Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Eileen Brennan, 1932-2013

I still remember the first time I saw Clue, the movie not the game.  I had already been playing the dame for years, and while I knew about the movie, I had never seen it.  I came on cable during a rainy weekend, and I decided it was time to watch it.  It was love at first viewing, and a lot of that had to with with Eileen Brennan's portrayal as Mrs. Peacock.  Eileen Brennan was able to bring a world weary feel to her characters, a feat a lot of actresses have tried, but rarely ever pulled off.  She was hilarious in the movie, and next to Madeline Kahn, gives one of the best performances in it.

She is just as terrific in Private Benjamin, actually she is the only reason I liked that movie, The Last Picture Show, and Stella.   And while I love comedies, I normally don't like send ups, but her performance in Murder by Death steals the show.

She passed away on July 28th, 2013 from bladder cancer.  She had previously survived breast cancer and a car plowing into her as she was walking out of a restaurant.  She was a class act, and I'm going to miss seeing her on the screen.  It's a good thing I already own Clue on DVD.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Wordsmithonia Turned 4 Years Old! (11 Days Ago)

So I'm not sure how I missed it, but the blog turned four on July 18th.  I'm really thinking I need to call it my three and eight tenths birthday though.  I just don't feel, well I know, that I haven't been around that much this year.  A lot of changes have taken place in my personal life, changes that have taken over my entire life, including my time to blog.  I feel as if I owe you guys an apology for not being around as much.  

I haven't had the time to post as much as I would like, and I really haven't had the time to comment nearly as much as I used to.  So for that, I'm sorry.  I keep thinking the time will come back to me, and in part, it has.  I need to recommit myself to you guys to do a better job over the next year, and give you guys a reason to keep coming back.

I also owe you guys a huge thank you for sticking with me over the years.  Your friendship and support means more to me than I can ever truly express.  I adore every single one of you and if I could, I would give you a huge hug to let you know how much I do appreciate you.  I hope you continue to stick with me, that you will keep coming back, and that you forgive my lack of comments on your own blogs.  I read more than I comment right now, and you guys never fail to teach or entertain me.  I love you all, and I hope you guys know how much.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Great Prince Shan by E. Phillips Oppenheim

Synopsis From Back Cover:

The central figure of this absorbing story is the mysterious and cultured Prince Shan, ruler of China; the heroines are captivating English girl and a exotically beautiful Russian who pit their charm, their loveliness, and their wisdom against each other and against the highly-trained diplomats of many countries.  Each of them attempts to influence the decision which may change the map of the world.

The England that Lord Nigel Kingley and Lady Maggie Trent find themselves living in, is not one we would recognize.  They live in a country that learned all the wrong lessons from World War I.  It's a country that elected a laborer to be Prime Minister.  It's a country that has put all it's eggs in the basket of The League of Nations.  It's a country that has stopped using diplomats, and did away with it's clandestine operations.  It's a country that believes economics and common brotherhood is enough to protect itself.  It's a country that is living in a fantasy land.

A few of them, like Nigel and Maggie, understand the dangers they face.  They can see what's happening in Europe and Asia, happenings that look very bad for England.  With the help of a few smart Americans, Chalmers and Jesson, who see the danger as well, they learn of a meeting between Prince Shan of China, Nadia Karetsky of Russia, and Oscar Immelan of Germany.  What is to be decided at that meeting could destroy England for all time.  What they can actually do about it, nobody is really sure.  They come up with a plan to find out what's going on, but it's a plan that gets interrupted by the human connections that take place between the various characters.

But even then, the characters and the nations they represent will need to answer some questions. Will Maggie be able to convince Prince Shan to not go along with Germany's plots?  Can Nigel and Nadia find themselves on the same side, or are they destined to be enemies?  How will Oscar Immelan react when he find out things are starting to go the opposite of what he wants?  How many people need to die to protect England from it's enemies, and how can Nigel and Maggie stop what seems to be the inevitable?

This is a book that explores a lot of political fears and hopes swirling around the world between the two World Wars.  It's a mystery book, but it's much more than that.  It's an exploration of the doubts many felt in putting faith in The League of Nations, and in the fear some felt in the growing power of certain countries after the end of World War I.  It's a fear born out of the opening of the East, and in the Nationalism on the rise in certain countries.  But it's also a story of hope and love.  It's story that convinces it's reader that no matter what you face, either personally or globally, the individual can make a difference.

Challenges: A-Z, VM (Malicious Men)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Winter's Heart by Robert Jordan

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

Rand is on the run with Min, and in Cairhien, Cadsuane is trying to figure out where he is headed.  Rand's destination is, in fact, one she has never considered.

Mazrim Taim, leader of the Black Tower, is revealed to be a liar.  But what is he up to?

Faile, wit the Aiel Maidens, Bain and Chiad, and her other companions, Queen Alliandre and Morgase, is prisoner of Sevanna's sept.

Perrin is hunting desperately for Faile.  With Elays Machera, Berelain, the Prophet, and a very mixed "army" of disparate forces, he is moving through country rife with bandits and roving Seanchan.  The Forsaken are ever more present, and united, and the man called Slayer stalks Tel'aran'rhiod and the wolfdream.

In Ebou Dar, the Seanchan princess known as Daughter of the Nine Moons arrives - and Mat, who has been recuperating in the Tarasian Palace, is introduced to her.  Will the marriage that has been foretold come about?

There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time.  But it is a beginning....

I would say that Winter's Heart, which happens to be book nine of the Wheel of Time saga, is the funnest book in the series to read, but then I would by lying.  It's actually very long, and full of long drawn out stories, most of which don't really play out until the next book in the series, Crossroads of Twilight.  However, it could be worse.   A lot of the action in both books, happen at about the same time.  So theoretically, it could be one massive book instead of one.  I will say this about Winter's Heart, a lot of what happens in this book, has serious consequences later on down the road.  One thing Robert Jordan was very good at, is layering his plots in such a way that repercussions may not happen until much later in the series.  With all that being said, I still enjoyed the book more than I have the last few times I read it.

I forgot how much I love Perrin.   Here is a man that has changed so much from the first book.  He has grown up in ways that Mat and Rand have not.  The hand he has been dealt, even more so than Rand, has fundamentally changed him in ways that he doesn't even begin to realize until now.  The lengths he goes through to rescue Faile proves it more than anything else.  One little item before I move on from Perrin, I can't stand the whole Luc/Isam/Slayer storyline.  It never really works, nor does it really come together into anything that is interesting.  I'm sure I'll bring it up later on in the reviews, but it's one of those side story lines I wish had never happened.

Faile is one of those characters, much like Min and Aviendha, that I can really enjoy at times, and others I really don't understand the point of their characters.  Fails, at this point, since she is away from Perrin, is starting to come into her own as a character and as a leader.  She is growing stronger in herself, now she just needs to get away from the Shaido Aiel in one piece.  I don't like the way she is manipulating on of the Aiel men, but I understand the reasons why.

Elayne is having fun trying to strengthen her hold on the Lion Throne.  When I say fun, I'm being sarcastic.  She is having to deal with rebellious nobles who don't support her claim to the throne.  A rebellion that has more to do with the way Morgase acted when she was under the control of Rahvin.  She has the backing of the strongest noble, Dyelin Taravin, and is well on her way to securing the throne.  Despite some of the dumbness her pregnancy brings on, she does show some genius in the way she is manipulating the many factions around her.  I'm really getting tired of Birgitte though.  She seems to be becoming a one note character.

Rand, I love him, but he is still going around, acting without thinking.  He spends a lot of the book hunting down the Asha'man who turned against them.  He drags those with him all over the place.  I know he has a purpose, but it's so frantic, that it feels as if he is just reacting, not planning.  What he does at the end though, changes everything.  Cleansing Saidin is a game changer.  His relationship with Casuane Melaidhrin is one that is so badly mishandled by all involved that I'm surprised that they haven't come to blows yet.

Mat and Tuon.  Can I just say I hate the idea, that I never warm up to it, and I wish Tuon would be dropped down a well and forgotten.  I even like her "servant" Selucia more than I like her, and I can't stand her either.  Actually, I hate the Seanchan on principle and wish they would all go away.  The same goes for Egeanin, and Bayle Domon by connection.  Add in Seta, Renna, Suroth, Alivia, and every other slave/slave owning one of them.  What they do to people is horrific, look at Amathera as an example.  Once, she was a ruler, now she lives in fear, prostrating herself to every Seanchan she sees.  I'm just glad Juilin took an interest in her and is trying to bring her back to what she was.  The Seanchan are all bat shit crazy, and the entire race needs to be destroyed.

Mat on the other hand, I love him more and more.  His relationship with Olver is one that never stops surprising me.  He acts the father and the big brother all in one, and it's fun to see.  He is growing as a hero, sticking his neck out on a regular basis, because it's the right thing to do.  He tries to protect Tylin, even when she treats him as a plaything.  By the way, I hate what happens to her, though it allows Beslan to come into his own.  He, Mat, rescues two leashed Aes'Sedai when he escapes Altara, even though he could have left them behind.  He has taken care of his Band of the Red Hand, making sure his troops are given everything they need.  He is coming into his own as a general to be respected and feared.

Other Books In the Series:

The Eye of the World
The Great Hunt
The Dragon Reborn
The Shadow Rising
The Fires of Heaven 
Lord of  Chaos
A Crown of Swords
The Path of Daggers

Friday, July 19, 2013

TV Stars Hit the Radio Waves

It's been a while since I've done a music post, and I'm feeling a little nostalgic tonight.  I was in the mood to listen to a little Jasmine Guy, and I after that I found myself going with a theme.  I found myself listening to some of my favorite songs by those who became famous as TV stars before they became know for their music.  When I was done, I wanted to go back and listen to them again, so here I am, sharing with you guys some of my favorites.

You won't see any of the vanity projects by the likes of Don Johnson or Philip Michael Thomas on this list.  Nor will you be seeing the Mouseketeers Timberlake, Spears, of Aguilera on here.  You also won't see anyone who did the opposite, start as a singer and move to TV.  So Will Smith, Julie London (though I love you), and all you others are off this list as well.

First up is Jasmine Guy with "Just Want to Hold You."  You guys may remember her from back in the day on the hit TV Shows Fame and A Different World.  She has more recently been back on the silver screen in Dead Like Me and The Vampire Diaries.

Then I move onto "Come Back to Me" by Janet Jackson.  If you guys don't remember, she was on the hit shows Goodtimes, Diff'rent Strokes, and Fame.

My journey took me to "Toy Soldiers" from Martika.  Of course, Martika was on Kids Incorporated.

Before Stacey Ferguson was simply known as Fergie, she also starred on Kids Incorporated.  I didn't hear from her again until her girl group, Wild Orchid, released "Talk to Me."

And that brings us back to the TV show Fame.  My next stop was "Street of Dreams" by Nia Peeples.  She has been on quite a few others shows since then, including Pretty Little Liars.

So I had to pick at least on cheesy song, and it just so happens to be Michael Damian's cover of "Rock On."  For those of you who don't remember, Michael was on Young & the Restless.

And just because Will Smith is disqualified from being on this play list, doesn't mean his costar, Tatyana Ali can't be included.  I loved her single, "Boy You Knock Me Out".

And here comes Joey Lawrence.  I'm going to be the first to admit that I couldn't stand Blossom, dumbest show ever.  And I will even say I thought Joey Lawrence releasing music was a joke at first.  But if you ignore the hair and the horrific video for "Nothing My Love Can't Fix", you hear that this guy has a voice.  It's a voice that has gotten better with age, and I for one think he should release another album.

I thought I would end this play list with a man who may have become rich and famous because of TV, but boy does he have a voice.  Seth MacFarlane's version of "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" is one of my favorites, and since it's Christmas in July, I thought I would be a good addition.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Resurrectionist by E.B. Hudspeth

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

Philadelphia, the late 1870s.  A city of gas lamps, cobblestone streets, and horse-drawn carriages - and home to the controversial surgeon Dr. Spencer Black.  The son of a grave robber, young Dr. Black studies at Philadelphia's  esteemed Academy of Medicine, where he develops the unconventional hypothesis: What if the world's most celebrated mythological beasts - mermaids, minotaurs, and satyrs - were in face evolutionary ancestors of humankind?

The Resurrectionist offers two extraordinary books in one.  The first is a fictional biography of Dr. Spencer Black, from a childhood spent exhuming corpses through his medical training, his travels with carnivals, and the mysterious disappearance at the end of his life.  The second book is Black's magnum opus: The Codex Extinct Animalia, a Gray's Anatomy for mythological beasts - dragons, centaurs, Pegasus, Cerberus - all rendered in meticulously detailed anatomical illustrations.  

I'm really at a loss on how to start this review.  The bigger problem, once I do get it started, I'm at an even bigger loss on where to go from there.  And I'm really flabbergasted on how I would finish it off.  I really don't know what to say about this one.  I loved it, I was disappointed in it, I loved it some more, and then it sat on my shelf waiting to be reviewed.  And therein lies the confusion I'm feeling.

The love started off with the concept of the book.  The idea of creating a book around a fictional doctor who went over the deep end and decided that humans are descended from mythological creatures, it's pure genius.  Then making that same doctor start experimenting of animals and humans in order to recreate those creatures, just brings it over the top.  The first half of the book is this imaginatively, convoluted story of a man who takes a once promising career, and descends into madness.  It's also the weakest half of the book, hence my disappointment.

Since it's a fake biography, I wanted the narrative to convince me that Dr. Spencer Black was in fact a real person.  I wanted to become so engrossed in the story of his life that I would be able to forget he never existed.  That never happened.  I'm not sure I can really pinpoint the issues I had with the story itself.  Some of it was the pace of the story, it was a bit jarring in places.  I also think it was the fact that none of the characters around Dr. Black were fleshed out enough to provide a support system for his story.  The pieces, which were there, never fit together.

And then the magic happened.  When the codex starts, all the problems I had in believing the reality of the "biography", were forgotten.  The anatomical details and the gorgeous way they were rendered by the artist, made me really believe that these creatures existed.  They even came close to having me convinced that there could have been link between us at some point in time.  I was, and still am, in awe of the details the illustrator was able to bring out in the creatures.  If I could, I would love to have some of them enlarged, framed, and hung on my wall.  I loved this section of the book so much, that had I written the review right away, it would have been glowing.  I waited though, and that changed my outlook on it.

In the end, I'm just not sure the codex was able to overcome the issues I had with the "biography."  I'm a reader, and I'm a reader that wants to get lost in the story.  I want to be able to willingly suspend my disbelief and get transported to another place and time.  I want to forget that I'm reading a fiction book.  And sadly, that never happened for me.  Had this been just a picture book, it would be my favorite of all time.  As it is, it's going to sit in a permanent home on my shelves, and I'm sure I'll pull it out and look at the wonderful illustrations.  I'm just not going to revisit the first half again.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Live and Let Drood by Simon R. Green

Synopsis From Back Cover:

The name is Bond, Shaman Bond.  Better known as Drood, Eddie Drood.  Yes, I'm one of those Droods - the family who've been keeping the forces of evil contained in the shadows for as long as humans have walked the earth.

Recently I suffered a slight case of death, but thanks to Molly, my best girl (who happens to be a powerful witch), I got over that right quick.  Unfortunately my family wasn't so lucky.  In my absence, Drood Hall was destroyed and all my relatives were killed.  Which left me as the last of the Droods.

I didn't much like being the Last Drood.  I can tell you - and then I realized that things weren't as they seemed.  Someone had activated a dimensional engine, sending my Drood Hall off to an alternate Earth, replacing it with a burnt-out doppelganger.  My family is still alive out there.  Somewhere.

And nothing's going to stop me from finding them....

If you couldn't tell by now, I'm frickin in love with all things Edwin Drood.  This series can go on for as long as the James Bond franchise has, and I would be on cloud nine.  The stories get more elaborate and outlandish as they go, just like the Bond movies.  There are wonderful toys, over the top villains, and more humor than a marathon of old Laugh-In repeats.  This is a series that never takes itself too seriously and has just the right level of snarky wit, even Oscar Wilde would find himself easily entertained.

The last few books have started almost as soon as the previous on ended, and Live and Let Drood is no exception.  We are transported back into Eddie's world, within second of the last visit.  He has just arrived back at the Hall to find it destroyed.  His family is presumed dead, though the reader will notice a very significant lack of bodies .  It's takes a bit, but our Eddie finally realizes things aren't as they appear to be and he swears to find his family and bring them back.  Of course, he also swears vengeance on those responsible for the event, if he can figure that out.  But with his Molly, The Wild Witch of the Woods, by his side, that should be a piece of cake.  The problem is, getting to the man responsible, is easier said than done.

There is also the added bonus of Eddie's past coming back in a huge way by the end of the book.  Characters that were once thought to be dead, are suddenly resurrected and dropped back into Eddie's life.  Their return causes a whole new set of issues to be dealt with, some of them will have consequences for Molly as well.  It will be interesting to see how this new wrinkle changes Eddie in further books.

Other Books In The Series:

The Man With the Golden Torc
Daemons Are Forever
The Spy Who Haunted Me
From Hell With Love
For Heaven's Eyes Only

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Curiosity by Stephen P. Kiernan (Giveaway Included)

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Dr. Kate Philo and her scientific exploration team makes a breathtaking discovery in the Arctic: the body of a man buried deep in the ice.  As a scientist in a groundbreaking project run by the egocentric and paranoid Erastus Carthage, Kate has brought small creatures - plankton, krill, shrimp - "back to life."  Never have the team's methods been attempted on a large life form.

Heedless of the consequences, Carthage orders that the frozen man be brought back to the lab in Boston, and reanimated.  As the man begins to regain his memories, the team learns that he was - is - a judge, Jeremiah Rice, and the last thing he remembers is falling overboard into the Arctic Ocean in 1906.  When news of the Lazarus Project and Jeremiah Rice breaks, it ignites a media firestorm and massive protests by religious fundamentalists.

Thrown together by circumstances beyond their control, Kate and Jeremiah grow closer.  But the clock is ticking and Jeremiah's new life is slipping away.  With Carthage planning to exploit Jeremiah while he can, Kate must decide how far she is willing to go to protect the man she has come to love.

A gripping, poignant, and thoroughly original thriller, Stephen Kiernan's provocative debut novel raises disturbing questions about the very nature of life and humanity - man as a scientific subject, as a tabloid plaything, as a living being: A curiosity.

I don't know if any of you have payed attention to this before, but see that last paragraph, the one just before this one, I normally don't include those when I'm typing up the synopsis.  Partly because I find it to be part of an opinion by someone who is not me, rather than being an actual part of the synopsis.  And partly because, it's just too much typing for me.  I already take up more than my share of blog space, so why add to your reading.  Of course there are those who have claimed I'm lazy for not writing my own, but quite frankly, I think my thoughts belong in the review itself.

But I'm digressing, so let me get back to the point I was trying to make to begin with.  The reason why I chose to include that last paragraph, was pretty damn simple.  I won't go as far as saying it's a big fat lie, but I will say it's a little grandiose for what the book actually read to me.  I'm not sure where the thriller part comes in, unless they are talking about the last few pages where Kate and Jeremiah are running away from the paparazzi.  And while I may agree that the book does touch on the themes of medical ethics, faith, what it means to be alive, and the state of our media driven culture; I can't say as if they seemed to be overarching themes that the author was trying to explore.  Instead the felt as if they were a small part of the story, a story of a man brought back to life and those around him who for various reasons are trying to exploit him in one way or another.  And it's a story of two people, who despite the obvious differences find themselves connecting in ways they didn't see coming, nor fully act upon that connection.

I don't want you guys to think I'm critiquing the book, because I'm not.  The book itself, despite a slow start, was an engaging read that once it got a hold of me, I was hooked.  I fell in love with Jeremiah.  Of all the characters in the book, he was the one that felt the most real to me.  He is one of those characters that had I a huge Edwardian country home, he would be a frequent guest.  He was a man who came of age in a period of time where everything was new, where his contemporaries were exploring far flung lands and new inventions seemed to spring up all over the place.  His was a time of true human expansion and progress was achieved by brave men and women who put their blood, sweat, and tears into everything they did.  He was one of the youngest district court judges in history, and his intellect is one to be admired.  Add in the fact that he is gorgeous, kind, and a truly good person, and you almost have the perfect man.  And despite all that, he never seemed to be the stereotypical romantic hero, there was something grounded and real about him as a character.

I could go on and on about Kate as well, but at this point in time, I think I'm taking up way too much of your time already.  She is the perfect instrument for Jeremiah to see this new world through.  She is a truly interesting character, that while I may not have fallen for her in the way I did Jeremiah, I was never bored when it was her turn to tell the story.  She had her own voice, and it was one that I found myself respecting and in many ways admiring.

My love affair with the character ends there though.  The other two characters who narrate this story are one dimensional bores that I could have done without.   Dr. Carthage is what he is described to be in the synopsis.  There really isn't much more to say about him, other than I felt as if the whole reference to his father felt a little forced and seemed a bit out of place.  The sleazy reporter, was like Dr. Carthage, a one dimensional character that despite his good nature, I never liked, and I just wanted him to shut up.  And it's in how we get to know these character that I think this book did have one major flaw.

The book is told, after the events are already over, from the viewpoints of those four characters.  So while I may have loved half of the chapters, the other half were just flat out annoying to read.  I think this story, and these characters, would have been served better by having the story told by a third person narrator.  It would have allowed more page time for the two characters I loved, but wouldn't have fragmented the story itself in such a way that I found myself annoyed with certain chapters and truly enjoying others.

My last quibble, and then I promise to shut up, I've been trying to convince myself to be happy with the ending, and I just can't be.  It felt a little rushed, and despite some of the differences Kate has made in her life by then, it just doesn't satisfy me.  I can't tell you what I wanted, without telling you what didn't happen, so I'm sorry about that.  I didn't hate the ending, but I think I could have liked it so much better had it been closed a bit differently, though I think the actual end result would have been the same.  And now that I'm done talking in circles, and if you are still reading at this point, please take the time to get this book.  I'm almost positive, and while I won't name names, I'm pretty sure I know which of you would fall for Jeremiah just as hard as I did.

I would like to thank Trisha of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review this book.  Please visit the tour page to read other reviews.

The wonderful group at TLC Book Tours have generously offered my readers the chance to win a copy of this book for themselves.  The giveaway will last until 11:59 pm, CST, on 7/20/13.  You must be a resident of the United States to enter, and all you have to do is leave me a comment with your email address.  

Monday, July 8, 2013

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Part Of The Synopsis From Back Cover:

A mysterious island.  An Abandoned orphanage.  A strange collection of peculiar photographs.  

As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.  As Jacob explores its decaying bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that Miss Peregrine's children were more than just peculiar.  They may have been dangerous.  They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason.  And somehow - impossible thought it seems - they may still be alive.

I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned it before, but I'm really good at ignoring those books that everyone else seems to be reading.  I will probably never read The Night Circus, Water for Elephants, or The Hunger Games books.  I'm the same when it comes to movies and even a lot of the music that comes out anymore.  I'm not sure it's something I've ever really done on purpose, but I tend to avoid them like the plague.  I think it helps that for the most part, they never sound like books I would want to read anyway.  I'm really bad when it comes to most YA titles that I see being reviewed all over the place.  I hate to say it, but I think I actually turn my nose up on most of it.  I'm not proud of that last fact, but it's an instant reaction anymore.

All that being said, when Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children first starting showing up, I'll admit that I was a bit intrigued by the cover and the premise of the book.  It does fit into my rather odd tastes, despite it being a YA book.  The last time a YA book knocked my socks off, was when I read Rotters by Daniel Kraus.  It blew me away, and while the two books have widely different concepts, they both explore some of the darker aspects of human behavior and the lengths we will all go through to find home.

I wish I could tell you that this book blew me away the way Rotters did, but I can't.  And honestly, I'm not really sure any YA book really stands a chance of matching the way I reacted towards that one.  That's not to say I didn't enjoy this book, because I had a lot of fun reading it.  It just won't be life changing or all that memorable to me.  I do want to say, that I enjoyed it enough to want to read the next book in the series once it comes out.  It was an interesting look at what it means to be human, and how appearances are rarely what they appear to be.

Now granted, all that exploration is done through some rather fanciful and contrived character exploration  The whole premise, of writing a book around a set of pictures, is a little too forced at times.  It stilts the action in places, and I'm not sure it really serves any sort of character development.  It seems as if some odd choices were made in order to fit the story around a certain pictures, instead of trying to find a picture to fit where the author wanted to take the story.  I think it hurt the way I felt about the characters, which never really allowed me to invest in any of the secondary children, and barely kept me interested in Jacob.  It's really the themes and undercurrents that saved the book for me, and allowed me to enjoy the book despite it's inherent flaws.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Appointment With Death by Agatha Christie

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

"You do see, don't you, that she's got to be killed?"

Hercule Poirot overhears a young man saying these chilling words, then days later, the man's stepmother, known to all as a sadistic tyrant, is found dead.  But beyond a puncture wound to the wrist, the exact cause of the woman's death is unknown - and murder is only on possibility.  In his meticulous fashion, the exacting Belgian sleuth interviews each of the victim's beleaguered family members, then becomes interested in other members of the vacationing party: a doctor whose hypodermic syringe has gone missing, a domineering English matron, and an energetic young woman with an interest in the victim's son.  While few mourn the dead woman's passing, suspense mounts as Poirot closes in on the circumstances surrounding her murky death.

I can't believe that when I started my Agatha Christie self challenge back in 2009, that I thought I would be able to read all her books within a year.  Here we are, almost four years later, and I'm not even half way done with them.  Now granted, I didn't know I would get the chance to review so many great new books, or that I would discover other authors, Mary Roberts Rinehart, who would throw me off course from time to time.  Nor did I realize how much I really don't like Hercule Poirot, and that I really do need breaks in between his books.  With a few exceptions, I can't stand the man, no matter how much I respect his brain.

He is an insufferable, egotistical, vain, pompous, blowhard who thinks way too much of himself.  The fact that his ego is warranted, just makes it that much worse.  Luckily for me, he isn't on every page of Appointment with Death, but honestly, even if he was, I would still have enjoyed the book.  This was a reread for me, one I've ready many times before, and I never get tired of the "secondary" characters.

If I'm not falling head over heels in love with the Boyton children, I'm infatuated with Dr. Sarah King, who herself is falling for one of the Boyton boys.  And while I won't disclose the murderer, I must say that despite their obvious flaws, I always found myself enjoying that person when they were on the page.  Rounded out by a few others, including a rather wallflower of a woman, the cast, while smaller than most, is just as much fun to be around.  Even the bitch, excuse my language, who is our murder victim, is fun to read.

And don't get me started on the setting, from Jerusalem to Petra, the journey takes us into some of the most beautiful landscapes on Earth.  It's obvious from her writing, that it was a region that Christie loved, and cherished her time there with her husband.

All in all, Appointment with Death lives up to Christie's imagination and Poirot's brain.  It's typical genius that only this author could create, and I know it will be a book I keep visiting over and over again, no mater what I think of it's main character.

Challenges: VM (International Detectives)

Thursday, July 4, 2013

TV Guide Picks TV's Best Theme Songs of All Time

So I'm a little late sharing this list with you guys, TV Guide published it in the last week of April, but life was a little busy for me back then.  They have been doing these lists a lot lately, and I already have a few more to share with you guys at a later point in time.  I will say that this has to be one of my favorite lists, because who doesn't like a good theme song.  For many of us, all it takes is the first few notes of a song, and we instantly know what show it's from.  There is just something so wonderful about the combination of music and television.  The memories these songs recall for many of us, can never be conjured any other way.  These theme songs are so tied into our lives, I'm not sure they can be separated out.

On quick note before I share the list with you guys, am I really the only one who is saddened by the demise of the theme song.  You will be able to tell by this list, very few of these shows are on currently.  It seems that many of the shows we watch today have replaced the theme song with an opening sequence instead, and if we are lucky, it's accompanied by a few notes, but that's it.  I hope the theme song makes a recovery soon.  

With my soapbox put away, let the list commence.  After the top ten, they are listed alphabetically.

1.  Cheers

2.  The Mary Tyler Moore Show
3.  Hawaii Five-0
4.  M*A*S*H
5.  Friends
6.  The Beverly Hillbillies
7.  Route 66
8.  The Jeffersons

9.  Sesame Street
10.  The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
11.  The Addams Family
12.  Alfred Hitchock Presents
13.  The Andy Griffith Show
14.  All in the Family
15.  Ally McBeal
16.  Batman
17.  Bewitched

18.  The Big Bang Theory
19.  The Brady Bunch
20.  Car 54, Where Are You?
21.  The Cosby Show
22.  Curb Your Enthusiasm
23.  Dallas
24.  Dawson's Creek
25.  The Facts of Life
26.  Family Guy
27.  The Flintstones
28.  Get Smart
29.  Gilligan's Island
30.  The Golden Girls

31.  Good Times
32.  The Greatest American Hero

33.  Green Acres
34.  Happy Days
35.  Hill Street Blues
36.  I Love Lucy
37.  Laverne & Shirley
38.  Law & Order
39.  Malcolm in the Middle
40.  Maude

41.  Miami Vice
42.  The Mickey Mouse Club
43.  Mission: Impossible
44.  Mister Ed
45.  The Monkees
46.  The Muppet Show
47.  The Odd Couple
48.  The Patty Duke Show
49.  Peter Gunn
50.  The Rockford Files
51.  Scooby-Doo
52.  The Simpsons
53.  The Sopranos
54.  SpongeBob SquarePants
55.  Star Trek
56.  The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
57.  Three's Company

58.  Weeds
59.  Welcome Back, Kotter
60.  The X-Files

So there you go, TV Guide's picks for the 60 best theme songs of all time.  Honestly there are a few on there that I could do without ever hearing again, but I at least understand why most of them are on there.  What I have a hard time understanding, are some of the songs they left off.  So instead of listing the ones I would have included, I'm going to show you the videos instead.  I won't explain myself, I'll just let the music do that for me.  

The Twilight Zone

Wonder Woman

The Lone Ranger

The Green Hornet

Perry Mason

Buffy the Vampire Slayer


The Big Valley

So I lied, some other shows I think could have made the cut were:  Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Rawhide, Have Gun Will Travel, How the West Was Won, Davy Crockett, Gunsmoke, and Mr. Roger's Neighborhood.

So what do you guys think of the list.  What theme songs do you love?  What songs did TV Guide, or even myself, leave off the list that deserve to be there?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier

Synopsis From Back Cover:

The coachman tried to warn her away from the ruined, forbidding place on the rainswept Cornish coast.  But young Mary Yellan chose instead to honor her mother's dying request that she join her frightened Aunt Patience and huge, hulking Uncle Joss Merlyn at Jamaica Inn.  From her first glimpse on that raw November eve, she could sense the inn's dark power.  But never did Mary dream that she would become hopelessly ensnared in the vile, villainous schemes being hatched within its crumbling walls - or that a handsome, mysterious stranger would so incite her passions... tempting her to love a man who she dares not trust.

I've noticed a theme this year, not one I planned or even really thought of on any level.  It seems that I've revisiting a lot of authors that I first read back in 2011, and that continues with Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier.  I had finally read Rebecca that October and quickly followed it up with her short story collection, The Doll.  Both of those works helped me fall in love with the author's ability to use words to create a lush atmosphere surrounding her characters.

Sadly, I can't say that I loved Jamaica Inn as much as I did those previous two books, but anything I was missing in the story, was more than made up for in the way this author writes.  The story itself is pretty simple.  A young, naive woman is forced, after the death of her mother, to move in with her aunt who she hasn't seen in years.  Once on the journey to the inn that her husband runs, Mary is warned, heavily, away from finishing her journey.  She meets more than one person who has nothing kind to say about the man running Jamaica Inn.  Out of a sense of duty, she continues on her way, and she is of course shocked by the changes she sees in her aunt.  What was once a gay and bright woman, has been replaced by a meek and frightened wraith of her former self.  It doesn't take Mary long to figure out that it's her "uncle" Joss that has put her aunt into this position.

So I'm guess by now that you have figured out there is something horribly wrong with Jamaica Inn.  You probably reached it at around the same time Mary did, if not earlier.  Now I'm saying you probably figured it out before Mary.  Whether you have read the book, or are familiar with this writer's work, you know that du Maurier has a gift of painting the mood with the descriptions and word choices she makes.  You don't need a character to tell you something is wrong with the picture, you can see if for yourself in the way she uses language to paint a vivid picture in your mind.  Because of that alone, I think I would read just about anything by her, even if it it's a toothbrush manual.

Now the rest of the story, I'm sure you can guess.  Mary is determined to figure out the secrets behind Jamaica Inn and it's proprietor.  She uncovers a few family secrets, a murder or two, and a massive smuggling ring being run out of the inn.  I'm sure you can guess that there is a lot more to it than that, but you get the idea.  And being a "Gothic" novel/mystery, you can also assume that not all the characters are who the appear to be, and that not everyone should be taken at face value.  Sometimes those you are inclined to trust, are those you should run away from the quickest.

I have one more book on my shelves waiting to be read, Hungry Hill, and wile it looks to be more of a Gothic romance, not something I would  normally read, I'm looking forward to it just the same.

Challenges: A-Z, VM (Scene of the Crime)