The Snow Globe

The Snow Globe
making LRG a stop on the upcoming blog tour

Thursday, March 05, 2015

A status report on Gotham, Skye's dilemma on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and a surprise romance on Downton Abbey

There's been a lot going on in Gotham for it's first season but now with only a few episodes left in it's initial run(and the show taking a break until April), let's take a moment to catch our collective breath and examine the series up to now.

Granted, the tone of the writing and character development has been a mixed bag at best, with obvious wink-and-a-nudge intros of future villains and story lines that have gone seemingly nowhere(what is up with Barbara, for example? She's just hovering on the edges of the show now that she and Jim Gordon are no longer an item).

However, we have had some major break out moments such as the rise of Oswald Cobblepot,aka The Penguin, due in large part to how actor Robin Lord Taylor has deftly embodied the character.

 Also, Fish Mooney's downfall and attempt at climbing back to the top of the strange new heap of evil she's been tossed on is becoming an interesting plot line all on it's own. Her new allegiance with the Dollmaker could become pivotal as that particular mad man is destined to make Jim Gordon one of his major targets(according to comic book lore) and that might play out more in season two.

Some small sub plots, such as Edward Ngyma's thwarted crush on GCPD office worker Kristen Kringle and Selina Kyle's on and off attentions to Bruce Wayne(who has a world of trouble to deal with as it is), are taking a good long while to reach serious impact but I think that we might see something to those end games that will lead to a whole lot more next season.

I keep saying "next season" because, yes, there is going to be one and even with some of the missteps taken during this first visit to Gotham, I certainly would like to stay in town to see how this particular circus stages it's center ring event:

With Agent Carter now done(keeping my fingers crossed for a second season of that show!), Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is back and everyone is still reeling from where we last left off.

With the gang mourning the death of Agent Trip and using the current upheaval to strike hard at Hydra, the major impacts of that "terregenesis" have yet to be dealt with.

As Raina is horrified that her transformation has turned her into a razor barbed menace, Skye is terrified that her new earthquake powers will isolate her from the team even more than her current stint in quarantine is.

Added to that tension is the fact that Simmons is quickly becoming an advocate for destroying all potential mutations(fortunately, Fitz is willing to keep her secret) and the guilt she has over how Trip died, Skye is in a world of hurt right now. Hopefully, she will be able to gain the trust of her true friends once her new abilities are openly revealed:

 Downton Abbey completed it's fifth season with a two hour finale(known as the "Christmas special" in the UK) and rounded off a number of plot points such as cousin Rose's wedding, Anna's arrest and eventual release and Edith's father telling her that he knows all about Marigold's true parentage.

Edith had her best moment with her father(who was feeling more emotionally generous due to having an ulcer that he thought might be angina) and their mutual acceptance of the situation was good to see. Even Mary(who still has no clue about what's going on in her sister's life) was slightly less bitchy to her,so perhaps Edith will have better times to come.

 A real surprise gift came at the near end, as Mr. Carson finally asked Mrs. Hughes to marry him. Their relationship has had it's share of mutual respect and firmly polite disagreements yet neither one had really declared their true feelings.

With the revelation that Mrs. Hughes couldn't go in on his plans to open a B&B during his retirement years(she has no savings, due to care taking expense for a mentally handicapped sister), the opportunity to ask her to marry him seem most opportune to Carson. Oh, it was such a lovely moment and hopefully, we'll see a wedding for these two during the next(and possibly final) season, they deserve it as much as the Crawley clan does and maybe even more so!:


MAD MEN: The beginning of the end is only a few weeks away and while it will be sad to see this series take it's final bows, we can't say that it wasn't a good time had by all concerned:

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Announcing the Sad Singers On Screen playlist for this year's Bad Movie Month

It may feel a bit early to be talking about a blog project that won't take place until the summer, but inspiration struck me like lightning this weekend and I felt the need to share my plans for Bad Movie Month as soon as may be.

For those of you unfamiliar with BMM, every August at LRG, I highlight bad films once a week, usually on Fridays. I tend to go with a theme for each batch of cinematic sorrow and this year's sticking point focuses on singers turned actors, a.k.a. Sad Singers On Screen.

At least two of these movies, I haven't seen before but their reputation as terrible times to be had precedes them and I'm actually eager to experience the awfulness first hand. The first of these new viewings for me is From Justin to Kelly, the 2003 pairing of the first major American Idol contestants in a "let's-go-to-the-beach-blanket-bingo!" kind of flick.

 This movie was such a mind numbing torture to watch that it won a special award from the Razzies, Worst Musical of Our First 25 Years. With that kind of distinction, you can see why I'd want to check this musical monstrosity out:

Next up is a Madonna movie because you really can't do something like this right without including her. She's had her share of hits and misses, the latter making the choice of just one rather difficult to say the least.

However, I decided to go with Who's That Girl from 1987. In this supposedly wacky caper movie, Madonna teams up with uptight Griffin Dunne as they flee from various bad guys after a mysterious key that she brought back with her from prison.

Along the way, Madonna attempts to be convincingly goofy and charming(guess which one of those she does best), falls in love with Dunne's nervous nelly character and hangs out with a cougar. Why a cougar, you ask? Well, someone thought that was enough to make Madonna appear to be a classic screwball comedienne but all it did was look screwy:

Representing the fellas, we have "Marky" Mark Wahlberg playing an obsessed boyfriend in the 1996 thriller Fear. There's actually a good number of decent actors in this one, from Reese Witherspoon as the damsel in distress,  Alyssa Milano as her best gal pal,William Peterson as the protective dad and Amy Brennan as the unsuspecting step mom.

Despite the movie being a moderate success at the box office, it was still as odd as a cod, with Wahlberg's character showing his devotion by carving his beloved's name into his chest, killing off potential rivals and stalking her father, whose car becomes a victim of Marky Mark's rampage. The Oedipal overtones of this flick are practically breathable:

Last up and most likely least is Crossroads, the Britney Spears teen road trip extravaganza from 2002. I haven't seen this one, so along with FJTK, this will be quite the cinematic revelation, I'm sure.

Much like Fear, Crossroads has some good talent lined up with Zoe Saldana and Taryn Manning as Britney's traveling companions while Dan Ackroyd plays her father and Kim Cattrall as her long lost mother. Hard to imagine Ackroyd and Cattrall hooking up in any universe but that's probably not the strangest thing about this movie.

One big future talent listed here is Shonda Rhimes as the screenwriter. Yes, the Queen of Thursday Night TV has this giddy girl quest on her resume, folks. Shonda Rhimes earned a Worst Screenplay nomination from the Razzies awards for her literary effort here, along with Our Miss Britney who won Best Worst Actress and one of her tunes for the soundtrack getting Worst Song(that "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet A Woman" earworm). Yeah, this should be wickedly awful fun:

So, that is our Bad Movie Month line-up for 2015. Still to be announced is "Sister's Choice", where my sis Stephanie celebrates her birthday that month by picking one bad movie for me to watch and write about(she doesn't have to go along with my Sad Singers theme, so her selection could be rather interesting). This upcoming set of singer helmed stinkers promises to be tough going yet I suspect none of them will climb up to the low heights of a classic bomb like Cool As Ice:

Monday, March 02, 2015

Leonard Nimoy, your legacy will live long and prosper

One of our best pop culture icons left us last week. Leonard Nimoy, known to millions the world over as Mr. Spock, the half human,half Vulcan second in command(and later captain of his own ship) to James T. Kirk on Star Trek passed away at the age of 83.

Despite that character's seemingly cold and logical nature, Mr, Spock was and is one of the most beloved figures in the Star Trek universe due to his mix of cool calm and surprising moments of warmth.

Nimoy did more in his career than be Spock but over time, he eventually embraced the fan love that this three season sci-fi show and major motion picture versions gave him. Titling his first memoir "I Am Not Spock" and his later one "I Am Spock" speaks volumes about his approach to being such a pop culture phenomenon.

Nimoy was doing both theater and television when the role of Mr. Spock came about(he actually turned down a run of Fiddler on the Roof to take the job) and despite the network's reluctance to accept his character having those pointy ears, he caught on fast with the audience. The chemistry between Nimoy and William Shatner(a friendly rival at best) helped to enhance the over the top antics that pitted the two of them against each other on screen:

Nimoy did plenty of other TV roles such as a brief stint on Mission: Impossible, episodes of Night Gallery and Columbo and the host of the series In Search Of..., a show I fondly recall watching with my family.

In Search Of was along the lines of Ripley's Believe It or Not!(nowadays, equivalent to Mythbusters), the type of show where for an hour you looked into Bigfoot sightings or alien abductions, mysteries of the ancient pyramids, that sort of thing.

Hokey, but Nimoy's succinct demeanor added some credence to the content and made it worth watching once a week. You can find full episodes online, so I highly recommend checking one out.

He also tackled more dramatic roles, such as the husband of Golda Meir in the 1982 miniseries A Woman Called Golda,(starring Ingrid Bergman) which earned him an Emmy nomination:

Nimoy had quite a diverse career in the arts. He was a published poet, photographer and singer( his "Ballad of Bilbo Baggins" is too fun not to listen to) and film director.

He not only directed two of the Star Trek films, he also was behind the camera for Three Men and a Baby and The Good Mother. His other works include appearances on the series Fringe and voice work for The Simpsons, Furturama and The Big Bang Theory, where he did the voice of action figure Spock, one of the few beings that Sheldon Cooper feels is superior to himself:

Leonard Nimoy was not just an actor, he was an emotional touchstone for many people. Whether on or off screen, his good nature was felt and appreciated.

 Unlike some who have a love-hate affair with the role that made him or her famous, he seemed to cherish the responsibility given to him by being Spock. A fitting tribute to his legacy is how well he passed the torch to another actor(Zachary Quinto) in the rebooted Star Trek films. That he had the class and humility to be a supporting player in this new take on that universe shows you the caliber of the man he was.

Fare thee well, Leonard Nimoy. Chances are that it will be some time before we see your like again in the pop culture universe:

Friday, February 27, 2015

Buying a movie ticket for Terms of Endearment on The Road of Rereading

The last step in my winter path on The Road of Rereading is a look at the 1984 film adaptation of Larry McMurtry's Terms of Endearment, that was written,produced and directed by James L. Brooks. It's safe to say the movie is a lot more Brooks than McMurtry as his vision is strongly implanted upon the visuals and story telling here.

That's not a bad thing, as JLB does have a knack for character driven narratives(developed well during his days as a TV writer/producer for the likes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show,Taxi and Rhonda) and when it came to film, was a distinctive hallmark of his style.

One of the challenges presented in turning the book into a movie was setting up the whole emotional dynamic between Aurora(Shirley MacLaine) and Emma(Debra Winger). While a novel has the luxury of dropping the reader right into a ready made reality, a film needs to build up that connection ahead of time before diving into the deep end of the plot pool.

The movie starts off with a scene of Aurora as an anxious new mother waking up her baby in order to reassure herself that Emma is still breathing.

 Then, a brief montage of scenes traces their lives from Aurora's widowhood to Emma's teen years right up to the point where Emma marries Flap(Jeff Daniels) a budding college professor with little ambition, which causes Aurora to remark to her daughter on the night before the wedding "You are not special enough to overcome a bad marriage." Way to be encouraging, Mom!

The ladies eventually come around to a reluctant acceptance of the situation, compounded further when Emma and Flap move to another state due to a job offer("He can't even fail locally"-Aurora gets a lot of great lines here).

Then the narrative shifts to Aurora's love life and here is a major change from the book. While she does have a number of love struck men trailing about her,similar to the novel, Aurora's main man is a character created solely for this film and played by Jack Nicholson. Garrett Breedlove is a former astronaut who spends his time boozing it up and hitting on younger women(and who happens to live right next door to Aurora).

I suspect his character is loosely based on Hector Scott from the book, who was a former Army general who lived nearby(and while not mentioned in this film, is part of both the book and later film version of The Evening Star, the TOE sequel). Since Nicholson and MacLaine do have chemistry and her uptight character is in need of a footloose and fancy free counterpart, this works out for the best:

Emma does get her share of screen time, as her turbulent marriage and hectic mothering manages to allow her a brief love affair with a middle aged married banker named Sam(John Lithgow).

The scene where Emma and Sam meet up is completely invented for the film and it turned out to be one of those talked about moments that audiences loved. Most of us can identify with being caught short at the cash register, a minor event that can become major when the clerk decides to get nasty as the supermarket checker does in this instance.

As a former cashier myself, this lady's attitude was totally out of line and when Sam snaps at her  "Then you must be from New York!", it's an insult that is still pretty funny and slightly truthful even today. Not to mention a great way to set up an adulterous romance that makes both people involved seem like nice enough folks who just happen to need an emotional break from their regular lives:

The story arcs of both women collide when Emma receives her diagnoses of cancer, bringing them back together for the last time.

To me, the best scene from that section is not the infamous Aurora freak-out at the nurse's station("GIVE MY DAUGHTER THE SHOT!!), which is another Brooks invention, it's the scene where Emma says goodbye to her sons.

That sad and totally heartfelt realism comes straight from the book and keeping that portion of the story intact was a good move on Brooks' part. Winger delivers that small speech to her angry boy Tommy about not having doubts about her love for him just right, in a simple manner that's truly touching to behold:

Terms of Endearment did well with both audiences and critics, earning 11 Oscar nominations that year and winning five of them.

James L. Brooks cleaned up nicely, with wins for Best Picture,Director and Adapted Screenplay while MacLaine snagged a Best Actress award and Nicholson Best Supporting Actor.

The movie does hold up well, I'm happy to say and while Brooks did have a couple of equally well received follow-up films(Broadcast News and As Good As It Gets), his last big character driven comedy-drama Spanglish, was a true miss instead of a hit.

 He mainly works as a producer these days( The Simpsons Movie) and his last directorial turn,How Do You Know, vanished at the box office which is a shame. I don't think his best days are behind him, Brooks just needs to find the right material to reconnect with audiences again.  Movie writers who are unafraid to allow screen characters to be fully developed are a rare breed nowadays and we need them now more than ever:

As to being a good translation of the McMurtry novel, Terms of Endearment is a fine example of blending both mediums for better and worse. The imprint of TOE was a major factor towards the less than enthusiastic approach to The Evening Star,in my opinion, as more people were familiar with the original film than the original book. Nevertheless, TOE is one of those films that if you haven't seen it, you should for the richness of the characters onscreen. Also, it's fun to see Nicholson act the little devil to MacLaine's less than divine diva:

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Agent Carter finishes her case, Downton Abbey almost-finale and the 87th Academy Awards

Agent Carter completed her first assignment this week and hopefully, it won't be her last. Upon the discovery of a test run of a stolen weapon with tragic results, Carter and the S.S.R. finally worked together to bring the bad guys down(plus, a little help from Howard Stark and Jarvis as well).

The plot to attack the city as revenge for a covered-up massacre due to a biochemical weapon of Howard Stark's(used without his permission) during WWII was fortunately thwarted in time but not without some sad memories of Captain America being dredged up. I have to say that this mini-series was a neat breath of fresh air,using some old school story telling with a bit of feminist flair. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will be back next week but I sincerely hope this isn't the last we see of Peggy Carter and the gang:

I did manage to catch up with Downton Abbey as their penultimate season finale aired during the Oscars(more on that in a moment) and boy, was there a lot to take in!

What with Rose's wedding almost being called off due to a false scandal created by her mother, Thomas using his wily ways for good instead of evil, Mrs. Patmore getting that war memorial tribute for her nephew and Anna getting busted for the murder of Mr. Green(who apparently got what he deserved and I'm wondering why such a case received so much police scrutiny in the first place. The guy was just a valet with a string of sex crimes attached to him, not a member of the royal family after all!) made for one hell of a merry mess to clean up by next season.

The big wrap-up episode will be this upcoming Sunday, the classic "Christmas" themed special where we get a hint of what's to come.

I do hope that Edith finds some spine and tells Mary off,particularly since their father finally realized that Marigold is his natural granddaughter.

 I am so sick of Mary being such a self indulgent bitch(she's as bad as she was way back in season one at this point) and granted, Edith is no saint but it is high time that someone put Mary in her place in regards to her sister. Perhaps my wish will come true, we shall see:

The Oscars went off fairly well, I thought. Neil Patrick Harris did a great job of being host(although that bit about Octavia Spencer watching his padlocked set of Oscar predictions ran on way too long there) and the musical number were excellent, from the Best Song nominees to Jennifer Hudson's eulogy tune and of course, Lady Gaga's Sound of Music salute.

It is worthy to note that this Academy Awards broadcast was one of the lowest rated showings of the past few years. A good reason for that was not only the ultra-white selection of nominees but the lack of crowd pleasing films up for bids as well.

Look, Academy, we all know you like to pretend that your output is all about the art, no commerce during this time of year but it's pretty clear that is not the truth. I'm all for quality movies getting their due but in addition to honoring Selma with more than two nominations(Congrats to Common and John Legend), you could have thrown a bone to something that audiences were actually familiar with and I don't mean the Lego Movie either!

You're telling me that Gone Girl, Guardians of the Galaxy and Big Eyes weren't due some consideration here? Also, a art house movie like Belle or Dear White People(which won a First Screenplay honor at the Independent Spirit Awards the day before) couldn't have benefited from some Oscar love, unlike any Wes/Paul Thomas Anderson production?

 Your audience is what makes you strive to work harder,after all and while popularity doesn't always equal quality, it does help to bring folks to the theater and sit in the seats. Without them, there's no work to be done or money to be made. Think about the future of film, folks and let that be reflected in your awards:


 SLEEPY HOLLOW: Season two wrapped up nicely, with a few welcome twists(so long, Katrina!) and while things are far from perfect, I have hope for the next time around. Give credit where it's due, they did clean up some of the debris here and created a nice reset for season three:

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Meeting up with McMurtry on The Road of Rereading

I'm nearly finished with the winter portion of my blog project for the year,entitled The Road of Rereading, as I only have about seventy-five pages left in The Evening Star, the sequel to Larry McMurtry's Terms of Endearment.

With that in mind, let me start with my thoughts about TOE. As I mentioned in my previous post, this novel covers a mother-daughter relationship with the less than matronly Aurora Greenway throwing her considerable emotional weight around her offspring Emma, a woman who realized early on that her marriage to the hapless college teacher Flap Horton was destined to be lackluster at best.

Emma's portion of the book is much smaller than Aurora's but her story line benefits from such succinctness. A decent chunk of her mother's section gets taken up by a sub plot involving the husband of Aurora's maid Rosie and his infidelities that lead to a bizarre accident and stabbing(none of which makes it into the movie version but that's a post for another day).

 Emma finds herself putting up with Flap's cheating on her(and she even has a brief affair of her own) but the constant grind of daily life with three kids and having to move from state to state due to her husband's job choices does take a bit of a toll on her and rightly so. Her reluctant acceptance of these situations,however, doesn't mean that she lets Flap get away with too much crap:

The big event that reunites Aurora and Emma is the news of Emma's cancer, which is depicted in very realistic terms. I don't know if McMurtry had any life experience with such an illness but those passages in which Emma is frustrated by the slow progress of the disease and how her entire family tries not to unravel too much feels incredibly true to life.

Despite it's reputation as a tear jerker,  Terms of Endearment is not overly sentimental and has a nice natural pace that allows the reader to ease into both the comforting and awkward moments that the characters go through during the course of the book.

McMurtry's great strength as a writer is his slow yet steady treatment of all of his characters, from the leads to the supposed bit players. Not a one of them is neglected in having a bit of back story or personal peccadillo that makes him or her stand out slightly in the crowd. His take on Aurora and Emma's final time together is quietly touching and a beautiful portrait of a mother-daughter connection that was always contentious yet finds a way to reach the true harmony of heart between them:

As I mentioned before, I'm nearly done with The Evening Star which takes place nearly twenty years later. Aurora is still in the midst of dealing with a number of boyfriends(a couple of whom have died on her) as well as her grown-up grandchildren.

The kids are a mess, as their father basically remarried and left them to their grandmother's care. Eldest son Tommy is in prison for murdering his ex-girlfriend during a drug deal, his brother Teddy is smart but emotionally unstable(even with a wife and son) and little sister Melanie keeps bouncing around from one bad relationship to another.

Granted, plenty of children in similar circumstances could have turned out this way, so having Emma's offspring become as restless and unfocused as she was(even with the loving emotional and financial support of her mother and best friend Patsy) is not totally surprising. McMurtry, true to his characters, doesn't get bogged down in playing the blame game when it comes to dealing with the Horton children. Rather, he allows some chance of hope for each of them to overcome whatever obstacles are in their path, one way or another:

The bulk of the story,however, is about Aurora, much like Terms of Endearment was , and this book is actually much longer than that one was. Much as I like a good long book, that length can be a disadvantage at times.

Fortunately, Aurora's charms do hold up well here,plus the narrative does shift to others in the nick of time. The main center point of TES is Aurora's affair with Jerry, a much younger man who has a pseudo-shrink position that she meets when in the mood to engage in therapy.

Aurora's desire for Jerry is complicated in that while she knows full well what she wants from him, his youth and laid back manner tends to disarm her fierce emotional armor, leaving her feeling old and vulnerable, two things that she firmly denies being:

Aurora not only allows herself to get physically intimate with Jerry, she finds herself more attached than she realizes when Emma's old friend Patsy gets involved with him,too.

Patsy is one of those characters who drift in and out of McMurtry's various novels(she even has her own book, Moving On, which I recently re-bought to read at a later date) and she winds up competing with Aurora in an almost surrogate daughter kind of way. Weird but all too true to life in some ways, there.

The Evening Star didn't resound with readers or film goers the way that Terms of Endearment did(partly due, I think, to most folks being imprinted on the movie version which won several Academy Awards). This isn't the first time that McMurtry's follow-ups to certain books have not received the same loving acceptance as their originals did. Texasville, the sequel to The Last Picture Show, for example, wasn't a hit with critics or fans and while Lonesome Dove was amazing enough on it's own even before winning the Pulitzer, the books that explored what happened to the remaining characters have their share of detractors.

Turns out, I read a lot of McMurtry back in the day and yet, there are still plenty of his books that I haven't gotten to. At some point, I didn't feel the need to read him(sort of outgrew him, I guess). Going back with Terms and Evening Star, however, was a nice trip home, so to speak and I might spend a little more reading time with him this year. His leisurely writing and engaging character development makes for a good lesson in creating your own sense of style in writing.

My winter path on The Road of Rereading will conclude with a look at the film adaptation of Terms of Endearment(I'm skipping The Evening Star, it's too tricky to locate). So far, this has been a delightful journey and I'm looking forward to the spring blooms that will lead me to the Hardy steps to be taken Far From the Madding Crowd soon:

Monday, February 23, 2015

Warming up to some March and April 2015 reads

The cold winds of winter are still howling but one sign of spring that is sure to come are the first bloom of new books upon the shelves.

 I know that most people are anxious to find something that's more likely to take them out of doors rather than keep them in but going out to shop for books should count, shouldn't it?

At any rate, here are a batch of upcoming titles for March and April that ought to put a spring in your step as you head off to embrace the approaching warmth of the new season:


 The leading lady of Cynthia Swanson's debut novel, The Bookseller, has a taste for fantasy fiction but never thought she would be caught up in a story stranger than any she's ever read.

In 1962, Kitty Miller seems to have the perfect life of a single woman; free and independent as well as co-owner of a bookstore with her best friend Frida in Denver. Yet lately, she's been having very all-too-real dreams in which she's Katherine, living in 1963 as the wife of a Danish architect with three kids.

The weird thing is, Kitty did once have a blind date set up with this man many years ago, only he never showed up for their meeting. Is this "other" life the one she was supposed to have or is it the life she's really living right now? This thoughtful take on what might have been is intriguing and should add onto the genre of "ladies viewing opposite lives" quite nicely(March):


While George Eliot's Middlemarch gets plenty of attention for it's leading lady Dorothea, there is another heroine in that writer's cannon worthy of a deeper look as Diana Souhami shows us in Gwendolen.

The title refers to Gwendolen Harleth, who is featured prominently in Eliot's novel Daniel Deronda, a young woman drawn to Deronda's kindness but forced by circumstance to marry a wealthy man that she doesn't love and is cruel to her in so many ways.

Since the original novel parallels both Daniel and Gwendolen's separate plights, this book allows Gwen to have her own full say without having to share her story with anyone else. Even if you haven't read Deronda, this different approach to the story offers it's own unique delights(March):

The series of modernized Jane Austen novels that started over a year ago continues this spring with Emma: A Modern Retelling.

The well known heroine of Highbury is handled with care by Alexander McCall Smith(best known for The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series) who has her setting up shop as an interior designer.

 In addition to tending to her father's needs for health supplements and discouraging her new best friend Harriet from getting too involved with a local inn keeper, Emma also has to prove to Mr. Knightley just how right she is about everything.

While some may grumble about not needing a new version of Emma, McCall Smith's writing style is perfectly suited to this story and at the very least, provides the best excuse for taking up this timeless tale of a clueless yet clever young lady yet again(April):


As a copy writer for New Yorker magazine, Mary Norris has seen more than her fair share of grammar errors and pitiful punctuation. In her upcoming book, Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen, she tries to impart some of the hard earned wisdom regarding proper usage of language in a charmingly humorous way.

From stories about the grammatical mistakes of all sorts that she's encountered over the years to refresher courses on the right way to set up a sentence and an inside look at the editorial life of a major publication, Norris covers the waterfront of literary language with wit and warmth(April):


  I've signed up for another blog tour this spring and just in time as Downton Abbey is about to end. Judith Kinghorn's The Snow Globe is set within that time period as Daisy, the youngest daughter of a well established family with a country estate called Eden Hall, learns that her life is not a true paradise

Crushed by the revelation of her father's infidelity with a family friend, Daisy plunges into a trio of unexpected romances, all of which could easily lead to
social ruin. Daisy is not the only one in the household courting disaster but with the Great War coming to an end, her emotional exploits could be just as damaging than any fights seen on the battlefields

This novel sounds like a true historical fiction treat and I'll be happy to share my thoughts about it this March. Particularly as it sounds a bit like the early seasons of Downton, The Snow Globe should be a welcome sight for English drama fans and romance lovers alike(March):

 Author Jennifer Chiverini continues with her Civil War series as her latest novel pairs two long time friends needing to find separate paths in life. Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule shares the story of a future First Lady and her girlhood companion, who was also her slave.

Julia Dent grew up with Jule being her best friend and maid servant since childhood, relying on Jule's better eyesight and encouragement over the years. However, upon falling in love with Ulysses Grant, Julia is determined to keep Jule with her despite his opposition to slavery.

Eventually, Jule has the chance to break out on her own with no help from her life long "friend" and the choices that both women must make will change not only their lives but perhaps the lives of others all around them. Chiaverini's fictional focus on real life heroines like this certainly makes for  educational as well as entertaining reading(March):

Hopefully, a couple of these books can provide your mind with some much needed warmth as the pages turn and the temperature goes up. Finding new reads is essential, as being at a loss for words can be as tough to deal with as the winter blues: