Sunday, January 31, 2021

Humphrey Bogart stars in "In A Lonely Place" (1950)

It's remarkable thinking that In a Lonely Place is 71-years-old this year. The older I get, the older classic Hollywood gets, and yet, many of their films never truly seems to age. They remain timeless, which, unfortunately, is more than can be said of many of our current day films that just sort of swirl down the drain and vanish into the sewers.

Go to my Classic Hollywood page to find all my Classic Hollywood reviews!

Bogart plays Dixon Steele, a screenplay writer in Hollywood, but one with a bit of a mad temper on him, and a propensity to loathe any of the books that directors want to hire him to adapt for the silver screen. One late night, he actually takes a cute little cloakroom girl named Mildred Atkinson (Martha Stewart) home for no other reason than she has read the book that he's been hired to adapt and he has no interest in reading it. So he brings her home so she can simply give him a rough synopsis of the story. She, of course, is suspicious of him at first, but then settles in eagerly to her storytelling. She finishes and he sends her home, or rather, around the corner to catch a cab, and he goes to bed, after making eye contact with his lovely neighbor across the way, Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame).

Friday, January 29, 2021

Manga Classics: L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables (2020)

Just a brief mention to the newly initiated, manga is supposed to read right to left (because manga is Japanese and this is how their language is penned). There is nothing wrong with the printing of the book even if it feels backward. There are instructions in the volume to help you read it correctly.

I've never read Anne of Green Gables, but I've watched the 1980s miniseries countless times so I know the story by heart and this darling manga captures the tale very well. The dialogue feels straight out of the miniseries, which as I understand it, is straight from the book. So great job there. The last 2/3 of the book felt rushed, but it's always possible that the original book moves along that fast too. As I said, I've never read it. All I know is that a "chapter" in Anne's life should be more than just a single manga page. I would have liked to see more of Gilbert Blythe, quite honestly, since he was so charmingly drawn.

The illustrations are overall of excellent quality and tell the story quite well with a few exceptions. 

1) I'm not sure what to make of characters' eyes going almost black when they're stunned or dumbfounded? I read manga and I've never really seen that happen to the same extent it does here, so that was odd.

2) Continuity issues with Anne's hair. Marilla cuts it super short after she dyes it green and her braids are back to being super long a few months later. That's impossible. Also, as she matured, she would have started wearing her hair up, not in braids anymore.

I'm really loving the idea of Manga Classics so far. My sister gifted me a copy of Romeo and Juliet and it's just truly lovely. I plan to read more Manga Classics as they are released.

Overall, a lovely manga that feels fairly faithful to a well-beloved story and will undoubtedly entertain readers. I think it's marvelous knowing that this is the only manga adaptation of Anne of Green Gables sanctioned by the Montgomery estate. It's a high-quality offering and I hope they consider a follow-up volume of Anne of Avonlea.

Many thanks to Netgalley and Udon Entertainment for providing the free ARC copy. I was not required to give a positive review, all thoughts are my own.

Anne of Green Gables

Original Author: L. M. Montgomery

Author: Krystal Chan

Artist: Kuma Chan

Year: 2020

My Rating:  ★★★★

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Help Me Decide?

I'm participating in the Valentine's Day Period Drama Blog Party hosted by Heidi and I have so many ideas plunking around in my head that I just can't decide what to write! 

I'm limiting myself to 5 possible choices and would love your vote for your favorite option(s)! And if you don't have an opinion or are good with me writing anything, then that's fine too. 

What period drama would you like to see me tackle for the Valentine's Day Period Drama Blog Party

1) The Phantom of the Opera - because I actually really love Patrick Wilson as Raul and Emmy Rossum is darling as Christine. It's such an interesting film because it gets some things right and some things oh, so wrong, but they definitely got Christine and Raul right. 

2) Jane Eyre - the version from 1983 with Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke because this is MY version of Jane Eyre, a book I haven't even completely read yet. Isn't that dreadful?! But I absolutely adore this version of Jane Eyre. I used to think it was because of Timothy Dalton, but actually a lot of it has to do with Zelah Clarke. She is an adorably spunky version of Jane and she just pairs so brilliantly with Timothy. They've got intense chemistry.

 3) The President's Lady - a movie from 1953 about future President Andrew Jackson and his scandalous courtship and marriage to divorcee Rachel Donelson. Such a beautiful movie and one of my favorite roles for Charlton Heston and my first introduction to Susan Hayward who is AMAZING. I adore it, a truly radiant film with a lot of thought put behind the production and casting choices.

4) Persuasion - the version from 1995 with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds because this is really the only version I like so far. I feel they got enough right with this one that it works, and Amanda and Ciaran are darling as Anne and Captain Wentworth. I love the scene where she reads his letter. The Austen heroes and their letters!

5) Lorna Doone - The version from 2000 because it is pure genius and I adore it. Lorna and John Ridd are ADORABLE. Beyond adorable, even. This was my first introduction to Richard Coyle and I've never looked back. The man is a delight. And they are so stinking cute together!

Thank you all for your input! ♥

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Classics Club: Phantastes - A Faerie Romance by George MacDonald (1858)

Phantastes is a peculiar little book. A little over 200 pages, it is like falling into a deep sleep and rambling through a fantasy world with very little cohesiveness to provide a substantial backbone or plot to the experience.

I read Phantastes for the Classics Club, specifically for Classics Club Spin #25. You can find my Classics Club list HERE.

The reader follows the adventures of Anodos, a young man whose name is proclaimed maybe three times throughout the entire book so it is easy to forget. He uncovers a pile of rose petals in the desk of his recently deceased father and as he does so, a wizened old lady pops out of nowhere. She declares that on the morrow he will begin his journey in Fairy Land, since he had so wistfully read a fairy tale to one of his sisters the previous night and mused that there likely was a Fairy Land if one could only get into it.

Anodos awakens the next day to a stream in his bedchamber and lichen and grass and all sorts of things that don't belong and when he follows the stream, he finds himself out of his own home and country and now a wanderer in Fairy Land. For what else could it be?

Anodos finds that there are trees willing to help him and trees willing to harm him, that there are people who live on the borders of Fairy Land, some who realize it and some who do not. He meets actual fairies in the garden of a woman and her daughter who take him in for the night, and he sings awake a lady encased in alabaster that he finds in a cave and who escapes from him into the forest. He is betrayed by a youth and ends up in the home of an ogre where he foolishly opens the wrong door, one of infinity, and obtains for himself a permanent, black shadow. He stumbles into a fairy castle where he cannot see them but knows they are there and spends time reading fairy stories in their library. He battles three giants with two princely brothers and develops a swelled head about his might and prowess.

And ultimately, twenty-one days later, and he is twenty-one years old, Anodos winds up back home, rid of his dark and shadowy company of pride and arrogance, and a much wiser young man.

I barely touched on the basics of this story. As I said, it flows like a dream, one door leading somewhere that it can't possibly lead, and experiences that should not tie together being experienced as one. It's a very fluid sort of book as if George MacDonald truly just wanted to write about Fairy Land but did not want to incorporate something as corporeal as a plot.

I can't disagree with his choice. Phantastes is an enchanting, although not an easy, read and I enjoyed it immensely. I only understood a portion of it, like when you read Shakespeare for the first time and realize you need to read the play again, and possibly a third time, in order to grasp more and more of the meaning and intention of the author.

What I do know is that Anodos emerged from his adventure a far less selfish man than he was when he entered it. Once he begins to view himself through a window of humility, the nobler he becomes. Sacrifice is something he begins to understand, and he lets go of things his heart desires, like the lady in Alabaster, because she is not his to have.

For the curious, yes, it is easy to see how MacDonald inspired both J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. MacDonald paints vivid pictures in the mind that, just like with impressionist artists, are best understood when taking a few steps back in order to take in the whole picture. I didn't even know what I thought of Phantastes until the end when I could finally, fully start to experience the full picture.

Memorable Quotes from Phantastes

“It is by loving, and not by being loved, that one can come nearest the soul of another; yea, that, where two love, it is the loving of each other, and not the being loved by each other, that originates and perfects and assures their blessedness. I knew that love gives to him that loveth, power over any soul beloved, even if that soul know him not, bringing him inwardly close to that spirit; a power that cannot be but for good; for in proportion as selfishness intrudes, the love ceases, and the power which springs therefrom dies. Yet all love will, one day, meet with its return.”

“As in all sweetest music, a tinge of sadness was in every note. Nor do we know how much of the pleasures even of life we owe to the intermingled sorrows. Joy cannot unfold the deepest truths, although deepest truth must be deepest joy.”

“I learned that it is better, a thousand-fold, for a proud man to fall and be humbled, than to hold up his head in his pride and fancied innocence. I learned that he that will be a hero, will barely be a man; that he that will be nothing but a doer of his work, is sure of his manhood. In nothing was my ideal lowered, or dimmed, or grown less precious; I only saw it too plainly, to set myself for a moment beside it. Indeed, my ideal soon became my life; whereas, formerly, my life had consisted in a vain attempt to behold, if not my ideal in myself, at least myself in my ideal.”

“My spirits rose as I went deeper; into the forest; but I could not regain my former elasticity of mind. I found cheerfulness to be like life itself - not to be created by any argument. Afterwards I learned, that the best way to manage some kinds of pain fill thoughts, is to dare them to do their worst; to let them lie and gnaw at your heart till they are tired; and you find you still have a residue of life they cannot kill. So, better and worse, I went on, till I came to a little clearing in the forest.”

The Fantastical and Felicitous Fictional Character Blog Tag

I was very kindly tagged for this by The Maidens of Green Gables. Thank you, ladies, I enjoyed it immensely! My nominees at the bottom of the list.

Here are your rules as set out by the originator of the tag, Emily of The Altogether Unexpected blog.

  • Answer every question honestly. (duh.)
  • Use as many gifs and images as possible.
  • Incorporate at least one YouTube video with a favorite scene of a character.
  • NO VAGUE ANSWERS ALLOWED. Explain why you chose that favorite character to fit that description. I love details, my friends.
  • If you can’t choose just one, that’s okay – give us a few answers and geek out if that’s what it takes.
  • Tag at least 3 people.
  • Use fictional characters from any fictional story.
  • If you get nominated and/or decide to participate in this tag, please put a link back to this post in your post and credit Emily of The Altogether Unexpected blog as the creator.
  • Have fun and obsess over fictional characters!

Goody-two-shoes: A character who was just so morally good (ELINOR DASHWOOD, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY)

Elinor Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility, both Jane Austen's novel and any of the films.

She is so insanely, painfully self-sacrificing. She is a woman who knows the limits of her family's finances, takes care of her mother and younger sister when they have melt-downs, and denies to herself her true love because he is engaged to another woman.

She will never push to take something for herself if it means harming someone else, and she even becomes an unselfish confidante to the fiance of the man she loves. It's a wonder she had a happy ending, but after going through all of her restraint where Edward is concerned, she deserved one and I'm so happy that Austen gave it to her. Elinor is so strong and so loving, one of my favorite of Austen's heroines alongside Anne Elliot and Catherine Morland.

Heartbreaker: A character who made you cry (NEWT, THE MAZE RUNNER)

Newt in The Maze Runner film series played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster. Newt might just be one of my favorite fictional characters of all time.

Sorry, folks, but there are some spoilers here. There was no way to avoid them.

The Maze Runner series is about a dystopian world where a disease has wiped out most of the adult population and their only hope in finding a cure is to put kids/teens who seem more resistant to the disease through a series of extreme tests. Newt is one of these teens.

Newt has a strong, yet highly forgiving nature. He's a leader in that as a follower of other leaders he makes wise choices in who he will follow. When there's a schism of leadership among the group of boys he's a part of, Newt takes the harder road by following new leadership. His choices lend strength to others who also choose to follow new leadership because Newt led the way. It turns out he was right.

In The Death Cure, the audience is subjected to watching Newt slowly deteriorate because he's been exposed to the disease. It's one of the hardest half hours I've ever subjected myself to and I will never forget the floods of tears I experienced BOTH TIMES I saw The Death Cure in the theater. Newt is such a selfless character at the end of his journey, definitely in keeping with who we know him to be, but also in ways that require superhuman strength to put his own wellbeing aside and fight for the safety and wellbeing of others. That fight he has with Thomas (leader and best friend) at the end BROKE MY HEART.

I was an absolute mess. And I still have a necklace with Newt's name on it as a reminder of that brilliant performance by Thomas Brodie-Sangster. It probably helps that he's British since I'm a sucker for British actors, always have been.

Ironically this video does not have Newt in it. But it is his voice narrating a letter he wrote to Thomas, his best friend, and is one of my favorite scenes. It does contain spoilers since it's at the very end of the last movie so if you've never watched the series and think you someday might, you may want to skip watching this now.

Parrot: A character who won’t stop talking (HYACINTH BUCKET, KEEPING UP APPEARANCES)

Hands' down, it is Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet according to her) from the 1990s British television program Keeping Up Appearances.

Hyacinth never lets anyone else get a word in edgewise under any circumstances because everything she has to say is so important and nothing anyone else says is of any importance at all.

There's a scene in, I think, the 5th season where her husband, Richard, is going to take her to a country house sale (like an estate sale), and he's saying one thing in a panic and she repeats it right back to him with excitement as if he never spoke.

Richard: Somehow you think that if something has been owned by the aristocracy then it must be worth twice as much.

Hyacinth: You know, I think that if something has been owned by the aristocracy then it must be worth twice as much!

She's hilarious and obnoxious and it's one of my favorite sitcoms.

Devilish: Your favorite villain (FRANK LANGELLA AS DRACULA)

Frank Langella as Dracula in the 1979 film.

Yes, I'm being this specific because Langella's performance was all about sensuous magnetism. He took a somewhat cheesy, corny role and turned it into a desirable one. It helps that the casting choice for their Jonathan Harker made the so-called hero the least likable man on the planet. Compared with Jonathan, Dracula was a saint. He has this polite demeanor that is actually genuine where women are concerned. He's gentle and respectable and very, very Victorian, unlike Jonathan who likes to push the boundaries and is a jealous, pompous jerk.

Here's a really lovely music video from Dracula 1979. It has some sensuality, but no nudity.

Love interest: A character who, if alive in reality, you would want to marry (PEETA MELLARK, THE HUNGER GAMES)

Peeta Mellark from The Hunger Games trilogy.

He's stable and steadfast. It's hard in the books because they're just from Katniss' perspective, and so we see Peeta through her eyes, just like with Harry Potter and Snape.

What I see when I look at Peeta is someone who risked a beating from his mother to give away some bread to a girl he barely knew but who he could see was starving. He's also a person who knew he needed to adapt to stand even a chance of survival in the Hunger Games and did it, all without losing his soul. He's a charmer and people can't help but like him, the complete antithesis of Katniss. Peeta stays himself except for the intense cruelty of Mockingjay where he's been brainwashed to see Katniss as an enemy.

He's deeply sacrificial, gentle, and gives of himself completely to Katniss. His love for her was real long before hers for him ever began to blossom, but he waited her out. Peeta is a beautiful, radiant character in both the books and the films, and he would make any woman a worthy, safe, steadfast husband.

Sidekick: A character who was always loyal no matter what (ARTHUR HASTINGS, AGATHA CHRISTIE'S POIROT)

Arthur Hastings, sidekick to Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot in the best-kept traditions of being Watson to Sherlock Holmes.

I've yet to read a Poirot novel, but I have watched the David Suchet miniseries countless times and I hear that it's fairly close to Christie's creation.

Hastings is a sweet man, always upbeat and positive, always ready for a lark and an adventure. He thinks of his friends first, which is usually more than can be said of Poirot, Lord love 'im. Hastings is the one who will never ever crack the case wide open, but he is the one who will chase the criminal down, run errands, file paperwork if Poirot's secretary Miss Lemon is out of town, and just be a supportive presence to the great and magnificently pompous, Hercule Poirot.

He's also never afraid to speak his mind, and if he thinks that Poirot is being absurdly prideful, he will actually speak up. Like in The Mystery of the Spanish Chest when Poirot is being particularly puffed up and not at all humble, and Hastings tries to remind him that humility is a virtue.

Which of course, backfires just a smidge when Poirot lets a compliment slide off his back and Hastings praises him for his restraint.

Poirot: I am learning, Hastings. It is more English, yes, the humbleness? So, I am learning. I shall be the most humble person in the world. No one will match Hercule Poirot for his humbility.

Hastings is an excellent companion and an unfailing support to Hercule Poirot.

Complicated: A character you love and hate (SEVERUS SNAPE)

Severus Snape, books or films, it doesn't matter.

He's clearly on the side of right after Lily Potter's murder, works with Dumbledore, and does all the right things, including trying to save Harry's life in The Philosopher's Stone when Professor Quirrell is trying to kill Harry on the Quidditch field. 

But he's such a JERK about almost everything! He's cold and cruel and underhanded in a very childish way towards Harry and his friends.

BUT, I also know that we see Snape through Harry's not-so-clear glasses. Harry, bless 'im, is an unreliable narrator, so we, the reader, have no idea what Snape is truly like. All we know is that, according to Harry, he's hateworthy, only I never truly hated him.

If you want more of my thoughts regarding Severus Snape, you can read my In Defense of Severus Snape blog post. 

Oddity: A character who was strange, but you loved them that way (ODD THOMAS)

This would have to be Odd Thomas, both the book character by Dean Koontz and the film character portrayed by Anton Yelchin before his untimely death (rip).

Odd (that's his first name) sees ghosts. And they see him. He even had the ghost of Elvis wandering around him for a while. The ghosts don't speak, but they usually have some unfinished business they want Odd to assist them with. He's a very kind-hearted, gentle soul, compassionate and sweet. I only read the first 2 books in the series, but I love him. Anton did a great job portraying him in a movie that didn't quite do the story of the first book justice, but is a better adaptation than quite a few of Koontz's book to film tales.

Queen/King: A female/male character who you admire and aspire to emulate

Sara Crewe from Frances Hodgson Burnett's A Little Princess, a book I absolutely adore.

This child is remarkable.

Born into privilege, cast down to the lowliest of the lows through circumstance, spit upon, abused, and despised by those around her, and yet her imagination and hopeful spirit are indomitable. She takes on so much more abuse than anyone should have to handle and she does so with a gracious spirit. She is a princess, yes, but only because all girls are princesses. Because you see, princesses care for the weak and see their value.

My favorite film version is from 1995 which I think they got maybe 90% right, and what they did change, like allowing Sara's father to live, I can completely support. The story is beautiful and heartbreaking and Sara shines as an example of mercy and compassion and loving one's neighbor, reminding me of who I should try to be.

Savior: A character who oddly reminds you of Christ (P. T. BARNUM, THE GREATEST SHOWMAN)

P. T. Barnum in The Greatest Showman! Now, yes, he was a real man, but as I understand it, about 20% of this movie is actually true, so it's pretty much fiction, which is why I'm using him.

I know, I know, it sounds crazy (and if it's crazy, live a little crazy), but from the very first moment, he reminded me of Christ. There's this spark of magnetism about him, this call to people to follow him, that he wants to offer them a better life free of the shadows plaguing them.

I mean, come on, just the lyrics to Come Alive are a call to living fully, stepping out of the darkness and into the light and never looking back at who we were before!

Come alive, come alive

Go and light your light

Let it burn so bright

Reaching up

To the sky

And it's open wide

You're electrified

When the world becomes a fantasy

And you're more than you could ever be

'Cause you're dreaming with your eyes wide open

And you know you can't go back agin

To the world that you were living in

'Cause you're dreaming with your eyes wide open

So come alive!

Then there's The Other Side with Barnum and Carlyle. It was another mind-blowing moment of Christ calling followers to find freedom, break out of their cages, and follow Him because his burden is so much lighter.

I'm sure the writers for The Greatest Showman never imagined the comparison, but it shines so brightly to me. Barnum reaches out to the unlovely of society, the unloved, and he takes them in and gives them hope and a future. Of course, the comparison ends at some point because Barnum loses his way for a bit, but still, the message is there.

I nominate the following folks (and anyone else who wants to participate:

 Here are the prompts again if you want to participate:

  • Goody-two-shoes: A character who was just so morally good
  • Heartbreaker: A character who made you cry
  • Parrot: A character who won’t stop talking
  • Devilish: Your favorite villain
  • Love interest: A character who, if alive in reality, you would want to marry
  • Sidekick: A character who was always loyal no matter what
  • Complicated: A character you love and hate
  • Oddity: A character who was strange, but you loved them that way
  • Queen/King: A female/male character who you admire and aspire to emulate
  • Savior: A character who oddly reminds you of Christ

Sunday, January 24, 2021

A spine-tingling Edwardian tale based on truth - The Purple Nightgown (2021) by A. D. Lawrence


Set in the year 1911, when heiress Stella Burke suffers from migraines of unimaginable pain, she is willing to try almost anything to obtain relief, even if it means checking to a "fasting" clinic in Washington State run by Dr. Linda Hazzard. Despite the fears of her chauffer and childhood friend Henry, Stella pursues treatment from Dr. Hazard, only to discover soon enough that the clinic is not everything she had hoped for and the treatments are brutal and cruel resulting in residents who appear as little more than walking skeletons.

The mystery itself is chilling. Dr. Hazzard is a cold, cruel woman who places no value on human life or any life for that matter, and her husband and son simply go along with her. What makes the story more terrifying is that the woman was released from prison after 2 years and went right back into practice despite having no medical degree. More innocents fell victim to her starvation technique of treatment until she finally starved herself when she began to feel ill, making herself her final victim. That surprises me because it means she actually bought into her own lies Crazy. It's also crazy realizing Hazzard's book is still available to be read today as if it's some sort of reputable treatment for ailments. How is THAT even possible?

Stella is a kind, sweet girl who is constantly battling against her headaches, the manipulations of her uncle, and the pushiness of her chauffeur who was her childhood friend. She constantly thinks of herself as selfish and headstrong, when that couldn't be further from the truth. A woman of twenty-four has every right to seek out medical attention, whether her chauffeur agrees with her or not. And she had every right to be an heiress and every right to refuse the suitors her uncle parades before her. One even had the gall to say that he was all for women having the right to vote because it would be like he himself had an additional vote and if his wife didn't agree with his politics then he would not permit her to vote. Nasty, nasty man who I wouldn't wish on any woman, let alone poor Stella.
In her quest to break free of Dr. Hazzard, had she shifted her focus from God's power again? He had commanded His children to stand still on the banks of the Red Sea, and they had seen a miracle that day. The same God who had parted the waters held her in the hollow of His hand. If God hadn't changed, then the fault lay on her shoulders. Had she truly stood still or waited long enough to see God's delivering power? No. She had seized every glimmer of opportunity, and her headstrong will had brought her to this point.

I take issue with the above paragraph. Stella has nothing to feel guilty about for trying to escape from the evil woman's clutches. Should she have simply laid down and attempted nothing? Just wait for some miraculous intervention? If so then she would not have actually sent the telegram that brought her rescue. I cannot agree with instructions to just sit and do nothing when you're in danger, just like I can't agree with the following statement.

And every decision she'd made for months - maybe even years - had been dictated by her own wishes. God's plans for her had never touched her mind.

Here's the thing. God uses the desires of our hearts. When we pray, ask for his guidance, and make decisions based on a desire to please Him, that is within His will. Stella is a young woman who prays regularly and seeks the Lord. She is within His will by that very act. It's not sitting around and waiting for some sort of miraculous something to fall from heaven and hit us on the head. It's praying, asking the Lord's counsel, and moving forward in trust that He will use the decision.

Which leads me to Henry. I don't like him. He's constantly berating Stella in his thoughts for being selfish and thinking that he sees a glimmer of selflessness in her from time to time when she does what he thinks she should do. What woman is he seeing? She is not selfish, she simply is suffering from pain and seeking relief. Also, I'm sorry, but the man is her chauffeur. He is not her father or her uncle or any male relative. He has no right to try and hold power over her or refuse to do her bidding when he is a paid employee. If he was truly concerned for her, he would have stayed in the vicinity of "Starvation" Heights and made sure she was safe, rather than thinking she's made her own bed, let her lie in it.

He spent a lot of time making her feel guilty and that was unfortunate because it meant I wasn't engaged in their relationship at all by the end.

Overall, the thriller part of the story was exciting. But the romantic relationship between Henry and Stella bogged the book down to the point where I skim-read most of their sections when they were thinking about each other with the whole "loves me, loves me not" approach. Stella's foolishness also knows no bounds in certain aspects. People are stick-thin and dying and yet she's still not sure Linda Hazzard is guilty of anything until it is almost too late. And who brings their expensive jewelry to a health clinic? The Purple Nightgown is still an intriguing read. I enjoyed most of it, all of the spine-chilling bits. If there had been no romance, the story would have been far, far stronger, and more appealing to me.

For those who don't mind this type of sappy romance, and a little bit of excessive preachiness to their books, and are excited to read a historic thriller, then I'm sure The Purple Nightgown will be right up your alley. I don't regret reading it and I will keep an eye out for other books by A. D. Lawrence in the future.

Many thanks to Netgalley and Barbour Publishing for a complimentary copy! I was not required to give a positive review, and all thoughts included are my own.

The Purple Nightgown

Author: A. D. Lawrence

Series: True Colors

Year: 2021

My Rating:  ★★★

Friday, January 22, 2021

When 1984 meets Jane Austen! - Pudge and Prejudice by A. K. Pittman (2021)

Where has this book been all my life?! Apparently plunking around inside the head of Allison Pittman who, just like me, thinks that pairing Jane Austen with teens straight out of a John Hughes film is pure BRILLIANCE! 

Poor Elyse Nebbit, a year younger than her gorgeous and (naturally) sweet sister, Jayne, and at least twenty pounds heavier, probably closer to thirty. Dead certain that boys are still not in her future, despite being uprooted for her father's job to the town of Northenfield, Texas, 15-year-old Elyse knows she should just settle into the norm of never wanting more. 

That is until she encounters Billy Fitz, captain of the Northenfield High football team, perfectly delectable and cold as an iceberg, or so it appears. And while Elyse is dealing with the sudden, unexpected flutterings of her heart, so too is darling sister Jayne realizing the pangs of true love when she meets Billy's best friend, the sweet, somewhat dense, Charlie Bingley. Charlie is the kicker for the Northenfield High football team, and it takes no time at all for him to fall head over heels for Jayne, a grand show of emotion that she eagerly reciprocates.

Add middle sister Lydia (at a mere 13-years-old) and the Littles as Mary and Kitty re fondly dubbed since they are both under the age of ten, and the Nebbit household is complete. The drama unfolds, as it must, very similar to another story we know and love so well, although it is highly altered to allow for school dances, trips to the pizza parlor and the thrift store, and driving lessons that would give the Nebbit parents nightmares if they knew about them.

Okay, so if you're not hooked on the idea yet, there may be no hope for you. Pudge and Prejudice is HILARIOUS. And before anyone gasps in horror at the idea of mocking a girl who's overweight, know that I am actually somewhat overweight (although I dress far more fashionably than poor Elyse) and a lot of her emotions are ones I have gone through. I love that Ms. Pittman seems to get it where pudgy girls are concerned and she gives Elyse a chance to blossom into a profound understanding of wholeness in herself that does not include needing a boy or feeling called to lose weight to please her overbearing mother. Although, having a boy is nice too, as she discovers with Billy Fitz.

I'll let you in on a little secret. I was born in 1984. So anything having to do with the Eighties absolutely fascinates me! I love John Hughes movies, watched 21 Jumpstreet (the tv series) on repeat, and am still intrigued by the sheer volume of hair women could achieve just by teasing it. To say nothing of wearing safety pins as earrings and fandom pins as jacket and purse accessories. 

So I KNEW this book was for me before I even got my hands on a copy. It's chock full of Eighties trivia, references to Eighties music, and movies like Nightmare on Elm Street, which I have also watched and just about died laughing because of the camp. If you ever want to see Johnny Depp in a crop top and don't mind campy Eighties horror, then watch it. Pudge and Prejudice is a clever, almost modern, peculiarly funny retelling of Pride and Prejudice and I clasp my hands and beseech Allison Pittman to PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE pen the rest of Austen's novels in the Eighties! The world needs this!

We're also deeply blessed with Allison Pittman being a Christian author, so any hot and heavy content is pretty much left on the sidelines, along with foul language. Jayne and Charlie, while highly attracted to one another, would never sleep together because, as Jayne and Elyse both put it, it's dishonoring God and disappointing themselves and their parents. The Nebbit family, despite its quirky weirdness, do attend church regularly and the Littles are homeschooled. It's really just Lydia the family has to worry about, Lydia with her love of crop tops and boys, boys, boys. Yep, she's the same headstrong troublemaker she is in Austen's world. Some things never change.

Ms. Pittman also doesn't shy away from tougher topics, like the fear that maybe their 13-year-old sister is sleeping with a boy (which is still NOT COOL and shouldn't be in anybody's book). She also totally acknowledges that there are Christians out there who listen to secular music and watch maybe a couple of R-rated scary movies. Shocker. And she does it all without being judgy. Thank you! It's also genius that she threw Elyse and Billy into a confrontation when he just got out of the swimming pool and is still bare-chested. Sound familiar? Love the nod to Colin Firth.

One thing I didn't quite like was her rendering of Lottie, or Charlotte as we know her from Austen's world. She's not likeable, as in, at all. But I like Charlotte, so I do feel that Ms. Pittman did her a disservice, along with poor, idiot Collin. I wish more had been done there, like maybe making him an actual cousin rather than attached at the hip to Lottie from the start. The littlest sisters have almost no role, and neither do the parents. Call me strange, but I always liked Mr. Bennet and there just isn't much to work with here.

Also, the misunderstanding between Billy and Elyse doesn't quite work. I'm still confused as to why she was so upset with him. There may also be an issue of audience. I doubt many teens today will understand 3/4 of the Eighties references, but it may feel too juvenile for adult readers. Not me of course since I have just enough juvenile still in me to love practically everything in Pudge and Prejudice.

Fingers and toes are definitely crossed in the hopes that Ms. Pittman writes more of these glorious retellings! After all, she did include a certain boy named Frank Churchill as a passing character! This book is clever, inventive, and just plain fun and I adore Elyse's love of novels, her uncertainty about herself, and watching her emotional maturity as she develops into a lovely, clever, and witty young woman with a pair of very fine eyes that sweep Billy Fitz off his feet. I haven't laughed out loud this much while reading a book since I picked up Agatha Christie's The Pale Horse (you can find my review HERE)!

Many thanks to Netgalley and Tyndale House Publishers for a complimentary copy! I was not required to give a positive review, and all thoughts included are my own.

Pudge and Prejudice

Author: A. K. Pittman (Allison Pittman)

Year: 2021

My Rating:  ★★★★

Thursday, January 21, 2021

COVER REVEAL - Shadow (book 2 in the Heirs of Neverland series) by Kara Swanson


Oh my gosh! I'm so excited to see the cover for Kara Swanson's Shadow, the second book in the Heirs of Neverland duology that releases in July 2021! It feels like such a long wait! 

I'm crazy about Peter Pan and Peter Pan retellings so you can imagine my exhilaration on discovering a Peter Pan series by a Christian author. Christian fantasy has been so hard to come by for many, many years. Does anyone else find that strange? I mean, technically, Christianity is the birthplace of fantasy with such acclaimed authors George Macdonald, C. S. Lewis, and J. R. R. Tolkien. But it's become something of a taboo topic for most Christian publishing houses and that saddens me. 

Fortunately for Christians who love fantasy and don't always want to have to turn to secular publications, there is now the Christian publishing house Enclave that focuses on fantasy and science fiction! I appreciate that, so far, the faith elements are subtle which means that the message has much more of a chance to impact a wider readership than most Christian fiction. There is a freedom and fluidity that these authors seem to experience with this publishing house, a chance to be themselves, and I LOVE THAT!

You know what else I love? The first book in the Heirs of Neverland duology, DUST! You can find my review for it HERE or by clicking the image below. If you love fairy tales you absolutely must read it and then you'll be all set for the release of Shadow in July 2021!

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Book Review: The Petrified Flesh (Reckless #1) by Cornelia Funke (2010)

a book review for Cornelia Funke's book The Petrified Flesh, the first book in the Mirrorworld series

Ever since Jacob Reckless was a child, he has been escaping to a hidden world through a portal in his father's abandoned study. Over the years, he has made a name for himself as a finder of enchanted items and buried secrets. He's also made many enemies and allies -- most important, Fox, a beautiful shape-shifting vixen whom Jacob cares for more than he lets on.

But life in this other world is about to change. Tragedy strikes when Jacob's younger brother, Will, follows him through the portal. Brutally attacked, Will is infected with a curse that is quickly transforming him into a Goyl -- a ruthless killing machine, with skin made of stone.

Jacob is prepared to fight to save his brother, but in a land built on trickery and lies, Jacob will need all the wit, courage, and reckless spirit he can summon to reverse the dark spell -- before it's too late. 

I've read The Petrified Flesh multiple times, starting back when it was called Reckless and the series was called Mirrorworld. Something must have gone screwy with the original translator since they replaced that person with new translator Oliver Latsch who translates the Reckless trilogy from German into English.

Jacob Reckless is the main character, a treasure hunter in his early twenties in a magical fairyland that can only be reached through a magic mirror. The reader knows he's unreliable, a liar, and a bit of a womanizer. He's out for adventure and makes promises that he wishes he could keep, but knows all the same that he won't. 

Will Reckless, Jacob's younger brother, is the complete opposite of Jacob. A gentle, kind, gullible soul, Will has always looked up to Jacob, all the way up to the point where he finally figures out the mirror and follows Jacob into the Mirrorworld. Where, as the synopsis points, out, he is cursed to grow a skin of Jade stone. 

Clara is Will's girlfriend who also comes with him through the mirror and now she and Jacob work together to return Will to his own skin. She's a lot like Will, rather gullible, but gentle, and she was a nurse at the hospital where Will and Jacob's mother lay dying.

Then there's Fox, the remarkable Vixen who has been a faithful compatriot to Jacob since he first found her injured in an animal snare. She is a shapeshifter, but spends most of her time in the comfortable, impartial fur of the fox than in the human skin of a young woman who's starting to realize her love for Jacob Reckless.

The Petrified Flesh is a favorite book of mine just like the series is a favorite of mine, but it is not for everyone. Jacob is an incredibly flawed protagonist. I mean, wow, you can't get much more flawed than him, but I love him anyway because I can relate to his flaws. He yearns for adventure and ignores responsibility to please himself. He's selfish and can be carelessly cruel. But he knows these things about himself, regrets that he is this way, and wishes he could be a better person. For anyone who has read Cornelia's Inkheart trilogy, Jacob is a little bit like Dustfinger, beautifully flawed.

Before anyone makes the mistake of handing this book to their child, The Petrified Flesh is NOT a child's book. It's not even really a YA book, but lands somewhere in the impossible realm of fantasy that doesn't have a clear-cut readership designated by an age group. This is probably why the series was never as popular as it could have been. Readers just never figured out where it should fall age-wise and even how they should feel about it since the lead character is so flawed.

The translation is a bit passive at times. Passive verbs instead of active, that sort of thing and it can make it more of a boring read for certain readers. Even I acknowledge that it's a strange translation style, but I love the characters and the story enough to not get sidetracked. There's a lot of European fairytales wrapped into the story, which makes it all the more intriguing. Most of the fairy stories are terrifying, like the child eating witches or the Tailor or the Watermen or the Lorelei. We even encounter Sleeping Beauty's castle where the prince never actually came to kiss her awake so she's pretty much mummified.

Content-wise, Jacob has had several liasons with women throughout his years behind the mirror, including spending a year with the Red Fairy before he remembered himself and sneaked away. None of these experiences are described in graphic detail, or barely any detail at all, but it gives us a look at Jacob's lifestyle and he's really careless with the feelings of other people. There's quite a bit of violence and death including what amounts to a Red Wedding type of experience like from Game of Thrones, only with not the same gruesome detail.

It's a bit of a macabre story, and the ending, while it puts certain things to right, it does put Jacob on the path of yet another quest, this one with the purpose to save his own life which is in serious jeopardy. The lesson here is to never fall in love with a fairy. And to never believe yourself immortal simply because you're clever. That's where Jacob's pride comes into play full-force.

The Petrified Flesh is worth a read, especially if you like fairy stories that transport you to other worlds. I'm especially fond of these types of escapism tales, so, flawed or not, The Petrified Flesh is one of my favorite books. And, if memory serves me, the next book in the series deals with a Bluebeard's chamber. Exciting!

The Petrified Flesh

Author: Cornelia Funke

Translator: Oliver Latsch

Series: Reckless (Mirrorworld)

Year: 2010

My Rating:  ★★★★

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Joining the investing world!

A link to my Poshmark closet @sparklingangel
❤ Click above to visit my Poshmark Closet @sparklingangel! ❤

I've been a Poshmark reseller for roughly 2 years, maybe a little longer, definitely a Posh Ambassador for at least 18 months. Posh Ambassadors have reached certain goals (number of shares, number of sales, shipping speed, etc.).

It's fun to be a reseller because it keeps usable items out of the landfill and gives me a little bit of extra pocket money which is always nice.

BUT, Poshmark has done something amazing for their Posh Ambassadors! They're releasing Direct Shares through Fidelity and have given all of their active Posh Ambassadors that were active prior to December 2020 the opportunity to sign up for direct shares first before the rest of the investing world.

Thanks to this amazing opportunity I've actually dipped a toe in investing by purchasing shares for Poshmark through Fidelity! I'm the most beginningest beginner you will ever find in the investing realm, but it's such an exciting opportunity just to see what happens. Going forward I plan to invest in more opportunities, but until then, Poshmark shares are a great start. And the best part is that I signed up for a joint brokerage account with my sister so we're doing this together. AMAZING!

The best advice I can give if anyone is planning to start investing is to hop on YouTube and search out investors who are willing to share their experiences. The Investing with Rose channel is how I finally made the decision to just jump right in. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Book Review: Dust (Book 1 in the Heirs of Neverland series) by Kara Swanson (2020)

Official Synopsis  

The truth about Neverland is far more dangerous than a fairy tale. 

Claire Kenton believes the world is too dark for magic to be real—since her twin brother was stolen away as a child. Now Claire’s desperate search points to London... and a boy who shouldn't exist. 

Peter Pan is having a beastly time getting back to Neverland. Grounded in London and hunted by his own Lost Boys, Peter searches for the last hope of restoring his crumbling island: a lass with magic in her veins. 

The girl who fears her own destiny is on a collision course with the boy who never wanted to grow up. The truth behind this fairy tale is about to unravel everything Claire thought she knew about Peter Pan—and herself.  

~ * ~

Here we are, in a new year, and this is the first book I have officially read in 2021. This will probably be a year of magical and fantasy reads and that prospect excites me.

Kara Swanson is fairly new on the scene of Christian YA authors. But she's gifted with a vivid imagination, a romantic soul (kinda necessary for writing YA romantic fantasy), and lots and lots of dreams. Plus, she's young so there is plenty of time for her to hone her craft.

At the time of this review being published, Dust is available on Amazon for a whopping $4.65 in hardback or $4.91 in Kindle. I just purchased it in hardback; I enjoyed it that much.

AND, the cover for Shadow, book two in the dulogy, has just been released! Go HERE for my raving blog post!

Peter, Claire, and Tiger Lily take center stage, backed up by Hook and one other person who would constitute as a spoiler if I gave a name.

Peter is upbeat, mischievous, and growing into his hormones since being stuck on earth away from Neverland seems to be aging him. He's roughly in his late teens, almost twenty, and he's falling hard for Claire, which I personally found adorable. The author has a good sense of romantic timing, and how to give just enough detail without giving too much. Peter is snarky and his chapters entertain me the most. There is a certain repetition to his vocabulary, like calling most of the people he meets mates or chaps, even Claire, which just feels weird and slightly off-putting since it's not really natural to call a girl chap. But on the whole, Peter is Peter Pan, and unlike Claire, I've always loved Peter Pan, flights of fancy (forgive the pun!), and all. So the version of Peter in Dust delights me.

Claire is harder to pinpoint. She's an emotional mess, although we find out why she's an emotional mess later so that sort of helps a bit. But what doesn't help is that she's also a bit dense. I would have figured out I was dealing with Peter Pan waaaaaaay sooner than she does, and even when she's told point-blank that this boy is Peter Pan, she still doesn't quite believe it. She's a nice heroine, but she doesn't make wise decisions, especially near the end where wisdom would have served her best. I love the use of pixie dust in the story (it's BRILLIANT), and so for the magical elements alone, I like Claire. But she's still somewhat irksome as a heroine.

Tiger Lily on the other hand is magnificent. She's a native Neverlander (an idea I've loved since forever), and she's the tribal leader of her people, that is until she chose to maintain loyalty to Peter and fall to earth with him. She's clearly African inspired with her dark skin, but I love the addition of night sky and constellation tattoos into her character design, along with the teal streak in her hair and just her overall strength. This girl/woman is tough but kind, and she has suffered through many doubts and dark periods in her life. 

I wish that there had been a little more plot development in the middle section of the book apart from Peter and Claire growing closer and Claire learning to trust herself more. There's also a bit of an issue with repetition. We know that Tiger Lily has that teal streak in her hair. It doesn't have to be repeated more than once, and if it does need to be repeated, do it in a newer, fresher way.

Blatant faith elements are minimal, but there is mention of the native Neverlanders and their faith in the Ever One, the deity who hung the stars in the sky. Hopefully, she'll expound on this Being in the sequel. There is also a lot of mention of light overcoming darkness and shadow so that's inspiring. There's a lot of talk about facing up to your fears and inner demons before you can truly become whole and I completely agree with that. Lots of little nuggets of truth are sprinkled in without preaching.

I know very little about traveling outside my country, but I do know you need a passport and it's unlikely you can just get a job wherever you happen to be visiting. We never hear of Claire having a passport and she's planning to get a job within a week or so of landing in London. I just don't know how possible that is. Then there's the phone breakage incident. If it's an iPhone (which Claire has), all of your contacts are pretty much backed up for retrieval on the iCloud. So, yeah, her panic over losing contacts doesn't add up.

Overall, the idea for Dust is magical and clever. It just needed a little more research and possibly a beta reader to ask a couple of important questions like "how is Claire getting to London without a passport" and "don't iPhones back up their contacts." Regardless of these little hiccups, Kara Swanson clearly loves J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan and for that I thank her. I'm hoping for a tighter plot schedule in the sequel Shadow that is due out in summer 2021. There is a bit of a cliffhanger to this first novel so I'm eager for Shadow.


Author: Kara Swanson

Series: Heirs of Neverland

Year: 2020

My Rating:  ★★★★

Book Review: All This Time by Mikki Daughtry and Rachael Lippincott (2020)

Official Synopsis  

Kyle and Kimberly have been the perfect couple all through high school, but when Kimberly breaks up with him on the night of their graduation party, Kyle’s entire world upends—literally. Their car crashes and when he awakes, he has a brain injury. Kimberly is dead. And no one in his life could possibly understand. 

Until Marley. Marley is suffering from her own loss, a loss she thinks was her fault. And when their paths cross, Kyle sees in her all the unspoken things he’s feeling. 

As Kyle and Marley work to heal each other’s wounds, their feelings for each other grow stronger. But Kyle can’t shake the sense that he’s headed for another crashing moment that will blow up his life as soon as he’s started to put it back together. 

And he’s right.

When I first started this book, I thought I knew where it was going. Turns out I was at least a little bit wrong. I'm pretty good at guessing plot twists in YA fiction (so there were quite a few twists that didn't surprise me), but there were some that came up out of nowhere.

Let me just say that I'm relieved All This Time didn't just end on the path on which it started. I don't want to give anything away, but I will say that I was starting to get bored. Things felt a little too idyllic, a little too perfect, a little too convenient if you know what I mean. Then a plot twist that I halfway hoped would come actually happened and the story became real again.

As for the characters, I like Kyle, mostly, although I dislike underage drinking. And he does have a foul mouth, something I also dislike in YA fiction. However, the kid has gone through a lot and goes through even more by the end of the story. He learns to be himself as an entity apart from his relationship with others, learns what he wants and what he needs, and learns to let others be who they need to be to grow in healthy ways. He learns not to push, not to control, and that's an important lesson for anyone. Overall, he's a pretty good kid. Marley is intriguing because she's essentially two different people so there is a small whiplash effect where she's concerned, but I love that she's a storyteller. I love how she never tells sad stories, and I love how her and Kyle's relationship is built off of her gifting as a storyteller. It's brilliant, and so Marley is actually my favorite character, tender, hesitant, but radiantly gifted.

There are a lot of feel-good moments in this book. There are some sad ones too, but just like my experience with Five Feet Apart (a book I never actually reviewed but probably should), I was never actually moved enough to cry. This is weird for me because I am usually rather emotional, but for some reason, I just can never work myself up into a good cry for these authors. There's just a little bit of stiffness to the writing perhaps, that keeps me from fully investing in the story, but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it and didn't tear through it quickly.

One thing I would have changed is the one usage of 2020 as the year. Because the 2020 presented in All This Time is NOT the COVID saturated 2020 of our reality. So that was surreal in a way I'm sure the authors didn't intend. There's also the issue of what I like to call "staying power." Five years from now this book will be out of date. It's solely for the here-and-now crowd of young people. And that's a shame because it means All This Time missed the mark on being timeless.

It's remarkable to me how a book I was indifferent about managed to turn me into an engaged reader 100 pages from the end. Looking back now, it's a pretty clever little book. I know it's scheduled for a film so I hope that gets off the ground. I love the film version of Five Feet Apart, more than the novel which I wasn't super crazy about. Overall, I think All This Time, while not necessarily a superior story to Five Feet Apart, does have a superior writing style. I sense growth in the authors, so we'll see where it takes them.

All This Time

Authors: Mikki Daughtry and Rachael Lippincott

Year: 2020

My Rating:  ★★★