Friday, July 3, 2015

Review: Curtsies and Conspiracies

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Curtsies and Conspiracies (Finishing School #2)
by Gail Carriger
YA Fantasy
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:


Sophronia's first year at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has certainly been rousing. For one thing, finishing school is training her to be a spy. Now, as she sneaks around the dirigible school, eavesdropping on the teachers quarters and making clandestine climbs to the ships boiler room, she learns that there may be more to a school trip to London than is at first apparent. A conspiracy is afoot, one with dire implications for both supernaturals and humans. Sophronia must rely on her training to discover who is behind the dangerous plot and survive the London Season with a full dance card.

Review:

A second frothy and charming adventure with Sophronia and her friends, was a much needed delight for me in between some so-so books.  This book is a perfect pick-me-up for any occasion I think, because Sophronia is like a Victorian version of Nancy Drew, and I love that she also gets to go around in pretty dresses, and meet swoony boys while solving mysteries, and putting her spy skills to work.

The story focused on some mysterious happenings around the Finishing School, with Sophronia determined to discover what some of the teachers are keeping secret.  I love that Sophronia is so capable and intelligent amidst some of the high-school-ish drama in the school.  And the attentions of two very attractive boys.  I personally feel like there isn't much of a love triangle since the romance part of the story is not the focus, and I kinda think it's clear who Sophronia likes the most.  Although who knows where the author will take it!  Sophronia doesn't take things seriously though, and that is refreshing in a story with romance.

The story is lightly suspenseful and engaging, and a great second installment for the Finishing School series.  I feel like, although it is very enjoyable, it's hard for me to really explain what I loved about it, since the story feels so light and pretty.  I like the story and getting into the world, but I'm not majorly invested in it or the characters.  I am planning to finish the series however!
Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Fangirl Process

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
I'm a fangirl.  It's a label that suits me well, because I just like liking things, and it's wonderful to feel that sort of connection/obsession with a 'thing' that just speaks to everything that makes me happy.  And I go through the genesis of fangirly obsession every now and again with a new thing and it's always fun for me to experience that.  It's my fangirl high and it's so much better than drugs and a little bit healthier (for my physical health at least).  I feel like I consistently go through the same steps when I start to fangirl something and I had the idea to detail the process in this post - from newbie to that high level of fangirl when I feel like I've completely subsumed the thing into my head.  It's just a thing I need to do!  I feel like I can share this on my blog, because I know there are so many similarly obsessive, but normal (right?) bloggers out there who can understand (I hope!) :D

So here's my process to becoming a complete, embarrassingly enthusiastic fangirl!



This is the very beginning - when I've seen the thing that I will fall in love with.  It can be a book, a movie, a TV show or an actor/actress.  (Songs are different for me - they take a different obsessive path!)  Usually it takes me a few days to really comprehend what is happening.  The thing, consumes my thoughts for a time - I want to engage with it for awhile - re-watch, re-read, etc.  Take in every detail, and dwell on what I love about it.  I even sometimes think about what I don't love about it so much - but I soon forget those thoughts.

Monday, June 29, 2015

5 Things I Learned about Jane Eyre

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,

Some months ago I was interviewed by a UK based educational company in preparation for their release of content about the Brontës aimed for teachers and students.  I guess my Jane Eyre obsession (and especially my website) led these wonderful people to me.  If you would like to read my answers to their questions (bless you!) - check out the interview here.  And although asking ME to talk about my love of Jane Eyre is my ultimate reward for doing anything in life,  Train of Thought Productions was generous enough to send me a complimentary copy of the educational DVD "Brontës in Context."  Which I don't think will be generally available in the U.S., so it was even more of a boon to get a copy!

While I watched the Jane Eyre section of the DVD (and even took notes, cause I wanted to take everything in!) I realized that I was learning new things about the novel!  I have never studied Jane Eyre in school, and although I've read critical texts about the story, there are schools of thoughts that I've not yet really explored, and Jane Eyre is such an intertextually rich story, that I should have absolutely anticipated that this DVD would be eye-opening in unexpected ways.  And while I'm a bit afraid that everyone who reads my blog is getting sick and tired of all the ways I work in talking about Jane Eyre here, I really would like to talk about the things I learned from the "Brontës in Context" DVD.  And uh... this post does get a little long...

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Suspense Sundays (153) Dead Man's Story

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.

"Dead Man's Story"
Air date: May 15, 1960
Starring Kevin McCarthy
>>Episodes here<<

This is the story of Larry King, and how he was declared dead after his ship went down at sea.  It begins with Larry on the run from the police.  His dear wife Julia, gets him away, and Larry takes a job on a ship with questionable cargo.  Larry is picked up by the police though, and is made to sail back to the States.  The ship goes down, but Larry and the arresting officer are trapped in their cabin, in an air pocket - sure to eventually suffocate.  However, the ship resurfaces and although the officer dies from injuries, Larry breaks out and takes the life raft to shore.  He's prepared to go to obscurity now that everyone thinks he's dead.

The whole 'being trapped underwater' thing is already a pretty horrifying and suspenseful concept, but that's just half the story here.  There's another more ironic twist to the story that makes Larry's decision to take up a new identity more difficult.  I did think the idea of Larry surviving the shipwreck stretched belief a little too much, but this was overall an interesting tale and I enjoyed the dilemma of it, although this was a dilemma that I have heard Suspense do before!
Friday, June 26, 2015

Movie Musical Challenge: Top Hat

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In Movie Musical Challenge, I'm watching all 25 picks for AFI's Greatest musicals starting from the bottom.  Number 15 is the 1935 film Top Hat starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.  There just had to be a classic Astaire/Rogers film on this list!

Top Hat is such a charming musical.  The story is funny and farcical and very light-hearted.  It revolves around Fred Astaire's character - Jerry - who is instantly interested in Dale (Ginger Rogers) and attempts to woo her with tons of flowers, sparkling dialogue, and lots of dancing and singing.  And some stalkerish behavior LOL.  I really loved the dialogue in this film actually - so many great one-liners and comebacks.

While in 'The Band Wagon' I was not as enamored of Fred Astaire - with Fred and Ginger, I can see why Fred was such a great leading man.  He's so amiable and charming, and of course the dancing and over the top romantic overtures makes him very appealing.  I loved Ginger too - she's so perfectly matched to Fred dancing-wise, and in their verbal exchanges.  I wonder why this musical is ranked above the other films Fred and Ginger did - so I'm sure I'll be watching the others sometime!  (Hopefully including one or two in Movie Musical Challenge for next year.)


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Review: The Rise and Fall of a Theater Geek

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
The Rise and Fall of a Theater Geek
by Seth Rudetsky
YA Contemporary
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:


Broadway, New York.

The shows, the neon lights . . . the cute chorus boys! It's where Justin has always wanted to be--and now, with a winter internship for a famous actor, he finally has his chance to shine. If only he could ditch his kind, virtuous, upright, and--dare he say it?—uptight boyfriend, Spencer. But once the internship begins, Justin has more to worry about than a cramped single-guy-in-the-city style. Instead of having his moment in the spotlight, he's a not-so-glorified errand boy. Plus, Spencer is hanging out with a celebra-hottie, Justin's best friend Becky isn't speaking to him, and his famous actor boss seems headed for flopdom. Justin's tap-dancing as fast as he can, but all his wit and sass might not be enough to switch his time in New York from nightmare-terrible to dream-come-true terrific.

Seth Rudetsky's second YA novel is endearingly human, laugh-out-loud funny, and for any kid who's ever aspired to Broadway but can only sneak in through the stage door.

Review:

This is such a fun read!  Justin is a flawed but passionate teenager, who learns so much about himself in this book, while also getting a fantastic behind the scenes experience of Broadway and theater.  Although the story doesn't quite get into that aspect right away.  There's plenty of drama and humorous characterizations to set up the main conflict in the story, which revolves around Justin's love life, and some mistakes he makes trying to get the internship of his dreams.  And there's a bit of mystery in this story that was unexpected, but helped to keep me really involved in the story.  I just had to find out what a certain character was hiding!

While the novel is technically YA, I thought that the observational humor, and the voice of Justin didn't always feel authentically young adult - but that didn't really bother me, since I enjoyed the character and his thoughts so much.  He's a little crazy sometimes, but in a fun way - and I really enjoyed his sometimes neurotic tendencies.  The drama made for a lot of teen angst and overreactions, but sometimes it's wonderful to just get carried away by a fictional character's little problems.  And of course, see how it gets resolved in the end!

If you are interested in Broadway, teen angst and hijinks - all presented with wry comments and hilarious observations, then I think you will enjoy this book!

(I received this book from the publisher or author for a fair and honest review.  I was not compensated for this review.)
Monday, June 22, 2015

Review: Rook

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Rook
by Sharon Cameron
YA Thriller
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:


History has a way of repeating itself. In the Sunken City that was once Paris, all who oppose the new revolution are being put to the blade. Except for those who disappear from their prison cells, a red-tipped rook feather left in their place. Is the mysterious Red Rook a savior of the innocent or a criminal?

Meanwhile, across the sea in the Commonwealth, Sophia Bellamy’s arranged marriage to the wealthy René Hasard is the last chance to save her family from ruin. But when the search for the Red Rook comes straight to her doorstep, Sophia discovers that her fiancé is not all he seems. Which is only fair, because neither is she.

As the Red Rook grows bolder and the stakes grow higher, Sophia and René find themselves locked in a tantalizing game of cat and mouse.

Review:

As an homage to The Scarlet Pimpernel, this book is amazing.  As an action-packed race to save the innocent this book is amazing.  Yes, this book is just amazing!  I loved every moment of it - every character relationship felt sparkling with wit and energy - there was such a wonderful dynamic to the characters that I felt really carried the story along quickly.  The villain too - LeBlanc, with his single-minded lunacy, was over-the-top evil and captivating in his spitefulness.   If I had to highlight one aspect of this book it would be the characters.  They worked together so well.

Sophia and René.  Oh how I loved these two.  Sophia for her prickly fierceness, and René for his sometimes seemingly capricious and sometimes intensely charismatic personality.  I thought the author must have had great fun writing these two, as reading them verbally spar and attempt to outmaneuver each other was so much fun for me to read about.  There are many times when you doubt René's intentions in this story, but I felt like I loved him so much as a character that it was hard to make me feel wary or suspicious of him.  Some of the other characters were appealing to me as well - Tom, Sophia's brother, was so sweet and protective and smart.  And René's Uncles were all entertaining in their way.  Orla too - the practical and capable Bellamy servant was so wonderful -  I really can't adequately express how vivid and bewitching all these characters were for me!

The story takes place in the far far future - a great tragedy has befallen our time, and the gadgets and technology we had is a mystery to the characters in this world.  There is a distrust of technology and an interest in things Ancient or Before as they call it.  It's such an intriguing setting for this story, and allows the author to put a old-fashioned spin to the story while also being able to use some modern technology.  I felt like the story mostly felt like a period piece though, which appealed to me.  It's historical while also being futuristic/dystopian.

The pace of the story was interesting for me.  I felt that it moved faster and faster as we got to the great rescue in the end.  The scenes shifted very fast too, between characters which was sometimes jarring, yet still kept the pace and the suspense going very well.  As I was reading, I kept on the lookout to the little nods to The Scarlet Pimpernel (which is a favorite book of mine) and it was great to come across them, but this is a story that stands on it's own, and creates a captivating adventure for the main characters.  There is romance, suspense, tragedy and comedy - it's a perfect story for an escape into a new and exciting world!
Monday, June 8, 2015

Taking a Blogging Break

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,

I've been thinking about doing this for a little while, and decided that now would be the best time.  I don't have any new release book reviews or blog tour posts scheduled for the immediate future, so I don't have any blogging obligations to consider.  But I am not taking this blogging break because I am tired or worn out from blogging.  (I think most of the time when I see a blogger taking a break, I am a little afraid they are really just tired of blogging, and perhaps won't return!)  For me, it's more because there are a couple of things I want to focus on, and I think a two week break will give me the opportunity to settle myself.  It's nothing major, just personal projects I would like to work on.  Blogging is a wonderful hobby, but it does take up so much free time!

So my blog will go quiet from today, but I already have posts scheduled for my return week of June 22nd!  On that Monday, it will be a review of Rook by Sharon Cameron (which I will tell you now that I LOVED!)  And I already know this break will be helpful to me since because of this break I currently have posts scheduled into mid-July!

I'll probably still check in on blogs and be online through social media though, because I can't completely let go! :)  Thanks for reading this, and just generally for being a wonderful and lovely visitor of my blog. :)   I will talk to everyone again soon!
Sunday, June 7, 2015

Suspense Sundays (152) Deep Into Darkness

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.

"Deep Into Darkness"
Air date: July 22, 1948
Starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
>>Episodes here<<

Ken has just been released from jail on good behavior, and tries to get a fresh start.  But he was convicted for manslaughter and he is having trouble finding anyone to hire him.  Angry and unhappy, Ken decides to buy a gun although he's not exactly sure why he wants one.  And then he sees the man he was supposed to have killed seven years ago.

Geez, it was too easy to buy a gun in this episode.  Very disturbing.  Especially since the seller was aware there's something up with Ken.  But anyways, I thought this episode would lead towards Ken doing something crazy because he can't find work, but the twist of the man Ken was supposed to have killed being alive is a great one.  Especially since there is a better reason now for Ken to go 'deep into darkness'.
Friday, June 5, 2015

Movie Musical Challenge: Funny Girl

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In Movie Musical Challenge, I'm watching all 25 picks for AFI's Greatest musicals starting from the bottom.  Number 16 is the 1968 film Funny Girl starring Barbra Streisand and Omar Sharif.

This is a musical I am familiar with since my Mom likes two movie musicals and this is one of them.  (The other being The Sound of Music of course!)  I remember seeing this when I was young, and it being on in the background sometimes, so it was great to watch it again and remember how all the songs went.  Barbra Streisand is luminous as Fanny Brice - it's hilarious how she keeps downplaying her looks, because she is gorgeous, as well as playing the humor and the tragedy of Fanny just right.  And of course her singing is phenomenal - this is Streisand after all.

I didn't quite remember how much this story felt like a tragic tale though since with re-watching it, I felt a little sad over the romance.  It's very sweet in it's way and Omar Sharif plays the part of a flawed, charming gadabout perfectly.  I can totally understand why Fanny falls for him because he is so handsome and that charm is a killer.   I was thinking how similar the relationship is between Fanny and Nicky and the two main characters in Show Boat (a musical I watched earlier for this challenge).  But in Show Boat it ends happily, while in Funny Girl I think it ends realistically which is fine.  It shows the maturity of these characters in different ways.  I sometimes felt that Fanny made a mistake being so taken with Nicky, but this movie showed how easily you can lose your heart.  The only sour aspect of that is in how Fanny seemed to blame herself for losing Nicky, when it's anything but her fault.  Clearly Nicky is at fault for not being able to control his addiction and be the husband he needed to be to Fanny and their child.

With the title of the film being "Funny Girl" I should point out that there are still lots of laughs despite the tragic nature of the romance!  I really enjoyed almost all the songs, and especially how Fanny could turn a serious number into a comic one, but I think my favorite song and scene from the film is the "Don't Rain on My Parade" sequence.  It's filmed so well with Fanny journeying to catch up with Nicky, and I loved the sense of optimism and self-confidence that the song exudes.  Despite all of the things that happens to Fanny, I love that she never loses those qualities.  This is a wonderful musical!
Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Review: Knight's Shadow

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Knight's Shadow (Greatcoats #2)
by Sebastien de Castell
Fantasy
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:


Tristia is a nation overcome by intrigue and corruption. The idealistic young King Paelis is dead and the Greatcoats – legendary travelling magistrates who brought justice to the Kingdom – have been branded as traitors. But just before his head was impaled on a spike, the King swore each of his hundred and forty-four Greatcoats to a different mission.

Falcio Val Mond, First Cantor, with the help of fellow Greatcoats Kest and Brasti, has completed his King’s final task: he has found his Charoites – well, one at least, and she was not quite what they expected. Now they must protect the girl from the many who would see her dead, and place her on the throne of a lawless kingdom. That would be simple enough, if it weren’t for the Daishini, an equally legendary band of assassins, getting in their way, not to forget the Dukes who are determined to hold on to their fractured Kingdoms, or the fact that the heir to the throne is only thirteen years old. Oh, and the poison that is slowly killing Falcio.

That’s not even mentioning the Greatcoat’s Lament…

Review:

The first book in this series, Traitor's Blade, was my absolute favorite read from last year (and definitely one of my favorite books ever).  It has action, humor, an inventive and surprising plot, with an idealistic and capable main character.   It would be hard for the second book to top the first for me, given how much I adored it.  But this book was an amazing and even more action packed sequel!

The plot of this novel is darker and much more involved - "Knight's Shadow" is double the length of "Traitor's Blade"- but the plot never drags and every scene is important to the story.  And that became very apparent to me as the plot took on many complex twists and turns.  In this book there are conspiracies everywhere, and Falcio is hard-pressed to keep to his moral center when so many of his beliefs are severely tested.  But I was thrilled with how Falcio continues to grow as a character in this story.  The first book sets up his character pretty conclusively, but somehow in the second his personality and strength of character is further tempered by his experiences and it was satisfying to see how he bore all of his trials.  The inner strength of many characters is tested greatly in this book and I found that study of human integrity and weakness to be fascinating.

This is a hard journey of a story because there are so many pitfalls the characters must take and some really shocking revelations.  I felt so intensely invested in the characters' plights that it was almost physically painful to read what they had to endure.  The storytelling was brilliant though because the way some plot developments would twist on itself was as mesmerizing as it was shocking.  This was a fantastically suspenseful and engaging read - even though it was about 600 pages, I felt like I breezed through the book in my determination get to the end of every action-packed chapter.

My love for the first book could have been a fluke, but this second book has cemented my love for the series before it has even finished.  It was so invigorating to go on this dangerous, and sometimes painful, but ultimately satisfying adventure with Falcio, Kest, Brasti and the rest of the Greatcoats.  This is a series I recommend everyone to read!

(I received a copy of this novel from the author or publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.  I was not compensated for this review.  However I did buy the UK edition of this book before I received a review copy since it was released months before and I couldn't wait to read it!)
Monday, June 1, 2015

Review: Hidden Huntress

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Hidden Huntress (Malediction Trilogy #2)
by Danielle L. Jensen
YA Fantasy
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:


Beneath the mountain, the king’s reign of tyranny is absolute; the one troll with the capacity to challenge him is imprisoned for treason. Cécile has escaped the darkness of Trollus, but she learns all too quickly that she is not beyond the reach of the king’s power. Or his manipulation.

Recovered from her injuries, she now lives with her mother in Trianon and graces the opera stage every night. But by day she searches for the witch who has eluded the trolls for five hundred years. Whether she succeeds or fails, the costs to those she cares about will be high.

To find Anushka, she must delve into magic that is both dark and deadly. But the witch is a clever creature. And Cécile might not just be the hunter. She might also be the hunted…

Review:

Stolen Songbird, the first book in this trilogy was a magical read for me.  It had a lovely romance that built on the characters getting to know each other, a very suspenseful and fast-paced plot, and an intriguing take on trolls and their mythology.  The world-building was especially immersive, and I am delighted that all of the things I loved about the first book, is expanded and built upon beautifully in Hidden Huntress.

There's already a lot of tension in this story because of the way the first book ended.  While in the first book I did not always love the dual POV between Cécile and Tristan, in this book it was absolutely necessary and the two storylines meshed together perfectly.  It's also a major plus that both storylines were equally riveting.  Sometimes when a book switches to a different plot line at the end of a chapter, I feel frustrated and indifferent to the new direction the story takes because I want to keep going with the other set of characters, but with Hidden Huntress, I was totally engrossed the whole way through.  The author did such a wondrous job of keeping the pace and the interest in both plot lines pretty high all the way.  This is such an excellently plotted book - there is no second-book syndrome here!

With the romance between Cécile and Tristan being part of the reason why I loved the first book so much, I was afraid I wouldn't enjoy this one because of the circumstances from the first book.  But again the author manages to keep the tension of the romance going despite the separation.  And I was totally satisfied with every aspect of it.  Cécile and Tristan have such great chemistry as characters - it's so easy to understand them and root for their happy ending.

Another aspect that I loved about this book is learning more about the fantasy world.  This story takes some interesting twists, and manages to make the world of Trianon just as fascinating as Trollus.  Which, given how wonderfully detailed Trollus was in the first book, is no small feat!  I also loved getting to see more of Cécile's family and friends which helped to flesh out more of Cécile's character.

Even though the ending, which is very dramatic, sets up the third book beautifully,  I was so glad that some important plot threads were wrapped up, and there's a real sense that the story and the characters are developing believably.  This was an exciting read, with just more of everything that made the first book amazing.  I can't remember the last time I was so completely satisfied with a book in every respect.   If you want a gorgeously detailed fantasy with strong characters and a romance that will make you melt, this is the series for you!

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

Hidden Huntress comes out tomorrow, June 2nd!  And ICYMI here's my interview with the author from last week.
Sunday, May 31, 2015

Suspense Sundays (151) Murder Off Key

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.

"Murder Off Key"
Air date: November 15, 1945
Starring Zachary Scott
>>Episodes here<<

Franklin Carlson has just arrived at his friend Morley's apartment to stay while Morley is on vacation, and he discovers that Morley has a next door neighbor who loves to sing.  Loudly and off key.  Unfortunately this older lady is so rich that the manager won't make her stop, and everyone has to live with it.  When one of the lady's sheet music makes it's way on to his balcony, Carlson reluctantly makes her acquaintance.  Just a few days later she is found dead, and suspicion falls on Carlson.

I thoroughly enjoyed this one (and not just because I'm a fan of the actor Zachary Scott).  I thought it was so intriguing to have this mystery set up where the listener is not entirely sure if Carlson strangled the lady for her money or not.  Carlson certainly seemed bewildered by all the evidence mounting against him, but it was not clear until the end if he was just pretending, crazy, or completely innocent.  And as I was listening, I was trying to figure it out myself but it was made difficult because some of the evidence against him is so damming and completely negates what he believes to have happened.  It was very suspenseful to finally find out the truth!
Friday, May 29, 2015

Jane Eyre & The Sound of Music

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After watching The Sound of Music recently, I was impelled to write this post. I know that seeing the similarities between Jane Eyre and The Sound of Music is not new.  It seems to be common among Jane Eyre fans to wonder at the similarities, and although I have seen this posted about on other blogs, I thought it would be fun to point them out on my own.  And perhaps go more in depth (because I have thought about this far too often!)  I do wish I could find out whether or not the writers who created the stage show for Sound of Music or rewrote it for the film did get some influence from Charlotte Brontë's novel.  Because even though The Sound of Music is based on a true story, there are a couple Janian elements to the musical that are not true to life.  And I would love to know if it's all just coincidence or if there really is a connection!
Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Review: The Secret

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
The Secret (Highland's Lairds #1)
by Julie Garwood
Historical Romance
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:


Judith Hampton was as beautiful as she was proud, as purposeful as she was loyal. The dear Scottish friend of her childhood was about to give birth, and Judith had promised to be at her side. But there was another, private reason for the journey from her bleak English home to the Highlands: to meet the father she had never known, the Laird Maclean...Nothing prepared her for the sight of the Scottish barbarian who was to escort her into his land...Iain Maitland, Laird of his clan, a man more powerfully compelling than any she had ever encountered.

In a clash of spirited wills and customs, Judith reveled in the melting bliss of Iain's searching kisses, his passionate caresses. Perplexed by her sprightly defiance, bemused by her tender nature, Iain felt his soul growing into the light and warmth of her love. Surely nothing would wrench her from the affection and trust of Iain and his clan...not even the truth about her father, a devastating secret that could shatter the boldest alliance, and the most glorious of loves!

Review:

The relationship between Judith and Iain is utterly romantic!  They are drawn to each other very quickly, with an intense attraction, and the romantic tension in their verbal sparring and and little power struggles made up a big chunk of why they were so fun to read about.  Judith's strong personality also makes for a fun read as she has to deal with a limiting, prejudiced and misogynistic 16th century Scottish culture.  And even though Iain can be overbearing and imperious to a vexing extent, he's of course caring, loving and would do anything to keep Judith safe and happy.  He always knows when to give in to her.  It's a glorious (unrealistic?), and perfect mix for a strong romantic hero.

There is another aspect to this story that really touched me, and that was Judith's friendship with Frances Catherine, which was just as strong as the love Judith felt for Iain, and a very touching tribute to the beauty of friendship.  The strength of Judith's character was also proved when she had to help the women in the clan deliver their babies, when each and every time she was terrified of the duty.  And yet when she had to, she was calm and assured for the mothers-to-be.  It made me love Judith as a character so much, and made what was mostly a straightforward historical romance, more of an intriguing study of character and personality.

There is a personal issue that Judith has to deal with as well, which gave more drama to the story, especially with the resolution.  This is a quick, effortlessly entertaining read, and despite the speed at which Judith and Iain fall in love, I was totally invested in their romance.

Thanks again to Quinn for recommending this book to me! :)

Monday, May 25, 2015

Interview with Danielle Jensen, Author of Hidden Huntress

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
I'm so happy to present this interview with Danielle Jensen, who wrote the amazing novel "Stolen Songbird", and the equally amazing sequel "Hidden Huntress"!  The second book comes out on June 2nd, so definitely prepare to devour it!  My review will go up next week, and I'm eager to share just how much I loved it!

Many thanks to Caroline and Penny at Angry Robot Books for including me in this tour, and of course to Danielle for taking the time to answer these questions!



1. How did you come up with the titles for your books "Stolen Songbird" and "Hidden Huntress"? Was it a process to find the title that fit the best?
The short answer is that I didn’t! Stolen Songbird was sold under a different title with the caveat that the title be changed ☺ Lists of suggestions circulated between me, my agent, my editor, and the sales reps, and my agent came up with Stolen Songbird by combining two suggestions. She also came up with Hidden Huntress and the title for the third book, which we will call WW for now! The title of the series, The Malediction Trilogy, came from one of my suggestions.


2. How much of the series was planned out from the beginning?
I don’t enjoy outlining. I like to figure out plot and character voice as I write, but I do have certain scenes in my head, which I call milestones, that I write towards. The bonding scene, the lake scene, and the beach scene were significant milestones in Stolen Songbird. And I always know how a book will end quite early on. That said, part of selling a series to a publisher is that you must provide a synopsis of the unwritten books, so I had to outline Hidden Huntress and WW.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Suspense Sundays (150) The Legend of Robbie

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.

"The Legend of Robbie"
Air date: May 8, 1960
Starring Larry Robinson and George Matthews
>>Episodes here<<

Robbie is convinced by his friend, Dutch, and the girl he likes to steal his employer's Mr. Harris' money.  He's worked for Mr. Harris for a long time and Robbie is trusted to take the weekly earnings to the bank.  But his friend convinces him that he can just pretend he was robbed on the way, and no one will know the difference.  Robbie is very reluctant but for the girl he'll do it.

Ooh this was a great episode - such a good twist midway that I just can't reveal!  But I loved how what seemed like a sad tale of how Robbie was lead down the wrong path, was turned into something unexpected with Robbie being much more than he seemed.  And then the ending is another twist.  And so funny that the real villain turns out to be the girl I think!  This was a great episode.
Friday, May 22, 2015

Review: The Day of the Triffids

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,
The Day of the Triffids
by John Wyndham
Science Fiction
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:


Bill Masen, bandages over his wounded eyes, misses the most spectacular meteorite shower England has ever seen. Removing his bandages the next morning, he finds masses of sightless people wandering the city. He soon meets Josella, another lucky person who has retained her sight, and together they leave the city, aware that the safe, familiar world they knew a mere twenty-four hours before is gone forever.

But to survive in this post-apocalyptic world, one must survive the Triffids, strange plants that years before began appearing all over the world. The Triffids can grow to over seven feet tall, pull their roots from the ground to walk, and kill a man with one quick lash of their poisonous stingers. With society in shambles, they are now poised to prey on humankind. Wyndham chillingly anticipates bio-warfare and mass destruction, fifty years before their realization, in this prescient account of Cold War paranoia.

Review:

Although this story took a little time to really get going, it was a very chilling tale.  It's an account of the aftermath of two disturbing events - that a majority of the world loses it's sight, and the mysterious Triffids are at large and preying on mankind.  And I want to talk about both events individually.

The story sets up some sort of explanation about what this blinding meteor shower could have been, but there is no conclusive answer.  But what is more important is how completely it changes mankind's superiority on Earth.  That aspect is well explored, and creates some very disturbing circumstances and raises many morality questions.  I have not thought of how utterly we are dependent on sight as a species to thrive.  I don't completely agree with the point made in the book that humanity's superiority is mostly due to sight (because obviously has to be our brains) but it is so essential to how we function and it's distressing to read how people deal with blindness in this book.

The origin of the Triffids is never explained, but then it seems that nobody knows where they came from.  It's funny though that just because of their novelty, they become very widespread and even grown in household gardens, despite the deadly stinger (which can be removed).  They are weirdly threatening, since they seem so passive, but as the story develops there is a stronger sense that they are smarter than anybody thought, and they are filled with purpose - or at least a drive.  The story is named after them, but so much of the drama that occurs in this book have the Triffids just in the background lurking.  It's so nervewracking!

As the story did kind of info dump the set up and the circumstances that led to this post-apocalyptic world, I felt it began slowly, but the human drama of survival, and the difficult decisions the main characters had to make, really made this a riveting story.  It's a very thoughtful science fiction read too, because there were more than a few relevant ideas and scenarios that were explored and those ideas felt important even to our modern times.  I will say though that the characters aren't as vivid in my imagination as the intensity of the plot, but I did feel very sympathetic to what the characters went through.   I was entirely engrossed by this unsettling book!
Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Movie Musical Challenge: The Band Wagon

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In Movie Musical Challenge, I'm watching all 25 picks for AFI's Greatest musicals starting from the bottom.  Number 17 is the 1953 film The Band Wagon starring Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse.

I'm a bit conflicted about this film.  On the one hand, I've heard lots of positive things about it and about the dance sequence in Central Park.  And of course a match up with Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse (I love Cyd!) is a winner.  I've also even read staunch supporters say it's better than "Singing in the Rain"!  So I was totally expecting to love this musical.  And let me say, this was no "Singing in the Rain."  But I hope my rather ... not lukewarm, but just not excessively warm thoughts about this musical isn't because I was comparing it to that incomparable film.

It wasn't the dancing that left me less than warm though - there were some great numbers (although I was surprised that the first song Fred Astaire sings features no dancing - zilch and nada.  Astonishing.  I was so distracted during that song, waiting for Fred to take off!)  Cyd Charisse shows off some serious ballet skills - all en pointe gracefulness - she is so talented! I loved the supporting cast too - it was nice to see Oscar Levant again (looking forward to re-watching him in An American in Paris) and Nanette Fabray was adorable!  I thought the whole dynamic between all the actors was interesting - it's kind of a downbeat musical at times, and there is a lot of drama between all the characters.
Monday, May 18, 2015

Book Signing: Patricia Park "Re Jane"

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Last week, I was able to go to Patricia Park's book signing for her novel "Re Jane".  (Which I reviewed over here!)  It's a modern Jane Eyre retelling with a Korean American heroine, that takes place in New York and Korea.  It was a wonderful read for me - very intelligent with a main character who grows so much as the story progresses.

It was also much fun to listen to Patricia talk about her novel at the book signing.  She was so friendly and kind - she happened to sit in front of me before the event to talk to someone and said hi to me and remembered me from twitter!  During the talk she read different excerpts that highlighted different and interesting things in the novel - one descriptive of Queens, New York, one about Korean dramas (I loved how fond and yet gently teasing Jane, the character, is in the book about the obsession with them), and the last excerpt was about language.  I thought it was a great way to get an overview of the novel, and Patricia also talked about her experiences with those things.  Since she lived in Queens, grew up watching Korean period dramas, and went to Korea to do research for her book.  (And that is very evident since I felt the part of the book where Jane goes to Korea was so detailed, vivid and culturally enlightening!)