Thursday, March 28, 2013

Castle's 100th!

This coming Monday, Castle celebrates its 100th episode with a special story inspired by one of my favorite Hitchcock films -- Rear Window. Tonight I discovered that ABC has been releasing special "posters" commemorating some of the show's most memorable episodes. There have been three so far (that I've found, at any rate):

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Review: Love in a Broken Vessel by Mesu Andrews

Love in a Broken Vessel
By: Mesu Andrews
Publisher: Revell
ISBN: 978-0-8007-2169-5


As a young prophet-in-training, studying under the likes of Amos and Jonah at the prophets' camp in Judah, Hosea dreamed of the day God would make complete the prophetic call on his life, granting him his first prophetic mission. But when the message comes, it contains a caveat the likes of which Hosea never dreamed. Called to return to Israel, the homeland he'd left twelve years before to study God and His word, Hosea is filled with a mixture of fear and honor when God grants him his first prophetic mission to return to Israel, admonishing the people to abandon their idolatry and return to Yahweh. But the message is only half the mission -- for Hosea is to marry a prostitute, an unfaithful harlot, and in loving her -- in binding himself physically and spiritually to a woman who embodies everything a righteous Israelite would find abhorrent -- become a living, breathing example of God's never-failing love for His faithless people. When the woman in question turns out to be Gomer, Hosea's childhood friend, long thought lost, Hosea is shaken to his core -- for loving this woman will test his faith in God's promises like he'd never thought possible. For this woman, this known harlot, threatens to break his heart far beyond the bounds of human endurance, filling Hosea with a love that only a God who loves us in our brokenness, who loves us in spite of ourselves, in spite of our failings, could comprehend.

Gomer lost all faith in the goodness of man when her father, the man who should have protected her innocence, sold her to the priestesses of Asherah for personal, political gain. When her affair with a Baal priest threatens scandal, Gomer is left at the door of a brothel, consigned to a life working the dusty Samarian streets. With survival her only aim, she has long since resigned herself to doing whatever she must in order to protect herself from harm. When she earns the ire of a powerful general for disrupting the king's sacrifice to Molech, her shocked surprise at Hosea's appearance is quickly overcome by his offer of marriage and what it means -- the rare chance to escape the brothel. But life as a prophet's wife presents its own set of challenges, and with little faith in Hosea's promises and even less in his God, Gomer finds herself returning to her former life again and again -- anything that facilitates her control over her life, protecting a heart battered, scarred, and shuttered by years of abuse and neglect. Time and again Gomer rejects Hosea and his God -- and time and again Hosea, propelled by faith in his God, offers her mercy. Could even her life, shattered and cracked beyond all human hope of repair, be redeemed into fresh life and purpose if she but surrenders to Yahweh?

With her third novel, Mesu Andrews continues to astound with her gift for bringing scripture to life on the page, and like its predecessors, Love in a Broken Vessel speaks powerfully to God's never-failing love and provision, bringing stories thousands of years old to life with a compelling, undeniable relevancy. The scriptural background for Hosea and Gomer's personal lives is relatively limited, especially when compared to the scripture covering Job and Solomon for her previous books. The Book of Hosea is one of the Old Testament's slimmest texts, and of the fourteen chapters only the first three discuss Hosea and Gomer's marriage, setting the stage for its use as an illustration of God's relationship with unfaithful Israel in the subsequent eleven chapters of prophetic poetry. Thus their lives are ripe for fictional interpretation, but as always Andrews carefully grounds her suppositions in scripture, research, and historic fact, lending her construct of the Hosea/Gomer relationship an undeniable sense of authenticity.

Hosea and Gomer's story has been brought to life before, perhaps most notably Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, which transplants the story and characters into the setting of a prairie romance. Personally, for me, that lessens a critical component of the story -- their lives and marriage in relation to God's plan for Israel, His chosen people. By recreating their lives against the backdrop of the turbulent times in which they lived, Andrews succeeds in bringing to life the scriptural text with a spiritual relevancy that evokes the times in which they lived and the timelessness of the message, sketching the continued relevancy of the scripture today against her dramatic backdrop.

Love in a Broken Vessel is most similar in tone and content to Andrews's debut, Love Amid the Ashes, with its stirring, challenging examination of the role suffering plays in a believer's life. It's always been a bit easier for me to see Hosea in terms of his prophecies, but this novel is a stark, poignant reminder of the prophet's very human side, and the very real cost (and struggles) that came with his obedience to God in all things. When reading Hosea, it is potentially easy to fall into the trap of viewing the personal aspects of the text as ancillary, forgetting -- or merely not connecting -- the potent personal drama playing out between Hosea and Gomer with the tumult the straying nations of Israel and Judah faced during their lifetimes.

Like her previous efforts, here Andrews once again brings the "bones" of scripture to vibrant life, restoring the relatability and passion to Hosea and Gomer -- all too easy to classify as "characters" in scripture, while here the full scope of their lives is vibrantly reimagined on the page. I loved Hosea's passion for God and the raw honesty with which he grapples the full implications of what God is working out in his prophetic ministry as well as his personal life. But Gomer - oh! - she broke my heart. Perhaps one of Andrews's best-realized characters, the tragedy of her life -- the numerous betrayals, the pain of living to endure rather than thrive -- just broke me. By fleshing out Gomer's character, restoring her humanity, Andrews gives full sway to the heart-breaking reality of God's heartache over Israel's idolatry on a national/global level through this extraordinarily personal account of a woman who, over and over again, rejects the redemption and restoration Hosea and his Lord offer -- all because she's bought into the lie that she's come too far to be redeemed.

Where Job faced suffering from a position of faith, Gomer does so as an outsider, as one unprepared and ill-equipped to believe in sovereign God who loves her. While in our humanity one might often mistake silence or the absence of action, of prevention, for a lack of care, here the balance is redressed -- human failings, choices, free will, are heart-breakingly wrought out, but through ever tear, every disappointment Andrews weaves a ribbon of faith that brilliantly illustrates God's sovereignty, redemption, and passion for His people. Rich with history, intrigue, and personal and political turmoil, Love in a Broken Vessel is a stunning story of God's love, of His delight in His children, of His passion for welcoming the prodigal, healing the wounded, and restoring the broken. This is a tale that will stay with you long after you finish the final pages -- a story of conviction and encouragement, one to savor -- an extraordinary gift that will encourage and inspire. Bravo, Mesu -- very, very well done.

About the book:

An epic journey of intimacy, rejection, betrayal...and hope.

God gives Hosea a difficult command -- marry a prostitute in order to show God's people the nature and depth of His love for Israel. When Hosea goes to Israel to proclaim the Lord's message, the woman God directs him to marry turns out to be his childhood friend Gomer. He finds her broken and abused, unwilling to trust Hosea or his God. But when marrying Hosea becomes her only means of escape, Gomer does what she's good at -- she survives. Can Hosea's love for God and God's love for Israel restore Gomer's broken spirit?

With her powerful combination of in-depth research and masterful storytelling, Mesu Andrews brings to life one of the most complex and fascinating stories of love and forgiveness in the face of utter betrayal.

*My thanks to Revell for the review copy, and my apologies for being late with posting this review.

two new trailers for "The Wolverine"

International trailer:

Domestic trailer:

Can. Not. Wait. :)

Literary House Hunters

Literary House Hunters - This brilliant, wildly entertaining article is brought to you by Tasha of Truth, Beauty, Freedom, & Books. Go forth and read!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Michael Buble's "It's a Beautiful Day"

Can. Not. WAIT. The new album cannot get here soon enough! :)

All the Bonds.

bronzethumb:</p><p><br></p><p>jtammanyhall:</p><p><br></p><p>All the Bonds.</p><p><br></p><p>This is fantastic.</p><p>

 Love it. Via Perfection Personified.

The Survivor by DiAnn Mills

This week, the

is introducing

Zondervan (March 5, 2013)



DiAnn Mills believes her readers should “Expect an Adventure.” She is a fiction writer who combines an adventuresome spirit with unforgettable characters to create action-packed novels. Her books have won many awards through American Christian Fiction Writers, and she is the recipient of the Inspirational Reader’s Choice award for 2005, 2007, and 2010. She was a Christy Award finalist in 2008 and a Christy winner in 2010.

DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and is the Craftsman Mentor for the Christian Writer’s Guild. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops.

DiAnn and her husband live in Houston, Texas. Visit her website or find her on Facebook at


Kariss meets Dr. Amy Garrett, who survived a brutal childhood attack in which the assailant was never found. Now Dr. Garrett wants her story written in a novel. Kariss wishes she could seek the advice of Special Agent Tigo Harris, but she broke off the relationship a few months prior and seeing him again would be too painful. She interviews Amy and conducts her own research, stepping unaware into a viper's pit of danger. Tigo misses Kariss and wants her back, but he understands why she broke off their relationship. Instead, he concentrates on solving a car bombing and bringing the killer to justice. As Kariss's new story attracts an onslaught of danger that she never expected, can Tigo save the woman he loves and find who wants her dead for writing about an unsolved cold-case?

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Survivor, go HERE.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Friday, March 22, 2013


Things have been crazy this week...I haven't had much time to read or write. So I thought I'd share some of my latest Rumbelle/Once Upon a Time Pinterest finds. :) I love these crazy kids. And Robert Carlyle? *swoon*

Source: Ruth on Pinterest

Source: viaRuth on Pinterest

Source: Ruth on Pinterest

I think the last two are my favorites. :) Happy Friday, people, and here's to a weekend that has been far to long a time coming!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Doctor meets Disney on Threadless!

Last fall I was thrilled to discover Karen Hallion's artwork, particularly her delightfully quirky Doctor Who-meets-a-Disney-princess mash-ups. I know this week is half over, but THIS WEEK ONLY the t-shirt site Threadless has two of Karen's designs on sale for just $10 each!

"Adventure Awaits" (Guys/Girls)

"Come Away With Me" (Guys/Girls)

Remember to verify the sale price before completing your purchase. I've bought Threadless shirts before and been very pleased with the quality. :)

Deeanne Gist's "Tempest in the White City"

Tempest in the White CityDeeanne Gist’s E-Short gives readers a peek inside the world’s fair. Tempest in the White City is a digital short story available from online retailers for 99 cents.

Deeanne Gist fans won’t have to wait until the April 30 release of It Happened at the Fair to read her latest work! On March 19, readers will be able to purchase the e-short, Tempest in the White City, a 40-page short story prelude to It Happened at the Fair, for 99 cents from all online retailers. While the characters from the short story are not carried over into the full-length release, audiences will get a taste of the awe-inspiring backdrop of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and will be anxious to spend more time exploring the exhibition.

In true Gist form, Tempest in the White City combines her trademark humor with romance. Hunter Scott is one of the elite. A Chicago World’s Fair guard specifically chosen for his height, physique, character and ability to serve and protect. When Hunter is overcome with debilitating abdominal pain, he stumbles to an infirmary in the Fair’s Woman’s Building only to discover the doctor is female—which he is none too happy about. But even worse, she has the nerve to diagnose him—the toughest man west of anyplace east—with constipation.

The 1893 Chicago World’s Fair overflowed with the latest innovations welcomed by a throng of people from all around the globe. This setting replete with history, intrigue and wonder caught Gist’s attention and is sure to draw readers of both releases in as well. “I’m always drawn to events in our country’s past that are strangely absent from our history classes. Why the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition has been left out, I don’t know, especially since it was such a pivotal event for us,” explains Gist. “We were able to wow the world with our scientific innovations, and it gave women their first official board position recognized and approved by an Act of Congress (all before we had the right to vote). But it was technology which claimed the day as it nipped at the heels of horses, buggies and man-powered tools.”

More about It Happened at the Fair:
Young inventor Cullen McNamara gambles everything, including the family farm, in order to make his family proud—and earn his father’s entry money to the Fair Expo back—by selling his design for an automatic sprinkler system inspired by his mother’s death in a mill fire. Struggling with hearing loss from his previous life on the farm, McNamara finds it difficult to communicate with potential buyers over the din in the Fair’s Machinery Building. In an act of desperation, he hires attractive Della Wentworth, a teacher of the deaf, to tutor him in the art of lip-reading. Much like the newly invented Ferris Wheel, Cullen is caught in a whirl between his girl back home, his dreams as an inventor and his unexpected attraction to his new tutor. Can he keep his feet on the ground or will he be carried away?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Review: The Assassin and the Desert by Sarah J. Maas

The Assassin and the Desert (Throne of Glass #0.2)
By: Sarah J. Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens


When Celaena Sardothien disobeyed master assassin Arobynn Hamel's directive to negotiate the purchase of slaves, she paid a dearer price than she ever expected. As Arobynn's heir and Adarlan's Assassin, she once thought herself untouchable. But when Arobynn beats her to within an inch of her life following her "betrayal," followed by exile to the Red Desert to train with the Master of the Silent Assassins, Celaena begins to question not only her future but her very loyalty to the order -- and the man -- that has played such a crucial role in shaping her into the feared killer she is today. At the home of the Silent Assassins Celaena discovers a culture and way of life totally beyond her realm of experience -- one that celebrates shared knowledge, fosters friendships, and -- perhaps most importantly -- forces Celaena to prove herself afresh. In the Red Desert, the reputation of Adarlan's Assassin counts for little. When a spy is discovered and a plot unfolds, bent on destroying the Silent Assassins, Celaena is faced with a choice and an unexpected lesson. Can a woman who prizes needing no one risk herself to save others? And will the cost of mercy prove too high a price for this cold-blooded assassin to risk?

After devouring Celaena's first adventure in just a day, I eagerly dived into the second of four prequel novellas to Maas's Throne of Glass, and I was most assuredly not disappointed. The Assassin in the Desert is a welcome thirty pages longer than its predecessor, allowing for more action and character development. Celaena's forced sojourn in the Red Desert stretches and challenges the fiercely independent, smart, driven assassin in ways that not only develop her unique skill set, but forces the youthful warrior to grow up -- i.e., begin to realize that she cannot rest on her laurels, cannot assume pre-eminence in a field that thrives on double-crosses and operating in the shadows merely by virtue of her name and history. I LOVED the character growth Celaena undergoes in this novella, and the choices she faces at the story's conclusion broke my heart. This is a fast-paced, thoroughly entertaining novella with moments of unexpected depth. Maas has succeeded in creating a character and a colorful, richly-textured world that I cannot wait to spend more time in, uncovering its secrets. Very well done -- and bring on the next chapter of Celaena's story, asap! :)

About the book:

The Silent Assassins of the Red Desert aren’t much for conversation, and Celaena Sardothien wouldn’t have it any other way. She’s not there to chatter, she’s there to hone her craft as the world’s most feared killer for hire. When the quiet is shattered by forces who want to destroy the Silent Assassins, Celaena must find a way to stop them, or she’ll be lucky to leave the desert alive.

Once Upon a Time - the novel!

ABC is continuing its tradition of publishing novel tie-ins to popular shows (i.e. Castle) by releasing Reawakened in just a few weeks -- the first in what may be a series of books. Per the Entertainment Weekly article, the "novelization of the show’s first season and promises to give “fans of the show a whole new look at their favorite characters and stories.” The narrative will be told in alternating points-of-view—that of Emma Swan (portrayed by Jennifer Morrison in the show) in the real world of Storybrooke, and Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) in Fairy Tale Land. The novel is written by Odette Beane, and based upon the TV series by Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis."

The e-book version of Reawakened will be released April 27th, followed by the paperback on May 7th. Here are the Amazon links: Kindle/paperback. You can read an excerpt of Reawakened here.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Les Miserables - Deluxe Edition Info

People, EXCITING NEWS! I learned this weekend that Target (oh how I love thee, Target!) will be releasing a deluxe edition of the Les Miserables Blu-ray/DVD Combo this Friday, 3/22/13. Here are all the details:

•Exclusive Bonus Disk: 40 minutes of content that you can only get at Target. The bonus content will highlight THE GENESIS OF LES MISéRABLES, the rigors of playing Jean Valjean in THE TRANSFORMATION OF HUGH JACKMAN, showcase the ensemble cast in THE YOUNG REVOLUTIONARIES, dissect what went into making the film in ANATOMY OF A SCENE: “Lovely Ladies” & “Master of the House” and finally the cast reflects on the musicals enduring themes in LES MIS LIVES ON 

•Target Exclusive Collectable Book: This vivid book contains 32 pages of the artistry behind the film and contains behind-the-scenes photos, interviews with the cast and crew and insight on how the film was brought from stage to screen. 

•Target Exclusive Collectable Post Cards: Included in the Deluxe Sku are six collectable post cards of each of the main characters shot for Vogue magazine on the set at Pinewood Studios in London. 

•Target Exclusive Collectable Packaging: The six collectable post cards fit into the front of the collectable packaging for a customizable look with your favorite character from Les Miserables.

Can. Not. WAIT. :)

yet another Who trailer...

Is it March 30th yet? Because it really needs to be:

And here are posters for the first four episodes of the Doctor's return:

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Review: The Assassin and the Pirate Lord by Sarah J. Maas

The Assassin and the Pirate Lord (Throne of Glass #0.1)
By: Sarah J. Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens


Celaena Sardothien, just sixteen, is one of the most feared and capable assassins in the empire. As the heir presumptive of Arobynn Hamel, lord of the legendary Assassin's Guild, Celaena is sent to collect tribute from the Pirate Lord of Erilea, ostensibly for the murder of three assassins in his territory. Accompanied by Sam Cortland, a fellow assassin maddening and devilishly handsome by turns, Celaena anticipates a speedy end to negotiations with the Pirate Lord -- all the better to quickly rid herself of Sam's irksome company. But when the mission turns out to have nothing to do with honorable retribution and everything to do with transporting slaves, Celaena is horrified. She and Sam concoct a daring plan to free the slaves -- but defying their orders may prove more costly than either ever dreamed.

The Assassin and the Pirate Lord is the first of four prequel novellas to Sarah J. Maas's popular full-length debut, Throne of Glass -- which I've heard described as one of the first in a wave of YA Game of Thrones-style fiction. I thoroughly enjoyed this introduction to Celaena's dangerous world. She is a feisty, strong-willed, impetuous heroine, and in just ten short chapters Maas manages to convey the harsh reality of her upbringing and vocation, giving a clear sense of the threats from within and without her circle that would strive to control such a powerful individual. This is a world inhabited with wildly varied peoples, customs, and political tensions that I look forward to seeing explored further in subsequent volumes. A fast-paced, breathlessly exciting introduction to what promises to be a richly-drawn world.

About the book:

Celaena Sardothien, feared assassin, has come for retribution. Sent by the Assassin’s Guild to a remote island in a tropical sea, Celaena is supposed to be to collecting on a debt they are owed by the Lord of the Pirates. But when she learns that the agreed payment is not in money, but in slaves, her mission suddenly changes–and she will risk everything to right the wrong she’s been sent to bring about.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Review: Grave Consequences by Lisa T. Bergren

Grave Consequences (The Grand Tour #2)
By: Lisa T. Bergren
Publisher: David C. Cook
ISBN: 978-1-4347-6432-4


In two brief months, the course of Cora's life has irrevocably changed, leaving her reeling in its wake. From a future secure in the knowledge of her parents' love, with plans to attend Normal School and become a teacher, she discovered the life she'd always claimed as hers to be built on a lie. In truth the illegitimate daughter of copper baron Wallace Kensington, Cora's birth father swept into her life like a whirlwind, determined to bring Cora into the fold of his family and open her eyes to a world replete with wealth and possibilities beyond her wildest imaginings. Reluctantly joining her half-siblings and their friends on their own fabled Grand Tour of Europe, Cora finds herself coming to care for her companions, individuals once thought so unlike her proving more similar in their hopes, dreams, and struggles than she'd ever assumed children of privilege could be. And the longer she experiences the power and privilege attendant with being recognized as a Kensington child, Cora begins to fear that rather than simply expanding her horizons, this trip might fundamentally change her, leaving her with an identity no longer of her own making.

When unexpected danger finds the tour group on their sojourn in Paris, tensions are heightened and the tenuous alliances and friendships between members of the group are tested. Continuing the tour under a shadow of danger, Cora finds herself increasingly anxious about her future and determined to establish a life and a future for herself beyond the auspices of the Kensington name. She also finds herself torn between two very unlikely men -- the young apprentice tour guide, or "bear," William, and the wealthy and dashing French nobleman Pierre. The latter promises a life of ease and adoration, establishing a life for Cora in her half-siblings' aristocratic circles, while the latter sees Cora as she truly is -- a simple farm girl, oft-times overwhelmed, determined to make her dreams come true. Amid the glittering European sights, stalked by a shadowy menace, Cora must discover if she possesses the courage to follow her heart, taking the best parts of her past and present to establish a new identity, and to stake her claim to a future of her own making.

The first novel in Bergren's Grand Tour series, Glamorous Illusions, was one of my favorite reads last year, the wait for its sequel interminably long -- but proving well worth the wait, proving true the adage that patience is a virtue. Grave Consequences possesses all of the elements that made its predecessor a stunning success -- glamorous settings, well-drawn characters, and all the romance and intrigue of a bygone era that fans of costume dramas like myself could wish for. This is a novel that creates Cora's newly-glamorous world wholly and completely on the page, bringing the sights, sounds, and customs of her journey to brilliant, vibrant life with the scope and sensibility of a gorgeously-rendered film. Bergren has a gift for sprinkling facts and description liberally throughout the text, never overwhelming the story -- instead, transporting readers to stand alongside Cora in wonder of the sights and opportunities the tour has given her.

Cora continues as, generally, one of the most likeable, honest and relatable heroines I've met on the page. I love her strength, intelligence, and determination to be her own woman, the courage of her desire to carve her own path in a world where women were still very subject to the dictates of a patriarchal society. However, in this volume I had to remind myself numerous times that Cora is only two months into her relationship with the Kensington family and their world of power and privilege. Perhaps it was her first brush with danger -- but Cora spent half the novel clinging to a foolish, unbelievably naive view of her father's power and nature at odds with her perspective in the prior book, a frustrating regression character-wise that remains unresolved until the novels final quarter.

That said, I love Cora's suitors, and the push-and-pull between her forbidden, wildly blossoming feelings for the young bear, Will, and the continued, delicious havoc the gentleman Pierre continues to wreak on her fragile emotions. Will is an absolute darling, with his quiet regard for Cora and his determination to behave honorably as regards his intentions. But I do wish that, with Will sharing third person point-of-view scenes, that the end game as regards this love triangle wasn't quite so clearly telegraphed -- because Pierre is easily Will's equal in the handsome nobility department. :) I desperately hope that Pierre gets something resembling his own happy ending in the upcoming third volume, as I tend to feel that Cora tends to not give him a fair shake more often than not here. I suppose I can't help but cheer for the underdog. *wink*

If Grave Consequences is any indication, Bergren is on track to achieve something rare when it comes to series fiction -- three consecutive novels, one epic story, all parts equally compelling and stunningly realized on the page. With the added threat of kidnappers shadowing their journey, Bergren further underscores the life-changing nature of this trip not only for Cora but each of her companions -- a literal and symbolic transition from childhood to the responsibilities of adulthood -- and the consequences attendant on striving to take responsibility for one's own life. With a subtly-drawn, organic faith thread, well-crafted characters, and a plot brilliantly executed in its simultaneous meticulous attention to detail and breathtaking scope, Grave Consequences is the rare sequel that nearly matches its predecessor beat-for-beat. I cannot wait to rejoin Cora and her family in their final chapter travelling across European world, one final chance to visit an opulent world in the twilight of its powers.

About the book:

The epic romance continues...

For Cora Kensington, the journey of a lifetime has taken unexpected turns. And her future -- her very life -- depends on the decisions she'll make at each crossroad. As the Grand Tour with her newfound family winds through France, Austria, and Italy, an unseen enemy trails close behind. And a forbidden love continues to put everyone's plans at risk.

Cora must escape the bonds of the past and discover the faith to make the right choices...because each one has grave consequences.

*My thanks to Litfuse Publicity for the review opportunity. Click here to read what others are saying about Grave Consequences.

Foyle's War Series 8 trailer

Can. Not. WAIT. Oh I am SO EXCITED for Foyle's return! :)

Google Reader no more...

I learned yesterday that my RSS subscription service of choice -- Google Reader -- is shutting down July 1st. So I promptly synced my Google Reader with another RSS service -- I'm not sure this will be the subscription service I stay with, but for now I'm happy that a second copy of my blog and website subscriptions are safely stored in another location, in addition to Google Reader (and the account sign up & sync process went very smoothly). And I do like Feedly's organization options thus far -- even if it has been a bit glitchy/slow on occasion since I set up my account (I expect that is due, at least in part, to its servers being overwhelmed with new accounts since the GR announcement.

So I'm curious -- what other options do any of you use to keep track of blogs and websites?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Megan Hilty's It Happens All the Time

Megan Hilty, currently seen on NBC's Smash, has released her debut solo album today and it is FABULOUS. I wanted to give the album a shout-out on the blog as I discovered that Target is selling an exclusive version with two bonus tracks!

Megan's first single is "No Cure" --

 My favorite songs, by far, though are "Safe and Sound" (let's show Taylor Swift how it's DONE) and a gorgeous rendition of "The Blower's Daughter." Enjoy! :)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Jack the Giant Slayer

Jack the Giant Slayer opened in theaters a few weeks ago, playing to the current public fascination with retooling classic tales for modern audiences. Growing up, "Jack and the Beanstalk" was always one of my least favorite fairy tales, due primarily to a distinct lack of any sort of romance -- or, at the very least, the presence of any female character with whom I could identify. (The only retelling of this story that I enjoyed at all was the 1967 film version starring Gene Kelly -- PLEASE tell me I'm not the only one that's seen this!) Trailers for this film promised not only a hint of romance but a healthy dose of humor as well -- and as a decent Saturday afternoon entertainment the film (mostly) delivers, even if it falls a bit short in my view of being a truly memorable fairy tale retelling, lacking a certain spark that I look for in film and bookish retellings of this type.

According to the film's Wikipedia page, the script for Giant Slayer was based on two "Jack" stories -- the widely-known "Jack and the Beanstalk" (English in origin, Jack living with his widowed mother, steals hen that lays golden eggs & a harp from giant, NO romance) and "Jack the Giant Killer" (Cornish fairy tale, King Arthur figures into the plot, and there is a lot about Lucifer, magical accouterments, Jack ends up marrying a Duke's daughter, etc.). Personally I think I would've liked Jack a whole lot more growing up if I'd been exposed to the Cornish version of his story -- I mean HELLO?? Jack has loads of adventures, a magic sword, and a CAP OF KNOWLEDGE! Clearly I spent my childhood reading the wrong fairy tale compilation. *wink*

While I enjoyed this film well enough, on the whole I think it was something of a missed opportunity as it felt like it couldn't decide what it wanted to be -- an old-fashioned fairy tale, an epic war adventure with modern sensibilities, or something more...slapstick, and ultimately forgettable. Something just felt "off," and while it is hard for me to pinpoint exactly why this movie didn't work for me quite as well as I'd hoped, nonetheless it gets points for making Jack a winning character on the big screen.

This film positions Jack from childhood as a boy with a longing for a life bigger than his father's farm, one in love with the legends of his kingdom -- particularly Erik the Great, the king of Cloister who defeated an army of invading giants by crafting a magical crown that allowed him to banish them (as long as the crown remained safely in his keeping). Now right off the bat this movie loses a ton of points with the gosh-awful CGI flashback of the giants and Erik. It was BAD...I mean like ten years ago, in a video game, this maybe, maybe would've been cutting edge. So I'm immediately predisposed to think of the giants as ridiculous instead of fearsome...but clearly that is something the filmmakers were conflicted about as well, given how things play out.

But back to earth, for a moment...the script makes the smart decision to introduce a female lead early on, juxtaposing the young Jack's fascination with his kingdom's history, an interest unbeknownst to him that he shares with the current king's only child, the Princess Isabelle. Years pass and Jack grows up under surly uncle's care, having lost his father years earlier -- a loss he shares with Isabelle, left struggling against her father's desire to be the "perfect," protected princess after her mother's untimely death.

Even though this film hasn't been loved by critics or the box office, one cannot deny that as Jack, Nicholas Hoult is having a pretty good year. Following his turn as R the zombie in the charming (yes, CHARMING) zombie-romantic comedy Warm Bodies, Hoult tackles more traditional Hollywood fare here with this throwback to classic Hollywood adventure spectacles of yore. He's adorable as the poor boy longing to make good, and has an appealing chemistry with Eleanor Tomlinson as Isabelle -- but both tend to come off as a shade too...sincere, is perhaps the word I'm looking for (though I tend to blame the script rather than the actors...they don't have a great deal to work with here).

The absolute best thing about this film is its stellar supporting cast, particularly Ewan MacGregor as the dashing and PERFECTLY COIFFED Elmont, leader of the king's guard. According to Buzzfeed, MacGregor's hair was the best thing about this movie, and I've got to say I'm inclined to agree with that assessment -- only I'd take it a step farther. MacGregor seems to be the only one having any real FUN here -- he knows he's in an absurd film and clearly relishes every opportunity he's given to ham it up for the camera (i.e., when he's about to become a human "pig in a blanket" in the giant's kitchen -- his bravado is hilarious). I really rather wish that if this movie was going to be made, it had been given the greenlight five or so years ago, when perhaps MacGregor would've had a shot at playing Jack instead of stealing the show in a supporting role.

How did I get in this movie?

Me and my awesome hair, totally responsible for any and all ticket sales.

Eddie Marsan (Lestrade in the Guy Ritchie Sherlock films) plays Elmont's ill-fated sidekick Crawe. He doesn't have quite as much fun as MacGregor (considering the end he meets at the hands of the giants' general, that's the understatement of the year), but I love any opportunity I'm given to see him on-screen. The always adorable Stanley Tucci plays the villainous Sir Roderick, who first strives to conquer Isabelle's kingdom through marriage, and failing that, brute -- GIANT -- force. Tucci chews the scenery as Roderick in very much the same fashion he does as Caesar Flickerman in The Hunger Games, only with measurably less biting wit. *wink* As a point of reference, Roderick reminded me quite a bit of Cary Elwes as Edgar in Ella Enchanted. That.. *ahem* ...ridiculous. :P

Ooooohhhh, SHINY.

Last, but certainly not least, Ian McShane plays Isabelle's father, King Brahmwell. Now I love McShane. L-O-V-E him. But I kinda want to weep if this is what he's doing now...I just hope he didn't take this job and turn down the Gabriel Byrne role in the new Vikings show on the History Channel...because goodness THAT would've been a mistake. If you're interested in seeing McShane being AWESOME watch the all-too-short-lived series Kings, where he plays a memorable Silas -- and for a taste of Ian in his younger years, check out Gypsy Girl. It's a weird, WEIRD movie, but oh my WORD is McShane hot in it. :) As the embattled king, McShane exhibits a lot of strum und drang, but the second he turns out in gold-colored armor he loses all credibility. I don't know WHAT it is about gold armor, but it is SUCH a buzzkill for me. True story. I mean who can own THAT?


Bill Nighy, phoning it in...

The vocal talent behind the giants is much more impressive than the actual giants themselves, sad to say. Led by Bill Nighy as General Fallon (seriously, BILL NIGHY...disguised as a cartoonish giant...what. a. WASTE), the giants skitter between moments bordering on menace and bathroom humor stupidity. While the CGI that brought them to life was better than the "flashback" at the beginning of the film, it still didn't quite work for me...too cartoonish, too much of a rip-off of the Ents from Middle-earth.

While this movie is a decent enough popcorn flick, as a "classic" fairy tale retelling it misses the mark in too many respects for me to truly love it. Throughout I felt as though it was struggling with a split personality -- wanting to either be a silly, kid-friendly flick or something more epic in scale and scope, as evidenced by the battle scenes in the final act. And while there is plenty of likeable talent to be found, the script and therefore the characterizations are either a mess or colorless caricatures. This latter point is what makes me most concerned about director Bryan Singer's return to the X-Men universe next year. I was thoroughly impressed with Matthew Vaughn's handling of the First Class universe and it's sprawling cast of characters, and I really wish he'd been given the chance to test his mettle with the sequel. (At least he's on board as producer.)

The end of this movie is the icing on the cake of COMPLETE RIDICULOUSNESS, but maybe that's just me. I mean I don't mind exploring folk and fairy tales as part of history but this movie took things a little too literally IMO. But John Ottman turns in a fun score for this hot mess! And any script/story problems aside, this is totally worth renting for Ewan's hair should be classified as a certified wonder of the filmic world. If you've seen the movie I'd love to hear what you thought!

two enemies discover a "higher call" in battle

People, PLEASE go read this article at CNN -- it is amazing, the story of a wartime encounter between two pilots -- one American, one German -- that gives rise to an unexpected friendship. And when you think of how many lives that split-second decision impacted -- well, I'm going to start crying again. Well worth the read!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Review: Moonlight Masquerade by Ruth Axtell

Moonlight Masquerade
By: Ruth Axtell
Publisher: Revell
ISBN: 978-0-8007-2089-6


In 1813 the European coalition's war against Napoleon reached a critical juncture -- when the French emperor's invasion of Russia sent his once-invincible Grande Armee reeling, for the first time in nearly a decade the British and her allies see the chance to defeat Bonaparte once and for all within their grasp. The House of Bourbon stands poised to reclaim the French throne -- but not all French emigres pray for a return to the excesses of a monarchial government, factions that must be stopped if British aims are to succeed. When rumors reach the Foreign Office that the widowed Lady Celine Wexham -- French by birth, English by marriage, and a leading light in London society -- is passing information to pro-Bonaparte contacts, the decision is made to plant a spy within her home to ferret out the truth. Rees Phillips, a clerk toiling away in the Home Office, hoping for a career in the diplomatic service, is appointed to the task, selected as much for his discretion as his expert command of the French language. Planted within Celine's household as her new butler, Rees struggles to reconcile the fact that he must lie to serve his country with his deeply-held faith, never suspecting how quickly his lovely employer will wend her way into his heart. When he discovers that Celine is playing a more dangerous game than he realized, he must fight to reconcile his duty with his love for a woman he can never hope to win -- a risky masquerade, a dance with death that, if they survive, might result in a prize beyond their wildest imaginings.

Moonlight Masquerade is a gorgeously-realized Regency, replete with not only the manners and mores of the time period, sure to appeal to fans of Austen's romances, but with a rich exploration of the tension and reality of the history's time period. I adore a cross-class romance, and Celine and Rees make a heart-stoppingly romantic pair. In my experience it has been more common to read romances of this ilk where the heroine is in reduced circumstances, so it was refreshing to see Rees struggle to reconcile his desire to be Celine's hero with the social strictures of the time period defining male/female relationships, and in his case -- as her butler -- demanding obedience. The romantic tension between Celine and Rees develops at a deliciously slow burn, as neither party is willing to admit the unthinkable is occurring -- an attraction between two parties from wildly disparate worlds, whose respective loyalties in a world at war seem irreconcilable.

Fans of Downton Abbey's Lady Sybil will recognize a kindred soul in Celine, with her gentle spirit and egalitarian ideals -- a secret Jacobite, without the excesses of the revolution, setting her at odds to both the British and the exiled French royalists that would see the monarchy restored. The sting of a failed marriage have closed her heart to love, until a butler with an prepossessing, very un-servantlike gaze makes her wonder if someone could love her for herself, not her title or birthright. For his part, Rees is a deliciously dishy hero, possessing a code of conduct and a strong moral core that makes him an ideal hero, even if his common birth makes him an atypical knight errant to a lady fair. Their slow-burning attraction, culminating in a swoon-worthy kiss at a masquerade ball is a superb example of less is more, as the restraint they must show, the restrictions placed on their lives makes their forbidden attraction to one another all the more delicious to watch play out against the backdrop of the Napoleonic War intrigue.

Where this novel falters is in the actual tension regarding Celine's alleged spying activities -- or more appropriately stated a lack thereof. The first portion of the novel, wherein Rees establishes himself as butler in Celine's home contains very little actual spy-related tension. Much page time is given to either Rees or Celine wondering about the other's activities or motivations, but as to what intel Celine actually procures -- and more importantly, why she does it -- is left unaddressed until the novel's final act. While I love Rees and Celine's characters, to genuinely raise the stakes of their budding relationship beyond that of a cross-class romance, the nuts and bolts of each party's spycraft needed to be more meaningfully explored. Axtell is more than capable of penning a tension-filled scene, as the scenes at Hartwell House -- the headquarters of the French monarchy in exile -- prove. Axtell clearly knows her history -- the social mores, values, and political realities Celine and Rees would have known are all there on the page in her crisp, articulate prose. But for a novel that dances on the edge of bringing a rich sense of history to the beats of a more typical romance, Moonlight Masquerade falls short in balancing Axtell's compelling characters by keeping the stakes raised consistently for the pair throughout the novel.

Moonlight Masquerade proved a charming introduction to Axtell's writing. She lends her storyline a richness by saturating her characters' world with the social and political realities of their time. The very decision to place spycraft at the center of her storyline is a welcome change from the norm, crafting tension between faith and duty, masquerade and one's deepest, most heartfelt desires. Celine and Rees are compellingly-crafted characters, although one would wish for less focus on recapping their pasts, or dwelling on their undeniable attraction to one another, and more attention given to the tension-filled times in which they struggled to survive. That said, I love Axtell's passion for saturating her romance with a rich sense of history -- between the political tensions of the time and her strongly-realized characterizations, the pieces are in place for a winning formula, and I very much look forward to Axtell's next offering in this vein.

About the book:

Sometimes it is hard to tell if you are the cat or the mouse...

Lady Celine Wexham seems the model British subject. French by birth but enjoying life in 1813 as a widowed English countess, she is in the unique position of being able to help those in need -- or to spy for the notorious Napoleon Bonaparte.

When Rees Phillips of the British Foreign Office is sent to pose as the countess's butler and discover where her true loyalties lie, he is confident he will uncover the truth. But the longer he is in her fashionable townhouse in London's West End, the more his staunch loyalty to the Crown begins to waver as he falls under Lady Wexham's spell.

Will he find the proof he needs? And if she is a spy after all, what then will he do?

With sharp wit, fast-paced dialogue, and infectious intrigue, Ruth Axtell deftly creates a world where black and white burst into a confusion of colors -- and no one is who they seem.

*My thanks to the publisher, Revell, for a review copy.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Review: A Conspiracy of Alchemists by Liesel Schwarz

A Conspiracy of Alchemists (The Chronicles of Light and Shadow #1)
By: Liesel Schwarz
Publisher: Del Rey
ISBN: 978-0-345-54507-7


Eleanor "Elle" Chance is far from your typical turn-of-the-century miss, foregoing traditional female pastimes such as teas, dances, and gossip for a career piloting her beloved dirigible, the Water Lily. But being a pilot is a risky and expensive enterprise, and in order to help fund her independent efforts Elle agrees to an under-the-table commission -- transporting a box from Paris to England. The seemingly innocuous cargo proves to be more than Elle bargained for, as she is attacked by an alchemist and barely escapes Paris with her ship intact. Forced into an uneasy alliance with the dashing Mr. Marsh (a.k.a. the Viscount Greychester, a.k.a. a powerful warlock), Elle finds herself thrust into a fight between the forces of Light and Shadow, a fight that threatens to disrupt the delicate balance of the world forever. Forced into a brewing war not of her own choosing, Elle uncovers dark secrets in her past, secrets that force her to reevaluate the world as she knows it and her place within it, promising to change the trajectory of her life forever -- if she survives.

With steampunk stories fast becoming a new favorite genre, I jumped at the opportunity to read Schwarz's debut. I loved her world-building -- she has all of the traditional steampunk elements, from dirigibles to clockwork inventions -- but where she separates her vision of early twentieth-century Europe from the rest is  in her delineation between the elements of Shadow and Light. The Light represents Elle's familiar world -- her father's work as an inventor of spark-powered flying machines, a world of scientific, rational thought and technological advancement. On the flip side of that coin is Marsh's world, the world of Shadow, encompassing all elements of the magical and paranormal, from alchemists and warlocks to spells, potions, and absinthe-loving fairies. The concept of all being right with the world when these two opposing forces are balanced is an intriguing one, particularly as Elle approaches life from a very scientific, rational standpoint. As the novel progresses she quickly discovers to her chagrin that she possesses a power within capable of balancing these two worlds, a power that calls on the belief, recognition, and use of forces she is loathe to understand or even acknowledge.

While I really liked Elle's spunk and determination to take care of herself, there were moments when her independence danced on the border of foolish willfulness. Also, her pivot from outright rejection of her heritage to acceptance seemed too abrupt, too conveniently played. That said, as there are at least two sequels planned there are lots of opportunities for growth as regards her character and motivations. I loved Marsh -- I  mean seriously, what's not to love about a dishy warlock/viscount burdened with long life and a tragic romantic past? While I find him infinitely more interesting than Elle, I wish Schwarz had started to delve into his past earlier in the novel, rather than waiting until nearly two-thirds of the way through to flesh out Marsh's character in a truly meaningful manner. I also find his initial rather blind obedience to his order and its tenets somewhat troubling, as there isn't even the pretext of above-board respectability in that regard. That aside, I loved Marsh's manners and deeply ingrained sense of honor, and the few swoon-worthy moments he shares with Elle midway through the novel, though overall I was underwhelmed by their relationship and chemistry. They are however extremely likeable characters, rich with potential for growth both individually and as a power couple within Schwarz's brave new steampunk universe, so I look forward their relationship playing out in the promised sequels.

Schwarz's debut effort delivers a world rich with character potential and one of the more interesting, fully-fleshed out mythologies that I've had the pleasure of discovering since I first began to explore steampunk-themed fiction. I cannot wait to see how sequels further explore this potentially explosive conflict between the elements of Light and Shadow, particularly when two powerful players such as Elle and Marsh renounce their expected allegiances and go rogue. :) Schwarz's world-building is one of her writing's greatest assets, and coupled with her penchant for high adventure, with more polished characterizations and bit more romantic sizzle this series has great potential that I hope to see further realized in future installments. A Conspiracy of Alchemists is a very solid debut, sure to mark Schwarz as an author to watch in this explosively popular genre.

About the book:

In a Golden Age where spark reactors power the airways, and creatures of Light and Shadow walk openly among us, a deadly game of Alchemists and Warlocks has begun.

When an unusual cargo drags airship-pilot Elle Chance into the affairs of the mysterious Mr. Marsh, she must confront her destiny and do everything in her power to stop the Alchemists from unleashing a magical apocalypse.

Discover the thrilling new series that transforms elements of urban fantasy and paranormal romance into pure storytelling gold.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the review opportunity!

Capitol Couture

I suppose I should think about reading Catching Fire, finally, hmm?

You can view the rest of the Capitol portraits at Capitol Couture.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Whedon's Much Ado trailer

People, I am really not sure how I feel about this:

I love Much Ado. LOVE it. That play is so near and dear to my heart, and informs so much of my outlook towards book and film...whether I'm reading about a couple or watching them on-screen, there's a 98% chance I'm subconsciously measuring their chemistry by the gold standard that is Beatrice and Benedick.

So. I'm just not sure about this vision of Shakespeare's timeless comedy of manners and romance. Maybe it's just the trailer -- the way its shot, the music? Maybe I'll love Amy Acker as Beatrice and whoever this Benedick guy is (Alexis Denisof -- clearly my problem is that I was never able to get into Buffy).

On the plus side, Nathan Fillion is playing Dogberry! And Clark Gregg is playing Leonato! HELLO AGENT COULSON. :) So there's that. Has anyone seen it? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

where Once is stressing me out

Avert your eyes if you're behind on Once Upon a Time...I can't help myself, I have to discuss. Much is being made over this coming Sunday's episode ("The Miller's Daughter") which supposedly ends with some sort of heartbreaking death. Here's the episode teaser:

Now go HERE, and watch the second video clip where a dying Mr. Gold gets an amnesiac Belle on the phone to tell her just how much she means to him (didn't find the clip on YouTube -- yet -- so that's why it isn't included here).


Somebody, FOR THE LOVE please reassure me that the show isn't going to kill off Gold. I seriously COULD NOT TAKE THAT. I think I could deal with just about anyone else but if Gold goes I may never recover.

I'd love to hear your theories on what this upcoming episode has in store...make me feel better about Rumbelle, people!!!

I'm just gonna stare at this picture until it is all over. This makes me feel better about life:

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Review: The Mother-Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick

The Mother-Daughter Book Club (Mother-Daughter Book Club #1)
By: Heather Vogel Frederick
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 978-1-4169-7079-8


As if navigating the social minefield otherwise known as sixth grade isn't bad enough, Emma's mother, the local librarian, joins forces with three of her yoga class friends to start a Mother-Daughter book club. Emma is thrilled her best friend Jess will be in attendance, but Jess struggles with abandonment as her mother has decamped to New York to pursue an acting career. The tomboyish Cassidy would rather play hockey than spend quality time with her too-perfect ex-model of a mother. And Megan, once one of Emma's closest friends, makes it crystal-clear the book club is something a member of the "Fab Four" would only attend under extreme duress. As the school year progresses and the girls make their way through Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, they find unexpected wisdom and humor in the lives of the March sisters, and a tentative camaraderie forms between this unlikely group -- a camaraderie rooted in literature that threatens to spill over into their very lives, changing their friendships and families forever.

Oh how I wish this book had been around when I was in middle school! Sure to appeal to any bookishly-minded girl's heart, The Mother-Daughter Book Club's inaugural adventure is a refreshingly grounded, real-world antidote to the seemingly overwhelming number of fantasy young adult literature available today. Fantasy is all well and good, but there is a place -- rather, a need in my view -- for more fiction of this ilk, fiction that gently addresses the turmoil of lives entering the minefield that is the teenage years. Frederick's first book club novel not only meets that need but goes one better, setting the girls' dramas against a timeless and enduring work of classic literature -- not only addressing why books such as Little Women have endured (and liberally sprinkling the text with quotes and facts about Alcott), but sparking new discussion as to the possibilities of how the March sisters' trials and tribulations can relate to  members of today's tech-saturated culture.

The book alternates chapters from each girl's point-of-view in turn. While I appreciate the insight into each character's disparate background and perspective, I rather wish their had been one less viewpoint character, or a longer book, as at times I had issues with distinguishing one character from the other -- a muddled blend of pre-teen angst and drama. That said, Frederick does an excellent job laying the groundwork for future volumes in the series, which all appear to be significantly longer, promising greater character development for each girl's story.

This book is SO relatable. Frederick gives us sleepovers, school cliques, friendship drama, stolen journals, and musical debuts, mixed with a healthy dose of parental misunderstandings and oh yeah, homework assignments. :) Much like Alcott's famous March sisters, the youthful members of the Mother-Daughter book club all contain the seeds of budding dreams and individuality that promises further excitement in future installments -- the shy animal lover, the awkward budding writer, the tomboy, and the snobby fashionista. All different, and in those differences finding the strength and support to navigate life's rocky paths. In addition to the solid theme of friendship, I loved the novel's positive family focus, and its respect for just how  much mother-daughter relationships are worth fighting for, even when every circumstance screams otherwise, or that one's parent simply isn't fair. *wink* A thorough charmer loaded with potential, The Mother-Daughter Book Club is sure to appeal to the young, young at heart, and anyone who has ever found inspiration and solace within the pages of a good book.

About the book:

The book club is about to get a makeover....

Even if Megan would rather be at the mall, Cassidy is late for hockey practice, Emma's already read every book in existence, and Jess is missing her mother too much to care, the new book club is scheduled to meet every month. 

But what begins as a mom-imposed ritual of reading Little Women soon helps four unlikely friends navigate the drama of middle school. From stolen journals, to secret crushes, to a fashion-fiasco first dance, the girls are up to their Wellie boots in drama. They can't help but wonder: What would Jo March do?

Acclaimed author Heather Vogel Frederick will delight daughters of all ages in a novel about the fabulousness of fiction, family, and friendship.