Syrie James Blog Tour

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Taking a Blog Break

To my regular readers:

Due to my mother's ill health, I have to put this blog on hold for now. Hopefully, things will get better on my end and you'll hear from me soon but for now, family comes first. Thank you for reading LRG and Happy Thanksgiving to all.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Some harvest hijinks to liven up your Thanksgiving spirits

We're getting closer to Thanksgiving and I really feel the need to rev up my holiday spirit. To me, having Thanksgiving spirit is just as important as Christmas spirit,perhaps more so these days.

With all of the rushing to Black Thursday/Friday/Cyber Monday and beyond, this day of simply rejoicing with your loved ones is being severely overlooked and under appreciated.

Nothing against gift giving but let's slow down and smell the turkey and stuffing there.folks. With that sentiment in mind, here are a few humorous highlights from pop culture that offer a smile with your pumpkin pie:

TOFURKEY FOR ME, TOFURKEY FOR YOU: Nothing says go-to laugh on Thanksgiving better than the tofu version of the preferred protein of the day. One of the first places I recall seeing it featured was the Season Three Gilmore Girls ' episode entitled "A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving."

The vegan food choices of Mrs. Kim were a well established trope by this time and her holiday celebrations were suitably somber as well. Lorelai's attempt to convince Mrs. Kim to accept a chocolate turkey was a bit more successful than her plan to fake eating the tofurkey, which didn't slow her holiday feasting roll,of course:



Tofurkey plays a big part of a very memorable holiday episode of Everybody Loves Raymond, as Marie and Debra come to an unusual accord for the dinner plans .

With Marie being the major chef in the family, one of the biggest battlegrounds had been Thanksgiving but this time around, she wanted to start eating healthier and her daughter-in-law was her only supporter of a different menu.

By the end, the Barone clan wound up having a traditional late night Thanksgiving meal but it was nice that for once, Debra and Marie got along. That was short lived,granted, yet still sweet and much more savory than that pale imitation of a bird:



HAPPY THANKSGIVING BACK: The hectic nature of Thanksgiving grocery shopping is nicely captured in this bit from You've Got Mail, as Kathleen Kelly gets in the wrong check out lane with no sympathy from her fellow shoppers or the cashier.

Having been behind the register during a busy sales event myself, I am on the side of Rose(played by Sara Ramirez, who went on to Gray's Anatomy) and yes, Kathleen should have gone to another line. Then again, Joe Fox's charms are reason enough to give in on a thing like this:



AFTER DINNER CONFESSION MINTS: Family fights are an expected part of Thanksgiving and even Friends had their own version of that, with Ross and Monica competing to see who could expose the worst to their parents.

That inspired everyone else in the room to blurt out their own hidden feelings, including Rachel's astonishment that she wasn't supposed to put beef in the English trifle that all of them forced down during dessert.

The only winner out of this whole mess was Chandler, who got the Gellers to stop giving him the cold shoulder and accept him as part of the family(whether that was a good thing or not was yet to be seen there):


Let's wrap up these leftovers with the now infamous Addams Family Values scene where Wednesday takes over the hideous Thanksgiving pageant at  summer camp.

 This sequence has become as iconic as A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving(and much more historically accurate,in my opinion, than that Peanuts pilgrim special they drag out each year). While I do wish that mainstream media would embrace this holiday with more warmth these days, seeing this amusing attack on such a worn out holiday convention turn into a mini-classic does give me hope for the future,as well as the funny:


Friday, November 14, 2014

Making some winter reading plans with an Austen twist and a Dickensian flair

With the cold weather making it's way towards us, the urge to hurdle up by the heater with a good book or two is rather strong and when it comes to my blog, the best way to keep things warmly inviting is to make literary plans for it.

As you can see by the banner ad above, Living Read Girl will be one of the stops for Syrie James' blog tour this season. I'll be contributing a review of her latest novel(which has been a delight to read at the moment) in early December.

The book is entitled  Jane Austen's First Love and it tells the little known story of an early romance for the beloved author of Pride & Prejudice as she at age fifteen journeys with her sister Cassandra to Kent in order to meet her upcoming new sister-in-law. During that trip, Jane meets Edward Taylor, a charming neighbor who appreciates Jane's lively ways and the attraction seems to be mutual.

 However, Edward is expected to marry someone with a fortune to match his own and sure enough, a rival appears on the scene. How will our dear Jane cope with such an emotional challenge and what effect did it have on her creation of such heroes as Mr. Darcy and Mr. Knightley? Syrie James has a deft hand when it comes to Austenesque literature and her love of extensive reading appears to have been put to good use here:



Upon the heels of the FrightFall challenge that I took part in recently, an invitation to join in the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge came my way and since I had fun with the last one, saying "yes" felt like a good way to kick off the holiday season.

This challenge begins on November 24 and lasts until January 6(a shorter reading event is also taking place at Seasons of Reading). You chose your own level of participation, from Candy Cane level(one book) or Christmas Tree(six or more).  I intend to go for Mistletoe, which allows me to tackle a trio of books, two of which are modern takes on a Charles Dickens classic.

That book being,of course, A Christmas Carol, that time honored tale of regret and redemption that is one of the high points of the holiday.

It's been awhile since I actually read it and lucky me, there's a nice little hardcover copy on my shelf that hasn't been opened yet(got it for free at a rummage sale),so the timing is aces here. I will watch at least one of the film adaptations as well, my all time favorite being the 1951 British production starring  Alstair Sim as Scrooge.

To me, the best representation of the original spirit of the story is in this film, particularly Sim's portrayal of Ebeneezer which goes from frightening to fearful and then fantastically happy in a manner that is completely believable from beginning to end:




Speaking of believable, a more realistic tone is taken to this holiday legend in Louis Bayard's Mr. Timothy, which features a grown-up version of Tiny Tim.

The story takes place many years after Scrooge's renewed faith in humanity has helped the Cratchit family and Tim is now an educated gentleman ,with only a slight limp from his childhood days, yet with little prospects in the way of a career.

Tim winds up taking a tutoring position in a house of ill repute and is entangled in a mystery involving an innocent young girl and a secret society
that prospers from the exploitation of street urchins. It may not sound very happy holidays but it certainly sounds very Dickensian in nature and that's good enough for me.

The ghost story elements of A Christmas Carol are highlighted in Lost by Gregory Maguire, which is set in modern day London.

Writer Winifred Rudge leaves Boston for England to revive her literary spirits and stays at a house rumored to have once been the home of an ancestor who inspired the character of Ebeneezer Scrooge for Charles Dickens. All too soon, Winnie encounters a ghost who demands assistance in completing an important task from her past life in order to move on.

Again, this may not sound like a very merry book but if you think about it, A Christmas Carol can be easily seen as a horror tale. What with the ghosts and true terrors of cynicism and despair, you could say that it's meant to scare the negativity right out of you during this time of year and in that department, it's as reliable as chicken soup for what ails your spirits:



I will be doing a few posts about my progress in the Christmas Spirit challenge(my writing in this blog might be sporadic next month, due to my mother having surgery in early December) and I hope that many folks take up the good book cause to keep their spirit bright. The holidays can be a rough ride yet reading helps to put a little love in your heart for the season:


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Fish and Penguin getting some face time on Gotham, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. solve a puzzle and a quick look at The Flash

The major plot lines on Gotham are starting to get better, as Gordon shows off more of his badass side(along with young Bruce Wayne, who with the help of Alfred, taught a bully some manners) and the promise of Harvey Dent arriving soon is a nice treat to savor.

My favorite story line, however, is the Penguin's progress through the criminal underworld, particularly now with Fish Mooney being forced to treat him as an equal.

The first big meeting between those two since the reveal that Penguin was alive naturally had it's share of tension, with an attempt at polite reconciliation but Ms. Mooney is not the type to smile and swoon over a gift from someone she despises.

 Penguin got his own private payback for her rather pointed acceptance of his peace offering(note: being Fish's umbrella carrier is about as safe as being a drummer for Spinal Tap) but in the end, the lady herself will have to answer to him directly for her actions:




Coulson's obsession with carving strange symbols came to a head this week on Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as he went through a painful session in Raina's mind chamber in order to get info that would track down a killer.

Turns out there were several agents given the Tahiti treatment, with all of them devolving into mania as each one had a piece of the puzzle yet couldn't figure out the whole picture. Skye was sort of right about it being a map, only it's more like a blue print of a possibly alien city(most speculation points to Attilan, the earth bound home base of the Inhumans).

 Glad to see this arc getting a solid halfway marker to stop at and then being able to pick up as an interesting lead-in for the next few episodes(and by the way, Ward on the run and being a total evil Jason Bourne type? Pretty effing cool):



This is a big superhero TV talk trifecta, as I round things out with The Flash, a show that is doing very well so far. Granted, I would like Iris to buy a clue and realize that Barry is all into her, plus what is the agenda of Dr. Wells here?

Wells is clearly a secret bad guy, with his hidden room that has newspapers from the future(not to mention pretending to need a wheelchair and killing potential rivals!) and his advice to troubled metahuman Plastique,that she should take down her pursuers before they capture her, was rather deadly there. I know at some point, all will be revealed but I am so trying to figure who Wells really is and what is his ultimate goal.

I did enjoy seeing Barry test his speed limits, with the running up the side of a building and the whole water walk deal(not sure if Plastique is truly gone but we shall see, I suppose). First seasons tend to still be learning their steps yet The Flash has been off and running at a good pace. Keep up the momentum, folks:


RANDOM NOTES:

AGENT CARTER: A brief winter interlude will bring this character from Captain America's past to the small screen, where her adventures bring her into contact with the ancestor of a certain  Avenger and a whole lot more. Should be fun:



Monday, November 10, 2014

Cooking up a Thanksgiving TV dinner

It may be a bit soon to talk turkey about Thanksgiving but if Christmas candy and tree lights can already be on the store shelves, I don't see why not.

Thanksgiving is a holiday that has been getting the short shift more and more often as time goes on, which is such a shame. It's one of the best holidays as the need for it's simple themes of food, family and appreciation for what you have in life are most keenly felt right about now.

Fortunately, TV does manage to honor the day still and in that spirit, I give you a tasting menu of Thanksgiving themed television goodies, all of which focus on the actual preparing of the meal. The kitchen is to Thanksgiving what the decorated tree(or lighted menorah) is to the upcoming winter holidays, the focal point of the occasion,so let's step over to the stove and see what's cooking:

FOOD NETWORK FESTIVITIES: Both Food Network and The Cooking Channel adore this holiday and it's understandable, given that this is pretty much their suppertime Super Bowl. From specials like Thanksgiving Live! and Extra Virgin: A Tuscan Thanksgiving to specially themed episodes of Chopped and Guy's Grocery Games, all of the hands are on deck to create the ideal feast.

 What should be truly fun is seeing what Cutthroat Kitchen comes up with for their first Turkey Day show and how off the wall Chopped will get for it's Thanksgiving showdown. Last year, the judges had an After Hours turn at the turkey platter with pumpkin pie ice cream and giblet gravy, quite the odd sauce combination that makes you say "Kids, don't try this at home!":



IT'S JUST DINNER,CHARLIE BROWN: There are so many favorite scenes and humorous bits to choose from on A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, but surely in the Top Ten is the food prep sequence where Snoopy and the boys set up a little culinary assembly line.

What amazes me are the number and variety of toasters available in Charlie Brown's kitchen. Those side loaders alone are cool yet how did he and Linus find so many on such short notice? Did they go all True West and pull off a quick toaster heist? Then again, that sounds more like Snoopy's department:



THOSE DEEP FRIED TURKEY BLUES: On the third season of Gilmore Girls, Lorelai and Rory were in the midst of their four meal marathon when they stopped by Sookie and Jackson's and witnessed the deep frying of the holiday "gobbler."

Sookie was rather distraught over the whole thing, as her stance on what should and should not be deep fried was pretty firm. However, I suspect that most of their dinner guests enjoyed the well cooked bird along with the Thunderdome antics involved in making it so:



A TRIFLE AMONGST FRIENDS: While Monica was the established chef on Friends, Rachel did try her hand at cooking on one Thanksgiving as she set out to make a "traditional" English trifle.

Unfortunately, her mix-up of that recipe with the filling for a shepard's pie made for a dessert that only Joey's cast iron stomach could love(lucky for her the rest of the gang was nice enough to pretend to like it, even on the balcony or in the bathroom):



So, be on the lookout for your favorite shows to celebrate the spirit of Thanksgiving(just before they take their mid-season break, that is) and don't just plan on the Macy's parade or football for your family viewing time. That's what DVD sets and online streaming are for,folks, to schedule your happy holiday watching.

Speaking of happy, Mystery Science Theater 3000 will be hosting another Turkey Day Marathon that you can watch either at Shout! Factory or their Youtube channel.

 A better silly savory way to celebrate this special day is hard to find and how best to settle the debate between stuffing and potatoes than via a presentation from Servo and Crow, I ask you? (I'm a potatoes gal, for the record):




Thursday, November 06, 2014

Getting under the Penquin's umbrella on Gotham, Sleepy Hollow debates their issues and a new player in the Elementary game

Things did heat up considerably on Gotham this week, as Jim Gordon made plans to go to the mattresses upon his non elimination of Cobblepot being made public.

His version of that,however, was to get Barbara out of town and then convince Bullock to join him in arresting the Mayor and Don Falcone on charges of framing Pepper(the now deceased dad of the future Poison Ivy) for the Waynes' murder. It was great to see him kick ass(also, that Montoya and Allen are on his side now) and be in serious in charge mode here.  Hopefully, more of this side of Gordon will be on display for the rest of the season:


Meanwhile, Fish Mooney is far from happy to discover that Penguin is alive and well,plus working for Maroni. She demands that he be turned over to her but such intense anger only shows her vulnerability, making Maroni feel free to refuse Fish.

She and Penguin do get some brief face time and if I were her, I wouldn't underestimate him. Just because he doesn't strike back when first assaulted doesn't mean that he isn't planning a more lethal injury in return,as Maroni's second in command found out the hard way. Oh and the secret alliance between Penguin and Falcone? So of the awesome, I so love this show right now:


It may be a bit too timely to have Ichabod and Abbie heading off to vote for the midterms on Sleepy Hollow this week, but listening to Crane give his commentary on the modern state of affairs when it comes to elections was well worth it.

As much as I enjoy the gripping details of the apocalypse plot line, these humorous moments do round the intensity out nicely. Plus, seeing Ichabod with his hair down in more ways that one is the cherry on the sexy sundae that is him:


Of course, his heart belongs to Katrina, who was able to join him and Abbie due to fleeing members of the Hellfire club interested in having her give birth to Moloch.

Henry was totally on board with this(the Headless Horseman objected but had no final say on the matter) and during a brief lull in the proceedings, Katrina and Ichabod debated over whether or not their son could be turned back to the side of good.

You could argue that he never was a good guy in the first place and as Abbie pointed out, he is planning to end life on earth,so how do you come back from that? Then again, as Katrina said, Henry didn't have any family in his life before and maybe there still is a spark of humanity left within him. We shall see, yet I hope that they figure this out in the nick of time instead of discovering the truth when it's much too late:


Finally caught up with the third season premiere of Elementary this past weekend and the new format is intriguing to say the least. Watson now has her own detective agency and working well with the cops, while Holmes has returned to NYC with a new protege.

Her name is Kitty Winter(and yes, she is a character from one of the classic Holmes stories), who Sherlock took on as a way of getting over Watson's departure.

She seems pretty capable and should be fun to get to know. However, she does have some baggage of her own that is yet to be unpacked. Joan is a little startled by this new development but determined to keep her independence and rightly so. Looking forward to seeing more of Miss Kitty as the season goes on(and how cool is it that Joan wound up with Clyde the turtle?):



RANDOM NOTES:

LAST WEEK TONIGHT:  John Oliver is totally slaying the satire scene and it's great that other comedians are getting to play in his backyard, as this hilarious Home Depot ad parody, starring Sarah Baker, Nick Offerman and H. Jon Benjamin, shows:




Tuesday, November 04, 2014

While Beauty Slept awakens you to the true magic of reading

New takes on classic fairy tales have become a genre of their own these days yet even something so familiar as the tale of Sleeping Beauty can offer up some engaging surprises in a retelling.

Such is the case with Elizabeth Blackwell's While Beauty Slept, where the main narrator is Elise, a poor farm girl who longs to leave her unhappy home and seek a position at the royal court in St. Elsip, as did her mother.

 A sad set of circumstances gives her the opportunity to do so and before long, Elise winds up being appointed as lady's maid to Queen Lenore, a lovely woman whose only sorrow is not having borne an heir to her husband King Ranolf's throne. When an unexpected pregnancy is announced(causing the king's ambitious brother Bowen to lose his spot as next in line), much joy is to be had.

However, it turns out that Leonore may owe her upcoming child to the mysterious powers of Millicent,  great aunt to the king, who deeply resents being forced into the typical royal maiden role instead pursuing a path to power. Elise notices the sway that Millicent is having over the queen and wonders just how much influence the elder woman intends to have once the child is born:


The baby turns out to be a girl and her father immediately changes the law that insists upon a male only line of ascension. However, Ranolf is furious about Millicent's control over the queen and has her banished during the birth.

When Millicent is not allowed to attend the royal baptism, her anger rises to a boiling point. She forces her way into the ceremony and announces that she is cursing the king and his family with "fear", hinting that his daughter Princess Rose may succumb to poison one day, perhaps even from the spindle of a spinning wheel.

She then vanishes for parts unknown, forcing Lenore to confess to her husband and Elise that Millicent made her swear an unholy allegiance in order than she might have a child at all. Elise is determined to protect the queen and child,even taking lessons in herbal remedies from Flora, Millicent's kindly younger sister. However, the threat of Millicent's promised revenge is an ever constant terror as the years go by:


As for Elise, she makes a number of  personal choices that put her own happiness aside, such as marrying a townsman that she truly loves, in order to remain at court.

 She does eventually marry, a relationship that has some affection but not the deep down love that Elise knew before, and it's a relationship that Princess Rose thinks is something to aspire to, having no choice but to have been betrothed to a noble man she's never met. However, there is someone that Rose falls in love with and she may have to give him up as Elise once did.

By the time Princess Rose is sixteen, a war is raging over who is to rule, headed up by Bowen. As the king and his allies find victory on the battlefield, a greater threat slips in from Millicent herself and her belated gift to her great grand niece is a most deadly one. Elise does what she can to protect the princess but at a great cost that affects nearly the entire kingdom. It will take more than true love's kiss to save the day or the realm for that matter.

This story may seem sad but it is a compelling page turner that leads to a well deserved conclusion. Elizabeth Blackwell takes a historical fiction approach to the classic tale and manages to deftly weave in the well known touchstones of the story into the plot in a graceful manner.

While the princess of the piece does get her due, Elise is the main heroine and her story would be just as interesting even without the framework of the fairy tale to uphold. In some parts, it's like a medieval Downton Abbey and you root for Elise to make the right choices in love as much you would for Anna or Daisy there:


While Beauty Slept is a thoughtful approach to this time honored tale and a charming debut from Elizabeth Blackwell, who I hope to read more from.

The book is now in paperback(and this write-up is intended to be part of the blog tour for this release) and should be a definite must read for fantasy lovers as well as readers delighted with a thumping good read. While Beauty Slept may be about the reality behind the fairy tale but it's also about the magic of true love for those brave enough to pursue it, no matter where it leads you: