Thursday, December 31, 2009

Why not?

I stumbled across another reading challenge this evening and figured that I may as well. It's called "What's in a Name?". The challenge is to read six books in 2010 (not much really) in the following categories and review them:

1. A book with a food in the title
2. A book with a body of water in the title
3. A book with a title (queen, president) in the title
4. A book with a plant in the title
5. A book with a place name (city, country) in the title
6. A book with a music term in the title

It may prove very interesting, I just want to try an pace it out so I don't read them in one big clump in January or forget about it and read them all next December. Actually a friend of mine wrote a book (and had it published) that fits one of these categories, might be the time to finally read it.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

All About the Brontes Challenge 2010

Laura's Reviews is hosting a challenge for bloggers to read, watch and review the works and various adaptations of the Bronte sisters' works between January and June 2010. I have just signed up (a little under the wire) and will be reviewing:
Villette by Charlotte Bronte (it was on my reading list anyway)
Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte (I liked her Tenant of Wildfell Hall far better than Emily's Wuthering Heights, poor Anne needs some attention)
Film: Wuthering Heights 2003 (produced by MTV... uh oh)
Film: Jane Eyre 2007 (Masterpiece Theatre)
If you're interested in the challenge go here: Laura's Reviews
Happy reading!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Review: Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Last night I went to see this new film with a small group of friends and family. There have been many negative comments from purists, but everyone in the party I was with thoroughly enjoyed it. Though, I have not read much Sir Arthur Conan Doyle my older brother who was with us has read them all and I have seen some of the classic films. Neither of us had any qualms.

One element they greatly improved on from the original adaptations was the character of Watson. In the early films he was a bit bumbling, just really a sounding board for Holmes that wasn't very interesting or competant. This film, partly thanks to the handsome and charismatic Jude Law, made him far more compelling. The bromance between Holmes and Watson and the way they compliment each others' skills came to the forefront in this adaptation. They also cut out the need for heavy, extended monolgues from Holmes by giving the viewer insights into his thought process and planning. I thought it was a clever device.
The brilliant Holmes is shown to have cracks in his usually poised, dignified, almost asexual persona that Basil Rathbone helped create. He drinks to much (in the novels he actually had a cocaine habit- a legal substance in Victorian England), participates in underground boxing, and has a weakness for the beautiful Irene Adler, an underdeveloped character played by Rachel McAdams who is fairly believable as the 'only woman to outsmart Holmes' in spite of the limited material she is given to work with. She is under the control of a Professor Moriarty, Holmes' dramatic foil and archemeny in the classic stories, sure to play a major role in any forthcoming sequels, though only briefly seen in this film.
It does depart from Doyle's cannon and has some anachronisms, but it may be just the thing to breathe life into the old stories for a new generation of readers and watchers. The piece has energy, wit, and intrigue. Most of all it sticks to Doyle's classic themes of science and reason overcoming superstition and fear. The soundtrack is also fantastic, playing with strings (echoing Holmes' favorite instrument perhaps?) and Celtic sounds, never overly intrusive.
I'd give it an A- (sorry purists).

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The End of Time Part 1

Last night the US saw this exciting special only one day after the UK got the chance, proving that it does not take a whole year for the reels to be paddled across the Atlantic in a rowboat as it seemed with previous imports... I digress. The first part of David Tennant's swansong as the Doctor held some fantastic moments and big surprises. Although some of the special effects were a little over done (is the Master going to join the X-Men?) and moments of music were a bit intrusive it is still fairly gripping. I wish it was going to play out in three parts however, then they wouldn't have to rush so much plot along, that is my only other negative- it felt a little crowded.
Bernard Cribbins returns as Donna's grandfather Wilf, funny, sympathetic and brave, helping fill the Doctor's empty companion slot in this episode. The highlight of the night was their scene in a small cafe where the Doctor sees Donna again through the window and confides to Wilf that he has done terrible things on his own (alluding to The Waters of Mars). It's rare to see the Doctor in such a vulnerable state. Of course John Simm as the Master is brilliantly terrifying after his resurrection goes horribly wrong. Simm and Tennant have an excellent scene together showing their acting prowess without upstaging each other.
Most importantly: the duel cliff-hanger ending. The Master converts every human being on earth into himself. I did not expect that, very nightmarish, I'll have to see how it pans out until I decide whether I love it or hate it. (Leaning towards hate, but hey, they could pull it together.) Simm does look nice in a dress however. The other cliffhanger is that the Timelords have returned. I was sort of expecting that honestly. What this means for the Doctor, the universe, the show, and how much the Master had to do with their return remains to be seen. Also, the mysterious "Lady in White" has cause much speculation.
The preview for the second part looks good, the Doctor seems to go through a bit of a beating if the shot of his face is any indication. There is also a clip of the Doctor, possibly for the first time ever, brandishing a gun in the preview. Uh-oh...
I can't give this a letter grade until I see its conclusion.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Sherlock Holmes

I feel a bit ashamed that my discussions for the past week or so have been limited to Jane Austen and Doctor Who. Both very interesting topics, but not what I want my overall focus to be. This is an alert that TCM (Turner Classic Movies) is having a Sherlock Holmes marathon from this evening at eight until tomorrow at eight featuring many of the films they've never aired before.
Monday my brother and I are going to see the new film with Robert Downey Jr. which looks to be delightfully steampunk in terms of style. I must admit I haven't read mcuh of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories. Mystery was never my genre, it was my grandmother's. She read all the Holmes novels, everything Agatha Christie ever wrote, anything suspenseful she could find. "A Book Every Night" was her policy, so at least you know I get my addiction honestly. Perhaps I should add some Doyle to my 2010 list? That list has the potential to be far too mammoth for one year that will no doubt be quite busy besides. A continuous reading list for my life in general may be required.
As far as Middlemarch is concerned? I think my compatriots are losing heart. I posted my thoughts on the first book (the novel is divided into eight... or nine maybe?) on the 16th and have had no one else confirm making it to that point in their reading as well. I'm trudging along, but don't want to be too far ahead of my fellow readers. However, I have the depressing feeling that they may no longer be my fellow readers. That makes my resolve to continue for the next 650 pages considerably weaker now that I'm on my own.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Another Jane Austen Spin-Off (Sort of)

Jane Bites Back, a new novel featuring Jane Austen as its protagonist is released December 29th. No, this is not a meditation on the possible secret love story of Austen's life or a speculation into what the letters Cassandra burned might have contained. In this story Jane is the owner of a book shop in present day Upstate New York. How is this possible? She is a vampire. Oh, yes, Jane Austen as a vampire. (Catherine Morland would have squealed with delight.) Reviews have been positive if the ones referenced on Jane Austen Today's are any indication. The premise of Jane having to endure all the ridiculous paraliterature she's inspired is rather amusing. I'm sure her "bite list" would include some very particular authors and film makers... read an excerpt at Austenprose. (Yes link button is working again.)
Also a belated reminder that the sublime Cranford started its encore on PBS this past Sunday. If you missed it visit PBS's Masterpiece site to watch the program online. January 10th sees the sequel Return to Cranford at 9 pm again starring Dame Judi Dench. My friend Eloise and I are having a viewing party to celebrate. Yes, we believe watching Masterpiece Classic constitutes a party, thank you.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Waters of Mars

The first of the final three Doctor Who specials aired last night. As much as I thought the "infection" made its victims look vaguely zombie movie-ish, it was frightening. Water in itself is the most powerful force on earth, as the Doctor say 'it wears away the mountain tops.' There is so much unknown and unexplained in this episode, the source of whatever it is in the water is never revealed. The unknown is always something this series plays on. It's why "Midnight" was one of the most frightening episodes.
What was most terrifying about this particular epsiode was the Doctor himself. He's reaching the end, he knows his death is inevitable. That coupled with his extreme feeling of loneliness, of loss and his own fear leads him to rail against the rules he's been living by. He's tired of doing the right thing and suffering for it. In the end we see a half crazed Doctor decide that he can and has the right to change time. He wages a battle against time itself, and yet in the end we see his extreme vulnerability and fear eclipse the arrogance he was projecting. He asks "Have I gone too far?"
That is where we are left until next Saturday and the US premeire of "The End of Time Part 1."
There's an article in The Guardian today. It's a bit long and there are a few lines that are spoilerish about the finale, but if you don't mind risking it, check it out here.

Photo courtesy of The Guardian, December 20th 2009.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Oh Good Morning

Last night I couldn't sleep so I tried to continue with my Middlmarch reading. This morning I woke up and remembered nothing of what I read. So now I have to read it again. I wrote five pages of my new story today, I feel like a wuss, this would not cut it in a NaNo situation. The shifting weather patterns have been giving me migraines though.
The sun was out for a little while, it's going away now. I woke up to this:

Friday, December 18, 2009

Too Much Doctor Who

If there is such a thing.
Last night I watched the new Doctor Who animation "Dreamland" on YouTube. It's very... weird. The animation is a little stilted, not much expression from the characters. "Infinate Quest" is superior in animation in my opinion. Besides it has Anthony Stewart Head, the Doctor as a renegade running from library fines and impersonating a pirate, and light sabers. A win all around.
I say that maybe I've had too much Who lately because last night I actually dreamt about "The End of Time." I saw on IMDB that both Matt Smith and Billie Piper are appearing in the finale, in spite of the attempts to keep some things shrouded in mystery IMDB resumes reveal all. (So we will get to see 10 regenerate into 11, essentially.) Anyway, I had a really strange dream about Rose and the Doctor reuniting, they were in a huge pool of water, it was very peculiar. Being one that often remembers their dreams I sometimes try to analyze where different elements have come from. Water has been a constant underlying theme in DW- River Song, Jackson Lake, "The Waters of Mars" with Adelaide Brooke, the new companion will be named Amy Pond. There is a heavy significance placed on water with Doc 10. Does this mean anything? No idea. Just making a speculative observation.
Tomorrow is US premeire of "The Waters of Mars" and I am very excited. After that I swear I'm taking a break from Doctor Who until Boxing Day, when part 1 of the finale is aired.
I chalk it up to research, though. Since my new story is SciFi/Fantasy I need to educate myself about the genre, beyond DW I really don't usually watch or read any thing like that. To write well one must read well, that I firmly believe. I've just been to the library and have my hands full with reading over the holidays, Middlemarch included, it's like the book that never ends I swear.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Color Me Shame-Faced

After seeing so many other lovely entries about Jane Austen on other blogs, I feel ashamed that I squished her into an entry with mask making below. Though I can't compete with Jane Austen Today's picture of their Austen cupcake, I can tell you that I am planning a little movie marathon for tonight through tomorrow morning. It was going to be a read-a-thon, but I've had a raging headache since I got home from work. Tonight I will be watching Sense and Sensibility 2008 followed by Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, and Emma. I don't have Mansfield Park- it's my least favorite of her books I must admit, and I've overwatched Pride and Prejudice, not to mention it's too long for the relatively short span of time I'm cramming this into. Now should I wear the costume or would that be too much?
“Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.”

Jane Austen and Getting Plastered

These two things are not connected, I would never imply that Miss Austen would behave indiscreetly at a public gathering or in even private. However I would like to note that today is her birthday. Her 234th birthday if my math is correct. What with all the turmoil surrounding her lately with paraliterature and poor adaptations, I suggest that in remembrance of her work, pure and untouched by others, we take a moment to read some favorite passages today. Northanger Abbey here I come! Though not very popular, I think it is hilarious. What are your favorites?

Now to the "getting plastered" bit which I'm sure sounds scandalous. Well, you may be dissapointed, but I mean it literally. An aquaintance of mine is directing an updated version of an ancient Greek play in the spring. To help out with her lack of actors I auditioned and was cast. Part of her vision for the piece is to have the players masked and perform in almost a pantomine style while the chorus narrates. last night we made my mask.
If you have never had strips of plaster soaked gauze applied to your face, you probably don't know how trippy it is. First you have thick greasy layer of vaseline applied to your face and straws pushed up your nose to enable breathing (always important). When first applied the strips almost feel nice, like a thick, damp second skin. Slowly though, they harden and draw away slightly, but are still somehow stuck to you; I imagine it's what an exoskeleton feels like. When it was set the plaster ended up sticking to my face more than it should have and left bits clinging to my red, irritated flesh. Due to the cumbersome and quick-drying nature of the paster paste applied over top the gauze, drops ended up in my hair and in my eyelashes. The latter led to me getting plaster dust in my eye.
As I washed my face with shampoo- which my friend supplied, assuring me it was fine for my skin- I reminded myself how much I love the theatre, and how lucky I was not to be the girl that is playing my daughter (in spite of our closeness in age). She ended up with a glop of plaster paste in her mouth which had to stay there for the fifteen minutes it took to set her mask. I realized too late that some photographic evidence should have been taken. Oh well.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Small Rant About Doctor Who

With the weather being increasingly unpleasant, outdoor activity has been out of the question this weekend. Even driving around has been advised against. I've started drafting my new story, currently called "Matchless"- I'm very enthusiastic about it and the way my ideas are progressing. Mostly though, I've been watching Doctor Who.
I came onto this phenomenon late, Tennant is the only Dr. I have a realm of experience with, I have seen a bit of Eccleston and some clips of some of the earlier Drs, but for me Tennant is and always will be the Dr. Some friends assert that he's too angry for the part, but honestly, with all he's seen and lost, wouldn't you expect a little angst? I think he's one of the elements that keep the show from getting campy.
That and the fantastic writing. I love Robin Hood, of course, but it can not compare to Doctor Who in terms of continuity and story arching. They plan out the sereis so well and tie in little things that seem incidental early on, they all play out later on.
Next Saturday "The Waters of Mars" the second of the four specials is airing and then I believe on Boxing Day "The End of Time: Part One" will air. From the previews it looks like there might be a return of The Master. How? I have know idea, but I look forward to finding out. Of course, the 'infection' in "The Waters of Mars" looks a bit like a zombie problem from those previews. I still have hope.
And yes... I have been reading Middlemarch as well. Do you even need to ask?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

New Scheme Has Lift-Off

The first entry of the Epic Book Blog is up. It has been a trial to get everything together and organized, as of a few hours ago we were waiting for our third to sign in, but none the less, it's a go. I'm a few chapters into Middlemarch, it's not bad, but there is so much of it to go! The "Literary Amazon Warrior" feeling during the after glow of NaNoWriMo that helped spur this on has faded a little bit, and I can't help but wonder how high the book's word count is.
Is there a database for such things?
At least I won't be alone and will have time off.
Oh, hey, speaking of new projects, I've decided to stash my historical fiction for next year's NaNo, and work on another idea I had recently. There have been so many ideas lately, I can't keep up. At least they have assuaged my fears that I would be a one story writer. This one is quite different from anything I've ever written, and different from what I normally read as well. It's sort of SciFi/Fantasy and uses some of Joseph Campbell's outlines for the hero's journey. I'm actually really excited, in a way it's like the opposite of my historical piece as far as the freedom I have with it. I can create everything, make it any way I want to.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Review: Glee Season 1

I just watched the season finale of Glee. How can I describe my feelings for this show? In many ways it is a mess, the structure is lopsided, plot holes abound, sub-plots have sub-plots and there are secondary protagonists galore all vying for attention. Yet I am addicted. Even though the writers tried to cram too much into their first season, most of what they crammed was really high quality, the more realistic and uplifting version of High School Musical, many have equated it to. There is also something incredibly moving about the show. It's silly, and sometimes the musical numbers are bit too deliberate, but out of that comes passages that are beautiful. A few weeks ago when New Directions sang "Imagine" with the deaf choir? Suddenly tears were dripping down my face and I felt like a moron. They have also perfected the significant musical montage.
Music has a highly emotional affect on people. It's why we have "break up songs," why we create soundtracks for our lives. Films depend on that, soundtracks are used to heighten emotion, essentially manipulating the audience to have certain feelings on certain cues. So, is Glee manipulating us? Yes, and I love it. The final song, "My Life Would Suck Without You" by Kelly Clarkson meshes perfectly, over scenes of Will going to stop Emma from leaving and profess his feelings to her. It was a little melodramatic, but sometimes that's not so bad.
How long until next season?
What are your thoughts on this phenomenon?


I have been turning over an idea for an historical fiction piece based off the poetry of the Exeter book for months. I have a basic story idea, but every time I try and start work on it I feel really trapped by my ignorance. I mean there is not a lot of information about the 10th century abounding. I've found some basic "here's what type of clothing they wore" and "Vikings came and pillaged in typical Viking style," information, but I really need to know about daily life, the life of women, marriage. What did it feel like to live among them, go to battle with them?
So if anyone has good sources for information about the early Celtic people from this period; books, documentaries, articles, even historically accurate feature films- I would be most obliged. I would cite you in my dedication if it ever gets published.
Thanks in advance.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

John Lennon

"After all, how do you explain to anyone that some guy I had never met, never spoken to, or never even seen in concert, had taken a more central role in my life than many people I dealt with every day?"
Joe Scarborough, "Remembering John Lennon 29 Years Later
I wasn't even alive when Lennon met his untimely end, but many an afternoon was spent bonding with my parents over their vinyls. They saw The Beatles make their debut on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 and still listen to them to this day.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Just a Rumor (Thank Goodness)

According to an article on there were rumors of a mini series based off Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies , but they are untrue. Everyone with me now: Collective Sigh of Relief.
However, the "living author" has said there is interest in creating a theatrical film based off the piece. The writer of the article seems dissapointed at the lack of mini series and says "I've just started reading it, Jane Austen was never this funny." Well maybe her humor is more subtle than say... Shaun of the Dead, but plenty of people would disagree with you there sir. JASNA for example?
Picture and Quotation courtesy of
Oh and in case you thought Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters was going to be the end of this, you were wrong. (Why oh why couldn't you have been right??) Coming December 8th: Emma and the Werewolves.
However, on the bright (?) side, Jane Austen is not the only author being ravaged by monster mash ups. Apparently there is also:
The Undead World of Oz by L. Frank Baum and Ryan C. Thomas
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim by Mark Twain and W. Bill Czolgosz
The War of the Worlds Plus Blood, Guts and Zombies by H.G. Wells and Eric S. Brown
Alice in Zombieland by Lewis Carroll and Nickolas Cook
Dracula vs. Zombulaby Bram Stoker and A.P. Fuchs
Persuasion ... in Space! by Jane Austen and W. Bill Czolgosz
(Information courtesy of
I'm sorry, there are no words... none that can be said in polite company, anyway.
I can't feel my toes.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Love/Hate Relationship

With the weather. The snow has gotten as close to pouring as snow possibly can. I'm watching it swirl outside the window (along with my cat who is a bit agitated by it) and I admire it's beauty. Yet, at the same time I resent its presence today. I was supposed to go hear my friend's blues band tonight, but I suspect by the time I'll be heading out this evening my town and the two towns over will resemble an arctic tundra.
The real shame is that this friend's band may be on hiatus for quite sometime because she may need surgery on her vocal chords.
I will instead content myself to reading Middlemarch and watching the series finale of Robin Hood tonight. My impatience led me to watch it this summer, but on a tv instead of my computer screen and with time to process the nuances, philosophy and tragedy of the show, the second viewing of the season has been a very different experience.
Most of the country is enjoying/bemoaning the snow as well right now according to the weather map, I wish you all the best with flannel pajamas, hot cocoa, and period dramas of your own.

Masterpiece Classic update!

I read my email from Masterpiece and found that the fabulous Laura Linney is returning as the host of Classic this year. Her informative commentaries and engaging manner was a big hit last year according to discussions on the board forum.
Also, David Oyelowo is one of the stars of Small Island. I first saw this adorable and talented actor in his brief turn on As Time Goes By during one of their specials, more recently I enjoyed him in Ken Branaugh's new As You Like It. I'm not familiar with the book the piece is based off of, but I'm looking forward to seeing this actor at work again.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Quick Disclosure and PBS Reminders

Oh, by the way; to fully comply with the new FTC guidelines I must inform you that my reviews on this site are in no way compensated. The books and CDs are bought with my own dwindling pocket money and the television programs are viewed (usually off my DVR) in my own time on my television. If I recieve any swag, I'll let you know. I doubt it, but I'll let you know.
Quick reminders about Masterpiece Classic: They are re-airing their spectacular Cranford starring Dame Judi Dench beginning December 20th and following that they will premiere their sequel, Return to Cranford. The first was impeccable, I eagerly look forward to the sequel.
This is followed by a new version of Jane Austen's Emma starring Romola Garai. I heard the first episode isn't great, but that it does pick up. This will be followed by a re-airing of 2007's Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.
New additions to the schedule for early spring: The 39 Steps, Sharpe's Challenge, Sharpe's Peril, The Diary of Anne Frank, and Small Island.
My favorite time of the PBS programming year.
Image courtesy of

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Review: Wiloughby's Return by Jane Odiwe

Sequels, prequels, paraliterature; we see it everywhere, especially in regard to Austen. I am often skeptical, but when I saw Jane Odiwe (author of Lydia Bennet's Story) had a new sequel to Sense and Sensibility I thought I'd give it a read. I'm glad I did.
Unlike most sequels that endow Austen's characters with alarming amounts of sex and violence, Odiwe keeps in the spirit of Austen's style. She resurrects her most charming rogue with success. At the end of S&S the secondary heroine, Marianne Dashwood, marries the much older Colonel Brandon and the dashing Wiloughby disappears with his wife, married only for the money. Many fans have often asserted that Wiloughby's not a bad guy, that they almost wish in spite of everything that he and Marianne end up together.
This novel begins three years after the close of Austen's novel. It brings up very real concerns in Marianne's marriage to the Colonel. Does he only love her because she reminds him of his long dead first love? Does he spend too much time with his ward? At the same time, Odiwe also shows how much their relationship has grown from the timid affection and gratitude Marianne originally had toward the Colonel. It has a believable conflict for Marianne to face as her husband is constantly absent and her first love waltzes back into her life.
Though the title character, Wiloughby has comparably few scenes in the book, his prescence hangs over the story, even in the subplot surrounding Margaret, Marianne's younger sister, who is falling in love for the first time herself. It was refreshing to see her character grow, she is barely a shadow in the original novel. Perhaps 'subplot' is too subdued a term for her role in this book, she dominates the story at many moments, her struggles recieving almost equal time to Marianne's.
I would have liked to see more of Elinor and how her life with the trying Ferrars clan is at this point. Her major role in this story is to present an image of an ideal marriage match for Margaret. There are some spectacular cameos by Mrs. Jennings, Lucy and Robert Ferrars, and other amusing characters from S&S.
Overall, it was a tasteful, well constructed story that paid homage to Austen's style and characters. Jane would approve.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Epic Book Blog

It's not really running yet, but it does exist. My Middlemarch project has turned into an idea for an epic online book club. We'll be reading all those epically long, dense classics that no one really wants to any more. Well, we want to. First is Middlemarch, of course. We are also looking at Moby Dick and Anna Karenina for spring. Penguin Classics has a list of 10 essential classics, some of which we've already read, but we might tackle the whole list just to refresh what we know and learn some of what we don't. Here's the list from Penguin:(links are still not working...grr.)
Here's the link for the blog, it will have a total of three to four contributors, but anyone that has any questions or knowledge of the books we're reading is more than welcome to comment and discuss.
There is a working link for the above in "Places I Visit" on the right hand side of the posts.