Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Oh. My. GRIMM!

Femnista: Alfred Hitchcock!

I am super-excited to announce that the special Halloween issue of Femnista is finally available, featuring the films of one of my favorite directors, the inimitable Alfred Hitchcock! I took the opportunity to write about one of my favorites, North by Northwest.

Click to launch the full edition in a new window
Online Publishing from YUDU

Enjoy! :)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Review: The Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey

The Fire Rose (Elemental Masters)
By: Mercedes Lackey
Publisher: Baen Fantasy
ISBN: 978-0-671-87750-7

About the book:

Rosalind Hawkins is a medieval scholar from a fine family in Chicago. Unfortunately, her professor father has speculated away the family money and died, leaving young Rosalind with no fortune and no future. Desolate with grief, forced to cut her education short, she agrees to go West to take a job as a governess to a wealthy man in San Francisco. A boom town in the 1850s, in 1905 San Francisco is the center of culture in the new West, and perhaps there she will rediscover a reason for living. But when she arrives at Jason Cameron's mansion on a hill overlooking the Pacific, she discovers that there are no children, not even a wife, in residence: just the gentleman himself and his enigmatic manservant. Penniless, Rosalind stays despite her misgivings. For the household is very odd indeed. Despite there being but one servant, the huge house is immaculate and food is prepared and served in the most elegant manner. Oddest of all is the master of the house: Rosalind never sees him, but communicates only through a speaking tube, and only at night. But then...she is happy. For her job in the household is to read to him: Latin, French, Greek, German - and she feels herself coming alive once more. As for Jason Cameron, through his contact with Rosalind, he, too, is renewed. An Adept and Alchemist, Master of the Element of Fire, he had attempted the old French werewolf transformation - and bungled it. Stuck in wolf form, over the years he had slowly been losing his humanity. Rosalind is bringing it back to him. But when a rival alchemist offers Rosalind the chance to restore her family's fortune in exchange for Jason's secret, who will she side with? And then the earthquake strikes....
One of the hottest writers in the fantasy genre, Mercedes Lackey boasts an audience that is impressively large and rapidly growing. This unusual new fantasy tells the story of a brave young woman caught in a clash between enemy sorcerers in San Francisco in the 1900s--on the eve of the San Francisco earthquake!


Rosalind Hawkins enjoyed a privileged life in turn-of-the-century Chicago as the daughter of a respected, well-to-do academic with the luxury and acumen to pursue advanced academic study. But shortly before his death her father gambled away the family fortune, leaving Rosalind penniless and unable to pursue her graduate work in medieval studies, her future a frightening and uncertain void. But hope arrives in the form of a most unusual query -- Jason Cameron, a wealthy railroad baron in San Francisco seeks governess well-versed in the classics to tutor his children. Grasping this thin hope of salvation, Rosalind heads west, only to discover that where Jason Cameron is concerned, nothing is as it seems. Cameron's immaculate home appears to employ only one servant -- the wily Paul du Mond -- and there are no children. Surrounded by riches beyond her wildest dreams, Rosalind is asked to agree to a most unorthodox arrangement -- reading ancient and obscure texts to Cameron every evening via a speaking tube. Though she's never set eyes on her employer, Rosalind grows to embrace the purpose and opportunities afforded to her by her new life. And Jason, an adept in "magick" and a Master of the Element of Fire, imprisoned in his home by an experiment gone awry, begin to cherish the hope for a future outside his study walls thanks to Rosalind's friendship. But Jason's enemies will do anything to prevent him from finding a cure, and in allying herself to the enigmatic Fire Master, Rosalind finds herself facing dangers that threaten to rob her of the life she's come to love and the future she's dared to hope for with Jason...

It's no secret that I adore fairy tales, and therefore I'm always on the lookout for new-to-me retellings that will put a fresh spin on a classic tale. Beauty and the Beast is one of my all-time favorites, and as such I was thrilled to stumble upon The Fire Rose, Lackey's take on the love story as old as time. In Lackey's alternate early twentieth-century history, "magick" is real, ruled by masters of the four elements -- earth, wind, air, and fire. Masters are individuals whose internal "balance" leans sharply toward one of the four elements, and when that preference is identified they are then apprenticed with an eye toward becoming adepts in their chosen field, able to communicate with the spirits of their element (salamanders for fire, sylphs for air, etc.) and exert control in their sphere of power. Lackey's world-building is one of the novel's greatest strengths -- she takes time (albeit perhaps occasionally tending towards pedanatry) exploring the mechanics of this alternate history, grounding her magic in plausible, elemental connections. In many ways it's workable -- and that sense of the everyday, that sense of credibility shades Rosalind and Jason's world with texture and possibility.

For me, the "Beauty" character is essential to the success of any Beauty and the Beast retelling -- she must not only be able to look beyond the "Beast's" beastly exterior, but preferably possesses an intelligence and poise that sets her apart from other fairy tale heroines of her ilk. I loved Rosalind's love of learning, her passion for education and the written word. Her struggle with finding her "place" in 1905 is handled with aplomb and sensitivity -- she may be an atypical, forward-thinking woman, but she is also very much a product of her time and as such grapples with the restrictions and opportunities afforded to her in an authentic manner. Jason is her perfect match, relishing the challenges provided by a woman who isn't afraid to exercise her intellectual prowess. He's quite proud, which is what gets him into trouble to begin with -- but it also makes it a bit hard to warm to his character. While I loved that Lackey crafts two extremely intelligent leads, I do wish she'd spent a bit less time world-building and a bit more time interjecting some romantic spark into Rosalind and Jason's relationship -- their story is, after all, inspired by arguably one of the most romantic fairy tales. 

The Fire Rose is a thoroughly enjoyable introduction to Lackey's writing, and as a precursor to her British-set Elemental Magic novels, I definitely plan to investigate her magical take on the early twentieth-century further. Considering the source, this is a surprisingly realistic -- at times almost gritty -- retelling. Lackey doesn't shy away from acknowledging the seamier side of life facing unprotected women in 1905 San Francisco. And despite the development of magic in this alternate history, the elemental ties to the 1905 earthquake and its aftermath lends this novel more of a historical than a fantasy feel. It's a unique, refreshing take on fairy tale retellings, and if further novels interject greater romantic spark and character development, I'll be a very happy reader.  

James Bond 007: Movie Deathmatch

I should note that it kinda kills me that Daniel Craig's Bond takes out Tracy in this clip... :P

For another take on all six Bonds interacting with each other thanks to some clever editing, check out this Sky Movies advertisement!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Where I am famous...

My friend Rachel surprised me with a mention on her blog! :) Press play to listen to her talk about novels by Michael Morris and Laura Frantz!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Grimm 2.8: "The Other Side"

This installment of Grimm was a real treat if you're as invested as I am in the "Renard comes undone" fallout from the pure heart potion (not to mention his jawline...that bone structure is so perfect it kills me...I am VERY invested in that respect). But before I go on and on about that, let's talk about the set-up for the crime of the week first.

We're introduced to a group of high school students competing in an academic decathlon, all vying for the coveted slot that will send one of them to the state level to represent their school. (I might as well go ahead and admit it, I don't think I knew such a thing existed prior to this show.) All of the kids are wickedly smart, but Pierce (Logan Miller) is a clear standout, time and again beating his classmates to the answer, sometimes answering correctly before the moderator can get half the question out. Pierce appears to have a mother (Mary Page Keller) who is a classic stage mom, tense, attentive, and prone to grimacing at every slight misstep. Clearly there is a ton of pressure on Pierce to perform and perform well (at this point I pegged Dr. Higgins as an overprotective Wesen mother). After the practice session concludes, Pierce persuades his mom to let him join his friends Brandon, Jenny, and Stan for a bite to eat. All goes well as the kids good-naturedly rib each other about their contest chances and then go their separate ways. Brandon (Titus Mankin Jr.) opts to walk home and is viciously attacked by some sort of creature -- the only question is, which of his teammates is a Wesen?

Meanwhile, Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch) may still not remember Nick (David Giuntoli), but she's willing to play the role of his girlfriend in an attempt to recapture a sense of pre-coma normalcy, hoping to reawaken her memories of their previous relationship. Nick and any and all available members of the police force are attending a dinner where Renard (Sasha Roiz) is accepting some sort of award for his work in the Portland community. (I suppose it's a sign that Christmas is coming, because all this made me think of was A Christmas Story and MAJOR AWARDS! LOL!) Nick and Hank (Russell Hornsby) are all "AWWWW...look at the Captain being all statesman-like," which makes them COMPLETELY OBLIVIOUS to the fact that Renard and Juliette cannot stop DEVOURING EACH OTHER WITH THEIR EYES. Seriously how are they missing this?! Things get even MORE awkward when Nick and Hank are called to the crime scene where Brandon's body has been discovered, leaving Renard to oh-so-gallantly volunteer to give Juliette a ride home.

Now here's where things get...ahem...interesting, to say the least. They are all cute and awkward (or would be really cute and awkward if all of this unspoken tension was the result of genuine feeling as opposed to magical goop), and then Renard sees Juliette enter the house (okay, she's living with a COP, and she keeps a spare key UNDER A FLOWER POT ON HER PORCH...really?!?!) and he just can't drive away. While Juliette showers, Renard enters the house, climbs the stairs, and stands in her bedroom like a total creeper. (Here's the thing...I am adamantly anti-stalking, but I might as well go ahead and admit that I enjoyed this scene because it FINALLY gave us some forward momentum on the whole question of what exactly has this potion done to Renard?!) Roiz makes it patently obvious that he doesn't want to be doing this, but at the same time he can't help himself -- and that internal war results in him nearly getting caught by Juliette, who finds the glass in a photo frame containing a picture of her and Nick mysteriously broken. Whether it is a question of Renard fighting his attraction to Juliette, or his half-hexenbiest nature warring against the effects of the pure heart potion, or both is unclear -- but if this encounter is any indication, Renard is far nearer to a breaking point than I'd ever imagined. (Also, imagine the horrid publicity if it got out that the police chief was mowing down random citizens in his car...yeesh!!)

Okay, so leaving behind angsty Renard for a moment, as soon as Nick and Hank see Brandon's mutilated body they suspect a Wesen is probably behind the attack. This suspicion is reinforced when, after interviewing Brandon's teammates, they meet the coach (Han Altwies) who is so upset during their exchange that he transforms into a Lowen -- the vicious, temperamental  lion-like creatures first introduced in the "fight club." I love how Hank is acclimating to Nick's world, to the point that even though he cannot see most transformations, he is learning to recognize Nick's "Grimm look." :) Suddenly they have a suspect -- but it has to be hard when the crux of your investigation lies on a point of identity that most people can't see, no? 

Shortly after her interview with the police, Jenny (Tierra Valentine) calls Pierce -- she's rather shocked by the fact that he's actually with it enough to study (ostensibly under pressure from his mom). Again this seems to cast suspicion on his mother -- and after last week's episode about an out-of-control Wesen child, I was *sure* that this week would reveal a adult as the perpetrator (was I alone here?). Anyways, Jenny convinces Pierce to meet her at their school, but before he shows up she is attacked by the same creature that killed Brandon. Unfortunately for Pierce, his watch was found clutched in Jenny's hand, leading Nick and Hank to conclude that he is probably a Lowen like his decathlon coach. Deciding to apply a little "Grimm" pressure, Nick pushes Pierce during their subsequent interrogation, hoping he'll transform -- but he is baffled when his efforts are rewarded by Pierce and his mother morphing into Wesen the like of which he's never seen.

Nick and Hank head to Aunt Marie's trailer to research the creature, which turns out to be a Genio Innocuo (innocuous genius, ha!), an extremely rare turtle-type Wesen. Apparently some of Nick's ancestors took a trip with Darwin in the 19th century and documented the creatures' lack of fear for humans -- before promptly killing them (yeah...Nick is, thankfully, a very different breed of Grimm!). As turtles are pretty much essentially incapable of ripping out throats, Nick and Hank go with the assumption that the Lowen coach is behind the killings -- until they arrive at his house and discover that he has been killed as well. THE PLOT THICKENS!

Meanwhile, after his stalker freak-out episode, Renard visits the spice shop seeking a cure for his increasingly obsessive behavior. Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) and Renard are completely unaware of each other's identities or their respective connections to Nick, and that coupled with Renard's hilarious awkwardness at having to seek help make this one of my favorite moments ever in this show's run. Seriously this is comedy gold, people, comedy GOLD!! When Monroe manages to extract the tidbit from Renard that his obsessiveness is 1) for a HUMAN (very important, ha!!) and 2) the result of a kiss, his attempts to go all mano-a-mano relatable are just laugh-out-loud funny. I loved the shout-out to Rosalee (Bree Turner) -- one kiss was all it took? Excuse me while I swoon. :) With Monroe's promise of researching "cure" options, Renard beats a hasty retreat. (Side note: the leather jacket and sunglasses? I DIE. That outfit needs to make a reappearance!)

It turns out that Pierce has been suffering from debilitating headaches (the spate of murders would be enough to cause that, yikes!), and during one such episode he spills a drink on his pillow. When he goes to put the dirty pillow case in the laundry he discovers the machine is filled with blood-tinged water (ICK!). He has a completely understandable freak-out and calls Nick, only to be interrupted by his mother. And then things get REALLY twisted. Because as a genetics expert his mother had conducted experiments on Pierce in-utero in an attempt to give her son the added advantage of characteristics enjoyed by other Wesen -- namely, Lowen. So it is PIERCE who's the culprit -- and the tragic thing is, he isn't even aware of what he's been doing thanks to his mother mixing two strands of apparently VERY incompatible DNA.

This episode opens with a quote from "The Adventures of Pinocchio," which I suppose is valid insomuch as it speaks to Dr. Higgins's attempt to create a child to her personal specifications. Personally, I think the show should have gone for a direct Jekyll and Hyde tie-in, since even though Pierce certainly didn't choose to perform genetic experiments on himself, the result is much the same. All things told I thought this was a rather fascinating take on the idea of a split-personality disorder playing out in this dark fairy tale world.

So, wrapping this up, Nick and Hank chase after Pierce who went all Lowen-ed out on his mother and now that he realizes he's been killing people wants to jump off a bridge. His frenetic morphing between the Genio Innocuo and the Lowen is pretty intense -- at one point I thought he might just implode. In a nifty piece of stuntwork Nick manages to save Pierce's life, and one hopes he can get some psychological help. But the final scene of Pierce in prison seems to suggest that the Lowen is fighting to become the dominant and uncontrollable aspect of his personality.

As I was typing this I realized I almost FORGOT TO MENTION that Adalind (Claire Coffee) and Eric (James Frain), Renard's royal brother are back! I loved this -- not only because they were supposedly in Vienna (I mean a swanky set in Portland dubbing as Vienna...ha!), but James Frain was wearing a tux! And he was dropping a few clues about my favorite enigma -- namely, that when it was discovered that one of their father's mistresses was a hexenbiest, she made for America with her son, a.k.a. the Captain (do you think we might meet his mother at some point? or get a flashback episode?! that would be awesome!). I loved watching Adalind's expressions as Eric was bad-mouthing seems like she doesn't want to admit that she once was one, since I'm thinking she wants to use Eric to facilitate some sort of revenge against his brother and Nick, perhaps even regain her powers -- but you can tell she just wanted to wallop him for disparaging her kind. Definitely looking forward to that alliance's development!

The episode ends with Renard returning to the spice shop only to get the bad news from Monroe that unless he's willing to bring in the "object of his affliction" so they can undertake a joint cure, the best he can hope for is "dampening" his obsession. But since his "affliction" is the result of dark magic, Monroe warns that it will only get progressively worse, leading him further desperate behavior, i.e. removing any barrier that stands between him and Juliette. Renard really did look so despondent for a second that I REALLY REALLY wanted to give him a hug. But I didn't. I left him to wallow, because I enjoy Renard angst too much. *wink* It's coming at an incredibly slow burn, but we appear to be seeing the groundwork for some much-needed tension between Renard and Nick, which will be especially interesting considering that Renard's plans and goals relative to Nick have never been fully spelled out.

Bonus Renard Being Devastatingly Handsome Photo:

P.S., AGAIN: I forgot to mention the brief appearance of Bones "squint" Michael Grant Terry as the eager new intern Ryan, who is apparently a big fan of Nick and Hank's work. My guess is he stumbles dangerously close to the truth of Nick's Grimm identity -- Terry is slated for a return appearance in episode ten on Nov. 2nd. (Yeesh, there was a LOT going on in this episode, wasn't there?)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Call the Midwife Episode 1.4

Call the Midwife continued with another stellar episode on PBS last night (at this point I'm starting to get really upset about the fact that there are only two episodes left this season!). This show, this is capable of making me cheer one moment and weep the next. And the characters -- not only are the regular cast members extraordinarily and compassionately well-drawn on-screen, but each week's guests -- the "everyday"  men and women of the East End that the midwives and nuns interact with, are just as richly-drawn and unforgettably realized. I LOVE this. Here's this week's episode summary from the BBC website:
The episode commences with Jenny delivering a little girl, Gillian, to Shirley Redmond. As Shirley's previous baby was stillborn, Sister Evangelina is also in attendance. Jenny has now been working in the East End for some time, and feels privileged to share such a precious part of these women's lives. Soon after Shirley gives birth, a bombshell drops; the newborn baby has been snatched from her pram, outside the Redmond household. A full-scale search is launched, and the entire community becomes involved in the quest to reunite the desperate parents with their child.
Cynthia, meanwhile, finds herself involved in an equally traumatic situation as she witnesses true love and heartbreak when she meets David and Margaret during their time of need. A middle-aged headmaster, David and his young musician wife Margaret are expecting their firstborn when she suffers from eclampsia. It is a heart wrenching case, and Cynthia observes the strength of soul mates and tragedy of loss.
Just as the trail appears to have gone cold with Shirley's baby, she is found. She was taken by Mary, the Irish girl whom Jenny had befriended previously. Mary has been unable to resolve the grief she felt after losing her own child. The police want to prosecute Mary but, urged by Jenny, Sister Julienne and Sister Evangelina intervene and ask for leniency on Mary's behalf.
The episode opens with Jenny (Jessica Raine) being awakened early one morning by Sister Evangelina (Pam Ferris) -- Shirley Redmond (Emma Noakes) is in labor, and Evangelina will accompany Jenny just in case there are complications, as Shirley's last pregnancy resulted in a stillborn child. I absolutely LOVED Shirley and her husband Ron (Tom Colley). For her part, Shirley is rather tense (understandable, given the circumstances), almost stoic, perhaps too afraid to hope that this time her labors will result in a healthy child. And Ron -- his nervous tension was just too cute! I loved their on-screen chemistry, and the palpable relief both exhibit when they are presented with a healthy daughter -- oh I could've cried tears of joy with them for the relief and the precious nature of the gift that is their young daughter's life. On a related, but slightly tangential note, I thought it was interesting that this episode introduced us to East End residents like the Redmonds, whose lodgings -- while not luxurious -- are definitely several steps above some of the more squalid apartment buildings we've seen midwives visit in previous weeks.

Meanwhile, as far as the other midwives are concerned, this week the attention shifts to the quiet, studious Cynthia (Bryony Hannah). She has a brief, terse encounter with Margaret Jones (Thomasin Rand), a new mother expecting her first child who arrives at the regular free National Health Services clinic and is appalled by the behavior of some of the other mothers in attendance. Some quick backstory on Mr. and Mrs. Jones...David Jones (Tom Goodman-Hill) is a middle-aged schoolmaster, who has recently relocated to the East End with his bride of less than a year, an accomplished violinist. Theirs was a whirlwind romance -- and while it is never specified, one gets the impression that Margaret hails from a background more well-to-do than her husband's current position allows. Feeling a bit under the weather, but a week away from her regular doctor's appointment, Margaret visits the clinic and insists on meeting with the doctor in charge. Her rather abrupt manner irritates Cynthia, particularly when Margaret leaves after witnessing a rather coarse mother get into a verbal spat with Shirley Redmond.

While Margaret's behavior at the clinic annoyed me a bit, I loved the all-too brief scenes giving us an intimate glimpse of her marriage. David is particularly sweet as he is SO in love with his beautiful, talented wife, and Goodman-Hill shades his performance with a certain poignancy -- this is a man who perhaps never expected to marry, so when love came it was all the sweeter. (He was a slightly familiar face thanks to brief appearances in the likes of Foyle's War and Inspector Lewis.) En route to Margaret's doctor's appointment, she has a violent siezure in the car and then passes out, just as Cynthia and Trixie are passing on their bicycles. Cynthia is horrified to realize Margaret was nearly a patient at the clinic earlier in the week, and feeling responsible takes a particular interest in her case. The news couldn't be worse -- Margaret has suffered developed eclampsia and lost the baby, and tragically the toxemia is so advanced the doctors can do nothing but provide palliative care. With Sister Julienne's (Jenny Agutter) permission, Cynthia determines to follow Margaret's case through to the end. But as Julienne sadly knows, nothing in Cynthia's past experiences has prepared her for the emotional toll of providing end-of-life care.

With the two "cases" of the week thus established, this episode grants us a further glimpse into the personal lives and friendships that have developed between the four young midwives, Jenny, Cynthia, Trixie (Helen George) and Chummy (Miranda Hart). Their work may be life-or-death, not to mention extraordinarily stressful, but here we're given a rare and refreshing glimpse into the humor and friendship that binds these young women together. Jenny is still entertaining calls from Jimmy (George Rainsford), which leads to a humorous scene where everyone wants to listen in on their conversation (though as yet there are no real romantic developments). Chummy's ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC relationship with Constable Noakes (Ben Caplan) is progressing nicely, to the delight of everyone at Nonnatus House. I am SO CRAZY INVESTED in the Chummy/Noakes romance it is ridiculous. Noakes is so into every little thing Chummy does or says, people it  positively makes my heart sing! When Noakes invites Chummy to a weekly dance, she is terribly stressed -- but with the encouragement of the girls, she accepts and they resolve to make a large party of the affair, including Jimmy as an escort for Jenny. Trixie is an incorrigible flirt, but she has a heart of gold. And shy Jenny -- I would love to see her find a romantic interest, but here she is so burdened by the plight of the Jones' that it is all she can do to attend the dance and observe the happiness of her friends.

After the midwives leave for the dance, Sister Bernadette (Laura Main) has a brief scene but very moving scene. Out of all of the nuns, as the youngest she is in a unique position to relate most to the midwives -- but their closeness can only go so far, as her vows and the lifestyle that accompany them stand as a stark line of demarcation in their friendships. Once the girls depart for the dance, Bernadette slowly removes her head covering, loosens her hair, and one can imagine the thoughts crossing her mind -- the what ifs, the wondering how her life would be different if she hadn't taken vows. Not regret -- but a natural curiosity, and perhaps a stinging prick at the reminder of how her vows, her uniform, set her apart.

The Nonnatus House community is shocked when they receive news that Shirley Redmond's child is missing, snatched from her pram which had been sitting just outside the front door of her home. Watching Shirley's happiness disintegrate is extraordinarily painful -- Noakes' performance is ass raw and honest as it gets. It is particularly intense when she briefly falls under suspicion that she wanted to get rid of her child, due to an off-hand comment overheard at the clinic about being frustrated by her daughter's midnight wake-up calls. The suspicion is as salt in an open wound, and coupled with the resulting media circus Shirley and her husband sink ever-deeper into depression and fear, as the days pass and no clue is found to their daughter's whereabouts.

 The kidnapper turns out to be Mary (Amy McAllister), the young prostitute introduced in episode two who was forced to give up her baby for adoption since she herself is still underage. Since losing her child Mary has suffered a complete psychotic break, and in an unguarded moment grabbed the Redmond baby as her own, living with the child in an abandoned warehouse. When she's nearly caught stealing a bottle of milk, the police follow the trail to the warehouse, bringing Jenny along should they find the child. Jenny is absolutely horrified when she realizes that she knows the perpetrator that has destroyed the Redmonds' lives, and the scene where she slowly works to convince Mary to give up the child is tense and heart-breaking. As horrifying as Mary's crime is, Jenny realizes the girl is in desperate need of serious medical and psychological help -- and in a bold move convinces Sisters Evangelina and Julienne to ask the Redmonds to extend mercy towards Mary, after their daughter is restored to them. People, I don't know if I could do it...but therein lies the power of this show -- it is a raw, honest look at life, and a beautiful illustration of how the power of love and mercy, tendered in the midst of impossible circumstances, can transform a life.

Sadly David and Margaret don't get their happy ending -- but while tragic, as Cynthia witnesses first-hand there is beauty in the goodbye. Love and pain go hand-in-hand, as in opening yourself to the former you run the risk of the latter. I was incredibly moved by Cynthia's devotion to the couple, and her vigil is a powerful, intense, life-changing experience. To walk with someone who had been, until the worst day of their life, a stranger, through the most painful moments, to be privy to that final goodbye and to stand by them as they accept that the future they never imagined, never wanted, cannot be avoided -- that is an incredible gift and trust. And it is one Cynthia bears with an strength and poise that belies her slight frame and her years. I loved the final scene, where Cynthia opens David's farewell gift of a record featuring the music that made him fall in love with his wife. With Jenny at her side, Cynthia can finally give herself permission to grieve for all she has seen -- and in the end, as Vanessa Redgrave's voiceover reminds viewers -- in the end what matters, the bedrock of what gets us through, is love.

This fourth episode was another gorgeous, moving installment of the Nonnatus House midwives' story. I was particularly struck by the excellence of the set and costume designs, probably thanks to the detailed glimpses we get of the Redmonds' home and the midwives' rooms. The little details join with the stellar performances that result in a wholly absorbing experience, truly a show that transports you to the faraway time and place of the 1950s East End. Very well done.

No Safe Harbor by Elizabeth Ludwig

This week, the

is introducing

Bethany House Publishers (October 1, 2012)


Elizabeth Ludwig is an award-winning author whose work has been featured on Novel Journey, the Christian Authors Network, and The Christian Pulse. Her first novel, Where the Truth Lies, which she co-authored with Janelle Mowery, earned her the 2008 IWA Writer of the Year honors. This book was followed in 2009 by “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” part of a Christmas anthology collection called Christmas Homecoming, also from Barbour Publishing.

In 2010, her first full-length historical novel Love Finds You in Calico, California earned Four Stars from the Romantic Times. Books two and three of Elizabeth’s mystery series, Died in the Wool (Barbour Publishing) and Inn Plain Sight (Spyglass Lane), respectively, released in 2011.

Coming in 2012 is Elizabeth’s newest historical series from Bethany House Publishers. No Safe Harbor, the first book in the Edge of Freedom Series, will release in October, with two more books following in 2013 and 2014.
Elizabeth is an accomplished speaker and teacher, and often attends conferences and seminars, where she lectures on editing for fiction writers, crafting effective novel proposals, and conducting successful editor/agent interviews. Her popular literary blog, The Borrowed Book, enjoyed a wide readership in its first full year, with more than 17,000 visitors in 2011. Along with her husband and two children, Elizabeth makes her home in the great state of Texas.


The Thrill of Romantic Suspense Meets the Romance of 1800s America

Lured by a handful of scribbled words across a faded letter, Cara Hamilton sets off from 1896 Ireland on a quest to find the brother she'd thought dead. Her search lands her in America, amidst a houseful of strangers and one man who claims to be a friend--Rourke Walsh.

Despite her brother's warning, Cara decides to trust Rourke and reveals the truth about her purpose in America. But he is not who he claims to be, and as rumors begin to circulate about an underground group of dangerous revolutionaries, Cara's desperation grows. Her questions lead her ever closer to her brother, but they also bring her closer to destruction as Rourke's true intentions come to light.

If you would like to read the first chapter of No Safe Harbor, go HERE.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Upstairs Downstairs 2.2: "The Love that Pays the Price"

Upstairs Downstairs continued its second-season run on Masterpiece Classic with another thoroughly enjoyable episode this past Sunday. The premiere was a fantastic introduction to just how the threat of war is impacting the residents of 165 Eaton Place, both upstairs and down -- and that pressure, combined with the everyday tensions that come from any gathering of colorful, passionate characters under one roof, threatens to fracture the Holland household beyond repair. Here's the episode summary from the PBS website:
The full, formal settings come out as an array of luminaries arrive for a grand evening at 165 Eaton Place. Amidst the jocular conversation, Sir Hallam Holland receives an unexpected and serious offer – one that could significantly alter life for everyone at Eaton Place.

Mrs. Thackeray, the cook, has reconnected with family, opening up the prospect for a different life. And the tug of familial bonds is felt upstairs as well when Sir Hallam and Lady Agnes receive an alarming 2 AM call from Lady Persie, who in the middle of the fiery chaos of Germany, is frantic to come home.

With the pact between England and Germany broken, Sir Hallam discerns that England is on the edge of the abyss. And as darkness encroaches, those upstairs and down unite to intervene, offering hope in fragile times.

Ed Stoppard (Zen), Keeley Hawes, Claire Foy (Little Dorrit) and Anne Reid (Bleak House) star in episode two of Upstairs Downstairs, Season 2.

A major aspect of this episode involves the growth of seeds of tension and discord in the Holland marriage, tensions reflected both upstairs and down, a mirror of the unease bubbling beneath the surface of European politics since the signing of the Munich Pact. The episode opens with Lady Agnes's (Keeley Hawes) tragic discovery that she will not be able to bear further children, thanks to the difficult birth of her second that ended in a Cesarean. To distract herself from this blow (I suspect she's suffering from undiagnosed depression at this juncture), she throws herself into planning an elaborate dinner party hosting Ambassador Kennedy, his wife Rose and son Jack, and a business acquaintance of theirs -- millionaire Casper Landry.

Hallam (Ed Stoppard) meanwhile continues to be deeply troubled by the ramifications of the Munich Pact and his inherent distrust of Hitler and his policies. He's also keeping a secret from Agnes -- the secret that during his time in Munich, his attempts to convince her sister Persie to return to London ended in a kiss, a kiss that he didn't ask for but didn't exactly recoil from, either. Persie (Claire Foy) remains adamant that she plans to remain in Berlin -- but as is her norm a dangerous discontent bubbles beneath the surface of her intentionally carefree demeanor. Her insistence on bringing up their kiss in conversations with Hallam hints that her relocation to Berlin has only served to entrench her less-admirable qualities even more deeply into her persona -- if she has no qualms about sowing discord where she can, even if it involves her only sister's husband.

Meanwhile downstairs, Mrs. Thackeray (Anne Reid) is thrilled that her nephew Tommy (Tom Bennett) has accepted a new position in London, giving her easy access to visit him and his wife Enid (Niamh McGrady) and son Cyril (Joseph Howse). Mrs. Thackeray can be proud, and a little silly at times, but she feels very deeply about family and position and it is glaringly apparent that she loves the chance to spend time with members of her extended family. When she uses Eaton Place kitchen supplies to make some violet macaroons for Tommy, she runs afoul of Mr. Pritchard (Adrian Scarborough), who is nothing if not a stickler for the rules. There's always been some tension between Pritchard and Mrs. Thackeray -- as the butler he is the defacto ruler of the staff, but as queen of the kitchen Mrs. Thackeray is loathe to cede authority in anything involving food.

Events at 165 Eaton Place reach a crisis the night of the formal dinner for the Kennedys. Knowing Hallam's politics, the idea that he's going to find anything appealing about Ambassador Kennedy's (William Hope) pro-appeasement, pro-Germany policies is a long-shot, if not an outright joke. With war apparently avoided, Kennedy offers Hallam a position in America as his family's foreign affairs advisor. One wonders if Hallam felt a little outnumbered, between the presence of Kennedy and a desire to breach the rift that his anti-German views have caused with his long-time friend the Duke of Kent (Blake Ritson). Or perhaps he's running from Persie, willing to consider America for a chance to start fresh with his family? I don't know why I was so surprised by the appearance of the Kennedys, nevermind the stretch of reconciling Hallam's policies with Joe Kennedy's -- no way was Heidi Thomas going to pass up the chance to have the Kennedys grace the halls of Eaton Place.

Businessman Casper Landry (Michael Landes) was a welcome appearance, even if he is determined to hit on Agnes, simply because I think Landes is ADORABLE. Landry is a charismatic Jewish businessman who made his millions by selling a successful "hangover cure" tablet. Landes made (for me anyways!) an unforgettable appearance in the Marple episode, What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw, which I rewatch ad nauseum in large part because of his presence. His looks are SO well suited to films set in the '40s and '50s. Very all-American. :)

When Pritchard and Johnny (Nico Mirallegro) overhear Kennedy's job offer, it creates no little stir belowstairs. But nothing compares to the discovery that Jack Kennedy (Robbie Jarvis), sick on oysters, has made his way to the KITCHEN (oh the horrors!). Here I just have to note that while Jarvis had a decent accent, he has to be the least looking Kennedy-esque actor I've ever seen. ANYWAYS...Mrs. Thackeray takes a very motherly interest in his well-being, even calling him DEAR -- and while Jack doesn't object, Pritchard hits the roof as that familiarity crosses all sorts of class boundaries. Fed up with Pritchard's rules (and still not letting go of the whole conscientious objector thing revealed in the premiere), Mrs. Thackeray quits on the spot and takes off for her nephew's house. (This has awkward mother-in-law-type moment written ALL over it, no?)

Completely oblivious to the turmoil in the kitchen, the Hollands and their guests decide to visit a Soho jazz club. There was something almost intoxicating about the rarefied atmosphere in the club...such wealth, such privilege, such heady dissipation. The whole scene was really beautifully staged -- I do so love this show's attention to period detail.The more Hallam drinks, the more he seems amenable to the idea of moving to America -- and as Caspar flirts endlessly with Agnes, it's clear she finds the possibility of the move and its accompanying prestige intoxicating.

As Hallam and Agnes head home, they share a really lovely moment, even if it is underscored with a desperation born of some inherent knowledge that they are at a pivot point -- and all their future happiness depends on which fork in the road they take. (Of course I'm yelling "run from Persie, but not all the way to America, Hallam you idiot!") When this couple works it's a beautiful thing, and the simple romance of a midnight stroll, taking in the stars while laying on a playground spinning wheel (what the heck are those things called? and more importantly, how sad is it that I can't remember? :P).

Their romantic moment is ruined, however, by a late-night phone call from Persie, begging for help. It is Kristallnacht, Night of Broken Glass, and she is caught in the middle of the terrifying violence that is seeing Jewish businesses, homes, and synogogues destroyed, with thousands of German Jews arrested. I'd like to think that the senseless violence would make Persie realize who and what she's aligned herself with by her reckless embrace of Nazi socialism, but I fear she's too far gone for even the possibility of redemption. News of the violence abruptly awakens Hallam from the fantasy of leaving London -- he's determined to bring Persie to safety and prepare for the coming conflict -- Kristallnacht is irrefutable evidence that Germany is far from dedicated to the promise of peace.

For those paying attention to the pulse of world events, Kristallnacht is a terrifying signal that time is running out for Germany's Jewish population, as Mr. Amanjit (Art Malik) discovers when he's sent to Lotte's (Alexia James) boarding school. Lotte, if you remember, was the daughter of Rachel, who fled persecution in Germany and took a position as maid in the Holland household. Following her tragic death, Hallam made Lotte his ward, determined to provide for her future. Given the poignant friendship that developed between Rachel and Mr. Amanjit, I loved the fact that he wanted to visit Lotte's school for a report on her progress. As a Sikh, he more than anyone can empathize with being an "other" in society -- as he tells the headmistress, no matter how much Lotte wants to shed her German roots, she will always be a Jewess, of another race, and events in Germany are stark reminders that some are never willing to forget the difference.

It turns out that Mrs. Fuller (Lucy Cohu), the headmistress of Lotte's school, knowing Hallam's compassion for Lotte's situation hopes to use his connections to allow her to help foster more Jewish children, whose lives are in increasing peril since Kristallnacht. I was thrilled to see Cohu make an appearance in this show as I think she is such a classy actress, and her looks and demeanor are perfect for a '40s-era period piece. Cohu was just seen on Masterpiece Mystery in the Inspector Lewis episode Fearful Symmetry. Mr. Amanjit takes this idea and runs with it, which is fortuitous since after last week I was wondering what he was still doing on this show. :P

So now that this episode has given Mr. Amanjit fresh purpose, he passes the favor on to Hallam's Aunt Blanche (Alex Kingston), who thus far has served little purpose other than appropriating the rooms formerly occupied by her half-sister Maud. Mr. Amanjit recognizes Blanche's academic background and rather brusque, no-nonsense manner as just the sort of personality traits needed to help organize local efforts to get Jewish children to safety. The reality of what those children faced, and the seemingly insurmountable obstacles of funds, support, and organizational logistics that those who wanted to do something were tasked with overcoming is just heart-breaking to watch play out on-screen. Even Hallam, an outspoken advocate for anti-German policies, struggles to find the hope, the belief that England's strict immigration policies can be changed in time to make a difference.

But persevere they must and do, organizing the Refugee Children Movement -- also referred to as the Kindertransport -- which ended up saving thousands of Jewish children from the Nazi menace. Buoyed by a hefty donation from Casper Landry (thanks to a coy appeal from Agnes -- seriously what is WITH Casper's obsession with the rumba? LOL), the first wave of refugees are scheduled to arrive. They're met at the station by Mr. Amanjit and Blanche, and over the strains of a children's choir singing "I Vow to Thee, My Country" -- and at this point I nearly lose it. The thought of what those children endured, the loss of family, history, a "normal" childhood -- it just breaks my heart. And then to think of those family members they'd left makes me want to weep. This was an incredibly moving sequence, and I loved seeing the characters get involved in this effort.

Back-tracking a bit, I'd like to touch on Mrs. Thackeray and the hole her absence leaves in the lives of the Eaton Place downstairs staff. Mrs. Thackeray throws herself whole-heartedly into preparing gourmet meals for her nephew and his family, putting everything "on account" -- which causes no end of stress for her nephew's working wife. I thought the tension here was a really poignant illustration of the cost of a life in service -- Mrs. Thackeray clearly values family, but her time serving the wealthy has impeded her ability to relate to a working family's lifestyle and financial limitations. In many respects one could argue that the price of a life in service was the sacrifice of a normal family life with those they serve becoming a surrogate family.

Pritchard and Johnny have found themselves on kitchen duty in Mrs. Thackeray's absence, which leads to Johnny making a very telling comment to the effect that "everyone is out of their proper place." Of course he's referring to the staffing situation, but it hints at the social upheaval to come with the war's impact on social classes and the roles of women in the workforce. Much like Downton Abbey during the war, this is another rarefied world on the cusp of great change. Happily for Pritchard's stress levels (and the stomachs of everyone in the household), he devises a sensitive way of wooing Mrs. Thackeray back to the Holland kitchens. Placing an advertisement in the paper, he has it delivered by Spargo -- and realizing that continuing to live with her nephew is straining good relations with what remains of her small family, Mrs. Thackeray packs up and returns to work. And both she and Pritchard hold fast to their dignity, with a gentle nod to the new spirit of peaceful agreement between them.

Speaking of Harry Spargo (Neil Jackson), there was not NEARLY enough of him and Beryl (Laura Haddock) in this episode to suit me. I did think the scene early in the episode, when Beryl was shucking oysters and feeds one to Harry was ADORABLE. But poor Harry, when he jokes about how she needs to be careful feeding him aphrodisiacs gets a thorough smackdown when Beryl takes exception to his playful remark. I really don't think he meant anything *too* untoward -- you just have to look at Spargo's face in any of his scenes -- since he kicked his obsession with socialism to the curb there is a wonderful lightness to his expression and demeanor that I just love. Because let's face it, he is ADORABLE (and if Downton proves anything, I apparently have a thing for chauffeurs in period dramas!).

Considering Harry's romantic history with Persie, it was interesting to note the tone of their first meeting in two years, when Hallam takes the car to the airstrip to pick Persie up from her Berlin flight. (Before I forget, I should note it was interesting to see Persie acknowledge that she's been living as a "kept woman," subject to the whims of her lovers, in her last phone call with Hallam prior to getting her out of Germany. I mean what BROUGHT her to the point where she felt this was some way to live? It isn't as if she was wholly without resources or family connections. Silly twit.) Anyways, Persie gets off the plane and is she grateful? NOOOOO. She also makes a rather pointed remark to Spargo about "old times," but thankfully he's moved WAY past her...Hallam with his "white knight" complex, is I am afraid another story.

I really enjoyed this episode, particularly the Mrs. Thackeray storyline as I found it unexpectedly poignant (Anne Reid really reminds me of my maternal grandmother in certain respects), and the accord she reaches with Mr. Pritchard very well done. More than that, though, I continue to adore how Heidi Thomas weaves the political history of the time period throughout the characters' lives. The "living history" aspect of this series is one of its strongest assets. This episode did a fantastic job of establishing more of the characters -- particularly Mrs. Thackeray, but also Blanche and Mr. Amanjit. (I'm starting to feel rather bad for the new kitchen maid Eunice, played by Ami Metcalf, as so far she's been given very little to do other than look quizzical.) Looking forward to seeing the turmoil Persie's return brings to 165 Eaton Place -- and please, for the love, give a girl more scenes with Harry! *wink*

Gratuitous Harry picture, because this episode needed MORE HARRY:

Isn't that better? I think so. :)

best two minutes of your day, guaranteed

A new Skyfall trailer:

I can't stop smiling. :)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

coming this Friday on Grimm...

Since I've watched this multiple times today (seriously, I can't help myself), I figured I'd share it on the blog...that's just an excuse to watch this clip, where Renard goes to the spice shop and asks MONROE for help with his Juliette obsession. I give you Renard's Desperation:

This has, in no small way, made my WEEK. I seriously can't stop smiling.

Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden

This week, the

is introducing

Bethany House Publishers (October 1, 2012)



A Word from Elizabeth:

I am a college librarian in central Florida by day, but by night I can be found pounding out inspirational historical novels the moment the sun goes down. I love writing books about fiercely intelligent people who are confronted with profound challenges. As a rather introverted person, I have found that writing is the best way for me to share my faith and a sense of resilience with others.

I married relatively late in life, which turned out to be an odd kind of blessing. I had gotten very good at leading a solo life, and although I was not particularly content being alone, I had become reconciled to it. Most importantly, it taught me never to take my husband for granted. I give daily thanks for the blessing of being able to share a life with my favorite person on the planet.

As for who I am? I love old Hitchcock films, the hour before sunset, a long, sweaty run through the Florida countryside, and a glass of good wine. After spending my entire adult life on a college campus (either as a student or a librarian) I have finally been able to pursue my ultimate goal of writing professionally.


Love and Lives are Threatened in Camden's Latest Offering

As a child, Lydia Pallas became all too familiar with uncertainty when it came to the future. Now, she's finally carved out a perfect life for herself--a life of stability and order with no changes, surprises, or chaos of any kind. She adores her apartment overlooking the bustling Boston Harbor, and her skill with languages has landed her a secure position as a translator for the U.S. Navy.

However, it is her talent for translation that brings her into contact with Alexander Banebridge, or "Bane," a man who equally attracts and aggravates her. When Bane hires Lydia to translate a seemingly innocuous collection of European documents, she hesitantly agrees, only to discover she is in over her head.

Just as Bane's charm begins to win her over, Lydia learns he is driven by a secret campaign against some of the most dangerous criminals on the East Coast, compelled by his faith and his past. Bane forbids any involvement on Lydia's part, but when the criminals gain the upper hand, it is Lydia on whom he must depend.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Against the Tide, go HERE.

Monday, October 15, 2012

North by Northwest: Inside the Script

North by Northwest: Inside the Script
By: The Editors of Warner Bros. Digital Publishing
Publisher: Warner Bros. Digital Publishing

About the book:
Explore the twists and turns of director Alfred Hitchcock's most spectacular suspense thriller in an engaging new way with North by Northwest: Inside the Script. This highly illustrated, meticulously designed eBook features the complete shooting script along with a 14 chapter, in-depth look at the film's development and its backlot secrets.

Warner Bros. Digital Publishing proudly presents North by Northwest: Inside the Script, a monumental digital exploration of the sophisticated screen classic starring Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint. Follow the film's adventurous tale with insights that Inside the Script delivers at the touch of a finger. Go behind the screenplay to learn about Hitchcock's methods and memes, from MacGuffins to deceptive appearances. Step inside the production process and witness the talent and technique it takes to develop a single idea into a cinematic classic. "Oooh" and "Aah" at the film's fashions, its breathtaking sets and its charming leading man through hundreds of beautifully reproduced production stills and behind-the-scenes photos.

Every volume in the Inside the Script series offers elegant design and formatting not usually seen in eBooks. Zoom in on high-resolution images and examine every detail. Customize your reading experience using internal links that instantly take you from scene to stills, from act to analysis, from dialogue to production memos. Use the Image Catalog to quickly locate any picture in the book. Learn why North by Northwest is the ultimate thriller from the Master of Suspense.

North by Northwest: Inside the Script includes:
  • The complete, authentically formatted shooting script for North by Northwest, in a new, customizable eBook format. 
  • 14 chapters about the film, including its development and creation, as well as master filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock’s story techniques. 
  • The storyboards for the film's famous crop-duster sequence. See how little or how much changed from page to screen. 
  • An exhaustive peek inside Hitchcock’s own papers, including production schedules, story department memos, daily scene reports, costume sketches, legal memos and post-production notes on music, titles and editing. 
  • Image galleries with 158 zoomable, high-resolution images of costumes, on-set stills, movie posters, original production sketches and plans, and more! 
  • Glossaries of historical and film terms. 
  • Production timeline.

I'm a huge fan of Alfred Hitchcock's films, and while many rank as beloved favorites North by Northwest consistently rises to the top of the list as my all-time favorite by the Master of Suspense. As such, this behind-the-scenes book on the making of the film was an irresistible purchase. I read this book on a standard Kindle, so a large part of this rating reflects how the material works on a regular, "no-frills" e-reader versus more interactive tablets such as the Kindle Fire or iPad (as in my opinion the film itself is stellar). The first twenty-percent of this book contains a variety of chapters on the history and conception of the film, which are for my money the book's strongest assets. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on Hitchcock's directorial process, the conception of the script and his collaboration with screenwriter Ernest Lehman. Also of particular interest is the chapter on Hitchcock's use of "MacGuffins" in his films -- the device or object that drives the plot forward, with little or no attention paid to how much sense it makes to the characters or the story arc. I also found the chapter on the filming and sets, particularly how the Rushmore sequences were created and filmed, extremely informative.

I suspect this book would work best on full-color readers with touch screens. There are links throughout the chapters and script that refer to explanatory material earlier or later in the text, or to one of the film stills in the many photo galleries sprinkled throughout the book. On the six-inch black and white display of the regular Kindle, the photos are crisp and clear but would be so much better in color, with the easy zoom option on touch devices. And the five-way controller on the Kindle makes link access somewhat cumbersome. But the material, particularly for aficionados of the film or Hitchcock in general, serves as a pretty interesting (and to my amateur eye) and well-documented reference or "keepsake." For standard e-reader users, I just wish there'd been the inclusion of even more detailed behind-the scenes information -- a 20 to 80 percent ratio is tantalizing, but not enough to make this a truly must-have film resource.

Call the Midwife Episode 1.3

Call the Midwife may be turning into one of my favorite television-related things ever. True story. As per the standard set forth by this season's first two episodes, this week's third installment was heart-breaking, tear-inducing, and beautifully, wonderfully love- and life-affirming. Here's the episode summary of this week's action from the BBC website:
Jenny is placed on the district nursing roster for a few weeks, to extend her experience of community practice. Her first patient is a gentle old soldier, Joe, who is suffering from appalling leg ulcers. In his eighties and almost blind, Joe is effectively confined to his one-roomed tenement flat and enjoys Jenny's visits. Although not naturally chatty, Jenny appreciates his stories, and a tentative friendship forms.
The story of their emerging friendship is interwoven with that of Ted, who becomes a father rather late in life. His wife, Winnie, is in her forties, and had thought her days of nappies and babies were well behind her. They have only recently married. For Ted, a childless widower in his sixties, it was a stunningly sweet and unexpected romance; for Winnie, it was a pragmatic step that secured her future. The pregnancy is a surprise to them both and Ted, who never imagined he would be a father, is overjoyed, and throws his heart and soul into the preparations. Winnie, sadly, seems less than thrilled. Ted is exceptionally solicitous and he enthusiastically accompanies Winnie to her clinic visits, and takes the lead in sorting out the pram and the layette.
Despite her growing fondness for Joe, Jenny remains revolted by the filthy condition of his flat and even feels unable to accept a cup of tea from him, so unclean are his cups. Their friendship is saved - and indeed cemented - when he produces a bottle of sherry. As the buildings where Joe lives in come up for being condemned, there is talk of moving him into an old people's hospital. Saddened by this development, Joe focuses all his energy on a forthcoming regimental reunion - he has been unable to attend for many years due to mobility problems, but Jenny has a plan.
Jenny (Jessica Raine) has come a long way towards acclimating to the less-than-hygienic conditions that come with life in the East End, but her latest patient assignment tests her fragile resolve to the max. Apparently the midwives of Nonnatus House serve on some sort of rotating basis on the district nursing roster, where they perform in-home health visits of a more general nature (attending to the needs of the elderly, housebound, etc.). Jenny is assigned to Joe Collett (Roy Hudd), a veteran of the Boer war, who lives in an East End tenement and needs visits three times per week to change the dressings on his legs as he suffers from ulcers. Joe is SUCH a heart-breaking charmer. Starved for company and friendship, desperate for connection, he is thrilled by Jenny's visit -- she, less so by the appalling condition of his flat and the filthy residue on his dishes. But prompted by Sister Julienne's (Jenny Agutter) gentle but firm admonishment to fulfill her calling, Jenny perseveres and is gradually won over by gentle Joe's friendship and his heart-wrenching life story. (Seriously, when he revealed that he lost both his sons to World War I and his beloved wife to the Blitz, I nearly bawled.)

Joe's character is a beautiful, poignant illustration of the elderly -- what they have to offer as well as the heart-breaking reality of how they are often treated by society. By and large I don't think the Western world takes to aging well. Let us, like Jenny, learn to have patience with the Joes of the world...because if God grants us years, one day we'll be in the position of hungering for a little kindness and friendship. When Jenny  learns that Joe has been invited to a forthcoming regimental reunion, she determines to find a way for him to go -- but given his physical limitations, she'll have to enlist the aide of a most unlikely ally...

In the premiere Jenny mentioned something along the lines of not being interested in boys, because the only one she wants is one she can never have. This episode sees the introduction of Jimmy (George Rainsford), who I can only assume is the young man in question (if anyone has seen the whole season, and I'm off-base on this, please let me know!). While this episode doesn't delve too deeply into Jimmy's background, he's apparantly a bit of a charming ne'er-do-well who leverages his long friendship with Jenny into sleeping in the Nonnatus House boiler room. This leads to some hilarious scenes as Jenny is constantly trying to keep Jimmy from being discovered. I loved the "agreement" she reaches with the enterprising handyman Fred (Cliff Parisi), who it turns out uses the boiler room to store inventory for his supplemental income ventures. *wink*

Jimmy is SUCH a cutie -- for some reason he really reminded me of Rolfe from The Sound of Music (the charming Rolfe, not the Nazi version). I loved it when Jenny asks him to help get Joe to his army reunion, and Joe thinks they're a couple, and she won't admit to that but she is so happy seeing Jimmy help Joe. Warm fuzzies all around, people! And then when he's later caught in the Nonnatus House entryway, after Sister Bernadette (Laura Main) nearly discovers him in the boiler room, and the nuns insist he stays for this VERY AWKWARD LUNCH. It's all lightly humorous until Jimmy makes a joke about Jenny's famed reticence that falls flat and endangers their friendship -- if there's one thing this show has proven, it's that Jenny feels things, very deeply -- but she's also intensely private (I can relate!). I sincerely hope that Jimmy isn't hiding any proverbial skeletons in his closet, because I think he's adorable and would love to see things work out between him & Jenny!

As far as midwifery goes, this week the spotlight shone on Trixie (Helen George) and Cynthia's (Bryony Hannah) work with new mothers. Trixie meets forty-something Winnie (Tessa Churchard), on her second marriage to Ted (John Ashton), who is "unexpectedly" expecting her fourth child in a MONTH. (You know something's fishy when a woman who has given birth three previous times claims to not recognize any of the symptoms of pregnancy!) Ted, who never imagined that he'd be a father, is overjoyed -- Winnie, not so much. I get that Ted was a little smothering, but he seemed so nice, and he actually wanted to be INVOLVED (props to him for that) -- and Winnie shuts him down at every turn. I must admit, I did NOT see the reason for Winnie's tension coming. I could not BELIEVE she'd been living in denial for eight months like this because she didn't want to think about the child being recognized as having a black father, the product of a one-night stand. I mean WOW...didn't know you had that in you, Winnie!

For some inexplicable reason both Trixie and Cynthia are called to Winnie's home when she goes into labor (the previous norm seems to have been only one midwife per birth). But whatever the reasoning behind that, it was nice to see more focus on these two characters -- and equally nice to see Stephen McGann make a reappearance as Dr. Turner. :) (I like McGanns, this one needs more scenes!) Winnie's fear of rejection, fear of her husband's reaction is heart-breaking -- but when Ted accepts the child without question, oh! That was a beautiful exhibition of grace, such grace! If only there were more Teds in the world, hmm?

Remember how much I loved Chummy (Miranda Hart) last week? Well she's still awesome. :) It appears now that she and Sister Evangelina (Pam Ferris) have reached an accord they are working together more -- but not without testing Evangelina's patience. It seems that the young police officer, Constable Noakes (Ben Caplan), hasn't forgotten how Chummy knocked him over on her bicycle, and is MORE THAN WILLING to have lengthy chats when he sees her out and about. THEY ARE SO BEYOND CUTE TOGETHER. The way they make eyes at each other just KILLS me! I liked this Noakes chap even more after he comes to Nonnatus House to give Fred a friendly warning that he really shouldn't make caramel apples in the same place that he kills quail, I mean is that common sense or what? And of course with that business dispatched he and Chummy are free to make eyes at each other again -- until Evangelina JUST CAN'T TAKE IT ANY MORE, so she arranges a date for Friday night. I was laughing so hard at that moment, it was brilliantly played (especially the bit about how they make her so relieved she took vows!). Chummy and the constable are just the cutest thing ever. THE CUTEST.

The final scenes of this installment, featuring Vanessa Redgrave's voiceover as the older Jenny, were incredibly poignant. Joe's death just broke my heart -- once he left the East End and the care of district nurses like Jenny, the relationship between patient and caregiver was removed -- or at the very least minimized. But seeing the impact that friendship made on Jenny, and how she shares Joe's bequest of a bottle of sherry with Jimmy -- that was an incredibly moving scene. And perhaps I'm misreading this here, but against that backdrop of grieving a loss, the moment where the loveably quirky Sister Monica Jean (Judy Parfitt) seems to lose her place in the singing -- I have to wonder if that perhaps hints at forthcoming health struggles for Nonnatus House's oldest resident.

Call the Midwife is a gorgeous show about the full scope of life in all its heartbreak and joy and complexity. A rare treasure, indeed. I cannot wait for the next installment!