Sunday, August 2, 2015

Suspense Sundays (158) Summer Night

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
Suspense was a radio series from 1942 to 1962.  I have a fondness for "Old Time Radio" as we call it now, and Suspense is my favorite show.  It sets up weird, dark, scary, or intriguing stories with a plot twist in the end, and all in half an hour.  For Suspense Sundays I'll give a short review of an episode.

"Summer Night"
Air date: July 15, 1948
Starring Ida Lupino
>>Episodes here<<

Anna's father has just passed away, and while trying to call her friend Helen, the telephone switch operator casually talks about a serial killer, known as The Lipstick Killer, who is going around town.  But Anna is preoccupied now that she mysteriously wants Helen to come to her house and stay for awhile - this Helen who stole away the man she loved many years ago.

Wow, this episode had no end of twists.  This is a very well constructed story, with Anna keeping her secrets until it's revealed that she has an ulterior motive for asking Helen to come stay with her.  And the reveal about The Lipstick Killer was even more of a shocker - especially when it seemed that Anna was the killer.  I enjoyed how this was told almost exclusively by Anna, it made for an interesting twist on a serial killer loose story, when it seemed like the narrator might be the culprit. 
Friday, July 31, 2015

My Birthday Disneyland Checklist

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,

Very soon now, I'll be heading out to one of my favorite places on Earth (also the happiest place) the Disney resort,  to celebrate my birthday.  After thinking about it, there really was no other place I wanted to be (...for the distance and the price).  And inspired by Amaris's past post on her Ultimate Disneyland checklist, I wanted to share a few things I hope to do at the resort, that I have not been able to do before:

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Star Trek VOY Season 4 - Top 5 Favorite Episodes

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
So Season 4 of Voyager, or as I like to think of it now - The Seven of Nine show.  LOL, I'm just kidding (slightly) but she really got a lot of screen time for a new character.  They wanted to get more viewers to the show I guess.  I do like that it feels like Voyager has two female leads now which is awesome.  Captain Janeway is such a bad-ass now - I continue to love her as a character.  I'm pretty sure now she is my favorite character from this series.  I do feel sorry for B'ellana though - it feels like so much of her storylines revolve around her love interest Tom Paris and what he's going through.

While I'm slowing down a bit with Voyager, I do still really enjoy the crew and the storylines; which are fun, inventive spins on science fiction ideas and it feels like the episodes revolve more around concepts than around interpersonal drama and alien conflicts.  Which I'm loving as it makes for some very interesting stories.

5. Hope and Fear


With the help of a linguistically talented alien, Voyager decodes a message Starfleet sent them months ago.  The message tells them of a ship with new technology that can send them home quickly, and they just need to go to certain coordinates to pick it up.  It seems too good to be true.  The real situation behind the message was a surprise to me - while I didn't expect for Voyager to be able to get home, I was surprised that this episode turned into an evaluation of Janeway's actions from a previous episode.  While I feel like Janeway's lax adherence to the Prime Directive is creating issues in more and more of these episodes, it's interesting how I feel like she made the right decision every time.  Obviously I'm not a big proponent of the Prime Directive here, haha.  Of course the consequences of her decision was very unfortunate in this episode.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Review: The Mysterious Affair at Styles

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,
The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Hercule Poirot #1)
by Agatha Christie
Mystery
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:


In her first published mystery, Agatha Christie introduced readers to her Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. Poirot, a Belgian refugee of the Great War, is settling in England near the home of Emily Cavendish, who helped him to his new life. His friend Hastings arrives as a guest at her home. When the woman is killed, Poirot uses his detective skills to solve the mystery.

The story is told in the first person by Hastings, and features many of the elements that have become icons of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, largely due to Christie's influence. It is set in a large, isolated country manor. There are a half-dozen suspects, most of whom are hiding facts about themselves. The plot includes a number of red herrings and surprise twists.

Review:

This book is momentous alone for being Agatha Christie's first mystery, and for it being the first case for her famous detective Hercule Poirot.  The atmosphere, the eclectic mix of characters and British sensibilities, makes this a wonderful read as well.  There is something so immersive about a Christie novel - she is adept at setting up a story and the characters quickly, and weaving up a mass of details and drama.  This is rather a short book for a Christie novel, so even though the characters feel natural and realistic, they are sort of only there to prop up the mystery.

In this mystery, there really is a sense that the reader is being given all the clues (through the delightfully clueless Arthur Hastings) - even with drawings of the rooms, and facsimiles of the tangible evidence.  Every detail is given, but in the end it is Poirot who must unite and clarify and this is all done so skillfully through Christie's writing.  I felt just as Hastings did, a little awed and a little abashed that I couldn't draw the right conclusions.

Poirot, with all of his eccentricities and quirks, seems fully formed and riveting in this book.  It is interesting to me that Poirot is so completely what he will be in the next books of his series - he's so unique too in his fastidious and exacting manner that it surprises me that Christie had such a grip on his character from the very first.  Poirot is a character who has always delighted me, and I love the sense that he is a formidable personality, while also being kind and generous to everyone.  Hastings, too, has always appealed to me - he's the perfect foil to Poirot - very British and correct, and observant enough of Poirot to be of aid to him.  And there is such a droll sense of humor in how many times Hastings dismisses Poirot's words or actions when it doesn't fit in with his own ideas and conclusions.  Hastings is so well meaning, but completely unaware of how badly he follows in Poirot's detective footsteps.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles is a wonderful mystery too - it's pretty impossible to guess the murderer I think, and the twist in the end is absolutely genius.  The methodology of the murder is so clever as well - this is a mystery that is packed with incident and suspense, and is a perfect beginning for Poirot.
--------
[This book is a reread for me - when I was in high school and into college, I read all of Poirot's mysteries, but lately I've had a longing to reread his stories, so I plan to read and review them for my blog - in order of publication.  It's a long oeuvre, so I won't rush to complete it - I'll just sprinkle in a Poirot mystery now and again!]
Sunday, July 26, 2015

Suspense Sundays (157) Life Ends at Midnight

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.

"Life Ends at Midnight"
Air date: May 8 1948
Starring Fay Bainter and Tony Barrett
>>Episodes here<<

Walter comes to visit his mother - because he's in a bind and he needs to a lot of money to get him out of it.  His mother is distressed though because all of her savings went to paying his jail bond the last time he was in trouble.  Walter is very threatening, until a lodger - old Mr. Chalmers - shows up to say hello to Walter's mother, and also to tell her how he just lost his nephew unexpectedly and now doesn't have anyone to leave his life insurance money to (convenient!!).  Obviously now Walter has a plan...

Wow, this was a disturbing episode in many ways.  First Walter is an awful person, and his mother should not put up with him in any way.  And then the cold-blooded planning of Mr. Chalmers murder is outrageous, and I'm shocked that Walter's mother couldn't even put a little more force in her protestations.  However, it's very telling what kind of relationship he has with his mother, when there is a scene where you can hear he slaps her around - and it's awful!  I would have thought that would be too much to hear on the radio in 1948, it's quite distressing to think of a son beating up on his mother.  There is one very interesting scene for me though, when Walter sweet talks/cons Mr. Chalmers into making his mother a beneficiary of the life insurance policy.  He's unfortunately very good at conning people.  Obviously there is a ironic twist to this episode and it is ENTIRELY satisfactory given how dreadful a character Walter is!
Friday, July 24, 2015

Top 8 Favorite Songs from Musicals

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
I have two features on my blog where I talk about musicals - "Books to Music" which is a bit defunct, but there is every possibility I will post again for it, and the "Movie Musical Challenge" which is currently ongoing.  But day to day I listen to a lot of songs from musicals.  I have three catch-all albums in my iTunes (for songs that I like, but I don't want to have the whole album, and it just gets cumbersome if I let them sort in their own album...) and my album for Musicals is my biggest one.  (The other two albums are for oldies and for more contemporary music).  So I wanted to share some of my top favorite songs from a musical here - these are ones I listen to ALOT, and dearly love for so many reasons.  In no particular order, I'll start with a song from Jane Eyre the Musical:

She saves me, but I can't be saved
Frees me, but I'm still enslaved

This is a dramatic, emotional duet between Jane and Rochester, with Jane's pull for Rochester likened to a Siren from Greek mythology.  It's not an obvious connection, but totally works for me, and makes for some wonderful sea imagery.  I love the passion in this song - how Mr. Rochester is trying so hard to resist, and Jane earnest in her need to help Rochester, even though she doesn't know everything about what is really troubling him.  Of course the singers - Marla Schaffel and James Barbour have glorious voices and mix together wonderfully in this song. [Listen]


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Review: Uprooted

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,
Uprooted
by Naomi Novik
Fantasy
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:


Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

Review:

It's amazing how immersive a perfectly balanced, exciting new fantasy can be.  And it's wonderful when you can find a book like that.  Uprooted was that book for me, and it was an absolute delight - not because it was always happy, or particularly funny (although it can be, with a wry humor), but because the characters had real depth and growth, the world-building was visceral and descriptive, as were the magic elements which were described in a visual way that I found very appealing.  I also felt even more caught up in the world because it was so unclear from the beginning what kind of story this was going to be.  The plot summary just barely touches on the real and complex plot, and that element of mystery to what you are in for when you first start this book, helped draw me completely into the narrative.

Agnieszka was an extremely well written and vivid heroine.  She's strong, but a bit of a klutz and of course very uncomfortable in the surroundings she finds herself in with the Dragon.  But gradually her personality makes an impression on the Dragon's taciturnity and it was beautiful to see how much she grows throughout the course of the story.  This aspect was a major reason why I loved the book so much - it's truly a wondrous and inspiring coming of age tale for Agnieszka.  And she feels so different from the heroines I've been reading about lately.  She feels like an old soul, and I really identified with that.  Agnieszka also has a strong friendship with Kasia, but it is a realistic one, as some issues they have with each other is explored, but it only served to strengthen their friendship and it also made them completely believable as characters.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Review: Thornfield Hall

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,
Thornfield Hall
by Jane Stubbs
Historical Fiction
Amazon  /  Goodreads


Plot Summary:


The Rochesters are very good at keeping secrets...

Thornfield Hall, 1821. Alice Fairfax takes up her role as housekeeper of the estate. But when Mr Rochester presents her with a woman who is to be hidden on the third floor, she finds herself responsible for much more than the house.

This is the story Jane Eyre never knew - a narrative played out on the third floor and beneath the stairs, as the servants kept their master's secret safe and sound.

Review:

This was such a disappointing read for me.  While initially I was enjoying it - the account of the elder Mr. Rochester (the present Mr. Rochester's father) was interesting and Mrs. Fairfax - a poor widow, forced into service from her previous status as gentry - felt true to the vision of the original book Jane Eyre.  When Bertha was introduced, I also felt like it was a sensitive portrait of a woman who has had a lot of hardships, but who is quite definitely dangerous at times (she seemed so initially) and that made me feel like this would be an intelligent reworking of Jane Eyre from the servant's point of view.  Sadly as the story developed, the believability of this novel as a retelling of Jane Eyre became lost.  Jane herself, was painted in such an unappealing way - as a pert, uptight thing - so naive in her innocence as to be almost stupid.  Mrs. Fairfax seemed unable to truly respect her, yet she had the utmost respect for Bertha and Grace Poole.  Jane's life and her story seemed trivialized in the extreme, especially with how this novel twists the events to make pretty much everything Jane believed to be inaccurate.

It was incomprehensible to me as well to see Bertha in this new light - someone who is a little simple, but not really dangerous - actually quite gentle, and yet there had to be a culprit behind the fires and the attacks at Thornfield, so a new female servant was created to serve that purpose.  I didn't understand what was wrong with the original, that the story couldn't have kept Bertha as the perpetrator yet in the more ambiguous light of an unfortunate woman with dangerous tendencies.  Basically the story made anyone, who was seen in a negative light in the original story, out to be more sympathetic and unfortunate in this book.  And the only way I could find that believable is if I completely disregard all my knowledge of the original book.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Suspense Sundays (156) The Morrison Affair

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 Morrison Affair"
Air date: September 2, 1948
Starring Madeline Carroll
>>Episodes here<<

Mrs. Morrison speaks to a divorce attorney and tells him her story under strict confidence.  When the U.S. entered the war, she asked her husband (who's a doctor) if she could adopt a child since she can not have kids, but Dr. Morrison was against it.  A few months later, Mrs. Morrison is on her way to visit her Mom and talks to a woman on the train with three kids - two older, and a baby.  The woman is overwhelmed and her husband had just died in the war, and Mrs. Morrison makes a decision.  She offers to watch the baby while the woman takes her two older kids to get some food, and then Mrs. Morrison gets off the train.

Ooh I don't know how I feel about this episode.  On the one hand, it's a very suspenseful drama - well played and with an interesting story.  But I will say that it's all just so sad.  I feel like the way it ends made me too depressed to really like the story.  Suspense stories do end sadly sometimes, but often there is a sense of ironic justice that makes me feel better.  In the case of this episode there is that ironic justice, but it didn't overcome how depressing this was.  My thoughts are really focused on that unfortunately!  
Friday, July 17, 2015

Star Trek VOY Season 3 - Top 5 Favorite Episodes

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
I think I'm slowing down a bit with my series binging of Voyager.  I have been trying to fit in more Movie Musicals, so that takes up some time, but I feel like I'm less motivated to watch Star Trek than I was before.  So there is probably a little burn out happening here.  I don't really have much to say about season 3 as a whole - I think I enjoyed season 2 overall more, but looking over my list of episode picks for season 3, I really liked these episodes!  Anyways, on to my top 5 picks!

5.  Before and After


Kes is experiencing time backwards, when she wakes up much older, and then continues to pass out and wake up while getting younger and younger.  I like the timey whimey aspect of this episode, as well as dilemma for Kes, to try to get back to her time, when she couldn't control when she went into the past.  That aspect alone is what put this episode into the top 5 - although when she goes back into the womb, it was a *little* weird, this was still an intriguing episode.
Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Review: Once Upon a Crime

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Once Upon a Crime: A Brothers Grimm Mystery
by P.J. Brackston
Mystery
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:


From New York Times bestselling author P. J. Brackston comes the prequel to Gretel and the Case of the Missing Frog Prints, the new novel in the rollicking series featuring Gretel, all grown up and working as a private investigator in 18th century Bavaria.

Gretel (yes, that Gretel) is now 35, very large, still living with her brother Hans, and working as a private investigator. The small, sleepy town of Gesternstadt is shaken to its pretty foundations when the workshop of the local cart maker is burnt to the ground, and a body is discovered in the ashes. It is Gretel who notices that the cadaver is missing a finger.

At first, she does not see this as significant, as her mind is fully focused on a new case. Not that she wouldn’t far rather be investigating an intriguing murder, but her client is willing to pay over the odds, so she must content herself with trying to trace three missing cats. It is not until she is further into her investigations that she realizes the two events are inextricably and dangerously connected, and that the mystery of the missing cats will lead her into perilous situations and frightening company.

Very soon Gretel finds herself accused of kidnapping Princess Charlotte, twice locked up in the cells at the Summer Schloss, repelling the advances of an amorous troll, strapped to a rack in Herr Schmerz’s torture chamber, and fleeing a murder charge. With dubious help from her brother (whose scant wits are habitually addled by drink), she must prove her innocence, solve the puzzle of the unidentified corpse, and find the stolen cats before they meet a grisly end.

Review:

The premise of this book was very eye-catching - a mystery with characters from the Grimm Brothers' fairy tales, and with Gretel as a detective.  Gretel being an interesting choice as a main character because you can see how her past has affected her and made her a stronger, more sarcastic and less trusting woman.  It's very entertaining to read about her in this story, but the mystery aspect as well as the inclusion of the fairy tale theme overall seemed very light.

The mystery was the biggest disappointment.  There were many odd threads to it, which made it difficult to predict or even comprehend what was the true mystery - it all seemed a bit of a jumble with the connection made much later and unfortunately past the point when I cared very much about the resolution.  I was hoping to see more familiar fairy tale characters besides Gretel and Hans, but there weren't many - just characters who would appear in fairy tales, like trolls and giants, and other colorful human characters.  It was a more realistic take on the world though, which might appeal to some readers.

The story is humorous, and Gretel has a fun way of looking at things, although the sense of humor was not quite my cup of tea.  It drew a lot from crass actions and characters, which probably did fit the setting (people were not as careful of their hygiene in the past) so that might also appeal to some readers and definitely helps to keep the realistic tone of the novel.

The novel has an unpredictable mystery, and a fun, mature heroine in Gretel but unfortunately many aspects of the story did not appeal as much to me.  I love the premise though, and if this continues as a series (this is a second adventure for Gretel) it might be fun to see where the author takes it.

(I received this book from the publisher or author for a fair and honest review.  I was not compensated for this review.)
Monday, July 13, 2015

Review: The Artisans

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
The Artisans
by Julie Reece
YA Fantasy
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:


They say death can be beautiful. But after the death of her mother, seventeen-year-old Raven Weathersby gives up her dream of becoming a fashion designer, barely surviving life in the South Carolina lowlands.

To make ends meet, Raven works after school as a seamstress creating stunning works of fashion that often rival the great names of the day. Instead of making things easier on the high school senior, her stepdad's drinking leads to a run in with the highly reclusive heir to the Maddox family fortune, Gideon Maddox.

But Raven's stepdad's drying out and in no condition to attend the meeting with Maddox. So Raven volunteers to take his place and offers to repay the debt in order to keep the only father she's ever known out of jail, or worse. Gideon Maddox agrees, outlining an outrageous demand: Raven must live in his home for a year while she designs for Maddox Industries' clothing line, signing over her creative rights. Her handsome young captor is arrogant and infuriating to the nth degree, and Raven can't imagine working for him, let alone sharing the same space for more than five minutes.

But nothing is ever as it seems. Is Gideon Maddox the monster the world believes him to be? And can he stand to let the young seamstress see him as he really is?

Review:

A contemporary Beauty and the Beast retelling is always welcome, and I really enjoyed this book!  It's light on the retelling aspect, although there are the important elements from the fairy tale - the confinement, the beastly hero, the connection between the couple, and the power of love to redeem.  The story weaves in a great backstory for the heroine - Raven or Rae, who has a talent for designing clothes, but who has a very tough home life. Raven was so much fun to read about because of her wryly sarcastic voice.  I found her hilarious!

The romance in this story is very sweet -it's sweeps you up if you don't pay too much attention to why they fall in love.  Although for me, I felt it was hard to understand why Gideon fell in love with Raven so quickly when she was always so antagonistic to him initially.  But I didn't mind too much since I really loved the characters, and it was great to read about their growing interest in each other. And I thought it was wonderful that Gideon can help Raven just as much as she can help him.  And Gideon does help Raven realize her potential.  Raven has two best friends who come to visit sometimes, and I loved that there is a little romantic b-plot going with those friends - this was an all around wonderful read for the romance aspect.  (And YAY no love triangle!)

The story includes an interesting spin on the magic - there is a curse of sorts and a dark, forbidding house which made the story very mysterious and creepy at times.  There were some particularly nerve-wracking scenes!  Both the romance and the mystery of what secrets Gideon was hiding made this book so readable - a perfect page-turner with engaging characters, swoony romance, and eerie mystery!
Sunday, July 12, 2015

Suspense Sundays (155) Perfect Plan

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.

"Perfect Plan"
Air date: May 29, 1960
Starring George Petrie and Elizabeth Lawrence
>>Episodes here<<

Henry Travers and his pregnant wife are eagerly awaiting the news of Henry's promotion at the bank so he can better support his growing family.  When Henry goes into work that day, he is accosted by a woman who tells him that he will approve her 'loan' for $50,000 or her accomplice will kill his wife who is at home.  Henry has a deadline, but his boss stops him right before because the loan seems suspicious.  When Henry finally explains, the woman is gone, and the man left his house without hurting his wife.  The boss calls the police on Henry for attempting to rob the bank.

Twist on twist!  When it becomes unclear why Henry was set up (or was he??) for this potential robbery, things got very interesting.  There was even a moment when Henry identified the woman, who wanted the money, from the police mug shots and the police told him the woman had been dead for a year!  I loved the surprise moments in this episode!  The episode sets up in the beginning, how kind and lovely Henry and his wife is too, so there's an extra level of tension that something bad is going to happen to them!

As a side note, I found it interesting to hear a commercial in this episode encouraging people to get their polio vaccine.  How sad that the need to get vaccinated is something that is still argued today...
Friday, July 10, 2015

Review: Silver in the Blood

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Silver in the Blood
by Jessica Day George
YA Fantasy
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:


Society girls from New York City circa 1890, Dacia and Lou never desired to know more about their lineage, instead preferring to gossip about the mysterious Romanian family that they barely knew. But upon turning seventeen, the girls must return to their homeland to meet their relatives, find proper husbands, and—most terrifyingly—learn the deep family secrets of The Claw, The Wing, and The Smoke. The Florescus, after all, are shape-shifters, and it is time for Dacia and Lou to fulfill the prophecy that demands their acceptance of this fate . . . or fight against this cruel inheritance with all their might.

With a gorgeous Romanian setting, stunning Parisian gowns, and dark brooding young men, readers will be swept up by this epic adventure of two girls in a battle for their lives.

Review:

There were many things to love about this story - the focus on and the strength of two heroines who are each very different in personality but have a great friendship and are easy to empathize with.  The story's setting is exciting too - I love the Victorian era, and it was intriguing to read a bit about the culture of three different countries - America, France and Romania.  The spin on werewolves and other supernatural creatures was wonderful as well - very different and unpredictable, which made the story suspenseful.

The story took awhile to really capture my interest though.  It is told through both of the girl's POV, with diary entries and letters augmenting the story.  I didn't think using letters and personal diary entries added too much to the narrative.  Instead I felt that it lengthened out the mystery of the Florescu family secret too much.  But once you get halfway through the book, there is more action and a bit more plot to keep the reader riveted.

The best part of the book for me was getting to know Dacia and Lou.  It's wonderful to read about a strong friendship, and these two complemented each other beautifully.  They both grow as characters in this book too - and I liked seeing how they adjusted and lived up to their potential.  They each have a fun sense of humor as well which made me like their characters more.

This is a book for the younger YA set I think, and feels a little light in terms of story depth, but it is still a lovely read, with fantastic characters and a chilling aspect to the supernatural element.

(I received this book from the publisher or author for a fair and honest review.  I was not compensated for this review.)
Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Movie Musical Challenge: All That Jazz

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
In Movie Musical Challenge, I'm watching all 25 picks for AFI's Greatest musicals starting from the bottom.  Number 14 is the 1979 Bob Fosse film All That Jazz starring Roy Schneider.  A film I was COMPLETELY unfamiliar with!  I hadn't even heard of it.

This film was co-written, directed, and of course, choreographed by Bob Fosse  It's a semi-autobiographical film about Fosse's life, which ultimately made me very depressed.  For the tragedy of a brilliant man like Bob Fosse, wasting so much of his potential, and for the fact that the movie ends on a such manic and melancholy note.  Unfortunately it was hard for me to enjoy this film for many reasons.

The dancing is stellar though.  I'm fascinated by Fosse's trademark moves and gestures - it's so sleek and unnatural, and shows the body off wonderfully.  I loved seeing all the dance numbers (well I could have done with a lot less nudity in some of them though).  The dancing is the highlight of this film for me, and I think my favorite scene was when Joe's girlfriend gets together with Joe's daughter to perform a dance for him.  It was very sweet, and again - love the dancing!


Monday, July 6, 2015

Review: Seeker

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Seeker (Seeker #1)
by Arwen Elys Dayton
YA Fantasy
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:


Quin Kincaid has been put through years of brutal training for what she thinks is the noble purpose of becoming a revered ‘Seeker’.

Only when it’s too late does she discover she will be using her new-found knowledge and training to become an assassin. Quin's new role will take her around the globe, from a remote estate in Scotland to a bustling, futuristic Hong Kong where the past she thought she had escaped will finally catch up with her.

Review:

This book seemed like a promising exploration of an interesting new fantasy world - with the idea of a mysterious 'seeker' and what that means.  But I was sadly disappointed that this novel focused much more on the character drama and a hunt for the power of the seeker, than to really flesh out what everything means.  I would have ideally loved this book if it had balanced those two aspects well, but I didn't really get a strong sense of the world, and only kept reading because I did feel interested in what would happen to the characters.

John, Quin and Shinobu make up the main character cast - if that makes you think there would be a love triangle - then you are right.  Although there's really not much of a push and pull between the three since Quin sees Shinobu like the cousin he is (although he's a third cousin kinda?)  I don't know that part was a bit confusing for me and I didn't like that aspect- I feel like the story could have easily just made Shinobu a close family friend and functioned the same without the rationalizations that he's related, but far enough removed to be okay to date.  And John was an intriguingly flawed character at first, but I quickly became very frustrated with his many excuses and rationalizations.  The story is also told through each of their POV's, with each chapter one of the character's POV.  I'm not really a fan of multiple POV stories, but this book didn't make me dislike it as much as I normally would.

The story moves around a bit in time too - there are flashbacks in the middle, after a major event has occurred, which was an interesting way to tell the story.  And a bit frustrating too, since I really wanted to know what happened next after the major event.  If the purpose was to build suspense, I think I just felt more annoyed than anything, unfortunately.  I was still invested enough in the story to want to know where it was going, and how the main conflict would be resolved.   And the glimpse of Hong Kong was interesting to me as well - it was very vividly described, and I found it fascinating to see this darker side to a foreign city.  I don't think that was enough to make me love this book though.  It felt very lackluster overall, although the idea of the 'seeker' is promising, and I hope that the next book in the series will expound a bit more on that.

(I received this book from the publisher or author for a fair and honest review.  I was not compensated for this review.)
Sunday, July 5, 2015

Suspense Sundays (154) Out the Window

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.

"Out the Window"
Air date: May 22, 1960
Starring Santos Ortega
>>Episodes here<<

Commissioner Walcheck wants to quit being a corrupt politician and is given a choice by two henchman.  Continue or go 'out the window' to his death.  He goes with option three - pushes one henchman out the window and shoots the other.  Now he's on the run, but curiously he sees the faces of the people who are dead in some of the people around him.

While initially I was sympathetic to the Commissioner for wanting to go straight, it soon becomes clear he's not as good of a person as he might seem (or as he might be trying to be.)  I was really applauding though when he turned the tables on those henchmen!  It's so refreshing when bullies gets their own back.  The suspense in this episode was in finding out what the twist was going to be since this seemed like a pretty straightforward story.  The Commissioner seemed to have a fool-proof plan - what could go wrong?

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...