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that gets her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that’s killed most of America’s children, but she and the others have emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones.

When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. Now she’s on the run, desperate to find the one safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents.

When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at a life worth living.


The poignancy and intensity of this book was amazing.  It's always poignant when terrible things happen to children, and the camps these children were assigned to were horrific.  And because these kids were in so much danger pretty much all the time, I felt like I just couldn't relax while I read this book.  The pace is relentless because it feels like something bad could happen at any moment.  Which is fantastic really, when you want a book to completely engross you.  The pace is also well maintained by the balance of action and character backstories - which was gradually revealed piece by piece.  The characters were very well defined and it was easy to see how their past has impacted them.

The main character, Ruby, has had a very difficult past - there are moments when you don't know why she is so distrustful and scared, but when the details of her past come out, it's momentous to finally understand.  I really loved her development in this story - she has to accept her power and also learn to trust her new friends.  The group of kids she falls in with after the camp were such an amazing group of friends - the author wrote them so well, and they worked together fantastically.

Because there's so much to these characters and the dystopian world they live in is so bleak, there are many devastating moments in this story.  It's a good sign that you're invested as a reader when you want to tear your hair out and wail at the things that happen in this book.  (Yes, that was me. But I'm okay now...)  This book truly has it all - it's an emotional read with believable, varied characters, an amazing new dystopian world, a main character who is on her way to being kick-ass and a story packed with tension and suspense!  Highly recommended!


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Awesome Adaptations (64) The Labours of Hercules

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. Awesome Adaptations was created by Alisa Selene at PictureMeReading.

My choice!
Title: The Labours of Hercules
Adapted from: The Labours of Hercules by Agatha Christie

As the penultimate episode of the last season of Agatha Christie's Poirot, I was eagerly waiting for this episode based on a book that is basically 12 short stories.  I was a little nervous about how they would adapt this book, but my goodness, what an impressive feat!  They didn't include every "labour" (in the book Poirot is solving cases that bear some tenuous connection to one of the labours of Hercules) but managed to incorporate five of the stories into one complex mystery that revolves around an isolated hotel in Switzerland and a dangerous thief and murderer who goes by the name Marrascaud.

With the initial scenes, where Poirot fails to save a girl he promised would be safe from Marrascaud, we see Poirot is terribly crushed by this failure and when an opportunity presents itself for him to reunite a man with a woman he loved and thought he had lost, Poirot takes it pro bono.  Already I'm in love with this adaptation for showing Poirot's boundless humanity in just a few scenes - in his guilt over not being able to save this girl, and in his attempt to help a very broken man.

Once Poirot gets to Switzerland where he thinks he can find this girl, the hotel is cut off from civilization by an avalanche and things get super complicated, mysterious and actually kind of scary.  It's been awhile since an episode of Poirot could unnerve me but there's this moment when Gustave the lieutenant asks Poirot fearfully if he thinks Marrascaud would climb the mountain to the hotel and Poirot doesn't think so.  And after Gustave leaves, Poirot intones mournfully, "He is already here."  WHAT!!!  The adaptor of this just made this episode about a group of people trapped in a hotel with a murderer among them.  Genius.

The episode has a very interesting, fluid way of moving through the setting to tell the story - I felt like the directing of this was especially striking and with the gorgeous backdrop of snowy alps and an opulent hotel, this was a beautiful episode to watch.  I have to say there are a few moments when I was not completely fooled by what was going on, and this episode does take quite a few liberties with the original book, but I'm going to sweep all those unimportant details under the rug because David Suchet as Poirot is absolutely magnificent in this, the story is unrelenting in it's unsettling atmosphere, and the different mysteries used worked so well together.  There is just one more episode of this series left and it's a big one (I'm a bound to blog about it, as it's of the very last Poirot novel ever published) but I am already prepared to think this episode was the best Poirot adaptation of this season!
Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Book Signing: Tim Conway's "What's So Funny"

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,
Back in the good old days when I was young and my Mom dictated my taste in everything television, I would watch reruns of the Carol Burnett Show.  I would hope that some people who are reading this remember that show.  It was a sketch comedy/variety hour in the 70s and was so funny!  I loved it!  And Tim Conway was always the best part of the show - he could always make the cast crack up, no matter how hard they tried not to, and Tim's self-effacing and unrelenting comedic genius made him one of my very favorite people.  I do make it a habit of getting talent-crushes and to me Tim Conway is just such a brilliant performer.

So it was absolutely necessary for me to go to his book signing in Pasadena last Friday and although I've gotten better going up to authors since starting this blog and attending more author events, I did have to clutch both of my hands together so I wouldn't see it shaking once I was closer to the signing table.  Oh well.  I'm terribly in awe of Tim Conway and I was so happy to get his autograph!

The best part of the signing was the short Q&A beforehand.  While the moderator was introducing Tim, he was already standing up front and feigning boredom at his list of credits and praise of his book.  Once the moderator finally stopped talking, he took questions from the audience and pretty much started off each of his answers with a joke, mocking everything he could - himself, the question, the answer, the person who asked it, while also giving some funny anecdotes.  I don't think I've ever laughed so much at an author event - Tim Conway is so funny and entertaining!  My favorite moment was when someone's phone went off in the front row of the audience and Tim answered the phone.  His first response is to tell the caller that the guy they are trying to reach was just knocked out.  And it just gets funnier from there.  I recorded the moment and wanted to share it on my blog -

One more hilarious moment was when a lady started to say "I had the pleasure of meeting you..." and Tim immediately said "How's the baby?"  I'm still firmly convinced Tim is one of the greatest comedians of all time, and I was so happy to have this chance to meet him!  I don't even want to mention the actual signing cause I think I mumbled something fangirly and it's just so embarrassing.  But he's so awesome.  The event was far too short, and like my Mom said (who came with me) we could have listened to him talk for hours!  I look forward to reading his book, and I'll post my review of it here sometime soon!

Buy his book on Amazon

Of course I can't pass up on sharing something of his work (for anyone who hasn't seen him in anything - which is unacceptable.  Maybe you've seen him in the Disney films with Don Knotts though, so good job!).  This is one of my very favorite sketches from The Carol Burnett Show - No Frills Airline  - where you pay less for your seat, but it is definitely not worth it.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Review: Doctor Who: Magic of the Angels

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , , ,

Doctor Who: Magic of the Angels
by Jacqueline Rayner

Plot Summary:

'No one from this time will ever see that girl again...'

The Doctor, Amy and Rory round off a sight-seeing tour round London with a trip to the theatre. That's when things start to go wrong.

The Doctor wonders why so many young girls are going missing from the area. When he sees Sammy Star's amazing magic act, he thinks he knows the answer. Sammy's glamorous assistant disappears at the climax of the act - but this is no stage trick.

The Doctor and his friends team up with residents of an old people's home to discover the truth. And together they find themselves face to face with a deadly Weeping Angel.

Whatever you do - don't blink!

A thrilling all-new adventure featuring the Doctor, Amy and Rory, as played by Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill in the spectacular hit series from BBC Television


This is a Quick Read adventure, but it packs in a very clever and entertaining story in just 110 pages!  The Angels are of course brilliantly scary monsters and the author uses them to good effect.  The idea of a magician using an Angel to create an ultimate disappearing act was a great one, and the danger that is always at hand when an Angel is loose made for some very tense moments in this story.  The time travel aspect was also well done when the reader realizes what has happened to the assistants who have disappeared.

The author also captured the banter and camarderie of the Doctor, Amy and Rory very well and it was nice to see that Rory had an important role in the story, that he was very suited for because he's a nurse.  I think the author made all the quirks of the characters work very well in the narrative and it made this a believable adventure for the trio.

It's too bad this is such a short read, but it does have some great moments - like the Doctor donning the Third Doctor's outfit! - and I would recommend this one to every Doctor Who fan!


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Suspense Sundays (70) Too Hot To Live

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}

"Too Hot to Live"
Air date: October 26, 1950
Starring Richard Widmark
>>Episodes here<<

Down on his luck Jefferson wanders into a small town - forced to stop to get his worn shoes mended.  The Sheriff of the town befriends him and while Jefferson is waiting for his shoes, the Sheriff offers to buy him some coffee.  When he gets to the diner, the waitress flirts with Jefferson big time and offers him a drink in her rooms close by.  Jefferson agrees.  The alcohol, heat and lack of food makes Jefferson woozy, and when he wakes he discovers the waitress has been murdered, and the jealous cook from the diner discovers him and accuses him of murder.  Jefferson goes on the run.

It was easy to surmise that Jefferson was not guilty of the crime in this, but just who and why someone killed the waitress was a great mystery.  Actually the solution is a bit of a cop-out, and Jefferson happens upon the answer by luck, but it was still a very suspenseful story.  I could have told Jefferson going up to the waitress' room was a bad idea though!
Friday, November 8, 2013

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Secondary Phase

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,

The Secondary Phase continues some time after the events of the Primary Phase.  Arthur and Ford are still stuck on prehistoric Earth but they are trying to make the best of it.  If best of it includes drinking moonshine and trying to forget their troubles.  Zaphod has an entirely unbelievable experience escaping from the Haggunenons who have impatient chromosomes and constantly evolve into anything.  Including escape capsules.  And Marvin, the Paranoid Android.  My goodness, I love him so much!  Everything he says is hilarious!  Literally when he was screaming as he was falling, I was cracking up.  He still sounds depressed as he falls.

This phase also introduced the idea of the towel being the most important equipment a hitchhiker can carry with them, which is such a big part of the mythology of this series.  It's interesting to think that Douglas Adams only just thought of it (or maybe he thought of it and couldn't include it in the Primary Phase).  But I am proud to say that I do know where my towel is.

Douglas Adams enjoys lampooning bureaucracy, because it features memorably in the absurd, hilarious moments in this series.  You still can't get away from it - it exists in all of space.  But it makes it easy to relate to all the problems the characters go through!

I have one favorite scene in this where Arthur Dent is trying to get a cup of tea from the Nutrimatic Drinks Dispenser which analyzes your taste buds and neuropathways to come up with a drink that you would like.  And it comes up with a disgusting version of tea for Arthur.  And his refusal to give up, and his pointless attempts to get the machines to understand him goes from trying to tell them what tea is, to trying to explain why he likes dried leaves in boiling water.  The point is, machines can't do everything and they can also be a pain in the butt, which is a universal concept but made hilarious.  And maybe wasn't such a prevalent idea in the 1970s?  I wonder if people were more in awe of cutting-edge technology at that time, which is why Douglas makes a point of including it in this series.  And that scene also features an awesome song that is the company song for Sirius Cybernetics:

Share and Enjoy
Share and Enjoy
Journey through life
With a plastic boy
Or Girl by your side
Let your pal be your guide
And when it breaks down
Or starts to annoy
Or grinds when it moves
And gives you no joy
Cos it's eaten your hat
Or had sex with your cat
Bled oil on your floor
Or ripped off your door
You get to the point
You can't stand any more
Bring it to us, we won't give a fig
We'll tell you, 'Go stick your head in a pig'.

Robots aren't looking that great now.  By the way, I love singing this song randomly to myself.

The absurdity and wonder of this world that Douglas Adams created continues to grow in this phase.  There are many more interesting concepts in this (like the total perspective vortex - where if you can actually see your place in relation to the whole universe, you would go mad and elevators that can seen into the future so you don't have to press the button and make awkward small talk with the people who are also waiting for it).  This phase ends on another thought-provoking concept - who should rule if anyone who wants to rule isn't fit for it.  And apparently the ruler of the universe is a very frustrating person with ADHD.  It's sort of an open ending for this phase, which is surprising as the Tertiary phase comes 24 years after this!

My posts on:
The Primary Phase   |  The Secondary Phase   |   The Tertiary Phase   |   The Quandary Phase
Thursday, November 7, 2013

Review: The Color of Light

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,
The Color of Light
by Helen Maryles Shankman

Plot Summary:

NEW YORK CITY, 1992. At the American Academy of Classical Art, popular opinion has it that the school’s handsome and mysterious founder, Raphael Sinclair, is a vampire. It is a rumor Rafe does nothing to dispel.

Scholarship student Tessa Moss has long dreamed of the chance to study at Rafe’s Academy. But she is floundering amidst the ups and downs of a relationship with egotistical art star Lucian Swain.

Then, one of Tessa’s sketches catches Rafe’s attention: a drawing of a young woman in 1930s clothing who is covering the eyes of a child. The suitcase at her feet says Wizotsky. Sofia Wizotsky, the love of Rafe’s life, was lost during the Holocaust.

Or was she? Rafe suspects Tessa may be the key to discovering what really happened.

As Rafe finds excuses to interact with Tessa, they cannot deny their growing attraction to one another. It is an attraction forbidden by the Academy Board and disapproved of by anyone familiar with Rafe’s playboy reputation and Tessa’s softhearted innocence.

But Tessa senses the truth: despite his wealth, his women, and his townhouse filled with rare and beautiful treasures, Rafe is a haunted man…for reasons that have nothing to do with the rumors they whisper about him at school.

Intensely romantic and deeply moving, The Color of Light blends fact and fantasy in an unforgettable tale of art and passion, love and war, guilt and forgiveness, spanning the New York art scene, high-fashion magazine publishing, the glittering café society of pre-World War II Paris, and the evil stalking the back roads of Nazi-occupied Europe.


The Color of Light attracted my attention for a couple of reasons - I was interested in the forbidden romance nature of the story, and because Raphael is a vampire.  I also love intensely romantic stories and this book did not disappoint in any of those aspects.  In fact, once the story get's going it's full of this tragic, aching tension as Rafe and Tessa explore their feelings for each other and yet the rules of the school and Rafe's past keeps them apart.  I felt there was a touch of Wuthering Heights in this story (and it is mentioned briefly in the book) but thankfully this is a love story (Wuthering Heights can get a little iffy in that regard) as well as a story about life.

The novel is rather epically long, and there are a lot of descriptive passages on the art and architecture of the student's works and their surroundings.  It's very informative about art and possibly critical of modern art (but I totally agree with the viewpoints of the students and Rafe), however it can take time to become invested in the story and characters because of this.  I think in the end, I was not as invested in Tessa's found family as much as I wanted to be, which makes me feel that there was a lot more that could have been streamlined in the story.  Tessa's relationship with Lucian was also a little tedious and I just wanted to shake Tessa to get her to move on already.  But Tessa's friends do have an important part to play, and this really didn't take away from my enjoyment of the story overall.

The past is important and is perfectly and thoughtfully portrayed in the scenes where we learn more about why Rafe is so troubled and haunted.   The author worked in the romance of Rafe and Sofia and the terror of the Holocaust to make this novel even more intense and poignant.  I sometimes felt I liked Sofia more than Tessa because Sofia felt more flawed and tragic and real, while Tessa was too perfect sometimes.  But reading about the past did wonders in bringing out Rafe's Byronic nature, and I found him to be such a complex and intriguing character.  The times when he exerted his magnetic influence and the times he was heartbreakingly vulnerable really brought out his character for me, and I'm a little bit in love with him, okay?

The story swept me up in it's tender melancholy, and I found the story to be very beautiful and very sad.  With the relationship between a vampire and a human there are some difficult questions that are brought up, but I loved that the story really focused on just taking one day at a time.  It also brought a very nice conclusion to the past that haunted Rafe.  If this story has any elements that interest you, I'd recommend reading it for the intelligent take on a vampire love story.

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

Check out the other stops on this book's blog tour here!
I also found the Author's Pinterest board on the book very interesting - link
Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Awesome Adaptations (63) North and South

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. Awesome Adaptations was created by Alisa Selene at PictureMeReading.

An Awesome Multi-Generational Adaptation
Title: North and South
Adapted from: North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

This is a book I've been meaning to read for awhile - ever since watching this gorgeous adaptation. If my heart wasn't already bound to Jane Eyre, this would absolutely be my favorite period drama miniseries.  I believe there are a few liberties taken in this miniseries when compared to the book, but from what I've read about it all the changes improved upon the story.  The ending, for example, which is so curl-into-your-sofa romantic you want to haunt train stations in the hopes of finding your true love.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I'm pushing the multi-generational aspect but I'll just say that it is in the influences of Margaret and John's families on them - John Thornton's mother in particular plays a big role in the story, and her relationship with her son is so touching even while she can be a little too controlling.  This miniseries has a pretty large cast of characters - with a focus on the different families and how each are affected differently by the politics and class differences of the time.  It's an interesting commentary on the working class and compassion in the face of adversity.  I love the depth in this story in addition to the romance.

Of course I must say shallowly, how about that Richard Armitage! Such gravitas and earnest strength and piercing blue eyes, it's hard to understand why Margaret didn't fall for him immediately.  (Okay that first scene with John Thornton was pretty off-putting, so kudos to the adapters for totally redeeming John by the end - or rather within minutes!).  For most of the series Margaret has little respect for John, and he has to gradually earn it, which makes their relationship build in a way that is so beautiful.  And the fact that you know John is in love with her, but can't act on it because she has rejected him makes for some exquisitely romantic, tension filled scenes.

This series is smart, beautifully acted and shot, with strong, believable performances.  It has great character relationships - a romantic one of course, but also strong parent-child relationships and great friendships.  If you haven't seen this, please check it out!!