Thursday, February 11, 2016

Truthwitch Read-along: Discussion #2

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,

The second week's Discussion Questions are hosted over on Candid Cover!  Check out her post for more information, and for a giveaway of a Truthwitch audiobook!  I've now read up to Chapter 19th, so have some thoughts to share:

Week #2 Discussion Questions

  • Of the lands that we have visited so far in the book, where in the Witchlands would you want to live, given the choice?
Dalmotti Empire seems the most desirable - I picture VeƱaza City like Venice, and the fact that it is a republic makes it seem a much more democratic and open-minded place.  Although all the Witchlands are on the verge of war, so it's probably not going to be a pleasant place for long...

  • There have been quite a few mottos and words of wisdom used by a few of the characters so far. Which one is your favourite? Do you have any special phrases that help you get through your day?
"Stasis in your fingertips and your toes."   This is Iseult's reminder to keep herself calm and I love it because control of yourself and your emotions is something everyone has to (or should) master.  I've just started trying an introduction to meditation too which is very calming, and I feel like this quote is a mantra for mindfulness technique!

  • Friendship is a main theme that pulses through Truthwitch. Do you have a relationship like Safi and Iseult? Is there someone out there who always has your back and will defend you?
I'm thankful that I do have a few people who I would call close friends, who I feel like I can count on.  I don't know if they can physically defend me, LOL, but I know that they are loyal and genuinely care for me, as I do for them.  It's wonderful to have those kinds of friendships, and wonderful to read about them in fiction as well.  Because you can feel more of a connection to the story and characters.

  • If you were inserted into one of the novel’s epic battle scenes, which witchery would you like to have in order to defend yourself?
For defense, I think the best witchery for me would be being a windwitch.  So I can get the heck out of there. LOL  I'm not a fighter, and would probably be lacking basic sword technique even in a fictional fantasy world.  So it would be defense for me and not offense!

  • Character Spotlight: Iseult | Do you find Iseult to be a likeable character? How do you feel about the way she is treated like an outcast? Do you think she is a good influence on Safiya?

Iseult is my girl!  I identify with her the most in this book.  I think her outcast status makes her relatable because most people have felt outcast in their lives (though not as horribly discriminated as Iseult is in the novel - I hope).  She is a good influence on everybody probably with her tendency towards cool, rationality and her intelligence.  Even though Truthwitch has so much realism to the characters with their faults, I can't think of one for Iseult.... maybe she is too timid?  But I'm like that so I don't see it as a fault per say...

Next week's reading schedule:

Week 3
Feb 16-22 // Chapters 20-29
Hosted by Kim @ Dreaming in Libraries
Character spotlight: Merik


Also don't forget that if you have done a second week Discussion post, you can use it for more entries in my giveaway of a Truthwitch design Tote bag!
Monday, February 8, 2016

Movie Musical Challenge: The Music Man

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 1962 film The Music Man starring Robert Preston and Shirley Jones.  And a young, ridiculously still cute Ron Howard!

First of all, thank you Quinn!  And everyone who said what a wonderful musical this is.  You are all completely right - it's marvelous.  I can't understand how it didn't make AFI's top 25 list.  From the first scene on a train, I was impressed by how the words make the music in this show.  It fits because of how words are the main character, Harold Hill's stock in trade.  The patter of his songs are just impressive too - I'll already say "Ya Got Trouble" is my favorite song from the show with Harold's persuasive, conversational and completely brilliant warning against the evils of a pool table.  The catchy cadence of the words and how the backing vocals of his audience adds to the music of it is genius.

Genius is pretty much how I describe this show though - the music and lyrics are exceptional, Robert Preston as Harold is practically dripping charm and assurance and makes his brand of con-man so very attractive.  Even though Marian the librarian is a very sensible and intelligent woman, it's completely believable that Harold wins her over in the end!  That romance is another exceptional aspect to the musical.  Because Marian is 'the sadder and wiser girl', I found her already very appealing, and perfect for Harold who eventually becomes a better person because of her.  And Harold also makes Marian a better person too - so it's the best kind of romance.

Watching this, I was also struck by how appealing the setting of turn of the century America.  I love the music from the time (barbershop quartets are so good!) and the style, and the aesthetic.  At least as it has been filtered to me through popular culture.  So this movie also appealed to me for that.

Even though Harold is a liar and a cheat, there's something about him that makes you want him to get the girl, and be a winner.  And The Music Man delivers on that, and is imbued with so much joy and wonder and humor that it's absolutely a film everyone should watch!


Sunday, February 7, 2016

Suspense Sundays (185) Can't We Be Friends?

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.

"Can't We Be Friends?"
Air date: July 25, 1946
Starring Elliot Lewis
>>Episodes here<<

Michael used to date a girl named Fran,  When she got sick and in the hospital, he kinda dropped her, and dated around.  But months later he still finds himself thinking of her, and decides to see her, now that she's better and out of the hospital.  Their reunion takes a left turn pretty quickly as Michael loses his temper and feels very angry that he's still obsessed with her even though they both don't love each other.  He's so upset that he decides he has to kill her so he won't think about her anymore.

This episode featured a true whack job in the main character.  If ever there was a thin reason to murder someone, this would be it.  Just get over her! I love that the woman basically said that.  I have mixed feelings about this one.  It is an interesting story, with a good twist, but I just disliked the selfish and unbelievably callous main character so much, that I very much wanted a swift and just punishment to come to him.  But you don't really get that in the end. It is interesting that this was written by the actor who stars in it!
Friday, February 5, 2016

Truthwitch Read-along: Discussion #1 + Giveaway (INT)

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,

It's the end (or near to the end) of the first week of our Truthwitch read-along. I hope everyone is loving (or re-loving?) the book so far!  I'm answering the first week's discussion questions today - if you haven't read it yet, there are some kinda spoilers (although not too bad if you are not a stickler for avoiding them) so fair warning.

There's also a giveaway below for a unique Truthwitch design Tote Bag I created especially for this read-along.  It's open to everyone, not just read-along participants (the giveaway is International!) but the participants in the read-along have the opportunity for more entries.  Don't forget that next week the discussion is hosted on Candid Cover!

Week #1 Discussion Questions

  • Safi and Iseult are fantastic fighters.  Have you ever wanted to learn how to fight, take self-defense classes or have you already?  Tell us about your reasoning/experience!
I would love to know self-defense - not really how to fight aggressively, but to be able to turn someone's strength against them.  Just for the sense of security that would give me I think.  And how cool it would be to surprise a potential aggressor with a 'not this time!' moment. :D   It's seems fun know how to wield a sword though, but that's probably not for me.  If I was going for fantasy fighting skills I would probably go for being adept at the bow and arrow.

  • Of these specialized witcheries revealed so far (truthwitch, threadwitch, bloodwitch, wordwitch, windwitch, voicewitch) which power would you like to have and why?
I'm fascinated most with the word witchery.  I would love to have the power of words changing people's minds or realities.  It's a manipulative power, but because words are so meaningful to me in terms of how I love to read, and delight in expressive and moving prose, it would be interesting to be able to wield that as a power.

  • The beginning of the book already features political intrigue, Safi and Iseult trying to get away, and the mystery of cleaving.  Which plot point interests you the most so far, and why?
I'm loving how rich the story is just from the first 9 chapters, and I like every plot point so far (even the political intrigue, which normally doesn't grab my attention), but I think I'd have to choose Safi and Iseult's plight as the most interesting so far.  Especially when so many problems come up for them - the Bloodwitch in particular is a nervewracking menace on the horizon for them at the moment.

  • Share a favorite quote from the book!
"He might've spent years mastering his family's famous temper, yet all it would take at this point was one more grain.  One more grain of salt, and the ocean would flood."

This quote about Merik, describes him perfectly - he always seems on the verge of succumbing to his temper.  He's fun. :)  I love the imagery too, which is so perfect since Merik is the Captain of a ship.

  • Character Spotlight: Safiya |  Talk about what you like or dislike about Safi.  Do you identify with her in any way?  What do you think about her actions so far?

Safi is so smart and clever, but I really feel for Iseult in having to deal with her.  Safi is also impulsive and prone to rash actions, so I sometimes want to (lovingly?) yell at her for her behavior.  It's wonderful how Iseult bears it - truly a sign of how beautiful their friendship is.  But Safi is intensely loyal and very charming, so she's a wonderful character to get to know - she has her flaws, but she's awesome!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Review: The Orphan Queen

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
The Orphan Queen (The Orphan Queen #1)
by Jodi Meadows
YA Fantasy
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:


Wilhelmina has a hundred identities.

She is a princess. When the Indigo Kingdom conquered her homeland, Wilhelmina and other orphaned children of nobility were taken to Skyvale, the Indigo Kingdom’s capital. Ten years later, they are the Ospreys, experts at stealth and theft. With them, Wilhelmina means to take back her throne.

She is a spy. Wil and her best friend, Melanie, infiltrate Skyvale Palace to study their foes. They assume the identities of nobles from a wraith-fallen kingdom, but enemies fill the palace, and Melanie’s behavior grows suspicious. With Osprey missions becoming increasingly dangerous and their leader more unstable, Wil can’t trust anyone.

She is a threat. Wraith is the toxic by-product of magic, and for a century using magic has been forbidden. Still the wraith pours across the continent, reshaping the land and animals into fresh horrors. Soon it will reach the Indigo Kingdom. Wilhelmina’s magic might be the key to stopping the wraith, but if the vigilante Black Knife discovers Wil’s magic, she will vanish like all the others.

Jodi Meadows introduces a vivid new fantasy full of intrigue, romance, dangerous magic, and one girl’s battle to reclaim her place in the world.

Review:

The Orphan Queen is a wonderful fantasy adventure.  Wilhelmina has so much to overcome, and discover about herself as she struggles to be the queen her people need, and it made for some fantastic character development and drama.  Wil was faced with so many perils throughout the story and it kept the suspense and my interest very high.  Wil had to deal with the wraith, with trying to get back her kingdom, with the Black Knife, and with some of her friends who might not be completely on her side.  There's so much going on with this plot.

Not only does the book have to show how Wil deals with all of these things, but it also reveals, slowly, what happened to put Wil in the position of the orphan queen.  Just the plotting of this book is exceptional.  I enjoyed how complex it was, but I was never confused and the pace of the story never waned.

Wil is an intriguing protagonist too.  She's an exceptional fighter, a clever and talented artist, a compassionate and nurturing mother-figure to the younger members of her band, and she takes her responsibilities very seriously.   The strength of her character is impressive, and I also loved that she could be snarky and fun sometimes too.  She's an amazing character to get to know.  And almost matched by how awesome it was to get to know the vigilante Black Knife.  He is an interesting enigma, but so wonderfully admirable, and I loved that Wil grew to appreciate that about him.  Their relationship was another great aspect to this story.  And as if there wasn't enough to this story, it's also wonderful to have a little mystery about who Black Knife is behind the mask!

I absolutely loved diving into the world of this book.  There's so much to the plot, the characters and the world-buliding that it was totally engrossing and a vivid and emotional read.  Unfortunately it comes with a pretty hefty cliffhanger - one that made me flip pages back and forth, just to make sure I wasn't missing something.  Ugh, the anguish!  But I'm only so upset over it because I loved the book so much!
Monday, February 1, 2016

Truthwitch Read-along Kick-off

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,

Today's the start of our Truthwitch read-along!  To re-cap - it's for the month of February and we will feature discussion questions and giveaways every week, culminating in a twitter chat for all the participants and Witchlanders. Here’s the planned schedule for the read-along:

Week 1
Feb 1-8 // Chapters 1-9
Hosted by Charlene @ Bookish Whimsy
Character spotlight: Safiya

Week 2
Feb 9-15 // Chapters 10-19
Hosted by Olivia @ Candid Cover
Character spotlight: Iseult

Week 3
Feb 16-22 // Chapters 20-29
Hosted by Kim @ Dreaming in Libraries
Character spotlight: Merik

Week 4
Feb 23-29 // Chapters 30-End
Hosted by Carine @ Ceres Book World
Character spotlight: Aeduan

Feb 28 - Twitter Chat at 10am EST, use #TWReadalong

By February 8th, we hope you will have read the first nine chapters of Truthwitch, and to help you prepare here are some questions to answer for your first week's discussion post:

Discussion Questions

  1. Safi and Iseult are fantastic fighters.  Have you ever wanted to learn how to fight/take self-defense classes or have you already?  Tell us about your reasoning/experience!
  2. Of these specialized witcheries revealed so far (truthwitch, threadwitch, bloodwitch, wordwitch, windwitch, voicewitch) which power would you like to have and why?
  3. The beginning of the book already features political intrigue, Safi and Iseult trying to get away, and the mystery of cleaving.  Which plot point interests you the most so far, and why?
  4. Share a favorite quote from the book!
  5. Character Spotlight: Safiya |  Talk about what you like or dislike about Safi.  Do you identify with her in any way?  What do you think about her actions so far? 

This Friday, February 5th, I'll post my answers to the discussion questions, but feel free to post your discussion at any time!  Please do add your discussion post link to the linky below when it's ready.  I'll also have a special giveaway of a Truthwitch tote bag, so check back on the 5th to enter!



Oh and there's still time to sign-up for the read-along!  We would love for everyone to join us!  Check out this post for all the details.
Sunday, January 31, 2016

Suspense Sundays (184) Feast of the Furies

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.

"Feast of the Furies"
Air date: July 11, 1946
Starring Elliot Reed and Sheldon Leonard
>>Episodes here<<

Casey regrettfully knocks Sam over the head and drives him to an undisclosed location.  He's under orders from his boss to take Sam somewhere.  Sam, tied up in the passenger seat of the car, tries to get Casey to tell him what it's all about.  And who his boss is, but Casey just tells him he can't reveal that, and he's sorry he has to treat him that way.  Casey just wants to talk about nice things, why make his job unpleasant?  When Sam realizes Casey isn't going to let him go, he tries to talk Casey out of what he's doing.

This was an interesting two character suspense story (two characters for the most part) and when it gets to Sam's story, it becomes very tragic which I wasn't expecting.  Casey is a fun character too - clearly a thug, strong and not very bright, but with a good heart, and I was hoping Sam would be able to get through to him.  Especially because Sam's story is so unfortunate.  The ending was not quite what I hoped, but it was a good one.
Friday, January 29, 2016

Movie Musical Challenge: Annie Get Your Gun

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
In Movie Musical Challenge, I'm watching 20 films I picked as great films or films I wanted to watch.  My first film for this year's challenge is the effervescent Annie Get Your Gun from 1950, starring Betty Hutton and Howard Keel.

Annie Get Your Gun is a really fun film to watch.  Because I like Westerns, the Western theme makes me happy, and the main character Annie is high-spirited, talented and engaging.  Betty Hutton was so perfect as Annie - she played Annie's lack of refinement, but excess of enthusiasm so perfectly.  Her transformation was surprising to me too - in the beginning of the film, when she is just fresh from the backwoods, she did not look even old enough to be enamored with (the very handsome haha) Frank Butler.  I mean she looked really young! I was like - isn't anyone going to ask how old she is before asking her to join the show??  That's great makeup and acting I guess.  And when she fixes herself up to become more lady-like, the difference is very striking.

The romance is sweet but just a little problematic to me though.  I get why Annie is so taken by Frank Butler, but I wish he could have accepted that Annie was a better shot than him and still loved her.  It seems sad that she can't be her best but still get the man.  Frank was a little annoying with his overweening pride.  And he went back and forth a lot - feeling like he loved Annie, to getting so angry when she showed her talent.  I was completely in agreement with the character of Charlie Davenport in telling off Frank over his selfishness.  So even though I really enjoyed this movie and even the romance at times, the ending made me a little sad for Annie.

The best part of the film has to be the one song that I was familiar with in this show - "Anything You Can Do" which is a hilarious scene where Annie and Frank are trying to one up each other.  And the lyrics are so clever.  I was looking forward to this scene when I first started watching, and it didn't disappoint.  Annie and Frank have wonderful chemistry together despite their antagonism.

There are lots of clever and catchy songs in this film, although not all of them stand out as much as "Anything You Can Do" and "There's No Business Like Show Business."  I'm glad I finally watched this one though - it made for great entertainment.
Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Thoughts on the 1961 Jane Eyre

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
1961 adaptation of Jane Eyre (this is such a staged photo, there's no scene like this in the episode!)

There have been a handful of American hour long adaptations of Jane Eyre that were produced in the 40s/50s/60s for anthology television shows.  Three are generally available - one of them starred Charlton Heston as Rochester and another with Patrick MacNee (from the TV show The Avengers) as the brooding hero - and they are all interesting in their way, but there is another version that is not very accessible (but you can watch for free at the Paley museum in LA and NYC).  This one starred Sally Ann Howes and Zachary Scott.  It's one that I want to explore in this post because it's so interesting to me as an adaptation.  And in many ways I adore it.

I think of this post as a way for me to show that I can like Jane Eyre adaptations that change a lot of things from the book.  I'm not completely close-minded when it comes to liberties taken.  I do generally like for adaptations to be faithful, but if, in the event of time constraints, or catering to the audience, etc, there has to be some big changes, I still hope that those changes remain faithful to the story/characters/spirit of the original.  And in this TV version, I found that to be the case, which is very rare, especially with the changes they decided to make, and the fact that it is only an hour long.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Join the Truthwitch Read-along!

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,

Turns out, it's too much fun to be a part of the Truthwitch Street Team to just stop!  My clan in the team - the Waterwitch Babes - decided to host a read-along of the novel as a way to continue our shenanigans.  I will be re-reading it as I read it earlier last year (my 5 star review!), but I'm excited to revisit the story and the characters!  For more updates, our Waterwitch Babes twitter and tumblr will keep everyone informed.

The Truthwitch read-along will be held in February and will feature discussion questions and giveaways every week, culminating in a twitter chat for all the participants and Witchlanders. Here’s the planned schedule for the read-along:

Week 1
Feb 1-8 // Chapters 1-9
Hosted by Charlene @ Bookish Whimsy
Character spotlight: Safiya

Week 2
Feb 9-15 // Chapters 10-19
Hosted by Olivia @ Candid Cover
Character spotlight: Iseult

Week 3
Feb 16-22 // Chapters 20-29
Hosted by Kim @ Dreaming in Libraries
Character spotlight: Merik

Week 4
Feb 23-29 // Chapters 30-End
Hosted by Carine @ Ceres Book World
Character spotlight: Aeduan

Feb 28 - Twitter Chat at 10am EST, use #TWReadalong

Non-spoilery discussion questions will be posted at the beginning of every week on the blog of the hosting Waterwitch, and all the participants are encouraged to share their thoughts - by answering the questions, or by just talking about the book on their blog by the end of the week. There will be a linky on the host discussion page for everyone to link their post to, and special giveaways as a way to thank everyone for reading and sharing the love of this wonderful book.  To clarify - for the first week's discussion, my blog will have the information - for the subsequent weeks, it will be on the other Waterwitches blogs.

In addition, every week we want to focus on one of the four main characters and encourage everyone to talk about what they like or dislike about them, if they identify with them, and what they think about their actions and motivations so far. Week 1 we will spotlight Safiya, Week 2: Iseult, Week 3: Merik, and Week 4: Aeduan. They are all such interesting and varied characters, that it will be great to read how everyone sees them!

So please do sign up below! If this is your first time reading Truthwitch, or a much needed re-read, we would be thrilled if you would join us in on our read-along!  Plus you can also enter for a giveaway of a Truthwitch bookmark!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Suspense Sundays (183) Too Many Smiths

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.

"Too Many Smiths"
Air date: June 13, 1946
Starring Hume Cronyn
>>Episodes here<<

Charles Wallingford, a porter for the Century Toothpaste company finds a memo announcing "Pat Smith" as the winner of the company's slogan contest.  The prize is $25,000.  Since the winner won't be formally announced for a couple days, Charles gets the idea to "bribe" this Pat Smith to share the prize if he can make sure that his slogan wins *wink wink.  Pat agrees, but Charles gets suspicious about Pat's sense of honor and decides it would be better if he killed Pat, and took over as him.  Which works for about a minute, until Charles finds out that there are two Pat Smiths who live in that apartment building.

Clever (but dastardly) idea to get the big prize for the contest!  Of course it doesn't work out for Charles, but the twists as he tries to figure out who the real winner was, and dodge the complication of Pat Smith's fiancee showing up, made this a great and suspenseful episode to listen to.  It's made even better because the episode starts with Charles caught by the police for murder and mysteriously hysterical...

Thursday, January 21, 2016

My Shameful Bookish Quirks

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,

As the post title says, this is going to be full of my habits and quirks that I'm not really proud of, but can't help doing or thinking anyway!  These relate to reading, as well as to blogging, and I sure hope I'm not alone in some of these! My idea for this post first came from thinking about the first item on my list - that of:

Not being into teaser chapters
There seems to be such excitement over these, and I just don't get it.  It's frustrating to me to just get a taste of the book, and not be able to finish it.  And it also seems like a waste of time, since by the time the book does come out, I'll probably have to re-read those chapters once I get the book.  I know it can give the reader an idea of if they will like the story, but for me, I'd rather start the story and decide if I like it when I can continue with the whole book.  I also find it hard to read serialized stories as well, as I just like to read the whole thing in one go, and not have to wait for each chapter.

Judging a book by it's cover
Even though it's not good to judge a book by it's cover, I do this hardcore.  I feel like a book with a bad cover is just not going to be great, and I don't have any excitement over reading it.  This is probably the worst, since I'm sure there are good books with bad covers out there!  The author sometimes can't help it!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Review: Of Noble Family

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Of Noble Family (Glamourist Histories #5)
by Mary Robinette Kowal
Historical Fantasy
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:


The final book of the acclaimed Glamourist Histories is the magical adventure that might result if Jane Austen walked on the darker side of the Regency...

Jane and Vincent have finally gotten some much-needed rest after their adventures in Italy when Vincent receives word that his estranged father has passed away on one of his properties in the West Indies. His brother, who manages the estate, is overwhelmed, and no one else in his family can go. Grudgingly, out of filial duty the couple decide to go.

The sea voyage is long and Jane spends enough time unable to perform glamour that towards the end of the trip she discovers that she is with child. They are overjoyed, but when they finally arrive at the estate to complete what they expect to be routine legal tasks, they realize that nearly everything they came expecting to find had been a lie. Also, the entire estate is in disarray, with horrifying conditions and tensions with the local slave population so high that they are close to revolt.

Jane and Vincent's sense of peril is screaming out for them to flee, but Vincent cannot stand to leave an estate connected with his family in such a condition. They have survived many grand and terrifying adventures in their time, but this one will test their skills and wits more than any they have ever encountered before, this time with a new life hanging in the balance.

Review:

It's interesting to me how this series keeps getting a little darker and a little more involved with issues of social justice.  This series is just so different from where it started. With the previous novel "Valour and Vanity", I thought it couldn't get sadder, or more heart-rending or plumb the characters of Jane and Vincent deeper.  I was wrong.  This is the last book in the Glamourist Histories series, and it brought more depth and closure to Jane and Vincent and brings their story to a completely fulfilling conclusion.

The main plot of this story deals with a surprise twist that occurs very early on in the book.  Which I can't really explore in my review because I don't want to spoil it for everyone.  But it is wonderful that the reader finds out more about Vincent, his past, and his family in this book, and just how much that has affected him.  Vincent has always been a closed off character in the series, but in this book we see and understand him so much more.  His portrayal throughout this series has been very realistic, and that has just been made more apparent to me in this book.  Because there's still so many layers to him, and it's revealed further.

Another reason I adored this book was the love between the Vincents just felt more real, and achingly honest.  They love each other so much, it's ridiculous.  I'm totally jealous. And it made me ache all the more with them as they went through all the trials and injustices this story presents.

The social injustice Jane and Vincent face in this novel is slavery and it's approached perfectly in this novel.  Our main characters are compassionate and do not condone the practice at all, but the story is realistic about the change they could effect for the time, and I felt all the frustration that they felt in seeing such an atrocity.  There's a particular new character in this book, who is the example for all the worst prejudices and greed that made it so hard to eradicate slavery, and it was satisfying to have him dealt with in the end.  This whole novel was a gradual building of frustration and suspense with how impotent the Vincents were in the situation, but fortunately (as is the case for all the novels in the series so far) the author manages to craft the perfect resolution that is both satisfying and true to the time.  I'm especially in awe of just how cleverly it was done in this book because there is such a full circle satisfaction to the conclusion.

I'm sad that the series is over, but I loved reading every installment, and it's wondrous how the author brought two such wonderful characters to vivid and varied life.  This is a gorgeous ending to a glorious series!
Sunday, January 17, 2016

Suspense Sundays (182) Return Trip

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.

"Return Trip"
Air date: June 27, 1946
Starring Elliot Reid
>>Episodes here<<

Three passengers on a bus are heading away from an asylum after visiting their loved ones.  There is a blizzard stirring, and they want to get down the mountain as soon as possible, but they are stopped by police officers.  Someone dangerous has escaped from the asylum, and searches the bus.  They are let go because the men have ID, and the driver and his passengers decide to try to get back despite the snow storm.  And then there's an avalanche.

What makes this such a suspenseful story is not that someone could be out there trying to kill them, but that maybe the killer is one of the people on the bus! *cue dramatic music* *cue suspicion, hysteria and irrationality*  This was a very good episode to listen to - the kind of claustrophobic suspense I usually want from my Suspense radio stories.  It makes for some really creepy theater of the mind.  Although I did guess who the killer was! :D

Friday, January 15, 2016

Review: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
We Have Always Lived in the Castle
by Shirley Jackson
Horror
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:


Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her uncle Julian. Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods—until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night. Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the curiousity and hostility of the villagers. Their days pass in happy isolation until cousin Charles appears. Only Merricat can see the danger, and she must act swiftly to keep Constance from his grasp.

Review:

This is the first Shirley Jackson book I have ever read, and it was an interesting introduction to her kind of curious and creepy world - with characters who act a little strangely, and a view of the human race that is not at all kind. I am still not sure what I feel about this book actually. It was a gently harrowing read, with a heroine in Merricat Blackwood who I have such weirdly contradictory feelings for. On the one hand, I’m intensely sympathetic towards her, and yet at times, I find her very annoying. Although her instincts for the most part are right on, especially when it came to one character who was so unlikable, I couldn’t help but root for Merricat’s murderous thoughts about him.

The novel is a study in strange characters. There is a mob-like, and very unpleasant group of people who live in town and look down on the Blackwoods. The author captured a vivid realism in the small town gossip and small-minded hatred of the people which was both disturbing and thought-provoking. And terribly sad. The surviving Blackwoods are each eccentric and have their own unique mannerisms and behaviors which also made them vividly realistic and interesting to get to know. While all the Blackwoods are unfortunate in different ways, I had the most sympathy with Constance, who was such a good character and yet afflicted by her past and her apprehensive nature. I really wanted something good to happen for her.

There is a reveal in this book, that is not at all shocking because it is made pretty obvious from the start, but because of this, I found the story meandering and slow at parts - and again, much more of a study in characters and atmosphere than in plot development or suspense.. There is a pervading sense of stagnation though, in this book, that I think is part of the characters, and so perhaps it’s purposely made a part of the plot. This is short read though, with some very intense moments of dread woven into the story. I don’t think I actually enjoyed dwelling in this world Shirley Jackson created because it can be so unnerving and sad, but this was quite a vivid book.

*Note - this review was previously posted as a guest post on Papercuttts Book Blog.  Since I'm a little low on reviews at the moment, I'm posting this on my blog today!
Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Movie Musical Challenge - 2016

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,

A new year, a new Movie Musical Challenge!  Last year, my challenge was to watch AFI's top 25 films, but this year I decided to pick the films I wanted to watch - the ones I haven't seen before (but heard they were good) or because I thought they should be recognized.  This time I'm going with 20 films to make things a bit easier on me.  And out of this list, I've only seen three films!  Well, I probably have seen White Christmas, but I don't remember it really.  I'm probably not going to watch this in any particular order (but for sure I'm saving White Christmas for December!)  Like last year, I'll do a wrap-up post where I order these films as the top best/ favorites.  Now here's the list:

The Little Mermaid (1989) 
The Lion King (1994) 
The Music Man (1962)
Oklahoma (1955)
South Pacific (1958)
Kiss Me Kate (1953)
Anchor's Aweigh (1945) 
White Christmas (1954)
Easter Parade (1948)
The Gay Divorcee (1934)
Bride and Prejudice (2004)
Swing Time (1936)
Gigi (1958)
Hello Dolly (1964)
Annie Get Your Gun (1950)
Jumbo / or Billy Rose's Jumbo (1962)
Shall We Dance (1937)
The Pajama Game (1957)
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)
High Society (1956)

Monday, January 11, 2016

Star Trek VOY Season 7 - Top 5 Favorite Episodes

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
The very last season of Voyager.  I felt kinda sad to reach the end of this series.  I just loved Captain Janeway so much.  I loved her sense of honor and her fierceness.  With all the Star Trek series, there is the sense that the crew will always follow their Captain because they trust them, and I really felt the strength of the Captain in holding her crew together in this series.  It is strange though that I didn't put the finale episode in my top 5 though.  It was very good, and featured time travel, but it seemed a bit off at times, and I'm not even sure how much I liked seeing Janeway so altered.  Probably if I was to revisit the episode in the future, I would enjoy it more, but for now, these top 5 are the ones for me!

Now I just have one more series to go! (Until the new one that is!)  I'm so impatient to see Dr. Noonien Soong! :D

5. Author, Author


The Doctor is working on a holonovel that advocates hologram rights.  The novel borrows much from the Voyager's history and personnel.  Some of the other crew members are not happy with their depiction in the novel.  This is a fun episode, that takes a serious, thoughtful turn.  It reminded me a bit of the TNG episode The Measure of a Man since it deals with the Doctor's ability to have rights over his holonovel.  Although this episode does not... measure up to The Measure of a Man in my opinion, it does still do a great job of focusing on humanity's need to adapt when it comes to rights issues, and this story also stands out because of the skewed way the crew is portrayed in the holonovel.  It makes for some hilarious and surprising scenes.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Suspense Sundays (181) An Evening's Diversion

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.

"An Evening's Diversion"
Air date: July 4, 1946
Starring William Johnstone
>>Episodes here<<

Mr. Edwards, a hard working businessman, is told by his doctor to go out for an evening's diversion.  He's been working too hard lately and should do something new.  Mr. Edwards is resistant, but one night he does decide to visit a bar that his secretary was talking about earlier.  One in which someone got shot one night by some gangsters.  While Mr. Edwards is having dinner, he overhears two guys talking and one man intends to murder a woman.

This is a funny episode to me.  Because it's an interesting story - at first I was not sure where it was going because it really seemed like Mr. Edwards did not want to go out, but when he made his split decision, the whole 'overhearing gangsters bit' was inevitable, as was his decision to try and prevent the murder.  In fact, it was all not very surprising, just a bit suspenseful, until the twist.  OMG.  It totally stopped me in my tracks.  And I loved it!  It was a complete WTF and it instantly elevated this episode in my opinion.  Definitely listen to this one!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Best of 2015

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
My friends Alisa and Aidan recently posted a Top 10 Best of 2015 list on their blog Those Who Geek and it made me want to talk about some of the fun things I discovered last year.  Thank you Alisa and Aidan for the idea!  And if you haven't seen their post - go listen to the audio right now!  It's fun to hear them enthuse over the things they love.

In my Year in Review, I talked about books and blogging, but for this Best of, I wanted to focus on more nerdy obsessions I had - things not books and blogging.  Hopefully if I continue to do this in the future, I'll actually post it at the end of the year, but for now - here are nine things I completely fell in love with in the year 2015.  (I couldn't think of a tenth one!)

9. Julian Ovenden


Julian Ovenden played Capt. Von Trapp recently in England's live version of The Sound of Music.  I really liked him as the Captain, and from that found out what a fantastic singing voice he has! So rich and deep and smooth.  I've been listening to a few of his songs lately!

8. Show Boat

I watched this musical as part of my Movie Musical Challenge last year, and while I thought I really just love the song "Can't Help Lovin Dat Man", I recently watched (well I still have to finish it though) PBS recent live concert performance of the musical and realize that I do love the story and the music in general.  I'm curious to see how this concert performance ends because the musical does seem a bit sadder than the fifties film version I watched.  Also it's starring Julian Ovenden so... two birds, one stone.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Jane Eyre - National Theatre Live

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,

On Sunday, I eagerly watched the theater broadcast of the recent U.K. play adaptation of Jane Eyre. It's a 3 hour production directed by Sally Cookson and starring Madeleine Worrall as Jane, Felix Hayes as Rochester, and five other actors playing all the other roles.  I thought it would be fun to write a short review of it.  I'm sorry.  Because this is not short.

During the interval of the broadcast, there was an interview and behind the scenes video about the play, and I really liked what I heard from the director about how she views the story, and how she feels that Jane's journey is the essential feature.  It is called Jane Eyre after all.  I very much agreed with her on that, and I loved that she felt such a connection to the story and put that love for it into her production.  The play is focused on Jane's story as a whole, starting with how she develops, so it was nice to see that all five parts of the book (Gateshead, Lowood, Thornfield, Morton, and Ferndean) get pretty fleshed out (the first three though are really focused on).  It was overall a good adaptation and a bold and unique interpretation of the story.  But I may have had some minor issues with it.