Monday, March 2, 2015

Away to Whimsical FairyTale Land - Introduction

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,

It's the first day of the week long fairy tale event I'm co-hosting with the lovely Ana @ Read Me Away!  If you want more information about the event - check out my post here.  If you haven't signed up but would like to participate a little, I hope you can join us for our #AWFairyTale twitter chat this Saturday, March 7th at 6pm PST/9pm EST.  It will be for an hour and we'll have questions and trivia to answer!

To the wonderful participants of this event: there is a link-up below on this post, so please add the URL of your introduction post so we can all visit each other! :)  Now on to my introduction answers--

What is the fairy tale you picked? 

The fairy tale I picked is the Grimm Brothers tale - The Six Swans.  I was already familiar with this story and liked it, but analyzing it for this event has given me a better appreciation for the story.  And it has a depth and an emotional drama to it that was surprising to me, since I never really noticed it before.  It was very easy to delve more deeply into this fairy tale (which is what I do for tomorrow's post!)

Why did you pick your fairy tale of choice? 

I picked this one because I've been wanting to read 'Daughter of the Forest' by Juliet Marillier for a long time now, and this gives me the perfect incentive to finally pick it up!  I'm also planning to read 'The Swan Kingdom' by Zoe Marriott because I've really enjoyed a Marriott fairy tale retelling in the past, and this one sounds excellent!

        


Why do you love fairy tales?

They are magical!  They're timeless, and so elemental in their emotions and simplicity, and it's wonderful to see how they are re-imagined for different times and cultures.  I love how they can make me feel transported into an almost child-like appreciation just for the art of story telling.   Fairy tales are also embedded in our psyche, and I enjoy examining how they have become so.

What are some of your favorite fairy tales?

Well "Beauty and the Beast" and "Bluebeard" are tops - one has a lovely romance, and the other is full of danger and Gothic mystery.  For a more obscure tale, I love one called "The Youth Who Could Not Shiver or Shake" for the humor and irony.  If there were more retellings related to that story, I might have picked it for this event.  For the Friday funtimes post, I plan to talk about my top 5 favorite fairy tales, so there will be more on this later!

Link up!

Please add a link to your own Away to Whimsical FairyTale Land Introduction post below!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Suspense Sundays (139) Crank Letter

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.

"Crank Letter"
Air date: February 21, 1960
Starring Lyle Sudrow
>>Episodes here<<

Dr. Fraser calls the police when he receives a threatening letter accusing him of murdering a patient and getting away with it.  Lieutenant Nieman is dismissive of the crank letter, but Dr. Fraser receives another, and then receives another - not through the mail, but left on his desk.  Lieutenant Nieman is seriously investigating now.

While this is a solidly constructed suspenseful story, I feel like I've seen the twist in this done too much to be really impressed by it.  It was probably a great episode to listen to at the time though, so overall I think this is an enjoyable episode.  There are some good misdirection scenes to keep you from guessing the outcome.
Friday, February 27, 2015

Review: Dreamfever

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Dreamfever (Fever Series #4)
by Karen Marie Moning
Urban Fantasy
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:


He has stolen her past, but MacKayla will never allow her sister’s murderer to take her future. Yet even the uniquely gifted sidhe-seer is no match for the Lord Master, who has unleashed an insatiable sexual craving that consumes Mac’s every thought—and thrusts her into the seductive realm of two very dangerous men, both of whom she desires but dares not trust.

As the enigmatic Jericho Barrons and the sensual Fae prince V’lane vie for her body and soul, as cryptic entries from her sister’s diary mysteriously appear and the power of the Dark Book weaves its annihilating path through the city, Mac’s greatest enemy delivers a final challenge.…

It’s an invitation Mac cannot refuse, one that sends her racing home to Georgia, where an even darker threat awaits. With her parents missing and the lives of her loved ones under siege, Mac is about to come face-to-face with a soul-shattering truth—about herself and her sister, about Jericho Barrons…and about the world she thought she knew.

Review:

Well.  This book certainly resolves a lot of the tension between Mac and Barrons without really resolving anything!  Canny.  The previous book in this series (Faefever) had a very dark ending, so this book very fittingly continues with that as Mac is changed from the character I grew to love in the beginning of the series.  That darkness and edge to her is welcome though, because things have gotten so chaotic in the world of this book, and I was more than happy to see her kick butt along with a spunky, young sidhe seer, Dani who can be a lot of fun.

The pace of this book is more leisurely than the first three books I felt.  There's a lot more happening, and some shifts in POV to Dani, as Mac recovers.  At first Dani was a bit annoying, and I was eager to get back to Mac's POV, but Dani really grew on me, especially since she has so much pain she tries to keep hidden.  And it was poignant to see her look up to Mac so much.  I was also glad how much Mac relied on Dani because the main men in Mac's lives - Jericho, V'lane, and Christian have all let her down in some way.  Girl power!

With the slower pace it was, at times, easier to stop reading the book than it had been before, but I think the development of the story was where it needed to be, so I didn't think too badly of that.  There are still the same shocking twists and turns I love about the series, and a really suspenseful cliffhanger - I mean WTF!! status, that is again propelling me onward to the next book immediately.  It's ridiculous how eager I am to read each new installment!

On a side note, I've been listening to most of this series on audiobook, and for some reason with the fourth book they've changed narrators, and added a male voice for all the male characters in the story.  Which works wonders for Jericho Barrons especially since I felt that the prior female narrator gave him such a strangely unattractive voice.  The original narrator didn't really bother me as much while I was listening, but now that I've heard these new readers on Dreamfever, I definitely find it much more enjoyable.  And the back and forth banter between Mac and Jericho is more fun because it's faster when two different people are reading it!
Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Movie Musical Challenge: Guys and Dolls

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
In Movie Musical Challenge, I'm watching all 25 picks for AFI's Greatest musicals starting from the bottom.  Number 23 is the 1955 film Guys and Dolls.  I've seen this film before and I was not that impressed with it, but I'm happy to say that with watching it the second time, I enjoyed it much more!  It's not going to be a new favorite of mine, but it is definitely a fun film to watch.

The cast was excellent in this - Vivan Blaine originated the role of Adelaide in the stage version so of course she was delightful. 'Adelaide's Lament' is probably my favorite song from this show.  I thought Frank Sinatra was wonderful as the harried gambler Detroit as was Jean Simmons as the uptight, virtuous Sarah.  Marlon Brando was an interesting choice though, he fit the suave Masterson very well - and he is so handsome!  But he is not a strong singer, and there are a couple really fantastic songs in this musical that would have been great to hear from someone with a stronger voice.  Although Brando's voice sounded pretty nice if he just had to croon more of his song.

This musical is full of misunderstandings and farcical situations which makes for many cute and funny moments.  The romance between the leads is sweet too in different ways.  Overall, I think this is an enjoyable movie, but somehow not one that I would immediately think of as one of the best movie musicals.  Perhaps it's the drama of these particular characters that doesn't appeal to me as much - with gamblers and criminals - even as likable as they are in this film - makes it hard for me to really sympathize.  I'm glad I watched this film again though, because I have a better appreciation for it than I did before.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Review: Faefever

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Faefever (Fever Series #3)
by Karen Marie Moning
Urban Fantasy
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:


He calls me his Queen of the Night. I’d die for him. I’d kill for him, too. When MacKayla Lane receives a torn page from her dead sister’s journal, she is stunned by Alina’s desperate words. And now MacKayla knows that her sister’s killer is close. But evil is closer. And suddenly the sidhe-seer is on the hunt: For answers. For revenge. And for an ancient book of dark magic so evil, it corrupts anyone who touches it.

Mac’s quest for the Sinsar Dubh takes her into the mean, shape-shifting streets of Dublin, with a suspicious cop on her tail. Forced into a dangerous triangle of alliance with V’lane, an insatiable Fae prince of lethally erotic tastes, and Jericho Barrons, a man of primal desires and untold secrets, Mac is soon locked in a battle for her body, mind, and soul.

As All Hallows’ Eve approaches and the city descends into chaos, as a shocking truth about the Dark Book is uncovered, not even Mac can prevent a deadly race of immortals from shattering the walls between worlds—with devastating consequences.…

Review:

This series continues to delight me so!  The world-building is expanded even more, as Mac works to become better prepared for whatever is coming.  Mac's efforts to not keep all her eggs in one basket as she says, means she has to deal with a variety of people who are untrustworthy and suspicious, and it's interesting how she navigates between them.  I'm pretty sure I know who I think she should trust, but it's good to see her explore her options.  Especially with V'lane, the Fae prince who is much more fleshed out in this story.  He's a fun character - all charm and manners, but with questionable morality and an inability to understand humans.  I definitely wanted to see more of a face-off between him and Barrons!

It is funny/annoying how pretty much all the guys Mac talks to wants to know if she's sleeping with the other guy (answer: no) and like Mac, I was very much fed up with their intrusive and unwelcome comments on her private life.  There's the addition of another character - Christian, who is of course very good looking, interested in Mac, and can tell when people are lying which makes Mac's life a little harder.  I did like him in the beginning, but his lie detector thing was getting very annoying, very quickly.  I say this though, not as a flaw in the story, but because I'm so caught up in these characters that I react to them as if they were real people!  Because I'm loving these books!

The story ramps up to the All Hallow's Eve finale, which is devastating - like 200% more than I was expecting, and which really elevated this book in my opinion.  The stakes are so high, and the ending is so chilling, that even the author included a little note at the end, telling her readers that things aren't as bad as they seem.  Well that didn't really help my stress level, but going immediately into the fourth book did!
Sunday, February 22, 2015

Suspense Sundays (138) The Mystery of Marie Roget

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 Mystery of Marie Roget"
Air date: February 7, 1960
Starring Jackson Beck
>>Episodes here<<

Edgar Allan Poe's detective C. Auguste Dupin investigates the death of Marie Roget - a young girl found dead in the Seine River.  Dupin unravels the mystery using a clear set of clever deductions, which is revealed to the listener in a brilliant sum-up in the end.

This episode mentions the real life mystery of the death of Mary Roger which occurred in New York City and inspired Poe to write the original story.  This Suspense episode, rather grandly, gives Poe a ton of credit by saying Poe figured out the mystery perfectly which was proved by a confession given for the real life case later.  Which I found very interesting, so I looked it up and have found that to not be the case.  The real life murder mystery has never been conclusively solved.  How terrible that in this time there was no internet to fact check these people!  I hope the Suspense writers were not just blatantly lying so they can make the episode sound better.  They did sort of link up the real life mystery with Poe's version in this episode, by having an epilogue scene where we "hear" the murderer being brought to justice.  That approach to adapting this story really was a terrible idea, but Poe's story itself is really clever and intriguing - I was very much impressed by how Dupin solved the mystery.
Friday, February 20, 2015

Review: Bloodfever

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Bloodfever (Fever Series #2)
by Karen Marie Moning
Urban Fantasy
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary


MacKayla Lane’s ordinary life underwent a complete makeover when she landed on Ireland’s shores and was plunged into a world of deadly sorcery and ancient secrets.

In her fight to stay alive, Mac must find the Sinsar Dubh–a million-year-old book of the blackest magic imaginable, which holds the key to power over both the worlds of the Fae and of Man. Pursued by Fae assassins, surrounded by mysterious figures she knows she cannot trust, Mac finds herself torn between two deadly and irresistible men: V’lane, the insatiable Fae who can turn sensual arousal into an obsession for any woman, and the ever-inscrutable Jericho Barrons, a man as alluring as he is mysterious.

For centuries the shadowy realm of the Fae has coexisted with that of humans. Now the walls between the two are coming down, and Mac is the only thing that stands between them.…

Review:

I feel like 'Bloodfever' is more of an extension of the first book 'Darkfever' than it's own story.  The first book ended kind of abruptly and on a cliffhanger - there's no real resolution, so that this book is absolutely necessary to pick up next.  And MacKayla's life continues to get more complicated and darker in this installment.  She also develops quite nicely into a stronger, more resilient heroine, who is determined to keep her own secrets in an effort to hold on to some control, while everything else in her life spirals crazily.  I love that her character is getting more spiky, snarky and daring as the story progresses!

One of the reasons I'm enjoying this series so much so far, is because of the antagonistic relationship between Mac and Jericho Barrons.  It's so fun!  They rely on each other but they fight a lot and it's obvious there's a lot of sexual tension there.  It's so fantastic that the author is really drawing that out!  You really need to keep reading the series to find out what's going to happen on that front.  And I am definitely still reading.

The world-building is expanded on even more, with more questions raised than answered about what is happening in Dublin with the influx of unseelie fae.  And I have to say the resolution of this book in particular was emotional and nerve-wracking - there's a few surprises, and some dark, sordid scenes that thankfully the author didn't over describe, leaving just enough to the imagination.  It's hard to think of this book on it's own merits though, as I'm reading this series back to back practically and they are all running together in my mind.  But I think that's the best way to immerse oneself in this fantastically detailed and dangerous world.

I thoroughly enjoyed this one and was very much eager to pick up the next in the series, as this ends on yet another eye-opening cliffhanger!  This book has cemented my addiction to this series!

Also, if you are unfamiliar with this series, I liken it to the Sookie Stackhouse books, although there is more of a focus on Celtic/Fae lore as opposed to the myriad of supernaturals in the Sookie books.  And this series has less of a focus on fantasy and self-contained stories, as each book seems to continue the main storyline.
Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Star Trek DS9 Season 5 - Top 5 Favorite Episodes

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
Well DS9 continues to be an interplay of character developments, gray areas and compromise.  It can be frustrating and disheartening at times, but I get that they are going with alot of realism with this series.  I was surprised when they took away Odo's changeling ability in the last season, because it did feel sad that something so integral to his character was taken away, but it was even more surprising (and a little too easy) how quickly he got it back.  I suppose though that I don't really mind, since I'm happy that Odo still has that thing that makes him special.  :)

The Dominion is certainly a formidable opponent - it's hard to see how the Federation can win when they are so completely out-matched!  The season finale for this was pretty devastating, but it is interesting that they changed the format of the show so much.  My picks for this season aren't the strongest episodes I've seen from DS9, but there are a couple really great ones.

5. Past Things


Odo, Sisko, Garak and Dax inexplicably find themselves in the bodies of Bajorans during the time of the Cardassian occupation.  In addition to the interesting premise that these characters are somehow stuck in the past, this episode turned out to be an important character development for Odo, which showed a side of him that has never really come up before.  Of course, I thought Odo did the best he could and should not have felt so guilty, but that is beside the point since the fact that he hides his feelings so much is a big turning point in the story, and made for great consistency and development for his character.
Monday, February 16, 2015

I Mustache You Some Questions meme

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,

Lorelei @ Emerald City Book Review tagged me in this fun meme of different questions (thank you!) and now I finally get to answer the questions!

Four Names People Call Me Other Than My Real Name

  1. Char
  2. Charmander (Pokemon anyone? Like one person has ever really called me that)
That's pretty much it! :)

Four Jobs I've Had

  1. Mount/Press Plants - in college, this was my first job - to mount pressed plants onto archive paper for research purposes.
  2. Zookeeper Assistant - at the London Zoo for one glorious summer internship.  So many great memories!
  3. Research assistant - on a study for examining the effects of different kinds of milk sugars on calf developments - I basically had to bottle feed/bucket feed milk to baby cows.  It was fun!
  4. Research assistant - what I'm doing now, which is developmental genetics stuff

Four Movies I've Watched More Than Once

  1. The Sound of Music
  2. Back to the Future
  3. Jane Eyre (2011)
  4. The Little Mermaid

Four Books I'd Recommend

  1. Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning
  2. Bloodfever by Karen Marie Moning
  3. Faefever by Karen Marie Moning
  4. Dreamfever by Karen Marie Moning
Can you tell I'm on a Fever series kick right now?  And after these four books I recommend all the rest!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Suspense Sundays (137) End of the Road

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.

"End of the Road"
Air date: January 31, 1960
Starring Rita Lloyd
>>Episodes here<<

Mary Luciano is married to a brute of a husband in Willy - he has a questionable source of income, and has started to beat her.  Mary goes to a lawyer to start divorce proceedings and her lawyer is busy securing ways to keep her and her child safe.  Until Willy comes home one night and makes it up to Mary.  Mary calls off the divorce, and the lawyer gives it about 6 months before something will happen.

Okay.  This episode is a very realistic suspense story in that it is basically the story of what a wife does when she has an abusive husband.  Although the focus seems more on the lawyer and the district attorney which seems typical for the time period of this episode.  (Why can't the wife tell her own story??)  While it is clearly foolish for the wife to stay with a husband who is violent and a criminal, the DA, who is supposed to be helping her, was very free with his judgments.  It was very annoying.  I suppose though that this could have been helpful to listen to at the time, for women who might have been in a similar situation.  This sort of domestic drama isn't why I like to listen to Suspense stories though, so I don't think very highly of this episode in general.
Friday, February 13, 2015

Review: Darkfever

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Darkfever (Fever #1)
by Karen Marie Moning
Fantasy / Suspense
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:


MacKayla Lane’s life is good. She has great friends, a decent job, and a car that breaks down only every other week or so. In other words, she’s your perfectly ordinary twenty-first-century woman. Or so she thinks…until something extraordinary happens.

When her sister is murdered, leaving a single clue to her death–a cryptic message on Mac’s cell phone–Mac journeys to Ireland in search of answers. The quest to find her sister’s killer draws her into a shadowy realm where nothing is as it seems, where good and evil wear the same treacherously seductive mask. She is soon faced with an even greater challenge: staying alive long enough to learn how to handle a power she had no idea she possessed–a gift that allows her to see beyond the world of man, into the dangerous realm of the Fae….

As Mac delves deeper into the mystery of her sister’s death, her every move is shadowed by the dark, mysterious Jericho, a man with no past and only mockery for a future. As she begins to close in on the truth, the ruthless Vlane–an alpha Fae who makes sex an addiction for human women–closes in on her. And as the boundary between worlds begins to crumble, Mac’s true mission becomes clear: find the elusive Sinsar Dubh before someone else claims the all-powerful Dark Book–because whoever gets to it first holds nothing less than complete control of the very fabric of both worlds in their hands….

Review:

I was unsure about reading this book in the beginning because I was afraid this would be full of 'sexy times' type scenes and I felt like that would mean it would be light on plot.  I was totally wrong.  It's does have it's adult moments, but the plot is solid and engaging, and there's much more suspense than romance.  It was in fact, a perfect read for me, because I could hardly put it down, and the twists and turns in the story were delicious.  I was also rooting for the main character Mac, who despite her Barbie appearances, is smart and determined, and I loved that she found a way to persevere even when she was scared and confused by everything happening around her.  She was also really funny and sassy!

Reluctantly, Mac teams up with Jericho Barrons who is such an enigma.  And I love that we are left with so many questions about him unanswered in this book - it's going to be interesting exploring his character further in the series.  He is the kind of dark, sardonic male lead I like to read about, although in the beginning of this story he really came off as a jerk and barely by the end is he starting to redeem himself.  I sometimes don't know what I think about him, but I do like the dynamic that is set up between him and Mac.

The setting and the world building is fantastic as well - the streets of Dublin, while scary with the fae running around, also seems so real and enticing in the way the author describes it.  The fae lore is very detailed and intriguing too - there's so much depth to their world.  The author did a fantastic job bringing everything to life in this book.

I was super addicted to reading this story - it was hard having to stop to do life stuff, when I wanted so much to find out more about the mystery and Mac's efforts to survive.  And if Jericho Barrons would stop being such a jerk!  And by the end of the story, this book continues it's addictive nature because it's a very unresolved ending!  I have so many questions unanswered, that I am picking up the next book directly!
Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Movie Musical Challenge: Show Boat

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
In Movie Musical Challenge, I'm watching all 25 picks for AFI's Greatest musicals starting from the bottom.  Number 24 is the 1936 production of Show Boat.  Unfortunately I could not find that version at the library or for streaming/rental so I ended up watching the 1951 version starring Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel.  It does seem that the 1936 version is thought of as the best though, so I hope to watch it someday!

"Ol Man River" is pretty much the only thing that I knew from this show going into watching this.  So I was not expecting how much I would LOVE this musical!!  Wow, I hope I get to see a production of this live someday.  For a musical this old, I was expecting something very feel good and upbeat, but there is a melancholy and an unexpected tragedy to the story.  There's lots of optimism and romance in the beginning, but also racism, trifling men, and two women (much too good for their men) who have to bear their individual tragedies.  And with the setting of this wonderful show boat, which was a traveling theatre for the people who would live along the river.  I loved the setting, the music (the bluesy/jazz/ragtime type numbers - I love that type of music) and even though I was very disappointed in the character of Mr. Gaylord Ravenal (I was rooting for you Gay, how could you do that to me!!), the romance was wonderful.

Just going by the film though, I think it's obvious there were some cuts to the story - it paces excellently, but there are a few characters I wish I knew more about.  After looking up this musical it does appear that the 1936 version is thought of as the better one because it is closer to the source material, and this version "sanitizes" the story which has even more darker aspects to it - especially when it comes to some of the characters.  But for me, in terms of cinematography, acting and setting, this version was fantastic  It's gorgeous to watch, and while you don't get to see much of the show boat interior, the exterior looks wonderful.  I also really enjoyed the dancing duo who is sort of tangential to the story - Frank and Ellie - who have a couple great numbers in the film.  They were adorable.  This version might have taken something away from the depth and nuance of the story, but it's a highly enjoyable film.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Refined Reader (34) Fairy Tales & "Away to Whimsical Fairy Tale Land" Introduction

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The Refined Reader aims to take a look at the journey to where we are as readers today.  It's part history, part commentary - providing a brief, conversational summary of various aspects of our bookish past and comparing it to how it has affected us in modern times.  I love history, but I am no historian, and while I plan to do my research, if there are any errors, please let me know!  This is as much a learning venture for me as I hope it is for my blog visitors!

I'm pairing this Refined Reader post with an introduction to an event I'm co-hosting with Ana from Read Me Away that will celebrate fairy tales, so please keep reading for more information!

The history of the fairy tale is very murky.  It was largely an oral tradition so it's difficult to know just when it appeared in our consciousness.  The earliest instances of a fairy tale appear to be Aesop's tales from 6th century BC Greece and Chinese Taoist philosophers would discuss fairy tales in their ancient philosophical works.  In the 18th century there was a resurgence in popularity of these magical tales in Europe which led to a concerted effort to write them down which resulted in the collections of the Grimm Brothers and Charles Perrault.

What is a fairy tale?  This was before the genre of fantasy was conceptualized, so they generally fit into that genre, although a fairy tale is differentiated from a legend in that it is known that a fairy tale is not possibly true.  There is also an inclusion of magic or enchantments in the story and the setting is in an earlier but unidentifiable time.  There are sometimes debates over what is a fairy tale, but it is much less confused now then it was before.  Before fantasy became a genre, many early fantasy tales were labeled 'fairy tales' such as The Wizard of Oz, The Hobbit, and Animal Farm.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Suspense Sundays (136) Turnabout

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.

"Turnabout"
Air date: January 24, 1960
Starring Leonard Stone and Ginger Jones
>>Episodes here<<

Walter, a good friend of Mr. Ross, who is the district attorney, comes over to have dinner with Mr. Ross and his family. Walter wants to talk about a recent murder case which a man is on trial for but Mr. Ross doesn't understand why Walter wants to talk about it, until Walter reveals that he is the murderer, and Walter is going to stay with the family, especially the child, to make sure the innocent man is convicted for the crime.

A story where the family is kept hostage is always a suspenseful, tension filled story.  The Ross's efforts to trick Walter are what keeps the suspense going, but I'll reveal that they aren't the ones that foil him.  In fact the source of Walter's downfall is a great one in this story - one that I didn't quite see coming but has that wonderful ironic twist.  Whenever a Suspense episode truly surprises me, it makes me so delighted, and this is a delightful episode.
Friday, February 6, 2015

Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
The Darkest Part of the Forest
by Holly Black
YA Fantasy
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:


Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?

Review:

This is a wonderful, fresh take on a dark fairy tale story.  The writing is evocative in it's descriptions which made the setting feel even more lush and haunting.  The idea that a town lives on a fine line of cooperation with a dangerous and powerful group of fae in a time contemporary to ours really sparked my imagination, even as I understood how much of a curse it could be, though it seems so exciting.

The first half or so of the novel did move rather slowly for me however.  The mystery brewing of what is going on, was paced slowly because there was so much to understand about Ben and Hazel and the town.  I think the second half of the story, with it's exciting twists and turns make up for that, as does the heightened atmosphere of the story as it progresses.  I really found it hard to put down the book towards the end.

Hazel and Ben were absolutely wonderful characters to get to know.  Hazel develops into a strong, capable woman, while Ben learns to appreciate himself and gain more self-confidence.   It's a fantastic character arc for the both of them, and I loved how the author gradually develops these characters from weak and flawed to strong and accomplished.  All of the characters in this story seemed well developed, as was the romance which did not overpower the story. While there was an interesting, different sort of love triangle it was perfectly resolved in the end.

With the wonderful world building, writing and characters this was a book that evoked a fairy tale feel, but transcended that with the mystery and the darker aspects of the fae.  This is a slow-burn read that can stay with you for a while after you've finished, and it's definitely worth the read.
Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Movie Musical Challenge: Moulin Rouge!

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
In Movie Musical Challenge, I'm watching all 25 picks for AFI's Greatest musicals starting from the bottom.  Number 25 is Moulin Rouge!, which was released in 2001 and starred Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor.

I watched this movie many years ago because my friend was a big fan, and I remember not loving it as much as she.  And watching it again, I still feel the same way.  It's definitely a spectacle, with interesting, frantic and over the top visuals, and an intriguing mix of songs from different times and genres.  I think the mish mash works as a whole, but at times it is so frenetic and visually manic, that it somehow fails to draw me in.  It's kind of exhausting.

The plot is a pretty straightforward love story with a play within a play within a play set-up as the main character is narrating, and the show they are trying to create at the Moulin Rouge reflects the story that is happening in real life.  It's a simple story, but so cleverly done that I can understand why it's in the top 25 list, although I probably would not have voted it there.

Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor both have wonderful voices too - perfect for their roles, and stronger than I would have expected given that they are such big names, and movie musicals lately often cast big names without really concerning themselves with how well those actors can sing.  I think my favorite sequence from the film is the entrance of Satine and the medley of 'Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend' which is a very lavish and a perfect introduction to Satine's allure and beauty.

Since this is the first film I've seen for my challenge, it's hard to say where I'll ultimately place it in my reworking of the top 25, but I feel like this would probably stay in the lowest spot, since even though I admire the artistry of the film, I did not entirely love the extravagant and frenetic tone and for some reason I was not as emotional over the love story as I could have wished.  The songs do not stick in my mind very much either, so the musical aspect didn't make me love this film.
Monday, February 2, 2015

The Refined Reader (33) The Mystery of Mary Rogers

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,

The Refined Reader aims to take a look at the journey to where we are as readers today.  It's part history, part commentary - providing a brief, conversational summary of various aspects of our bookish past and comparing it to how it has affected us in modern times.  I love history, but I am no historian, and while I plan to do my research, if there are any errors, please let me know!  This is as much a learning venture for me as I hope it is for my blog visitors!

Recently I was listening to a Suspense radio episode that was based on an Edgar Allan Poe story titled The Mystery of Marie Roget.  While listening, it was mentioned that Poe's short story was based on the true mystery that revolved around the death of a beautiful young girl named Mary Rogers in 1841.  Apparently Poe's short story is the first instance of 'true crime fiction' which is why I thought it would be interesting to talk about it for The Refined Reader.

Mary Rogers lived in New York City in her mother's boarding house and worked as a cigar girl.  Her customers included famous authors like Washington Irving and James Fenimore Cooper.  She was an extremely pretty girl according to the newspapers at the time (and the press went crazy for this story).  One day she told her fiance that she was going away to visit some relatives, but was found three days later floating dead in the Hudson River.  The police suspected gang violence, although a few months later a woman would 'confess' to having Mary Rogers' body dumped in the river after a botched abortion.  Apparently this confession was confused and not entirely accurate though.  The fiance, who was suspected in the press, would later commit suicide near where Mary's body was found.  There is no conclusive answer to who killed Mary Rogers.

A year later, Edgar Allan Poe would examine the mystery as the second case for his detective C. Auguste Dupin.  In the story, the killer is not named, but a conclusion on who the murderer was is drawn through logical deductions of all the facts (and possibly conjectures) that had been reported in the press.  The story does read as a very plausible solution, but unfortunately has not really been proved true.  It is interesting though that this story is probably the first example of detective fiction where the reasoning and deduction is explained step by step in the end as a sum-up.  Dupin is also commonly thought of as the first detective in fiction.

I found this story an intriguing instance of real life inspiring an innovative and unique genre which I hope was interesting to my blog readers as well!  The case of Mary Rogers was very well known at the time, but has become a more obscure story now.  It would be great if the podcast Serial would tell this story - I would love it if they tried to do a more historical piece!

Are there any true crime mysteries that really fascinate you?  Please share in the comments!

Sources:
Wikipedia
Smithsonian
Sunday, February 1, 2015

Suspense Sundays (135) The Time and the Place and the Death

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 Time and the Place and the Death"
Air date: January 17, 1960
Starring Eric Dressler and Claudia Morgan
>>Episodes here<<

Henry gets some terrifying news when he visits a psychic.  He will die, and very soon.  At first Henry doesn't want to accept it, but after thinking about it, he feels it is a good thing to be able to plan his death.  He plans his will, his funeral and when he just misses slipping on a stair, he decides he'll die from slipping down the stairs.  His friends are distraught, but perhaps a couple of his friends are given some ideas...

From a pretty solid premise - how do you deal with the knowledge of your impending death? - this episode quickly becomes very silly.  Henry goes from disbelief to acceptance to welcoming his death in no time, and his friends are eager to bring his death about for his money, even though they seem to like him pretty well.  It's a disappointment that there wasn't more of an edge to this story, with the only suspenseful point being whether or not Henry would bring about his own death.  And even that was easily explained away.  
Friday, January 30, 2015

Thoughts on Galavant

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Galavant, the musical, comedy, fantasy TV series ended it's first season (already!) on TV last Sunday.  It ran two half hour episodes a week, for four weeks and was a fun, quirky and entertaining romp.  I was excited for this show because of the fantastic combination of genres, and because it's such a unique kind of show for TV.  I really wanted it to do well, and I hope it comes back for season 2, but it wasn't a perfect show.

Even though the show boasts amazing music and lyrics talents in Alan Menken and Glenn Slater (they worked on The Little Mermaid, Sister Act and Tangled together!), I thought most of the songs were pretty forgettable from the show.  The music was catchy for the most part, and the lyrics advanced the story, but I was hoping for some songs to stick in my mind more.  It must be hard though to compose two or three new songs for every episode - so I'm really in awe of what they accomplished here.

The show started off a bit rough I think, establishing characters - the villains and the heroes who all are not entirely true to archetype.  Galavant loses his way somewhat in the hero game, and the villain King Richard (played by Psych's Timothy Omundson!) is quirky, weak and with an awful sense of humor.  And he just want's to be liked.  Madalena is probably my favorite character from the show - in the first episode it seems like she will be the heroine and the damsel in distress, but she turns into this delightfully selfish, lustful, and devious woman.  The characters make up the main appeal of the show when they are all established.  The strong cast is the main reason why I tuned in every week.

The humor of the show was another great aspect.  It could be sarcastic, vulgar, self-referential and entirely inappropriate for the time and I loved it!  There were a few episodes that felt like they fit common comedy archetypes, but the way the characters commented on the action made it unique and hilarious.

If you haven't seen this show, but you like musicals and comedies like The Princess Bride and Black Adder, then I think you will really enjoy this show.  Hopefully it will be given a chance to grow - especially since the season finale left the door wide open for more plot development.
Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Review: Soulless

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Soulless (Parasol Protectorate #1)
by Gail Carriger
Fantasy/Mystery
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:


Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations.

First, she has no soul. Second, she's a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire--and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London's high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

Review:

Alexia Tarabotti is a delightful character!  She's outspoken, loves good food, and is intelligent and sarcastic.  I loved reading all about her adventures in this novel.  And of her antagonistic relationship with Lord Maccon, who finds her very exasperating.  But of course there is something more between them.  The romance aspect was delicious - a bit steamy, but also fun because of how unused to romance Alexia was.  Lord Maccon was not a character that leaped off the page as distinctly as Alexia for me, but he was a character that I can easily think of as 'yummy'  and 'book boyfriend material'.  I'm sure though that there will be a lot more development to his character through the course of the series.

The steampunk-ish, supernatural world the author sets up is fantastic as well - so detailed and believable, down to the pseudo-scientific explanations for the supernaturals and preternaturals.  The Victorian aspect was very well described as well with the details of dress and etiquette, which made the whole world really come to life.

The mystery aspect of the story sometimes felt subordinate to the romance and the development of the characters, but there were some great twists and surprises, and a highly satisfactory resolution.  I felt the villains' motivation behind the mystery was relatable and something important to examine, because it is an aspect of human nature that seems to be unfortunately prevalent today and I thought it interesting to consider that universality of it while Alexia had to deal with it in the novel.  But I don't want to reveal too much about that part of the story, as it might give away some key details about the mystery.

The only aspect of this novel that disappointed me somewhat, was some of the illogical actions of a character towards the end.  I didn't understand why that person did a couple of things, regardless of his feelings, so it sometimes felt like the situation that came of it was very contrived.  But this is a great start to a series, and I plan to continue reading!

And I learned a new word - bluestocking.  I've heard of it before but I never really knew what it meant, but it means a "literary and intellectual woman."  I love it!