Wednesday, July 27, 2016

San Diego Comic Con 2016

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,

Last weekend, I finally experienced San Diego Comic Con, thanks to the boyfriend who scored tickets for Saturday and Sunday just a couple weeks before.  I've always been a bit wary of how crowded and crazy the con is from everything I've heard about it, but of course I was eager to see for myself just how crazy it is.  It was a blast.  

When I was planning for what to try and see, I ruled out all the major panels - the ones where people line up and sleep overnight outside to try and get into - and opted for the smaller (mostly Star Trek related) ones that I was hoping wouldn't be too hard to get into.  So in that respect the con was a big success because we got to see all those panels.  
Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Update

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
Unfortunately, I haven't been able to keep up with blogging as much as I want, but I do still plan to post!  I have a couple ideas, but at the moment, my priority is to finish A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas, because it's taking me way too long to get through it (I'm enjoying it, but finding it hard to get in my reading time!)

I'm also going to San Diego Comic Con this weekend (woot!!!) so there's no slow down on the life stuff happening right now!  I hope to post about the con though, since this will be my first time actually attending the convention, instead of seeing everything outside of it.

As always, I'm so grateful to everyone who visits my blog!  Thank you, and I'll still be around!
Monday, July 4, 2016

The Newest Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,

Last Friday, I went to Universal Studios Hollywood to celebrate my Mom's birthday, and was extra happy to be able to finally see the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  I have yet to visit Florida and see how amazing it is over there, so it was great to finally be able to see it in my neck of the woods.  And I took a few photos to share the experience on my blog!

Friday, July 1, 2016

On Being Kind When Reviewing Books

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,

I've been thinking about writing this post for awhile now, but hesitated because I never want to sound like I'm trying to tell people what to do.  But this is something that influences the way I approach reviewing books, so at least for me, I thought it would be interesting to explore it.

When I’m considering buying a new book, book reviews are usually the first thing I check out. (Well after looking at the book cover and reading the blurb.) Seeing what other people think helps me a ton when deciding on whether or not to spend my money. But what makes me sad - even if it’s a book I didn’t like - is seeing those really angry reviews. The ones that rip into the the story and call into question the sanity of anyone willing to read it. Or the sanity of the author for writing it. I just wish those reviewers would be a little kinder. Now being kind when reviewing books is an interesting conundrum. On the one hand, if you, as the reader and reviewer, are disappointed by a book, you should make your disappointment clear as a warning to potential readers, and maybe if those feelings are strong enough, you want to show it with a few choice insults. Just for the sake of accuracy and to make sure there is no mistaking your attitude of derision and displeasure.

But being kind when reviewing does not mean letting a book slide for it’s faults or being banal or ineffective in your comments. It is important to point out what did not work in the book, but also important to remember that not all readers are the same. Reading is a solitary pastime, so a review is an account of a personal experience with a book. I don’t think you can be completely objective when reading a book because you project a little (or a lot) of yourself into the story. (Or in the case of a book you hated, you probably identified with nothing at all, and you would feel insulted if anyone thought you did.) But for every book that someone hated, someone loved it. In book reviewing, I think being kind is just in remembering that someone does love that book.

I know that many people really write the review for themselves, and to that I’d say that being kind can also help make a review more precise. To my mind, a review full of vitriol doesn’t necessarily make it more accurate. I mean generally if someone is angry, their judgement is impaired. There is someone out there who does like that book, so there has to be some merit to it. Perhaps a character stands out, a plot point was interesting, a point of view resonates, the writing wasn’t all bad, or there was just enjoyment value. This kindness approach can help to really see the book for what it is, and not for what you want it to be. And maybe, if you’re writing a review just for yourself, that one merit you flew by when writing about how much you hated everything else, could be something you actually look for as a reader in the future. Sometimes there are books you hated, and yet find they are not so bad when you read them years later.

If you are reviewing books to help other readers, it seems more helpful to weigh the good and the bad as much as possible to paint a complete picture (or at least complete from your point of view.) As a reader, you love books, and writers want their books to be loved, so not to get too hippy dippy, but wouldn’t it be nice to spread that bookish love more and try to be kind when reviewing books?

Now, maybe I should reread Moby Dick… Lord, give me strength.
Monday, June 27, 2016

Movie Mini-Reviews

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Lately I've been watching a lot of films in lieu of reading (all the fault of my boyfriend, although he's reading Jane Eyre, so it's win-win!), and I thought it would be nice to jot down some thoughts on what I've seen for my memory's sake, and also to see if any of my blog readers have thoughts on these films.  I'll start first with the less recent watch -

The Girl (2012)
Starring: Sienna Miller and Toby Jones

I love Hitchcock's films, so I thought I would love this behind the scenes look at the making of The Birds and Hitchcock's relationship with Tippi Hedren.  Even though I knew they didn't have a good relationship.  But wow, this film did not shy away from showing a disturbingly perverted side to Hitchcock.  I'm not sure how accurate this is, but it's definitely not how I want to think of Hitchcock.  The film itself moves a bit slow too, which didn't help with my overall enjoyment of it.  Also there were plenty of moments that showed off how creepy Hitchcock was towards Tippi, and I wish there had been more of an explanation/reasoning on why she decided to do another film with him after The Birds.  And I would have been interested to know more about Hitchcock's wife and what she was really thinking during that time.




The Lost Boys (1987)
Starring: Jason Patric and Corey Haim

This is a film I've heard a lot about, but never watched, so now that has been rectified.  It's kind of surprising it's taken me this long to see it, given how much I love vampire stories.  This one reminded me a lot of Fright Night with the tone, and the stand-off at the end.  This is a very entertaining film - it has all the hallmarks of an exciting vampire film - an innocent resistant to becoming a vampire himself, an allure and danger to the vampires, a beautiful girl in need of rescuing, and a surprise villain in the end.  And it has some very humorous moments! It was surprising to see a young Kiefer Sutherland too - he's very well cast as the dangerous, seductive vampire in this!





Friday, June 24, 2016

Appreciating the Cotswolds

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The Cotswolds is an area in Southern England covering six counties that comprise of "rolling hills and grassland" and "thatched medieval villages, churches and stately homes built of distinctive yellow limestone."   It's inordinately beautiful, and on my trip to England last month, I visited the area for the first time.  (Well I've been to a couple towns that are part of the Cotswolds - Stratford Upon Avon and Oxford - before, but this time I really took in what makes that part of England unique.  Thanks to the driving of a dear friend since it's not easy to get around in that area by public transport.)

The villages I visited included Bourton-on-the-Water, Upper and Lower Slaughter, Blockley and Broadway.
Monday, June 20, 2016

Review: The Dark Days Club

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The Dark Days Club
by Alison Goodman
YA Fantasy
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:


London, April 1812. Eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall is on the eve of her debut presentation to the Queen. Her life should be about gowns and dancing, and securing a suitable marriage. Instead, when one of her family's housemaids goes missing, Lady Helen is drawn to the shadows of Regency London.

There, she finds William, the Earl of Carlston. He has noticed the disappearance, too, and is one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of powerful demons that has infiltrated every level of society. But Lady Helen’s curiosity is the last thing Carlston wants—especially when he sees the searching intelligence behind her fluttering fan. Should Helen trust a man whose reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her headstrong sense of justice lead them both into a death trap?

In The Dark Days Club, internationally best-selling author Alison Goodman introduces readers to a heroine who is just as remarkable as Eona—and yet again reinvents an establlished literary genre, making it her own.

Review:

The Dark Days Club has a fun premise and delivers on a romp of a romantic adventure, with darker overtones.  While the story takes it's time to develop the characters and for the unique world of demons to be fleshed out, it was worth the slower pace to get to know these characters.

Lady Helen was a feisty character, typically unconventional enough to be open to embracing the darker world of battling demons, but she does struggle with changes to her world view, and I appreciated how realistically hesitant she was about embracing that.  I felt the ultimate conflict of this story was in whether Helen could take on her role, and the conflict of some greater evil rising will be further explored in the later books.  I may have had some moments when I felt like Helen was too naive or too indecisive, but it did feel right for the story that she was scared about the changes in her life.

The world-building was a highlight of this story for me.  The demons had a unique spin to them, and it was intriguing to find out more about their limitations and the balance of power that exists between them and the Dark Days Club who are supposed to protect the innocent from them.  Again, the realism to the fantasy was wonderful, and I think it set up what will be some fantastic plot twists in the next book(s).

There is a romance, and it is a nice slow-burn one - it doesn't take too much away from the action in the plot, and it presents Helen with some real options about what she wants from her life.  I like that she is presented with a choice  - one that is more normal than the other - and Helen has to wrestle with which one works better for her.  I, of course, was partial to the darker, sarcastic Lord Carlton, and I really enjoyed his interactions with Helen which was very antagonistic in the beginning.

The Dark Days Club is sn enjoyable read, with a unique take on demons, a great protagonist, lots of potential in Helen, and the beginnings of an epic confrontation to come.


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Suspense Sundays (200) Lazarus Walks

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.

"Lazarus Walks"
Air date: October 31, 1946
Starring Brian Donlevy
>>Episodes here<<

Dr. Robert Graham is contacted by a man, Roger, who was clinically dead for four minutes before being brought back.  Roger needs Dr. Graham's help because ever since that experience he's been able to "know" when someone is lying about something and is able to know the truth.  Dr. Graham wants to study Roger's case further, and during the course of that, Roger discovers that Dr. Graham wants to murder his wife.

With the way I summarized the story, I feel like the more interesting point of view would be Roger's, but this episode is from the point of view of Dr. Graham, and the suspense comes in seeing if Dr. Graham can outsmart Roger.  I feel like this has such an interesting premise, that it could have been a more absorbing story than it actually is, but Dr. Graham's side of the story was still pretty intriguing.

-------
I'm sorry to say that this will be my last Suspense Sundays post for now, it's been getting harder and harder to find the time to listen and write about these episodes.  Two hundred episodes seems like a good place to stop - or take a break, I might bring this back again someday! 
Friday, June 17, 2016

Review: The Course of Love

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The Course of Love
by Alain De Botton
Fiction
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:


The long-awaited and beguiling second novel from Alain de Botton that tracks the beautifully complicated arc of a romantic partnership, from the internationally bestselling author of On Love and How Proust Can Change Your Life.

We all know the headiness and excitement of the early days of love. But what comes after? In Edinburgh, a couple, Rabih and Kirsten, fall in love. They get married, they have children—but no long-term relationship is as simple as “happily ever after.” The Course of Love is a novel that explores what happens after the birth of love, what it takes to maintain love, and what happens to our original ideals under the pressures of an average existence. You experience, along with Rabih and Kirsten, the first flush of infatuation, the effortlessness of falling into romantic love, and the course of life thereafter. Interwoven with their story and its challenges is an overlay of philosophy—an annotation and a guide to what we are reading.

This is a romantic novel in the true sense, one interested in exploring how love can survive and thrive in the long term. The result is a sensory experience—fictional, philosophical, psychological—that urges us to identify deeply with these characters, and to reflect on his and her own experiences in love. Fresh, visceral, and utterly compelling, The Course of Love is a provocative and life-affirming novel for everyone who believes in love.

Review:

I absolutely adored this book.  It was a refreshing, fast-paced and thought-provoking read, that delved into the nature of love - not just the first infatuation and romance, but long lasting relationships and marriage.  It was just fascinating for me, and interesting to see how the actions of the two protagonists were broken down by the author.

The structure of this novel is non-traditional, in that the author often inserts philosophical or thoughtful commentary on each stage of the romance, and the actual story lacks a real novel structure because it's more of an overview of how Rabih and Kirsten met, fell in love, and their progression with marriage and children.  I'm not yet at the stage where I have a lot of experience with this, so it was wonderful to get an impartial look at the emotions that run through these experiences and what it means for the person and for the significant other.  Even though the story is mostly from Rabih's point of view, the novel looks at the relationship in such an equitable way, that I felt like I could easily relate to both Rabih and Kristen, and all of their trials and successes.  It's a little bittersweet to read the progression of their relationship, with all the ups and downs, in such a truncated way, but revelatory to get such a unique overview of these two peoples' lives.

This is a book that I think will stick with me for a long time, because the experiences discussed in this book are so meaningful and timeless.  The thoughts and emotions are applicable to almost everyone, and the search or maintenance of a long lasting romantic relationship is certainly a major part of most people's lives.  This is a beautiful and fascinating book.
Monday, June 13, 2016

Jane Eyre 1956 - an early miniseries adaptation

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On my trip to England last month, I made a point of visiting the British Film Institute in London to see an early six-part (half-hour each) adaptation of Jane Eyre starring Daphne Slater and Stanley Baker.  Now, I'm definitely a purist when it comes to adaptations, and for an older adaptation, I was totally prepared to watch something over-the-top, overwrought and not very true to the story.  I was pleasantly surprised by this version however!  It was quite good!  There were a few stand-out aspects to the way the story was told, and I enjoyed Slater and Baker's interpretation of the characters.  I might have wished for a little more from them, but we can't always get what we want, haha.  For this post,  I'm going to go a little in depth with the whole adaptation, so this is another lengthy Jane Eyre-related post that I'm sure my blog does not have enough of!

The dialogue/script is a good jumping off point for my initial impression of the story.  It follows the general plot of the novel very well, but often veers off from using the actual dialogue in the book.  Which is interesting to me, because that can so easily go wrong, but in this case, I quite liked the script.  There were the odd missed moments - when it came to the more emotional scenes, it would have been nice to have Charlotte's beautiful words come into play, but the gist of the scenes, and the characters' emotions were there.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Suspense Sundays (199) A Plane Case of Murder

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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.

"A Plane Case of Murder"
Air date: October 10, 1946
Starring John Lund
>>Episodes here<<

Randy Judson, until recently, was a prisoner of a concentration camp in the Philippines.  The only thing that got him through that terrible time, was thinking of his lovely girlfriend waiting for him back home.  But when he does get home, he discovers that Marian married a rich man, and now Randy wants revenge.  He manages to convince Marian that he's a rich man too, due to all the attention over his experience in the Philippines, and now Marian wants him back.  The only way she can get rid of her husband though is through murder.

The story does involve a plane, hence the heavy-handed stress on "plane" in the title and in the opening scene of the episode.  This is a pretty clever story, despite the general awfulness of both Marian and Randy, but like with most Suspense episodes, people get what they deserve.  I did also love the double cross, that you could see coming a mile away, but was still pretty satisfying.  
Friday, June 10, 2016

Movie Musical Challenge: Easter Parade

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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 1948 musical Easter Parade starring Judy Garland and Fred Astaire.

Easter Parade is a charming film, but without a lot of substance.  Fred Astaire and Judy Garland are a great onscreen match though - they had good chemistry and a sweet romance ultimately. And of course their dancing together was excellent.

The film is a kind of a Cinderella story, with Judy's character Hannah, being primed by Astaire's character Don to becoming a big star of the stage.  Their ups and downs as a performing couple, and then as a romantic couple are shown, but it's strange that their romance was a bit of a surprise.  Although they had chemistry as performers, I felt like they didn't really show how that developed romantically until Hannah was suddenly sighing over Don.  Being such a fan of romance, I'm sure if that was developed gradually, I would have loved this film more.

The music is good, but surprisingly unmemorable to me.  I can't even pinpoint a great musical moment - the only one perhaps that stands out above the rest is "Stepping Out With My Baby" which features Fred Astaire, and some awesome dancing.  And an interesting slow-mo sequence of him dancing, while the back up dancers look to be dancing in real time.  It seemed a little odd for that bit of technical filming to be included in this, when everything else in the film was pretty straightforward, but it was cool to watch.

Originally Gene Kelly was cast in the male lead role, but had to back out when he broke his ankle, so a part of me is sad that I can't see what Gene would have done with the part, because while this is a nice film, it doesn't particularly stand out to me.  Perhaps the biggest draw is the fact that it features Judy Garland and Fred Astaire together, and for that I can recommend giving this a watch.
Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Review: Warrior Witch

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Warrior Witch (Malediction Trilogy #3)
by Danielle L. Jensen
YA Fantasy
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:


Cécile and Tristan have accomplished the impossible, but their greatest challenge remains: defeating the evil they have unleashed upon the world.

As they scramble for a way to protect the people of the Isle and liberate the trolls from their tyrant king, Cécile and Tristan must battle those who’d see them dead. To win, they will risk everything. And everyone.

But it might not be enough. Both Cécile and Tristan have debts, and they will be forced to pay them at a cost far greater than they had ever imagined.

Review:

The third book in this fantastic trilogy maintains the excitement and suspense that I've loved about this series since the beginning.  The cliffhanger in the second book was pretty dramatic, so finally getting a resolution and finding out more about the trolls and magic in this world was so satisfying.  I found this an intense read, but perfectly balanced in it's drama and the resolution for the characters.

The romance was always a major draw for me in this series, and Cecile and Tristan are so close and so perfect for each other, that I was wondering where their relationship could develop from there, but the author manages to take it to the next level, and develop them even further.  It was interesting, especially to see a different side to Tristan - one in which he is not so caught up in Cecile, and had to be a bit darker, with more of an edge.  And I love that the resolution of their story had some unexpected moments that made me feel so many emotions for the both of them.

With the war finally being played out in the story, there are some major consequences that made this book very emotional in so many ways, however.  There were times when I felt things were resolved a little too easily, but that was a minor thing for me, because the ending had a major obstacle that did not resolve the way I expected at all, and added a lot more gravitas to the story, and justified that there were serious consequences to the actions of some of the characters.

It was a completely fitting and engrossing end to a wonderful series.  Anyone who hasn't had a chance to start the trilogy, should pick it up as soon as they can - it's a fantastic binge read!

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

Suspense Sundays (198) Three Times Murder

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.

"Three Times Murder"
Air date: October 3, 1946
Starring Rita Hayworth
>>Episodes here<<

Laura Morton decides to murder her husband and make it look like an accident.  Her husband loves to shave with his electric shaver in the bath, and even though she often berates him for it, he persists.  Of course something bad eventually happens.  The district attorney, Elmer, is sure that she did it, and nags her to confess.  When she is found innocent by trial, she finally breaks down in private and confesses to the DA.  But then she goes on with her life and marries another man who she is very happy with.  Sometime later she discovers that this man has a brother - the same district attorney who knows she committed murder.

Ooh this was a clever episode!! Interesting take on the femme fatale, because I did feel symapthetic with her, and it was interesting that Laura was very much in love with her second husband.  I was expecting that she would want to murder him too.  It is interesting that the district attorney is the one who really feels like a villain even though he did not commit murder.  But he is so unpleasant.  It's an interesting twist on a story that at first seemed pretty straightforward.
Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Movie Musical Challenge: Calamity Jane

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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 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

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,

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

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.

"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

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
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

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 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.