April Blogathons - There's Still Time to Sign Up!

Monday, March 30, 2020

It's been a long time since I've participated in blogathons, but during this COVID-19 pandemic, I have time on my hands, too much time if we'll be honest.

In an effort to avoid boredom during the social distancing and my state's , I'm participating in two separate blogathons.

Fourth Doris Day Blogathon Banner - April 3-5, 2020, hosted by Love Letters to Old Hollywood blog

The first is The Fourth Doris Day Blogathon hosted by Michaela of Love Letters to Old Hollywood.

I don't watch a whole lot of Doris Day movies, but I am rather keen on That Touch of Mink with Cary Grant. It's a bit sensual, but rather charming on the whole and I've never shared it with anyone so this will be fun.

I'm sure there's room left if anyone wants to sign up last minute.

Nobody is writing for Midnight Lace yet *hint, hint*!

Rose of MGM: Greer Garson Blogathon Banner - April 4-6, 2020, hosted by Phyllis Loves Classic Movies

And then we have The Rose of MGM: The Greer Garson Blogathon hosted by Phyllis of Phyllis Loves Classic Movies.

Now, this one really does need a couple of more bloggers to participate, so if anyone has the time or inclination and has a favorite movie starring Greer Garson, then I say, go for it!

My choice is Pride and Prejudice where she stars opposite Laurence Olivier, one of my favorite male leads of old Hollywood.

Although I am torn and may write an additional post for Random Harvest from 1942. Greer gave a superb performance in that film and I'm not sure how many people have seen it.
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Afternoon Tea in the midst of the COVID-19 Outbreak



As we are all well aware, it's been a longgggggggggggg couple of weeks bogged down with COVID-19 hysteria so I figured now was as good a time as any to share photos of the afternoon tea my family shared on March 21st.

To my delight, everything tasted delicious, although I'm not sure that I like apple bits in my scones. I'm still a little torn on that one.

These Apple Cheddar Scones were baked from the January/February 2020 issue of Tea Time magazine.


These are Apple Cheddar scones. Aren't they pretty?

I love how you can clearly see the bits of cheese. We didn't have white cheddar like the recipe said, so I just used regular and they turned out fine. I suspect that white cheddar was mainly for aesthetic purposes, anyway.

If you care to try them, the recipe is in the January/February 2020 issue of Tea Time magazine.

Romeo's Sighs Cookies baked from the A Literary Tea Party cookbook by Alison Walsh.

These are called Romeo's Sighs because they're from A Literary Tea Party cookbook by Alison Walsh. It's a truly darling cookbook with lots of yummy recipes and ideas.

Romeo's Sighs are a delectable light cookie with a hint of almond extract.

They're actually half of a whole cookie since the intention is to make an elegant cookie sandwich.


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Book Review: They Do It With Mirrors by Agatha Christie (1952)

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Book cover for They Do It With Mirrors by Agatha Christie

They Do It With Mirrors

Author: Agatha Christie

Year: 1952

My Rating★★


Miss Marple senses danger when she visits a friend living in Stoneygates, a rehabilitation center for delinquents. Her fears are confirmed when someone shoots at the administrator. Although he is not injured, a mysterious visitor is less fortunate; shot dead simultaneously in another part of the building.

Pure coincidence? Miss Marple thinks not, and must use all her cunning to solve the riddle of the stranger's visit … and his murder.

I am honestly torn between a 3 and a 4-star rating for this book. It's very good, very entertaining, but I feel that it lagged a little bit, right in the last quarter of the story, as if it should have reached its conclusion long ago. And that might be because it took quite a long while to even reach the beginning of the mystery, that is, the first murder. Not that I expected the scene to open and there would be a dead body, but still, taking 76 pages to get there felt a bit excessive.

I'm also not a bit sure why in the world the 2nd and 3rd murders happened. They just smack you upside the head about 20 pages before the book's end. What's up with that?

It might just be me remembering the Joan Hickson episode of the series, but I actually guessed the mystery! And, knowing myself, it's ridiculous to think that my memory is that long. My memory is like a sieve, it only catches bigger things, and lets the smaller things like a tv episode I watched a decade ago slide on through. So I don't think I remembered, but I am very surprised that I guessed the conclusion, and guessed right.

I think I will stick with 3 stars, for both of the above reasons. Jane Marple is a delight, as always, with her remarkable ability to solve mysteries based on the people she knows in St. Mary Mead and their every day, dramatic lives. She makes her village sound like Downton Abbey what with all the dramatic goings-on.

Also, yes, there are some terms that today will be considered offensive, but were not in Agatha Christie's time. I, personally, wasn't offended, so let's leave it at that.
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10 Gifts for Every Jane Austen Fangirl

Sunday, March 15, 2020

10 Gifts for Every Jane Austen Fangirl

I love Etsy's wide variety of gifts for Janeites (a.k.a. Jane Austen fangirls).


In an effort to broaden everyone's horizons with what Etsy has to offer Janeites salivating for some new expression of their favorite fandoms, I've built this blog post. May you enjoy and revel in the possibilities!

Pride and Prejudice clip-art


$6.50 - instant download

This set is what I consider to be ideal for the blogger/scrapbooker in your life. The artist has such a lovely, soft style in her work, and you can do so much with the images. The best thing is knowing that these really are watercolor paintings, a tactile element that I appreciate. The set contains a variety of images, including different couples, backgrounds, and accessories in keeping with the Regency era.

While lolagraphicimages only has one Jane Austen set so far, I'm hopeful that she may design other sets for the different novels. Come on Northanger Abbey!


Customizable Regency Doll - 18 inch Doll with Curl Cluster Atop her Head


Customizable Regency Doll - 18 inch Doll with Curl Cluster Atop her Head - upallnightstudio

$55 

This doll is GORGEOUS and highly customizable. The dress color is white linen, but you can choose the hair color, eye color, ribbon color, etc.

While I'm only sharing one of upallnightstudio's dolls, she has a TON of them listed. Some of them are customizable, others are ready-made. My favorite is the Christmas set, but that one is priced much higher at $145 due to the fine detailed work in the gown and accessories. 

There are even smaller customizable dolls sized about 6" that are priced at $30.

A really nice range of prices for a pretty much one-of-a-kind doll that will be perfect for any Janeite.

Jane Austen Collection Bookmarks
Jane Austen Collection Bookmarks - ShopLucyintheSky

$3 each - $16 for the set of 6

Love, love, love these bookmarks!

The bookmarks aren't laminated, which is a shame since lamination really helps protect bookmarks, but I think the design of the bookmarks themselves would win out in the end. The price is totally worth it, imho.

Jane Austen Bracelet Set



$30 per set (each comes with 3 bracelets) + FREE shipping

One of the things that drives me crazy about my day job is that I can't wear charm bracelets. Lots of typing so that would be lots of clinking and clanking which would be obnoxious to me and everyone around me too. 

BUT, if I were to buy Jane Austen bracelets, it would be one of these sets.

This artist has 3 designs, one each for Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma. Each set comes with 3 bracelets and is stunning and fashionable, depending on which book you like best. 

Jane Austen notebook


$17 to $22.50

This looks like a super fun notebook. You can pick the size, small or large, the style, chalkboard or white, and even the page type, blank, lined, dot grid, or graph. Super neat, and the cover design is just gorgeous.

Jane Austen fans who also happen to be artists or like creating their own reading journal would love this notebook. The dot grid would be perfect for a bullet journal if that matches your interest. I did consider it when I started my 2020 bullet journal, but I like a slightly broader cover that can work with a variety of month themes. Still, it's highly attractive and would be a charming notebook.

Jane Austen Quote Mug


$15.50

If you're anything like me then you probably have an overabundance of coffee/tea mugs in your cupboard! But who cares?!

This mug is just so fun and so very true especially when I'm on a Jane Austen bender. The only thing that would make it better is if it were a campfire mug, but alas, not so. The mug itself is customizable: i.e. blank handle/interior, pink handle/interior, or all around white.

Believe me when I say that it's a unique take on a Jane Austen mug since I've browsed through more than I can remember over the last several years.

Pemberley Garden Club Embroidered Tee


$26

I keep looking for the ideal Jane Austen t-shirt since I'm a huge fan of nerdy t-shirts, but this is the first one I've seen that I've given serious consideration to buying. The sizing runs from teeny-tiny all the way up to a curvy girl of the XL or 2XL variety, which is a really nice range of sizing. 

The shirt color is customizable from 5 different color choices which I consider to be just about perfect. And, like the title implies, it is embroidered instead of screen-printed, which kind of makes the shirt itself unique. 

There's also a matching tote bag so I'm thinking of a bag in one color and a shirt another. Fashionable, right?!

6 Jane Austen Mini Book Themed Wine Charms


$5.88 to $15.29

Now, here's a fun concept. I would have never thought Jane Austen wine charms, but this just proves that there is something for every Janeite. The purchaser can choose a set of two charms or a set of six charms depending on individual needs.

Pride and Prejudice Book Scarf


$23.99

I've always wanted a Jane Austen scarf, but I almost never wear scarves so I've never purchased one. But this one is lovely and if scarves are your thing, then I could see it being super fun. It also happens to be one of the less expensive Austen scarves on Etsy, so that's a plus.

Pride and Prejudice Literary Bookend


$25 each

Bookends might seem a thing of the past, but some people still love them, and these are stunning. They are a little spendy if you want a pair of them, but the design is quite unique and it would definitely be a conversation starter.

And there you have it!

10 Great Gift Ideas for Jane Austen Fangirls

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Book Release: Of Literature & Lattes by Katherine Reay

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Book Cover in blues and yellows of Katherine Reay's novel Of Literature & Lattes

Katherine Reay's latest book, Of Literature and Lattes, is scheduled for release on May 12, 2020.

Enter the book giveaway on Goodreads from March 14 - 23, 2020.

Most of Ms. Reay's books are hit and miss with me. I love The BrontĂ« Plot but didn't care at all for A Portrait of Emily Price. I do love, however, that there are a few authors out there who obviously got their start through a genuine love of classic literature. So I'm always willing to give Ms. Reay's books a try.

I have an ebook copy of The Printed Letter Bookshop, her most recent work, checked out from my local library so it's on my to-be-read list for within the next week. If I love it then I'll get through it quickly, just as always.

Give me an awesome book and it only takes a day to read, if I have a day to spend reading, that is!
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The Pale Horse - Yet Another Non-Masterpiece by Sarah Phelps

Friday, March 13, 2020

The cast of Sarah Phelps' The Pale Horse (2020) Rufus Sewell, Sean Pertwee, and Kaya Scodelario


The Pale Horse


miniseries released 3/13/20

written by Sarah Phelps

starring Rufus Sewell, Sean Pertwee, and Kaya Scodelario

Since I've never read Agatha Christie's novel, I can't speak into the adaptation's accuracy. All I can speak into is whether I enjoyed it, and . . . I didn't.

Sarah Phelps just rubs me the wrong way with her cold, impersonal writing.


This is supposed to be Agatha Christie, but I already know that it probably isn't a faithful adaptation because it doesn't feel like Christie. It feels like Sarah Phelps and is the reason why I'm not calling it Agatha Christie's The Pale Horse, other than in this sentence.

Why she doesn't just write her own stories is beyond me, but then that would be a challenge because she wouldn't be able to mooch off anyone else's ideas. Instead, she just steals from Agatha Christie, changing the entire tenor of the woman's writing style to something that just doesn't fit.

Rufus Sewell and Kaya Scodelario in Sarah Phelps' The Pale Horse

To give Rufus Sewell credit, he did what he could with the leading role. 


He's an excellent actor that I've loved for quite a few years now and he never fails to disappoint. But what am I supposed to do with a leading man who's cheating on his second wife with a burlesque dancer? It made him very cheap and tawdry. Maybe he's that way in Ms. Christie's work, I don't know. I'm on hold for the ebook; we'll see how long that takes to come in for me. I'm supposed to care about Rufus Sewell's character (see, I can't even remember his name!). It's supposed to matter to me that his first wife was electrocuted in a bathtub. But I just was never fully engaged in the story enough to care.

Then you have his second wife, the marvelously talented Kaya Scodelario. I love her, but her character obviously has some sort of mood disorder, bouncing from normal to violent in the span of two seconds. Maybe it's Ms. Phelps's attempt at showing us the emotional oppression women were under in the 50s and 60s? They can't allow themselves to genuinely express what they're feeling and so they bottle it up until they explode? I don't know, but if that was the message, I couldn't really relate to it because it didn't fit the story.

Sean Pertwee in Sarah Phelps' The Pale Horse

Of course, Sean Pertwee is one of my absolute favorite actors, so it's always a delight when he pops up in a British miniseries now and then, even though I didn't enjoy The Pale Horse.


Here's the thing, though. If you're going to use Sean Pertwee then please give the man something to do! He was the police inspector and pretty much walked into scenes and out of them again with nothing resolved. That is a terrible use of his talent.

I just expect more. Don't give me cold, icy people speaking cold, icy dialogue in impersonal rooms. 

Overall, The Pale Horse just bored me.


These are good actors, some of the best, really, and the script fell painfully flat. Pairing that script with the filming style of Leonora Lonsdale (whoever she is) was a mistake. There needed to be a livelier script and a director with a bit more life in their style to make the miniseries at all memorable.

As it is, I've watched it once and will never watch it again because I have no incentive to do so. The story isn't interesting, the filming style isn't interesting, and I'm pretty sure that Agatha Christie never wrote f**k in any of her books. That last bit is really just disrespectful of the originator of the story.

Despite my disappointment and boredom with Sarah Phelps' The Pale Horse, I am excited to read Agatha Christie's book.


I may just break down and buy it since it will take weeks for my library hold to come in. We'll see. 

UPDATE: I've now read the novel, and you can read my thoughts in my blog post Classics Club: The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie (1961).

If you've watched The Pale Horse, what did you think?
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What Worked and What Didn't in Emma 2020

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

One of the posters from Autumn de Wilde's debut film, Emma (2020).

Emma


directed by Autumn de Wilde

starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Bill Nighy, Rupert Graves, Miranda Hart

I attended this movie with my eyes wide open. There was no chance of shocking me because I knew what was coming, at least, in terms of disagreeable content. So we might as well start there.

What Didn't Work

Nudity.

This, in my opinion, is a big, fat no-no for any Jane Austen film.

But, since I realize it was thrown in simply for shock value, I'm not going to linger too long on it.

You will see a full length, from the back, view of Mr. Knightley in his birthday suit, blessedly brief. I find it difficult to maintain my respect for one of my favorite Austen heroes after I've seen him naked. Weird how that works.

And you will see a side view of Emma's legs (be thankful it's just a side view) when she hikes her dress up to warm her shockingly bare legs and behind. Where did her undergarments vanish to? Your guess is as good as mine.

Music.

The soundtrack threw me a bit. My sister, bless her, brought up that the operatic songs are musical cues for the transitions to characters of different social status. Yay! I wish my brain had been capable of grasping that concept when I saw the film.

All I know is that I'm not really keen on, what I consider glaring, musical transitions from a fairly nice soundtrack to blaring operatic versions of hymns? Yeah, I don't know. 

Frank Churchill.

Who? Oh, was he supposed to be important? You mean that random dude who really doesn't have much to do when he's on the screen and isn't really impacting Emma's decision making all that much? 

Sadly, Frank Churchill was a non-character.

He's not verbally cruel to Jane Fairfax, which would have been an improvement because at least then we would have some sort of reason to hate him. As it is, he's lukewarm. You don't like him, you don't dislike him, he's just blah.

I will say that his most memorable moments are when he and Mr. Knightley encounter each other during parties, each eyeing the other as if he's intruded on the other's personal space bubble. Now that's funny.

Yellow.

I could have said costuming, but actually, I liked quite a bit of the costuming, especially the spencers which have the most gorgeous pleating!

So instead, let's just stick with yellow. There is nothing worse for a blonde than wearing an entire outfit in YELLOW. I don't know if it's Ms. de Wilde's favorite color, but there was far too much of it to suit anyone's tastes. 

It's jarring and just doesn't work with the fashion.

Ringlets.

The lead actress, Anya Taylor-Joy, during the strawberry picking party in Autumn de Wilde's film, Emma (2020).
Oh dear.

What WERE the hairstylists thinking?!

If they were going to show us Emma with her hair up in the little rags to obtain the curls, then they absolutely CANNOT go with this teeny, tiny ringlets that will never, ever be a resulting end product of said rags.

Those curls are a physical impossibility and are, therefore, ridiculous.

Even worse, they don't suit Anna Taylor-Joy's face. She was the cutest when her hair was actually up in the rags. Explain that to me, if you can!

What Worked


And so we transition to what worked because I truly like a shocking amount of this film.

Mr. Woodhouse.

Bill Nighy is a genius.
Bill Nighy starring as the heroine's father, Mr Woodhouse, in Autumn de Wilde's film, Emma (2020).

I adore him and his portrayal of Mr. Woodhouse. He's far more agile than some of the other interpretations that I've seen, and it's entirely suitable to giggle when he and the footmen are chasing an elusive draft around the dining room.

He also plays a smallish role in getting Emma and Knightley together at the end of the film by deliberately having his footmen enclose Emma and Knightley in screens to protect them from that same elusive *cough* non-existent *cough* draft. 

Bill Nighy is now my favorite actor in the role of Emma's father and I can hardly wait to see him again.

Apologies.

This might seem a strange thematic element, but it also happens to be true.

I never liked how, in other versions and the book itself, Emma never actually apologized to anyone.

This version has Emma realizing the error of her ways and actually making amends. She approaches Mr. Martin's farm with a basket of goodies and a sincere apology for her interference between him and Harriet. She also apologizes to Miss Bates (played by the memorable Miranda Hart of Call the Midwife fame). 

This version of Emma is far more self-aware and capable of human sentiment and regret, and I admire that in her. She shed some sincere tears and then pressed on to make things right.

Emma and Knightley.

There are a few superficial things with each of them that I dislike.

Mr. Knightley has the most ghastly sideburns you've ever seen and his collar is so high that the sideburns are constantly ruffled by it. It just seems ungroomed and disheveled.

And Emma's curls and penchant for wearing yellow are absurd.

HOWEVER, when they are together, it's a winning match.

No, they're not Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam.

They don't need to be because we've already had that pairing.

Anya Taylor-Joy and Johnny Flynn during the Highbury Dance in Autumn de Wilde's film, Emma (2020).Instead, we're left with a slightly rawer romantic attachment. I feel like Johnny Flynn's Knightley is younger since they didn't ever declare the difference in their ages. He feels like the younger brother if that makes sense. He also suffers his emotions far more intensely than any other Knightley I've seen, which I ended up appreciating after giving his responses some thought.

There are moments during the one and only ball where you can tell his feelings for Emma are so strange and new and strong that he just doesn't know quite what to do with them. Little brushes of the hand awaken his love for her while they dance and it's enchanting to watch him come alive in that way. He responds in a shockingly physical way by chasing her carriage down to Highbury, a very un-Knightley like action, but it works for this version of Mr. Knightley.

Emma too finds herself in quite a state of shock after the ball, and if not for an interruption, when Mr. Knightley comes charging in, I believe they might have kissed then and there. But alas, they're interrupted, and we're given another scene with Knightley where we realize his romantic frustration. It's rather entertaining.

Overall Thoughts


This version of Emma is by no means a perfect adaptation.

There are elements that should have been added, like Harriet's collection of poems which the vicar adds to in his attempt to court Emma. And I may never recover from the oddity of having Mr. Knightley sing with Jane Fairfax.

But on the whole, the important additions made, like Emma's acknowledgment of her poor behavior and Mr. Knightley's obvious increase in affection for her, were both important and made the story more clear than it might have been otherwise.

I also appreciate and admire Harriet for looking Emma in the eye, in deep disappointment, and declaring that she had refused Mr. Martin because of Emma's insistence she could do better. I never imagined a version of Harriet Smith could be so self-aware.

While I wish they had done something different with his collar and sideburns, I like Johnny Flynn as Mr. Knightley. He is a rougher interpretation, but deeply genuine in his care of people. And I don't envy him following in Jeremy Northam's footsteps, even if it is 25-years since that film hit the big screen. Janeites have long memories.

I'm glad to admit that I enjoyed Anya Taylor-Joy's representation of my least favorite Austen heroine (of the ones I've read). I don't like Emma. I never have, but I have always appreciated her journey, and I think that Anya Taylor-Joy brought her to vivid, spunky, and arrogant life.

Emma is Autumn de Wilde's full-length directorial debut, and I must give her kudos for such a charismatic interpretation. I have no doubt that she will continue to grow and learn as a director and hopefully deliver more films that I'm interested in seeing. 

Will I purchase this version? Yes, undoubtedly. I enjoyed myself immensely, and it's a simple enough matter to close my eyes for 4 seconds to avoid seeing too much of Mr. Knightley or Emma.

If you get a chance to see it in the theaters, I hope you enjoy it. The scope is marvelous.
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