Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Movie Musical Challenge: Calamity Jane

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
In Movie Musical Challenge, I'm watching 20 films I picked as great films or films I wanted to watch.  This post is about the 1953 Western romp "Calamity Jane", starring Doris Day and Howard Keel.

I love a fun Western, and since this also has music, Doris Day, and Howard Keel, I was already completely on board with this.  And it is so much fun.  Seeing Doris Day as this "masculine", abrasive, rootin', tootin' and shootin' character might have been a stretch for me (because I associate her with feminine grace and perfect diction), but I still loved her portrayal and enjoyed seeing her in such a different role.  And truly she does a great job bringing Calamity Jane (or Calam) to life because she really committed to the part.

The actual story had some surprises for me - the cross dressing, the challenges on gender roles (although the female gender role was pretty clearly conservative with the song "A Woman's Touch") but I think the general fact that there were some instances where gender roles were blurred made the story more interesting, and of course more farcical.  This film is a great farce, with lots of misunderstandings and improbable situations.  It's definitely a romp!

My favorite song and scene in the film was the song between Calamity and Wild Bill Hickcok - "I Can Do Without You" which had some heavy "Anything You Can Do" (from Annie Get Your Gun) rivalry vibes with an undercurrent of attraction between the two characters.  And Doris Day was ludicrously swung around by Howard Keel's character during the number.

For the high shenanigans and the upbeat, catchy music, this movie was a great film to watch, and 1000%  a better choice for this challenge than my previous Doris Day film - Jumbo!
Monday, May 23, 2016

The Harry Potter Studio Tour

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I have returned from my sojourn to England!  Thank you to everyone who left a comment on my blogging break post, and for everyone who kept up with my trip photos on instagram. :)  I definitely had a blast!

 I did a few literary things on my trip (and managed to finish two books - yay!) so it will be fun to recap things and get back to blogging.   Obviously today's post is all about the Harry Potter Studio Tour which was pretty magical, I have to say.  And it was surprising to me, that for a weekday, there were a lot of people going to the tour.  I mean, I know Harry Potter is uber popular, and the tour is awesome, but for some reason, I was thinking there wouldn't be such a crowd of visitors.  Maybe because the tour has been around for awhile now.  But it was nice to see the enthusiasm, and the little kids dressed up like wizards. :)

So the beginning of the experience - where we are sat in a theatre watching a taped introduction by Daniel, Emma and Rupert about the studio sets - to having the screen move up and reveal the doors to the Great Hall, was very cool.  It reminded me of the Star Trek Experience that used to be in Las Vegas, where we were assembled into a small room, and the lights went dark, there was a rush of air, and when the lights came back on the walls around us had been raised, and we were on the bridge of the Enterprise!  Of course we had just materialized there. LOL

So the tour begins in the Great Hall, where they have some of the costumes and the long tables that you see in the films.  It is a great beginning of the tour, as you feel like you've just arrived at Hogwarts, and there is the sorting hat, ready to put you in your house (please Sorting Hat, can I be in Ravenclaw??)

Monday, May 2, 2016

Blogging Break

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I'm going on a little trip to ye olde England, in one day (!!), so I'm putting this blog on break.  I'll be back May 23rd, with reviews, and probably a long recap of my time in the U.K.  I'm planning on visiting the Harry Potter studio tour (finally!) and also celebrating the 200th anniversary of Charlotte Bronte's birth, by visiting all the Jane Eyre places I know and love.  I can't wait! :)

Thank you for being a follower of my blog, and I will talk to everyone again soon!  I'll still be on twitter and instagram probably, so see you around there!
Sunday, May 1, 2016

Suspense Sundays (197) Consequence

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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.

"Consequence"
Air date: February 21, 1946
Starring Jimmy Stewart
>>Episodes here<<

Philip Wolf is unhappily married to Gwen, and when his mistress, Jo, decides to leave him, Philip is devastated.  A curious thing happens though - there's a fire and someone's body is mistaken for Philip and so he decides not to say anything.  He runs away with Jo and gets married  ready to be happy.  Only Gwen finds him and for her pride, demands that he returns and claim he had amnesia or something.  Philip thinks of another way out.

Such a strange story for Philip, divorce must have been so hard back then.  This is a very tragic story too, which I didn't like at all.  I did guess the twist, and was just hoping it wouldn't happen that way.  But this is a great suspense story, and Jimmy Stewart is wonderfully understated and resigned in the role of Philip Wolf.  
Thursday, April 28, 2016

Review: Saint's Blood

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Saint's Blood (Greatcoats #3)
by Sebastien de Castell
Fantasy
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:


How do you kill a Saint?

Falcio, Kest, and Brasti are about to find out, because someone has figured out a way to do it and they've started with a friend.

The Dukes were already looking for ways out of their agreement to put Aline on the throne, but with the Saints turning up dead, rumours are spreading that the Gods themselves oppose her ascension. Now churches are looking to protect themselves by bringing back the military orders of religious soldiers, assassins, and (especially) Inquisitors - a move that could turn the country into a theocracy. The only way Falcio can put a stop to it is by finding the murderer. He has only one clue: a terrifying iron mask which makes the Saints vulnerable by driving them mad. But even if he can find the killer, he'll still have to face him in battle.

And that may be a duel that no swordsman, no matter how skilled, can hope to win.

Review:

As the third installment in the Greatcoats series, this novel takes a more mystical turn, as a new villain tries to take over Tristia and it's people.  Falcio, considerably weakened as he is from the events in the last book, is such a deadly, persistent force in this one.  His honor and determination, even when he's not sure why he's fighting so hard, makes him such an intriguing character for me.  And I love that he also has a sense of humor in the direst of circumstances.  Even though the last book had some dark moments, it gets even darker in this book, which made for excellent suspense and surprises.

The aspects of Saints and Gods were explored further, and while it made sense as a whole, it did seem a bit convoluted for me at times.  The whole idea of which came first, and what kind of powers were bestowed on the Saints and what that means, is gradually revealed and was interesting, but I didn't love the mystical aspect as much.  I think because it allowed for some convenient solutions.  But the way that the religion in Tristia can feed on the greed of the masses and how it can corrupt even when it's supposedly for good intentions was very astute, and I really liked the commentary in that.  Even more so in this book, the author reveals just how broken Tristia is, and it's not easy to bring back law and order to this land.  I'm so curious to see how or if it can be saved in the final book.

Many of the characters are fleshed out even more in this novel, and I found the depiction of Falcio and Ethalia's relationship was especially good because it felt more realistic than the sort of love at first sight thing they had going from the beginning.  Falcio still has issues with what happened to his first wife, and it's addressed further in this book, in a very heartbreaking way.  Kest was also one that had a heartbreaking character arc, which was great to see because he was always more of the strong, silent character in the series.  Brasti is just good fun, even when he shows that he does have some vulnerabilities.  Quentis is a new character that didn't quite fulfill the role that I expected of him, given his initial interactions with Falcio, and I loved that there was more to him than meets the eye.

The writing in this book is so wonderfully done.  I love the way the author describes duels and fights, and how this particular book begins and ends with an important duel and how the art of fighting is explained.  It makes something so visceral and brutal, very poetic and intellectual.  But that is a plus for the whole series so far.  The writing is fantastic.

The Greatcoats series is definitely one of my favorite Fantasy reads, and Saint's Blood was an amazing installment.  Exciting, fast-paced, and full of major twists - the finale to this series is absolutely my most anticipated book now!

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

Note: I received an ARC from the U.K. publishers where "Saint's Blood" is already out in Europe, but unfortunately this wonderful book is out June 7th in the States.
Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Movie Musical Challenge: The Little Mermaid

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In Movie Musical Challenge, I'm watching 20 films I picked as great films or films I wanted to watch.  This post is about the 1989 Disney classic The Little Mermaid, starring the vocal talents of Jodi Benson, Pat Carroll, and Samuel E. Wright.

This is my favorite Disney movie, so I was eager to add it to my list for this challenge.  I've seen it quite a lot so I feel like there's not much in the way of new insights to the story for me, because I've thought this was a fantastic film for a long time.  But for this post, I'll highlight what I love about it, and why I think it works so well, and why it's appeal is so enduring.

The Little Mermaid's Broadway type musical structure makes it very special I think.  The orchestral main theme, that features the opening credits, is absolutely gorgeous.  I mean, I can just listen to the wistful, haunting melody forever.  Seriously.  It's probably a little thing when thinking of the whole movie, but it starts off the mood of Ariel's earnest fascination for the human world, and for the romance perfectly.

The introduction to Ariel is kind of perfect too - she is shown as scatter-brained, impulsive, curious, and brave, just from the first few scenes and she is a fantastic heroine.  I have seen disparaging comments on Ariel's changing herself to be with a man, but I think it's clearly established that she wanted to be a part of the human world, and her feelings for Prince Eric was the impetus.  Love at first sight though - I'm totally iffy on that. LOL

I think I love this story the most out of the Disney films because Ariel is so intent on achieving her dream.  She risks everything, she wears her heart out on her sleeve, she is so honest and passionate, and I love the adventure of her story.  It's nice that it has a fantastical setting, showing a (unrealistic) version of life under the sea to make the beauty of the story even more appealing.  The music is just beautiful too - listening again to just the incidental music, the melodies are so strong.  And there are three (possibly four) really popular, well known songs from this film, which not every Disney film can boast.  "Part of Your World" is my favorite song, and to me is the best one, but a case can be made that "Under the Sea" or "Kiss the Girl" can take that title.

The music, the story, and the heart of this film make it a beloved movie for me, and I don't think I can ever get tired of just how sweetly earnest and romantic it all is.
Sunday, April 24, 2016

Suspense Sundays (196) Lucky Lady

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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.

"Lucky Lady"
Air date: February 14, 1946
Starring Fay Baintor
>>Episodes here<<

Mrs. Plimm, owner of a boarding house for young actresses. hires a new, very suspicious live-in handy man.  The man, George, does not like her cat at all, and the cat doesn't seem to like him.  But George really needs the job, and the cat is the lucky charm for all the actresses at the boarding house.  They believe that a scratch from Lady Susie, will lead to a great acting job in their future.  George dotes particularly on Diane, who just landed a great job, but very soon turns up dead.  And there is no evidence that George did it.

Wow, I really enjoyed this episode.  Such a great and unexpected twist in the end, and the mystery of what happened to Diane, when there was no sign of foul play was a great one.  And of course a suicide note turned up later - all very suspicious.  I couldn't get over how Mrs. Plimm hired George despite her reservations though - he was so creepy during the interview.  It must have been really hard to find a handy man in 1946,
Thursday, April 21, 2016

Brooding with the Brontes - Interview with N.B. Roberts

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Before I present my post, I need to acknowledge that today is a very special day - it's the 200th anniversary of Charlotte Bronte's birth!  Happy Birthday Charlotte!

For Brooding with the Brontes, I reached out to a lovely author, who wrote a fantastic Jane Eyre inspired novel called "Halton Cray" (which I reviewed on my blog), for her Bronte related thoughts, since I found her novel so fascinating and was curious about her experiences and thoughts on the Brontes.

Her follow-up novel to "Halton Cray" - titled The 13th Baronet, is coming soon, and the author was kind enough to share the cover and a teaser from the second book with my blog!  Check it out below.  And thank you so much for your time Nicola!



Q. With your novel Halton Cray being inspired by Jane Eyre, I know you are a big fan of Charlotte’s novel, but what are your thoughts on the other Bronte novels you’ve read?

What’s so striking to me is how different the Bronte books are from one another; the authors had distinct styles, and I love their works in different ways. Wuthering Heights is my second favourite and I’m particularly fond of those first few chapters, with Mr Lockwood grasping a cold hand through the window: it’s a chilling discovery that kept me reading this intense, fiery tale. It’s full of dislikeable characters, but who I enjoyed reading about. In that sense, I found it as brutally honest as the ruthless climate, and ultimately not a romance at all, but a tragedy. I appreciated the story much more on reflection than during reading, probably due to the extreme and contrasting dialect used to show the class divide, which is vital to the story of Cathy and Heathcliff, but ultimately creates a bit of work for the reader. I’m no stranger to broad northern English accents (my father is from the north, my mother from the south), but I struggled with some of the northern vernacular. I really wanted to immerse myself in the unfolding of such a stormy and engrossing tale, but the stop-start of constant translation took me out of the flow a little. It was only once I had a complete picture that I could admire it for the excellent work it is.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Jane Eyre 1973 - on Fidelity in Adaptation

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For Brooding About the Brontës, I thought I should talk about my all time favorite adaptation of Jane Eyre.  I did talk about this version some years ago as part of Awesome Adaptations, but I didn't really expand on the depth of my feelings for this miniseries.  There are a lot of reasons why this is my favorite, but to give this post cohesion, I want to give it a focus and that will be in it's fidelity as an adaptation.  Most people who really love a book want it's adaptation to live up to whatever it was they loved about it.  The plot, the characters, the tone, the feelings they got when they read it.  But that's very subjective and it's difficult to translate a book to a visual medium.  Usually when these people like or dislike an adaptation it's because they feel it didn't capture the book in the right way.  Most of the time I think it comes down to: did the adaptation fulfill your perception of the book or not.  And for me, this adaptation fulfilled my perception of Jane Eyre because of it's fidelity to the novel.

Jane Eyre 1973 is a version that many love because it's so faithful.  Personally I think it is the most faithful, because while it omits scenes, it adds or embroiders very little.  I would say the adaptation that is also often cited as the most faithful - the 1983 adaptation, added a bit more to the story.  But many people also find fault with this adaptation because it is too faithful (someone is always unhappy!)  I see disparaging comments on the voiceovers in this version which takes viewers out of the story (even though the voiceover supplies narrative from the novel), or on the feeling that this version is boring because it features a lot of almost verbatim dialogue from the book.  And the staging and visuals of the production are quite dry.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Three Times Young Jane Eyre Was The Realest

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Most everyone remembers Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre as a paragon of virtue and restrained, passionate righteousness, but the beauty of the first nine chapters of Jane Eyre is in young Jane’s rebellious, fierce nature.  The child, who was bullied by her cousin, demeaned and ignored by her aunt, and constantly made to feel an outsider, finally makes a stand in the opening chapters of the novel, and also made it clear to the 19th century reader that this was no conventional heroine.  The child’s vehement spirit is later softened and tempered by the example of her saintly best friend Helen Burns, as well as by simply maturing, but there’s something to be said about young Jane’s fury.  Her appealing defiance made her the sort of heroine you can identify with, even today.  Her raw truthfulness fleshed out the character and made readers fall in love with Jane’s story right from the start.  And to celebrate that, here are three times young Jane Eyre was the realest:


Mr. Brocklehurst: “What must you do to avoid [going to hell]?”
Jane: I deliberated a moment; my answer, when it did come, was objectionable: “I must keep in good health, and not die.”

This is often the first laugh line in every Jane Eyre adaptation it comes up in - audiences love Jane’s child logic and her sassy response to Brocklehurst’s alarming question.  Because let’s not forget this question was asked of a child.  I get Brocklehurst’s intention of instilling a fear of God, and a moral code thereby, but maybe it would be better to ramp up to talking about burning in eternity, instead of confronting a ten year old with that within minutes of meeting her.  I could write a whole other post of helpful tips for Mr. Brocklehurst however.  


The gorgeousness of Jane’s answer though is that she knows it’s wrong.  She’s barely met this imposing, grim pillar of a man, who apparently wants to make her feel guilty and afraid, but in answer to the question he no doubt thought would be a slam dunk in making his point, he gets a reply that highlights a foolish question deserves a foolish answer.  Jane doesn’t give him the submissive shame that he wants.  Child logic for the win!


Jane: “When we are struck at without a reason, we should strike back again very hard; I am sure we should—so hard as to teach the person who struck us never to do it again.”
 

Peace, tolerance, and understanding are all noble goals to attain.  Every single person can make this world a better place by adhering to these principles.  Unfortunately we are not a perfect species, and there’s just something so basic and satisfying in seeing that if someone treats you terribly, there will be repercussions.  Can I be as forgiving as adult Jane is at the bedside of her dying, still hateful aunt?  I’m not sure if I’m there yet,  I hope I will be, but for now young Jane’s words resonate with me, even if maturity tells me I should be more forgiving.

I love that she makes a distinction too about being struck at “without a reason.”  Jane has a pretty firm moral code already at her young age, and it doesn’t accept irrational and undeserved punishment.  There’s no understanding for the ignorance or the prejudice that led to it, there’s only the need to make sure the other person knows it is not acceptable.  Swift justice from little Judge Jane.


Jane: “No; I know I should think well of myself; but that is not enough: if others don’t love me I would rather die than live—I cannot bear to be solitary and hated, Helen.”


First, round of applause for Charlotte Bronte on her perfect foreshadowing for Jane’s character development.  Young Jane can’t imagine thinking well of herself will be enough for her; older Jane clings to that completely in making her difficult decision to leave Mr. Rochester.  


So, really, how many of us could be as strong as adult Jane today?  Our culture is overflowing with our need to be validated and loved by family, friends, and strangers.  How could you bear being alone and hated?  Adult Jane espouses the ideal, but young Jane is the reality.  It would just suck to not be loved by anyone.  While, wonderfully, our culture also supports the fact that loving ourselves is important and leads to happier and healthier lives, young Jane’s plaintive need to be loved is something everyone feels.  It’s something we might not want to verbally admit to, but young Jane’s filter is off, and she is dropping truth.
Monday, April 18, 2016

Brooding About the Brontes

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Today kicks off the Brooding About the Brontës event hosted by Girl With Her Head In A Book!  This week on Susie's blog you can find the schedule, book reviews as well as guest posts from some of the participants.  The event has daily topics for bloggers to talk about, but for me, I decided to answer all of the questions in one post, as I have a few other posts planned for this week.  To begin:

Why do you love the Brontës?

The first Brontë book I ever read was Wuthering Heights, which was a strange novel.  One that I didn't really empathize with, but one that I found very fascinating and difficult to put down.  I can't say I really liked Wuthering Heights though, but I decided to give that other Brontë book a chance.  And so I read Jane Eyre, and I was lost forever.  Of course, now I've read all the novels by the sisters, and find them special for different reasons and I think it's because they are varied, and emotional and intense (except Agnes Grey haha) that I love the Brontës' work so much.  The atmosphere, drama and the characters appeal to me.

Pick your favourite Brontë novel

Jane Eyre.  I guess check out my review of Jane Eyre with Gifs if you are interested in more thoughts!


Do you have a ‘favourite sister’?

Charlotte Brontë!  Most because of Jane Eyre.  It's just hard for me to find the other sisters more dear because the mind that would create such a story as Jane Eyre, must be someone I can identify strongly with.  Charlotte seemed the most fun too - snarky, sharp, witty.  I feel like I could have really talked to her.

Pick your favourite Brontë-related book (fiction or non-fiction)

This is hard for me to choose, but I guess I'll go with my favorite retelling of Jane Eyre called "Jane_E: Friendless Orphan" by Erin McCole-Cupp.  It's a futuristic retelling, and it's not very well known, but I think it did a fantastic job of bringing the same amount of emotion to the characters.  It's a more straightforward retelling too, compared to others I have read.  Which I don't necessarily prefer, but it worked well for me in this case.

Are the Brontës being forgotten?

I don't think so - at least not Charlotte and Emily.  Anne has always been overshadowed by her sisters which is unfortunate, but she is often remembered in connection with her sisters.  With it being the 200th anniversary of Charlotte's birth this year, there are even more events and attention being paid to the Brontës lives now which is wonderful.  I'm looking forward to a BBC drama coming out later this year called "To Walk Invisible" all about the Brontë sisters.

Which Brontë fictional heroine (or indeed leading man) do you most closely identify with?

Jane, Jane, Jane.  I love her for her intelligence, her passion, her resiliency, and her morality.  I don't know if I am very like her, but I feel like I often aspire to be her.  I should get a bracelet that says WWJED (What would Jane Eyre do? :D)

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Suspense Sundays (195) The Black Path of Fear

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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 Black Path of Fear"
Air date: March 7, 1946
Starring Cary Grant
>>Episodes here<<

Newlyweds Bill and Eve visit Cuba on their honeymoon.  Eve has just gotten away from her former gangster husband, and with the new marriage is eager to put her past behind her.  Unfortunately someone tracks her down to the nightclub they are visiting and stabs her in the back, framing her new husband.  Bill must prove that he's innocent, and with the help of a prostitute, he has a chance.

This is a simple story really, but the draw is Cary Grant in the lead role.  It's always nice to hear Cary's smooth, ironic voice, and he does play put-upon leading men very well.  This put me in mind of North by Northwest with his need to figure out what was going on.   Although nothing can touch that great Hitchcock film.  Even the story is predictable, it is an enjoyable listen.
Thursday, April 14, 2016

Movie Musical Challenge: The Gay Divorcee

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In Movie Musical Challenge, I'm watching 20 films I picked as great films or films I wanted to watch.  This post is about the 1934 film The Gay Divorcee starring the classic duo of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

For my second Astaire/Rogers films, this one was another winner - so charming and romantic, and Ginger and Fred are really perfect as a duo.  Great comic timing, chemistry and of course perfect dance partners.  They work beautifully together.

The story of this film, is another fun farcical romance with Astaire chasing after Ginger who is trying to get a divorce.  Astaire's character, Guy, pining for Ginger's character Mimi is over the top and actually I could see why Mimi was so annoyed initially.  But it was a little sweet to see him wear her down (lol) and all the romantic overtures that went with it.  Including sealing the burgeoning relationship with a beautiful, emotional dance.

The film has a great comic aspect in the two supporting cast - Alice Brady and Edward Everett Horton, who are such caricatures, but entertaining nonetheless.  They add to the farcical plot line, and I think Horton's character was a great foil to Astaire's romantic side.

This is a fun, light-hearted romantic comedy, with some fantastic actors and dancing.  I think this is one of the more popular Astaire/Rogers films and I completely understand why.
Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Review: Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior

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Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior
by Leonard Mlodinow
Non-fiction
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:


Leonard Mlodinow, the best-selling author of The Drunkard’s Walk and coauthor of The Grand Design (with Stephen Hawking), gives us a startling and eye-opening examination of how the unconscious mind shapes our experience of the world and how, for instance, we often misperceive our relationships with family, friends, and business associates, misunderstand the reasons for our investment decisions, and misremember important events.

Your preference in politicians, the amount you tip your waiter—all judgments and perceptions reflect the workings of our mind on two levels: the conscious, of which we are aware, and the unconscious, which is hidden from us. The latter has long been the subject of speculation, but over the past two decades researchers have developed remarkable new tools for probing the hidden, or subliminal, workings of the mind. The result of this explosion of research is a new science of the unconscious and a sea change in our understanding of how the subliminal mind affects the way we live.

Employing his trademark wit and lucid, accessible explanations of the most obscure scientific subjects, Leonard Mlodinow takes us on a tour of this research, unraveling the complexities of the subliminal self and increasing our understanding of how the human mind works and how we interact with friends, strangers, spouses, and coworkers. In the process he changes our view of ourselves and the world around us.

Review:

The workings of the human mind is fascinating to me, so when I heard about this book, I had to pick it up right away.  And not just because of the words that are hidden in the book cover, haha.  For a book that promises a lot of science and facts, I found this to be such a readable and entertaining book.  The author presents the information, with facts and anecdotes very clearly and with just the right balance.  And I learned so much reading this.

It is truly fascinating how our mind works, and how many errors and shortcuts that occur in the way we think.  The author goes through those different aspects, and how susceptible we are to how we perceive the world, until it's hard to know what we can even trust.  But I like that there is the idea that if we know our failings, we can avoid them (also this has been shown in experiments as mentioned in the book), so for that I feel like this is an important read.  People should be aware of how and why they can make mistakes in how they think.

The fact that this book delves into an aspect of psychology that is relatively new, was eye-opening as well. It presents some history on how we used to think the mind, our memory, our hopes and fears came to be, and then shows how it makes more sense that so much of our mind operates on an unconscious level and what that means.  And also how we know that it happens.  This book does go more into the science as opposed to mind tricks (although there are some cool examples of how are minds are not reliable that you can show to your friends!), and I really appreciated how much research went into this book.

I don't read a lot of non-fiction, and when I do, it usually takes me some time to read, but this was a breeze to get through.  The writing is engaging and it's almost effortless to take in all the information.  This was a wonderful book!
Sunday, April 10, 2016

Suspense Sundays (194) Til the Day I Die

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.

"Til the Day I Die"
Air date: September 19, 1946
Starring Dane Clarke
>>Episodes here<<

Frankie and his girl Pat just committed an armed robbery, and Frankie had to kill a man in the process.  Only aftewards do they find out that the man killed is the spitting image of Frankie.  They are both very disturbed by this, but Pat is more upset.  They decide to split for awhile, until the police stop looking for a man and woman as suspects.  As Frankie is on a bus trying to get away, he gets recognized by a child as his Daddy.

Well apparently this is a darker take on the Biblical story of Cane and Abel, and I'm not sure if it really works.  I'm confused on why Frankie doesn't realize what's happened immediately, and also why he does a certain something at the end.  I didn't see his character as caring enough to do it.  This probably has potential as a plot though because the idea of it is creepy - to stumble across someone who looks exactly like you - and then to also have Frankie fall in love with the dead man's wife (another interesting twist to this story!)  Perhaps if this was longer though, it would have all worked better.
Thursday, April 7, 2016

Review: Tell the Wind and Fire

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Tell the Wind and Fire
by Sarah Rees Brennan
YA Fantasy
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:


In a city divided between opulent luxury in the Light and fierce privations in the Dark, a determined young woman survives by guarding her secrets.

Lucie Manette was born in the Dark half of the city, but careful manipulations won her a home in the Light, celebrity status, and a rich, loving boyfriend. Now she just wants to keep her head down, but her boyfriend has a dark secret of his own—one involving an apparent stranger who is destitute and despised. Lucie alone knows the young men’s deadly connection, and even as the knowledge leads her to make a grave mistake, she can trust no one with the truth.

Blood and secrets alike spill out when revolution erupts. With both halves of the city burning, and mercy nowhere to be found, can Lucie save either boy—or herself?

Review:

A Tale of Two Cities is one of my favorite classic novels, but I think the ending is what always sticks in my mind the most.  It's truly an emotional finale to the lives of the characters.  With a YA retelling, I was eager to see how it would be fashioned from such a dark story about revolution and revenge, and this book did not shy away from the heavy themes, and the potential for loss, redemption and sacrifice.  It's a darker story than I normally expect from young adult, but an intriguing read.

The beginning of the book sets up a lot of exposition about the fantasy world.  The pacing is a little uneven, because there is so much to the magic and the dark and the light.  The actual world is fascinating, although it's a little unclear to me how it all came to be in the first place.  The politics are pretty clear though - as the fear, greed and differences in status due to class is unfortunately universal.

Lucie was a very interesting main character.  She is seen as heroic by almost everyone around her, but she knows, and reveals to the reader often, that this is not the case.  This story is very much her struggles to come to terms with her past, and with the person she has become, and I found that inner struggle to be a great part of the story.  Even if I didn't like Lucie that much sometimes.  She's both a strong character and a vulnerable one, and that was interesting to see play out.  It made me frustrated with her at times, but it's believable that she has alot of flaws.   And it's great that Lucie has a stronger, unique voice in this book.

While the beginning of the book, and at times even the middle, lagged for me, the last quarter made up for all the time needed to set up the characters and world.  Revelations are made that I found shocking, the action intensifies, and the danger to everyone Lucie loves makes the story very suspenseful.  I was wondering how the author would bring in that amazing ending to A Tale of Two Cities, and I think she did it complete justice while making it her own.

(I received this book from the publisher or author for a fair and honest review.  I was not compensated for this review.)
Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Review: The Mirror King

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
The Mirror King (The Orphan Queen #2)
by Jodi Meadows
YA Fantasy
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:


Wilhelmina has a hundred enemies.

HER FRIENDS HAVE TURNED. After her identity is revealed during the Inundation, Princess Wilhelmina is kept prisoner by the Indigo Kingdom, with the Ospreys lost somewhere in the devastated city. When the Ospreys’ leader emerges at the worst possible moment, leaving Wil’s biggest ally on his deathbed, she must become Black Knife to set things right.

HER MAGIC IS UNCONTROLLABLE. Wil’s power is to animate, not to give true life, but in the wraithland she commanded a cloud of wraith mist to save herself, and later ordered it solid. Now there is a living boy made of wraith—destructive and deadly, and willing to do anything for her.

HER HEART IS TORN. Though she’s ready for her crown, declaring herself queen means war. Caught between what she wants and what is right, Wilhelmina realizes the throne might not even matter. Everyone thought the wraith was years off, but already it’s destroying Indigo Kingdom villages. If she can’t protect both kingdoms, soon there won’t be a land to rule.

In this stunning conclusion to THE ORPHAN QUEEN, Jodi Meadows follows Wilhelmina’s breathtaking and brave journey from orphaned criminal on the streets to magic-wielding queen.

Review:

The Mirror King takes up immediately where the first book left off.  Wil is immediately in a precarious position and is made to make reluctant decisions to save the people she cares about.  It's something that follows her throughout this novel, while she comes to terms to what it means to be a queen.

The journey is never easy, and it surprised me just how high the stakes became as the plot developed.  This is a fantasy that felt realistic because there were many terrible consequences and a deep sense of foreboding as the magic became more and more out of hand.  I loved how deeply captivating that made this story because I was so invested in the characters' plights.  It also made for some heart-rending twists and turns.  The Mirror King is all about difficult decisions and trying to do what's best for the people.

This book also features a romance that is so very touching in how much the two people care for each other, but in how so many obstacles lies in between their happiness.  The forbidden aspect to a romance always draws me in, and here it was exquisite.  Of course I can't talk about how it develops, but it was a very well-thought out part of this book and very believable.

I feel like there is much I can't discuss about this story because it is full of surprises, and the reader should discover them on his or her own.  If you loved the first book, the second book does not disappoint - it carries on with the adventure, the romance, and the suspense (oh my goodness, the suspense!) as well as being a believable and engaging fantasy read.  The Mirror King is a perfect end to the series.

(I received this book from the publisher or author for a fair and honest review.  I was not compensated for this review.)
Sunday, April 3, 2016

Suspense Sundays (193) You'll Never See Me Again

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.

"You'll Never See Me Again"
Air date: September 5, 1946
Starring Joseph Cotton
>>Episodes here<<

Ed Bliss has just had a big fight with his new wife, and she has stormed out, promising him he'd never see her again.  A few days later, Bliss decides to call his parents-in-law to talk to his wife, because of course she would be there.  But she's not, and now Bliss is not sure where his wife is.

A good old mystery - love it!  Especially when Bliss is so suspicious of his parents in law and what they are hiding.  Of course they are hiding something, and it's very suspenseful finding out what happened.  But also there is more to the parents' secrets.  Such a twisty episode, this is a great one to listen to!



Friday, April 1, 2016

Review: Future Shock

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Future Shock
by Elizabeth Briggs
YA Science Fiction
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:


Elena Martinez has hidden her eidetic memory all her life--or so she thinks. When powerful tech giant Aether Corporation selects her for a top-secret project, she can't say no. All she has to do is participate in a trip to the future to bring back data, and she'll be set for life.

Elena joins a team of four other teens with special skills, including Adam, a science prodigy with his own reason for being there. But when the time travelers arrive in the future, something goes wrong and they break the only rule they were given: do not look into their own fates.

Now they have twenty-four hours to get back to the present and find a way to stop a seemingly inevitable future from unfolding. With time running out and deadly secrets uncovered, Elena must use her eidetic memory, street smarts, and a growing trust in Adam to save her new friends and herself.

Review:

I found this to be such an exciting read. From the first, the author sets up an intriguing experiment conducted by a powerful company, with five very different, uniquely talented teens to explore the future.  I enjoyed the time travel aspect of this book very much - the way future technology was described and how the teens learn about all the changes in the world in the space of twenty four hours was excellently plotted.  Especially because I wouldn't have thought so much could be accomplished in twenty four hours, but with a lack of sleep, the characters uncover so much.

The driving force of the story is finding out what was really going on in the past, and why Elena and her group were chosen for this project.  Every character has something to hide, and this book brilliantly interweaves each character's past with what is happening in their present.   The fast-paced plot made this a riveting page-turner, and Elena was a fantastic, savvy and smart protagonist.

The story includes a bit of romance as well, which was nice, but I don't think I was as invested in it as I could have wished.  Even though Elena and Adam have been through a lot in the short amount of time, they grew very close, very quickly.  And maybe because of that, there was an aspect to the ending of this book that felt a little rushed, but I don't want to reveal too much about that, because the mystery of the story is such a great part of the plot.

Overall though, I enjoyed Future Shock thoroughly, and appreciated the intricacy of the plot, the diverse characters, and the exciting thrill ride in the mystery.

(I received this book from the publisher or author for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review.)
Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Four Year Blogoversary

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,


I don't have anything special planned, but I wanted to acknowledge that it was four years ago today that I started this blog!

This is cliche I know, but when I started, I would never have thought I'd make it to four years.  I am so used to picking up hobbies and gradually letting them fall away. :)  I have seen more recently how much harder it is to keep blogging - to find the time, or find the inspiration for new and interesting posts.  But I still find it very rewarding, and I feel accomplished whenever I schedule a new post.  I hope I can keep blogging for a long time.

I didn't expect either to have gotten to know so many wonderful bloggers internationally because of this.  It's always been a fantastic perk - just checking in with bloggers through all the social media makes me happy, and I thank every one who visits the blog and keeps in touch.  I'm so grateful for everyone.  It's wonderful to be a part of the blogging community!