Friday, April 29, 2016

TCM Presents . . . "On the Waterfront" On the Silver Screen

ON THE WATERFRONT, Marlon Brando, 1954

When it comes to Classic Cinema the average viewer usually has only three choices.
  1. Wait until the movie hits TCM and pray you're home.
  2. Grit your teeth through the skips and jumps and frame freezes on the library copy.
  3. Dig out your wallet and actually buy the DVD (blu-ray if you're REALLY lucky).
If you're like me, which hopefully you are, then you've spent more than your fair share of time hoping and waiting for your favorite classic movie to actually hit DVD in a remastered format. There was never really any hope beyond the basic opportunity to view, in this case my favorite classic movie, On the Waterfront (1954) on anything other than your typical television screen on your typical DVD.
Except that TCM has finally, and I do mean finally, done something spectacular.

I'm a fan of Fathom Events at the theater. They can be loads of fun depending on what you're seeing. I saw Singin' in the Rain, The Wizard of Oz, and the extended Lord of the Rings trilogy as Fathom events, plus some special Elvis in Concert night.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Book Review: The Lost Heiress by Roseanna M. White

The Lost Heiress by Roseanna M. White
Ladies of the Manor #1
Bethany House Publishers

My Rating

❤ Official Synopsis ❤

Brook Eden has never known where she truly belongs. Though raised in the palace of Monaco, she’s British by birth and was brought to the Grimaldis under suspicious circumstances as a babe. When Brook’s friend Justin uncovers the fact that Brook is likely a missing heiress from Yorkshire, Brook leaves the sun of the Mediterranean to travel to the moors of the North Sea to the estate of her supposed family.

The mystery of her mother’s death haunts her, and though her father is quick to accept her, the rest of the family and the servants of Whitby Park are not. Only when Brook’s life is threatened do they draw close—but their loyalty may come too late to save Brook from the same threat that led to tragedy for her mother.

As heir to a dukedom, Justin is no stranger to balancing responsibilities. When the matters of his estate force him far from Brook, the distance between them reveals that what began as friendship has grown into something much more. But how can their very different loyalties and responsibilities ever come together?

❤ My Thoughts ❤

If you love Downton Abbey, you'll likely love this book, placed in 1910, right at the beginning (well a little bit before) the first season of Downton. And unlike a few other Edwardian novels I've read and didn't like, The Lost Heiress really fit the era in every way possible. It sold me being an Edwardian novel.

Books like these are the sole reason why I continue wading through Christian fiction. Every once in a while I stumble across a true gem and The Lost Heiress is one of those rare stones, an amusing comparison considering the important role jewelry plays in this novel. I would have never found and so thoroughly enjoyed The Lost Heiress had I given up on Christian fiction, as I occasionally consider doing. This book has renewed my faith in the genre.

To be completely fair, I was first attracted by the cover. It's truly a lovely cover, n'est-ce pas? Pardon the use of French, but that is another tidbit that drew me, Brook's exotic upbringing and her diverse use of French and Monagesque (the language of Monaco, which is very like French apparently). The international flavor gave Brook a unique tone and really drew me deeper into the story, helping me emotionally invest in this young lady on the cover who's trying to find her place in her new family without compromising her own identity.

Brook delighted me. She is spunky without arrogance. Spirited without careless cruelty. She is a young woman who knows her own mind, her likes and dislikes, and not will compromise on the things that are truly important. But she is also a woman who respects the wishes and concerns of others and apologizes when she has made a mistake. She does not stand on false pride, but prays for forgiveness from her Heavenly Father and puts a change of behavior into effect. Exactly as a young, spirited Christian woman should.

As for Justin, he won me right from the start. I think it was his willingness to teach his Brooklet how to drive, albeit he suffered a little terror to, that made me like him. He taught her to use guns, to fence, to ride horses, to drive cars. He didn't like a little thing like her being a woman hold him or her back from developing Brook's strengths. He helped make her so individualistic, yet also awoke in her a love for God that he carefully nurtured. Justin, for all his faults in doubting Brook's romantic love for him, really brought out the best in Brook. I would have loved him just for that, but I could not resist loving him for himself as well. 

Brook's maid, Deirdre, is one of those characters you either love or hate. I ended up empathizing with her plight quite strongly, and was relieved to see a positive change in her attitude. She really ended up being quite the little heroine and I loved her side story with Hiram. They were just too adorable for words. As for the villain, Pratt, lots of hating going on there. What a despicable man, quite convincing and very terrifying.

Faith plays a very large role in The Lost Heiress and while the cynic in me realizes the impossibility that everyone Brook met would be a Christian in reality, I still couldn't help liking the sincerity of faith. It didn't really preach, but was simply an aspect of her life and the lives of the other believers around her. Still, it was quite convenient for her long-lost father, her newfound friend Brice Mysterston, and her maid Deirdre to all make it a habit of praying to God and acting on faith. The convenience did amuse me a bit, but I liked Brice so very much that I didn't really mind, which is a good thing because the next book in the series, The Reluctant Duchess, is partially his story. Yay!

As historic Christian romance goes, the actual romance itself is fairly mild, a vast improvement over heroes and heroines who can't keep their minds off lustful thoughts (yes, you'll even find that in Christian fiction, a fact that troubles me). The romance felt natural, passionate of course, but also chaste, which makes it 5 stars for me.

For my own reading habits, I consider The Lost Heiress to be easily on par with such excellent novels as Prelude for a Lord, Burning Sky, and The Memoir of Johnny Devine, as well as the delicious Drew Farthering Mysteries by Julianna Deering (reviews found under her last name on THIS page). There is a bit of a similarity plotwise to Lisa Bergren's Grand Tour series (Grave Consquences and Glamorous Illusions), but for whatever reason I liked The Lost Heiress a bit better. Now it is time to start the 2nd book in the series, The Reluctant Duchess, which I recently received in the mail from Bethany House. I suspect I'll love it just as much as The Lost Heiress.

(all my historic novel reviews)

Monday, April 25, 2016

Goodbye, my beautiful girl.

My family has a hole right now.

I always knew Bubbles was going to die someday, but it felt like this crept up so suddenly. She's been struggling with her breathing for several days now.

Caitlin and I took her to an emergency animal hospital yesterday afternoon where they ran x-rays that showed fluid around her lungs, about 7 ounces of fluid crushing her tiny little lungs. We had them take the fluid out and the doctor was very realistic and compassionate. It was congestive heart failure instead of the cancer she had suspected (she tested the fluid).

The fluid would have filled up around her lungs again within a couple of days at the most and we just couldn't let her suffer. I can't imagine suffocating to death with her little lungs wheezing to catch a breath. So we gave her hugs, told her we loved her and that we would see her again, and let them put her to sleep. She was at least 16-years-old, likely somewhere between 16 and 17, a ripe old age for a cat.

But it doesn't make losing her any easier. She was an integral part of our family unit and my dad said last night that "he felt a presence missing" from our house. And he's right.

We're in talks about getting new cats. Caitlin wants to wait on getting a cat for her until she has her own place. But I'm considering getting siblings for me. Whenever we've lost a pet in the past, the best way to help heal is to have another pet.

I expect to see her around corners and think I hear her coming up the stairs. I look at her favorite corner of my room where she used to curl up and she's not there. My poor, sweet baby. How I miss her.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Book Review: Miriam by Mesu Andrews

 Miriam by Mesu Andrews
(Treasures of the Nile #2)
Waterbrook Multnomah

My Rating

❤ Official Synopsis ❤

The Hebrews call me prophetess, the Egyptians a seer.
But I am neither. I am simply a watcher of Israel
and the messenger of El Shaddai.
When He speaks to me in dreams, I interpret. When He whispers a melody, I sing.

At eighty-six, Miriam had devoted her entire life to loving El Shaddai and serving His people as both midwife and messenger. Yet when her brother Moses returns to Egypt from exile, he brings a disruptive message. God has a new name – Yahweh – and has declared a radical deliverance for the Israelites.

 Miriam and her beloved family face an impossible choice: cling to familiar bondage or embrace uncharted freedom at an unimaginable cost. Even if the Hebrews survive the plagues set to turn the Nile to blood and unleash a maelstrom of frogs and locusts, can they weather the resulting fury of the Pharaoh?

Enter an exotic land where a cruel Pharaoh reigns, pagan priests wield black arts, and the Israelites cry out to a God they only think they know.

❤ My Thoughts ❤

It's refreshing to read a novel where the heroine is over 80-years-old. You just don't find that anymore.

Miriam is my first attempt at reading a Mesu Andrews novel and I must say that I'm impressed with the quality of her writing style. Solid prose, tight technique, perhaps a little long and wandering on the plot at times, but otherwise a very stable novelist in the realm of biblical fiction. It is a little bit of a struggle to follow the honorifics of the era: abba and ima, saba and savta, doda and dohd. One person will call Amram Abba while another will call him Saba, and that simply means one person calls him father and the other calls him grandfather. It took some getting used to and there were times when I almost, very nearly, got confused, just as an FYI to future readers.

The character development was mostly tight and concise. I loved Miriam from the very beginning, although I did feel as thought perhaps she had a little more power than she would have held in reality? Especially when it came to pushing and prodding Moses, who I also liked. Her take on Aaron was interesting, that he was something of a submissive husband whose strong-willed wife Elishiba ran roughshod over him. That was different. Loved Hoshea, the son of Nun. If you know your Scripture, you know who he becomes, christened a different name by Moses. Eleazer, Miriam's nephew and one of the leading characters (the slave commander to Price Ram, Ramesses' second Firstborn) intrigued me, more so because I hadn't read the first book in the series so I didn't know his backstory of belief to unbelief and then back again. He's a solid, male character who I rather wish had been respected more by the females in his life.

Speaking of which . . . the female characters. I don't like it, but I know that a lot of readers don't seem to mind the lack of feminine gentility in heroines nowadays. Taliah, one of the lead female characters who eventually marries Eleazer, is just such a woman. I highly doubt that a female would have been entrusted with the education of male students, on the one hand. And on the other, it irked me how Miriam was always correcting Eleazer for upsetting Taliah but never, ever corrected or chastised Taliah for her bad manners and distasteful temper. She was little better than a spoiled child and everyone was remarking things like, "Awwwww, how high-spirited she is, how intellectual and smart." And the miscommunication between Eleazer and Taliah was too much, far too much. Make of it what you will, Miriam has one of those heroines that is becoming painfully more prevalent in Christian fiction. This isn't even a romance novel and there she is.

However, Taliah aside, I'm still rating Miriam 5 stars because I appreciate the quality of her writing, the obvious depths of research that went into the novel, and her ability to transport the reader to the time of the Israelites in Egypt. Her dialogue fit, the setting fit, everything mixed together well. It hardly mattered that I found the romance, both romances actually, to be of little importance and no furtherance to the plot because the story itself, otherwise, was so good.

Now I would love to see a novel about Hoshea the way that Mesu Andrews has written him, new name and all, because I think that would be a story definitely worth reading.

Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Whirlwind Love of Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee

Ahhh, Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee. Two such adorable people have never before or since graced the Hollywood scene as a couple.

How do you describe a man like Bobby Darin? His was a renowned musician/songwriter/performer and also acted in several movies during the 1960s. His musical style spanned several genres from rock n' roll to pop to jazz to country. 1958 was the year that he really took off with his hit recording of Splish Splash. This was followed by Dream Lover, Beyond the Sea, Mack the Knife and hundreds of other fun and flirty, serious and sad songs. He died in 1973, tragically young at only 37, having a weakened constitution from a severe bout of rheumatic fever when he was a child.

Sandra Dee is almost better known than Bobby Darin now, although not so much for herself as for that song in Grease that everybody seems to know. She made a "splash" in the 1959 release of Gidget, the story of a girl who thinks surfing and surfer Moondoggie are "the absolute ultimate!" She was only 14-years-old at the time of the filming (if you go by her birthday being 1944 instead of 1942 which I think is more likely since in a 1980s interview she said she was not yet 16 when she met Bobby Darin in 1960). The pristine and perfect young miss, Sandra Dee represented chastity and purity, a tragic contrast with her personal life of sexual abuse as a child. Her career peaked and ended in less than 10 years, but all of her 1960s films are a delight unto themselves.

If only Bobby and Sandy's happiness had been long-term, but alas, only about 4 years after their wedding in 1960, divorce proceedings took effect. Theirs was one of those flash-in-the-pan romances like Elvis and Priscilla Presley, where you just fervently wish it could have lasted. Although, Sandy herself admitted that they lived together for 3 years or so after the divorce soooooooooooo. . . make of that what you will.

Their love kindled during the filming of Come September, a film released in 1961 and filmed in 1960 and where both Bobby and Sandy were side-liners to the "big name" leads, Rock Hudson and the exotic Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida. Rumor has it that during the filming, Bobby simply would not leave Sandy alone. He followed her everywhere on set, which is actually in keeping with his somewhat obnoxious character of Tony who's determined to win the fair hand of the charming and virtuous Sandy. Sounds fitting, eh?

A photo apparently snapped on their honeymoon.

Honestly, if it wasn't for Bobby and Sandy, I wouldn't own Come September. They add a little bit of spark, a little bit of pizzazz, to an otherwise average romcom. And of course, knowing that Bobby was doing his hardest to woo Sandy while on the set is an additional charming flair thrown in for good measure.

In an interview Sandy gave, she described her introduction to Bobby where he whistled at her and she turned around to face him I guess she hadn't even noticed him until he made his presence known. He said, "My name's Bobby Darin, and I'm going to marry you." That was it, nothing more. She knew who he was, of course, but until that moment had no idea he was in Come September, so that was a shock. Sandy described him as "abrasive, insulting, and cocky" and it seems that her mother asked Bobby why he was treating Sandy so rudely and he said, "because she doesn't give me attention any other way." He loved to make her fight back which sounds so like him.

Her mom encouraged Sandy at first to be nice to Bobby, to spend time with him and get to know him because she had to work with him on the set. But as soon as Sandy started liking him romantically, her mom backed off, probably out of terror that the relationship had developed into something she hadn't planned on. She did not approve of their romantic relationship at all, and even left Sandy high and dry when she was barely 16-years-old, for the first time in her life, which actually spurred Sandy's marriage to Bobby because she was lonely and scared.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Jane Eyre read-along coming on May 29th!

My friend Hamlette at The Edge of the Precipice loves her read-alongs and this one promises to be lots of fun!

Having never read Jane Eyre, I've always been curious how the book is when compared to the film adaptations that I love so much, mainly the Toby Stephens and Timothy Dalton versions. So this will be an enlightening experience, I'm sure.

I may not post my thoughts on the individual chapters here, but will on her blog. And I will definitely post a final review here. I encourage you, if you love Jane Eyre or want to read it for the first time in a group setting, come and join her read-along on this page.

In my mind I just know that I'll be comparing Jane Eyre with my thoughts on Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. The latter I really need to re-read one of these days and actually write a review of it since it's one of my favorite classics of all time!

So come join us!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Book Review: Hard Winter at Broken Arrow Crossing by Stephen Bly

Hard Winter at Broken Arrow Crossing by Stephen Bly
Stuart Brannon Series #1
Crossway Books (1991)
Reprint Greenbriar Book Company (2012)

My Rating

❤ The Carissa Synopsis ❤

Stuart Brannon is in mourning and has been ever since his wife Lisa died in childbirth along with their tiny stillborn son. When a friend of his, Charley Imhoff, asks Brannon to join him at his gold claim in the Colorado Rockies, Brannon jumps at the opportunity to do something, anything. But now here he is, floundering through feet of snow and stumbling into a ripe fix of circumstances that won't thaw out until spring. Broken Arrow Crossing, a way station of sorts between civilization and the gold fields in Colorado, houses Everett Davis (also a friend of Charley's) who also happens to be back shot, a pregnant and abused Indian girl named Elizabeth, an Irish family by the name of Mulroney, an Englishman named Fletcher, and the Frenchman, Trudeaux. Brannon faces down his own fears, the evils that one man can do to another, and western justice, all before the first flowers bloom.

❤ My Thoughts ❤

I'd lived in Colorado roughly 3 months before discovering Stephen Bly at my local library. I was 14-years-old at the time and there was nothing more adventuresome or engaging than this series. But the best thing about Stephen Bly's work is that it stands the test of time. Re-reading the series, it's as good today as I remember it when I was 14, although I'm happy to see those reprint covers. A lot of readers (and I'm guilty of it too) judge a book by its cover so these beautiful reprints should help.

Stephen Bly was blessed with a talent for telling stories. He didn't force them, didn't write according to an established heroine-must-meet-hero-before-chapter-three mentality. In fact, there is no romance in this series for Stuart Brannon. He's a man still deeply in love with his deceased wife. Instead the stories possess a natural flow. With his minimalist writing style, Stephen Bly told in 10 words what others would tell in 25. One sentence can have the reader in helpless giggles or fighting back tears. My favorite set of lines is so simple yet so telling, "Before the sun was above the treetops, Mulroney, Fletcher and Brannon hiked out of the clearing and into the trees. A small pair of snowshoes were strapped to Stuart Brannon's back." So much is said in these two sentences that encompass both intense fear and intense hope all at the same time. His writing style is beautiful, weaving a tale of the Old West so vivid that you can see the images galloping across the page.

This one, the introduction to Stuart Brannon, is brilliant in that it covers the topics of grief and anger at God without preaching at you. Brannon's wandering, trying to make sense of the injustice of the universe, believing in prayer, but not really in answered prayer, is all indicative of questions humanity has asked since forever. He comes face to face with himself, as a man, as a husband, as a father, and how he feels about God. Why does he do the right thing when so many others do the wrong thing? What makes his stance of protecting the helpless right? It's a great journey and he grows a lot in that single winter he spends at Broken Arrow Crossing. At one point, Brannon has a conversation with a couple of other characters about Lisa being A Stander, meaning she'll stick by you through anything. What Brannon didn't realize is that he's A Stander too.

This book is fraught with peril. The American West was awash with nasty gunslingers, maybe not like you see it in the movies, but if you have a gold rush, guess what? Evil men will flock to it! In this case, Brannon must defend the rights of himself and all of the others under his care, for the entire cabin and barn full of people at Broken Arrow Crossing are in his care, whether he wanted it that way or not. I love, have always loved, the respect that Stuart Brannon shows to others. Elizabeth gives birth to her "little warrior" Littlefoot, and Brannon protects her. It doesn't matter to him that she's an Indian. She's a lady and while he's there, nobody will treat her any differently because SHE IS A LADY.

Like a said, not a romance. Hard Winter at Broken Arrow Crossing is one of those old-fashioned westerns about a man who's good to the very core of his being. He's lost so much, but he's still a good man. That's a man you can love.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Classics Club Update - just finished Wuthering Heights

Just so you delightful people know, I'm still participating in the Classics Club.

However, I'm writing all of those posts over on Bookshelves and Daydreams!

So, to keep everyone informed of the classics I've just completed, I'll be doing these mini updates so you'll know where to find my posts.

And, I just completed Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights to mixed emotions and thoughts, but overall a gratitude to finally proclaim to the world that I've read it! Woohooo!!!

If Johnny Depp could watch Wuthering Heights 10 times then I figure I could read it at least once!

Classics Club Review: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (1847)

Ahhhh, the foolishness of back cover synopses' writers. My personal copy of Wuthering Heights describes the story as "one of the most unforgettable romances of all time." No. I tell you . . . no. This story is not, never was intended to be, never will be, a romance. Rather, it is a warning, a bell clamoring in your head to warn you away from making the myriad poor choices made by the characters in this story.

The story is this . . . Mr. Earnshaw returns from a trip to Liverpool with a dark-headed, evil-eyed little boy in tow that he names Heathcliff. The child had been abandoned and the man couldn't leave him to fend for himself (which is possibly the only kindness ever genuinely performed in the story). Heathcliff grows up beside Earnshaw's own children, Hindley and Catherine, and, despite his wildness, develops an attachment to Catherine and she to him. Bad news. Obsession, ravenous passion, and complete disregard for the wants and wishes of others ensue, leaving despair in its wake.

Catherine, while loving Heathcliff, is also fond of her neighbor, Edgar Linton, an attractive young boy only a little older than herself. Affection grows, and when Heathcliff runs away in his teens after hearing Catherine say it would "degrade" her to marry him as much as she loves him for she is him, Catherine marries Edgar. Three years pass. Heathcliff returns, bitterness raging that Catherine has married. So, in his rage, he woos Edgar Linton's younger sister Isabella, winning her heart though I have no idea how since he is so boorish. Isabella and Heathcliff elope and literally on her wedding night Isabella realizes the terrible mistake she has made and yearns to return home to Thrushcross Grange. Catherine's health declines rapidly and Heathcliff's desperate yearning for her grows until he visits her one night, her last night on earth. She manages to give birth to a daughter, who will be named Cathy, but dies in the effort. Heathcliff's cruelty expands and Isabella escapes him, giving birth to her own child, a sickly little boy she names Linton.

Heathcliff, in his menacing hatred, determines to ruin the happiness of all their offspring. When Isabella passes, little Linton comes back into his own care. Heathcliff's ultimate goal is unhappiness for those he hates and vengeance by obtaining the Linton land and inheritance through a marriage between his son, Linton and young Cathy. Begin cycle all over again.

Wuthering Heights is a tale of obsession, of bitterness, of vengeance devouring a man alive who, knowing he is being devoured, heaps more burning coals upon his head by stoking the fire deliberately. I cannot even imagine what it would be like going into this book and thinking you were reading a romance. As it happens, I already knew that Wuthering Heights is a brutal, cruel book and expected nothing else from it.

One thing I hadn't fully anticipated, though, is how much I would come to dislike almost every single character within its pages. Possibly with the exception of Nelly, the housekeeper, although there are distinct moments where I didn't like her either, and she's the NARRATOR. But as for everyone else, there wasn't a single character to hold my empathy for any length of time. Catherine and Heathcliff are selfish, spoiled, petted children, even in their adulthood, and fully deserve one another's company. Edgar is weak and useless, and the same is said of Hindley Earnshaw or even of Nelly, the housekeeper, who should have done something, but didn't.

Children are abused and maligned in this story, treated as little more than a possession. Young Hareton Earnshaw, the son of Hindley Earnshaw, Catherine's brother, is raised by Heathcliff to be a brute and an idiot, with nothing done to improve or educate him. Heathcliff's son, Linton, is sour and peevish, working himself into illness so he can obtain what he wants, an ideal combination of the manipulative evil of his father and the spoiled sensitivities of his mother. Young Cathy is also spoiled, but in her at least, it is easy to realize that she never wishes to harm anyone, let alone her cousin Linton, and it grieves her when he is grieved.

These children are literally the most tragic of all the characters. When Hindley Earnshaw died, his son should have been saved from Heathcliff. But nobody even bothered to try. When Isabella Heathcliff dies and her son returns to her brother's house and Heathcliff demands him, Edgar just hands little Linton over to the man. He doesn't attempt fighting in court, or anything else, just a puny regret and "here's the lad" mentality. Heathcliff locks young Cathy up and forces her to marry Linton for revenge. He boxes her ears, hits any and all of the young people whenever he wishes, and is overall cruel and contemptible.

These children have no power, no rights, no reason to exist beyond how their adults can use them for their own means and ends. It is cruelty in the extreme and painful to read.

So, you might ask, why did I keep reading if the story is so morbid? Once I began Wuthering Heights, it was impossible to stop. It was like standing on a platform and watching two trains on a collision course and being unable to look away for morbid fascination. You only look away once the fire is extinguished and the bodies are carted away. Cold yes, but true in this case.

I've been trying to untangle my feelings regarding Heathcliff and Catherine. Oh, how I wish they had married. Then the destruction would have been limited only to themselves instead of expanding to encompass everyone around them. And yet, as much as I despise Heathcliff, I pity him too. What must it have been like to live so bitterly, so coldly? Young Cathy expresses pity for him, her cruel uncle, once, and Heathcliff responds with, "Keep you eft's fingers off; and move, or I'll kick you! I'd rather be hugged by a snake. How the devil can you dream of fawning on me? I detest you!"

The man is evil incarnate, but he was always so. Could salvation have ever found him? I don't know, but apart from young Cathy's one attempt, I don't think he ever encountered true, genuine compassion in the entirety of his life. He was always the wastrel, the foundling, belonging nowhere and to nobody. At least until Cathy came, but even that was not destined to be. So he is a tragic figure, but his brutality is impossible to overlook, making him the most unlikable character I have ever encountered in fiction.

Wuthering Heights is not the story of true love and redemption. It is not a romance no matter what certain readers might claim. There is nothing romantic in a story so ugly. Rather, it is the story of vengeance and wickedness. While I have no regrets in reading it, I do believe that once is plenty. You will never find a more depressing, melancholy, infuriating novel than Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, and it makes me ponder her home life, poor thing. It is brilliantly penned, I will grant her that, but light only comes into the story upon Heathcliff's death, at the very, very end, when joy is allowed back into the Heights and hope gains a foothold. He was like a cancer spreading its malignancy across the moors. Death was the only thing to rid the surviving characters of his hate.

Poor Heathcliff. He could have been so much more had he but tried.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Meeting Laurie R. King!

I had a chance to meet the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes author, Laurie R. King, on Friday at the Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver, CO! It was an awesome experience and I wrote all about it HERE on my book review blog, Bookshelves and Daydreams. Drop on by! ❤

Author Meet-and-Greet with Laurie R. King

Thanks to a good friend of mine, I attended an author signing/Q&A/reading with Laurie R. King in Denver on Friday night!

For the uninformed, she writes the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mysteries, and I think she has another series too, but I'm not sure what it's called.

Now, I've never read her books, but thought the event sounded like fun and it was . . . just a terrific way to spend an evening with my friend! If you're ever in Denver and get a chance to go to the Tattered Cover bookstore on Colfax, it is AMAZING. I highly recommend it, just to wander through in awe!

But back to Ms. King. 

Here's a few fun facts about her in regards to her work.

She does not use an outline when she writes. In fact, the closest she ever got to an outline was little 3x5 inch notecards. That didn't last. She considers the difference in authors that are for or against outlines to be simply a matter of "organization" vs. "organic." I thought that to be a very congenial way to describe it.

However, she does write down plot points she must hit when she's working on her mysteries, just so she doesn't leave anything out.

She never writes about places that she hasn't visited herself (very wise, I think, and something I must remember with my own writing).

She does have a writing schedule, but it's usually no more than 1,500 words a day, sometimes as little as 600.

She knows that if she has writer's block than she's taken a wrong turn in the story somewhere and will re-read the book she's having trouble with until she finds the spot where she went wrong.

Her creativity flows in the way she sits. She wrote her stories longhand for the longest time until laptop computers actually became light enough to put on your lap. Then she could sit in the same position she was used to sitting in to write and her brain continued to work. Until laptops, if she tried to write on a computer, her brain blanked on her.

Her reason behind Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes was a wish to contrast and compare such incredible intellect side by side, 2 different people from different generations put together. When you think about it, that's really quite clever.

I found Ms. King to be utterly fascinating and very entertaining. She loves her work, enjoys her fans, and really has a deep respect for Sherlock Holmes, which I appreciate. I may not fully agree with her take on Dr. Watson, but is it really her take or how Mary Russell perceives him? Who knows?

And yes, I did stand in line to get her latest book, The Murder of Mary Russell signed. Not for me, but for someone else who I know is a fan and reads her books faithfully.

Here's a photo that Ms. King herself took from the podium and posted on Facebook and the little person circled in purple in the back on the left is, in fact, me. So exciting!

Now the biggest question is probably, do I want to read her work? Well, I started listening to The Beekeeper's Apprentice audio book at work on Friday before the event. So I'm not very far in. But I find it intriguing. While I am not really one for series in general, as most of you know, I may buckle down and try reading Ms. King's work. Or I may find that one book is plenty.

What I do know is that as an orator Laurie R. King is a pure delight. In fact, I bet taking a writing class from her would be a really entertaining and fun experience.

So there you have my weekend experience. I am now in love with the Tattered Cover bookstore and since my friend, Lindsay, is in love with it too and they have authors visit regularly, we might just make it a regular thing we do together. Now that would be awesome!

One last photo for the road, me meeting Laurie R. King. Proof positive that she signed a book for me! You didn't know my blonde hair was so long, eh?

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Period Drama Challege - March Tag Questions

Wow, we're answering the March tag questions already! I'm astounded how time is flying! You can read the March link-ups HERE. Lots of terrific dramas this month, possibly some you haven't watched! ❤

 March Tag Questions: 
(Answer here in the comments or on your blog)
1. What period dramas did you view in March?
Okaaaaaay, let me think. I watched David Copperfield and Nanny McPhee but haven't reviewed them yet (will definitely review the first). Also watched Anna Karenina and Crimson Peak with Charity, both of which I also intend to review although they'll be quite challenging just because of content issues. And I reviewed The Imitation Game and When Calls the Heart.
2. What is your favorite period drama soundtrack?
Oh boy, I'm so bad about remembering soundtracks. Truly. Can I choose the Jane Eyre musical that only ran on Broadway for 6 months? LOVE that soundtrack! In fact, I should probably review it.

3. If you could attend a ball in a Jane Austen story what would be the color of your ballgown and who would you dance with?
You'll love this. I actually did attend a Jane Austen ball since I was Charlotte Lucas in a theater production of Pride and Prejudice. My gown was a shimmering cream silk (LOVED IT) and I danced with a charming young man who also played Colonel Fitzwilliam (although not in this scene). He was about 8 years younger than myself, but he was quite nice and and an elegant dance partner. The above photo is, in fact, myself!
4. Do you prefer watching period dramas by yourself or with friends/family? Why?
Depends on what it is. Sometimes yes and sometimes no. Right now my family is watching Wanted Dead or Alive with Steve McQueen (tv series) and LOVING it. But I did watch David Copperfield on my own. It really does depend on what it is.

source credit: maudelynn on tumblr
5. What period dramas are you looking forward to viewing in April 2016?
I'm reading Wuthering Heights over on Bookshelves and Daydreams right now, so I'm really salivating to watch the 1939 version with Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon. I'll be watching more of Wanted Dead or Alive and may actually decide to finish Brideshead Revisited with Anthony Andrews and Jeremy Irons (it's just so loooooooooooooong)!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

On Reading Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights is quite a story. Whereas with Lorna Doone I struggled with every sentence, I hardly want to put Wuthering Heights down, it's so dark and moody and intriguing. I'm about to chapter 11 . . . Heathcliffe has just returned after being absent for 3 years to find Catherine married to Edgar Linton. Her exuberance over Heathcliffe's return has already raised some issues with her husband (can't imagine WHY!)

Having never seen a film version in its entirety other than the 1939 version starring Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon, I'm sketchy on the details of the ending. The 1939 version skipped a great deal, resulting in a cleaned-up, nicer version of the story and of Heathcliffe. I know it doesn't end well in reality, that's just a given for this story, but it's interesting reading a classic where I'm not 100% sure of the plot twists.

Things that have already jumped out at me are:

1) Catherine is a spoiled brat and I dislike her intensely. There really is nothing nice to say about her AT ALL. She doesn't treat her husband right or her servants or just about anybody, even her father. The only person she ever treated right or appeared to genuinely love was Heathcliffe, but what a love! Passionate and obsessive and quite a bit terrifying.

2) Heathcliffe has no soft edges. There is nothing kindly or redeemable about him, making him very different from Mr. Rochester who, even though I have yet to read Jane Eyre, I've always liked in the film versions.

3) It's fascinating that the story is told from Ellen's perspective as a memory. It makes for a very intriguing narrative and it makes me wonder how truthful of a narrator she is since she isn't inside anyone else's head but her own. She could be an unreliable narrator of Heathcliffe and Catherine so it raises the question of whether they were like my above descriptions of them or if they weren't as bad as she made them out to be. How good was her memory and who kindly was she intending to be in her depiction of them to Mr. Lockwood?

So says Marlon Brando, one of my favorite actors of all time.

Have you read Wuthering Heights? If so, what are your thoughts on it?

I'm enjoying it, if enjoying is the right word, far more than I imagined possible. Not because I like the characters because I really don't, but because the story fascinates me. It torments and grieves the reader in countless ways.

My personal copy has a label on the back that says it is one of the most unforgettable romances of all time. I disagree. That would be like calling Romeo & Juliet a romance instead of a tragedy. Perhaps it could be a romantic tragedy, but for Wuthering Heights, Heathcliffe and Cathy are tearing themselves apart with this obsession that can't be quenched. There is nothing romantic in their inevitable demise, only sorrow. 

Favorite Quotes so Far

The Bride Came C.O.D. - A Screwball Comedy (1941) starring Bette Davis and James Cagney

Written for the Bette Davis Blogathon. ❤

The Bride Came C.O.D. (1941) is one of those rare comedies that you either love or hate. If you don't mind some slapstick comedy, a little rough-housing, etc. then there's a good chance this one will entertain you.

I originally watched The Bride Came C.O.D. because of Cagney. I ADORE him. Although I do love his comedies best, which is the main reason why I picked up this film in the first place, simply because it was a comedy. Bette Davis was never really on my radar since I tend to marathon actors instead of actresses, but I did note right away that this was not the Bette Davis that I'd heard so much about, with all of her serious roles and dramatic performances. No, here is a Bette Davis with superb comedic timing who plays off Cagney as if he's a hockey puck and she's the stick. It's one of those opposites attract moments and that's the real reason why The Bride Came C.O.D. works at all!

The premise is simple enough to follow, so simple in fact that I'm borrowing it from Wikipedia.

Pilot Steve Collins (Cagney) agrees to help bandleader Alan Brice and heiress Joan Winfield (Davis) elope. Steve then contacts her father Lucius, offering to prevent the marriage and deliver her to him in return for enough money to get out of debt.

Steve tricks Alan into getting off the aircraft, then takes off with Joan. When an irate Joan tries to jump out of the aircraft, Steve sees that she has her parachute on backwards and is forced to crash land near the ghost town of Bonanza. The next morning, they encounter the lone resident, "Pop" Tolliver. (Wikipedia credit)

And that's as far as I'll go with the synopsis because I don't want to spoil the mayhem for you!

Like I said earlier, if you're looking for a film that is your typical Bette Davis, this isn't it. Which makes The Bride Came C.O.D. all the more delightful.

A few of my favorite moments are:

1) Bette landing bum side down in a pile of cactus and Jimmy having to pluck tines from her derriere (skirt decently in place of course).

2) A rematch with said cactus only this time Jimmy is the victim! (seen in above photo)

3) Bette attempting an escape from the ghost town in a rickety old jalopy of some sort.

4) Cagney flicking pebbles at her with a rubber band and effectively landing one smack on her derriere!

6) The mine scene and Bette's irate fury.

7) When Cagney hauls Bette over his shoulder and plunks her into one of the old-time western jail cells.


But really, this scene told in the gif set below (not mine and I wish I knew who to credit), is HILARIOUS and one of my absolute favorites!

It's tempting to dislike Cagney's character in The Bride Came C.O.D., but don't yield to that temptation. Really, he is just trying to get Joan back to her father unmarried, plus he's about to lose that plane of his and it's his livelihood. He needs he money. Plus, he's really a tolerable nice guy, rather like Clark Gable in It Happened One Night. You know, the rough around the edges type. At least he doesn't rub a grapefruit into Bette's face like he would have done in one of his mobster movies. Those, I don't really watch.

And yes, I can see the similarity in storyline between The Bride Came C.O.D. and It Happened One Night, the only difference being that one is considered a top notch classic while the other has been sort of forgotten. I'm sure you can guess which is which.

Overall, this film is a pure delight from start to finish. I've heard rumors that modern viewers are less drawn to it than original audiences, but I don't know how much of that we really want to believe. It wasn't a rousing success in the box office, but I think it's well worth a viewing now. It's a great showcase for Bette Davis and James Cagney's unique comedic talents, and really let them play a bit with the roles. It's a hodgepodge of crazy characters and zany schemes . . . a timeless comedy to the last.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Poetry Month Tag

Hamlette at The Edge of the Precipice is hosting this poetry month celebration so I figured I might as well start out with tag. Maybe I'll be inspired to read more poetry than I have for the last couple of years. I loved poetry in college!

What are some poems you like?

I love Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti. I also enjoy Tennyson's The Lady of Shalott.

What are some poems you dislike?

I'm not partial to any of Emily Dickinson's work, at least not at this point.

Are there any poets whose work you especially enjoy?  If so, who are they?

Shakespeare . . . always.

Do you write poetry?

I haven't in the last few years, but did write some when I was in college. They received good grades and I enjoyed writing them, but I don't make a habit of it, although I am considering a return to poetic writing.

Have you ever memorized a poem?

Yes, The Quality of Mercy by Shakespeare and then The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. There were others I memorized in school, but those are long forgotten now. 

Do you prefer poetry that rhymes and had a strict meter, or free verse?  Or do you like both?

I'm partial to both, although sometimes I find free verse to be distracting . . . unless I'm writing it, which means I'm a bit biased. *winks*

Do you have any particular poetry movements you're fond of?  (Beat poets, Romanticism, Fireside poets, etc?)(If you haven't got any idea what I'm talking about, that's fine!  You can check out this list for more info, if you want to.)

When I read poetry, it's usually by one of the British romantics like Byron or Tennyson or Keats. I do also love Christina Rossetti and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, although I'm not sure where they fall in the list.