Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, February 28, 2014

The LRG last minute Oscar picks for 2014

For film fans like myself,the Academy Awards are our cinematic Super Bowl and this year's crop of contenders gives us plenty to chew over as we make our predictions about who will win,lose or draw this upcoming Sunday.

Some things about the Oscars are to be expected,such as running overtime, acceptance speeches that run the risk of being cut off too quick and at least one bad outfit to point and laugh at.

However,we do get surprises every now and then and at this stage of the game,it's time to put our cards down on the table and place your bets,which is what I am doing today. Mind you, I am not guaranteeing anything,so don't be too fast to use my Oscar opinions as grounds for trying to win serious money at your local Oscar pool but I do have a decent record in predictions,so here we go:


There are a strong set of nominees in the Best Actor category and while Leo DiCaprio is doing his level best to snag that elusive trophy, all the signs are pointing to Matthew McConaughey as the winner for his role as real life AIDS sufferer/entrepreneur Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club.

People seem to be in love with not only the struggles to make this movie(it took over ten years to get the financing for DBC and it was shot in 25 days) but McConaughey's turn from Hollywood leading man into solid character actor in small indie flicks over the years.

 Top that off with the added bonus of doing great work in the current HBO series True Detective( and a small part in Wolf of Wall Street to boot),plus the whole "I lost a ton of weight for the role" bit and the Oscar is practically being gift wrapped for him. It is possible that the outstanding performance of Chiwetal Ejiofer in 12 Years a Slave or Bruce Dern's old school standard for Nebraska might edge MMC out but chances are, it will be a good day for Matt indeed:


As it was last year, it looks as if Best Director and Best Picture will be parting ways,as Alfonso Cuaron won the Directors Guild award for Gravity(which is a strong indicator of who will receive the Oscar in that race) and with Steve McQueen being a producer as well as director of 12 Years a Slave, voters may feel safe in giving him the Ben Affleck precedent prize.

The debate over these two categories being reflections of one another has been waged for some time now and it won't be ending with this new standard being set.

 However, I have noticed during my time in Oscar watching that voters like to spread the wealth,as it were( or as I call it "throw a bone") to just about everyone who impressed them and since the consensus is that Gravity was a remarkable technical achievement and that 12 Yrs a Slave is an outstanding artistic triumph, so this is their way of playing fair:


The only sure bet in the acting categories this year is that Lupita  Nyong'o will win Best Supporting Actress for her harrowing work in 12 Yrs(and rightly so).

When it comes to Best Actress, I know that most think Cate Blanchett has it in the bag but I still feel that Amy Adams could claim that honor. If she doesn't, Bradley Cooper might snag a Best Supporting Actor nod right under Jared Leto's nose.

My reasoning is this; American Hustle has a lot of good will going for it and mainly due to the performances,with all of the four main players being up for Oscars. Since Jennifer Lawrence won last year and Bale is up against more than one juggernaut in his category, it may fall to one of the other two to score a win. As I said before,Academy voters like to throw bones to their favorites and they certainly like this movie a lot:


Another safe call is seeing "Let It Go" from Frozen take home the Best Song award and having Idina Menzel singing that glorious number on Oscar night is the cherry on the chilly song sundae.

However, my toes will also be tapping for "Happy",Pharrell Williams' delightful contribution to the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack. It's insanely infectious and really puts you in a good mood,regardless of the movie(which I have not seen,but then again I didn't see the first one either).

 The song has hit the Billboard charts at number one this week and having a mainstream melody up for Oscar contention is something that used to be a regular part of the category which I'm happy to see return to the sing along status quo:

Some of my other predictions include Best Make-up going to Dallas Buyers Club(no way in hell is Bad Grandpa making off with that one!), Gravity cleaning up in the technical section with wins for Best Cinematography and such while Best Documentary might be given to 20 Feet From Stardom(that's strictly a hunch but it has been making the talk show circuit quite a bit lately).

Hopefully,the show will be fun and while I would like someone more dynamic than Ellen as the host,it's understandable that after the Seth McFarlane follies last time,the show runners would want a more neutral presence at the podium. Don't get me wrong,she's nice and amusing enough but certainly not a Hugh Jackman or Neil Patrick Harris type of MC.

I haven't seen most of the nominated films(will be watching Nebraska over the weekend) but like many of my fellow movie goers, am looking forward to catching up to the cream of the crop over the coming months. Oscar glory may be fleeting but the films linger on in all of their glory for audiences of the future and beyond:

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Downton Abbey's fourth season finale,TAR:All Stars have a couple of early departures and my two cents on Penny Dreadful

Well,Downton Abbey is over and done with for now,as the season finale went over well and was certainly more lighthearted than the last one. While the hijinks regarding the Prince of Wales' missing love letter was amusing enough, the one serious note to the whole affair was Edith's situation.

She and Aunt Rosemund returned from Switzerland,having her baby and then giving custody over to a local family,which was very hard for Edith to endure. I can't help but feel for poor Edith and frankly, sick to death of Mary's endless romances(not to mention my getting annoyed at her for even considering turning Mr. Bates in for murdering that manservant who attacked our dear Anna-she certainly took her sweet time about that!).

 While it was the norm back then for women in her social class to do just that,you knew that such a juicy plot point would hardly be tucked away so neatly there. So, I won't be surprised at some part of next season involving Edith's lovechild daughter(who is now being moved back into England to be raised by a grateful village farmer and his family) being discovered. Good on Edith for not giving into pressure from her aunt(who means well,in her own way) and staying connected with her child:

The Amazing Race All Stars edition got off to a sad start,as the team of Mark and Bopper wound up being separated. It seems that Bopper wasn't able to pass the medical requirements(due to an inflamed pancreas) necessary for approval and so, he is out of the game before it even began.

However,his good buddy Mark was still given a chance to compete by being teamed up with another former TAR contender Mallory(who ran the race with her dad previously). While I am glad to see Mark at least get another shot at this,I just hope that Mallory doesn't drive him completely crazy. The girl's a tad wacky there and the last thing he needs is for her to be another challenge to endure:

On the bright side,the ever annoying "Twinnies" Natalie and Nadiya were the first to be eliminated from the end of the first leg. Also glad that Jet and Cord were the first to arrive and won the two Express Passes because they will definitely play fair with those.

Back to the twin terrors;those two were truly double trouble during their original run on TAR(particularly when they helped to swipe another team's money) and their argumentative nature did them no favor here.

If they had spent less time fighting and more time concentrating on the tasks at hand, we would be stuck with them for awhile longer but the reality show gods were merciful to the viewers for once:

One of the upcoming highlights of the spring season is Showtime's Penny Dreadful, a horror series that dredges up some of the literary terrors of the Victorian era.

The cast includes Eva Green as a lady of mystery and Josh Harnett as a young dabbler in the dark side of the street. Not much has given away in terms of plot but characters such as Frankenstein's monster and Dorian Gray are said to be included into the mix.

It would be fun to have a truly Gothic show on the air and pay cable does provide a unfettered forum for a well done fear fest. However, while the early trailers look tantalizing enough, I am keeping my fingers here, hoping that there is some steak along with the scary sizzle and not just an attempt to cash in on the current steampunk sensation-we shall see by May,so let us linger in suspense for now:


HEROES REBORN: Fans of the much debated superhero saga are rejoicing at the news of a 13 episode run set for 2015 of a revived version of the show. No word on casting just yet(although in my opinion, you can't do this properly without Sylar!) but here's to getting a second chance at doing it right:

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Giveaway Goodness winners and a look at Dear Mr. Knightley

I have a double dose of Jane Austen goodness to share today and let's begin by announcing the winners of our first Fanny Price Giveaway Goodness contest and congratulations are in order for:

Doris Maat

Evie Cotton

Thank you,ladies,for entering and you will receive your pair of Fanny Price,Slayer of Vampire pins in March-please send your mailing address to livingreadgirl@yahoo.com(five winners were originally planned for but circumstances did not allow for it this time around.  Do not despair,another giveaway for these fabulous Fanny Price pins will be held later this spring)

Now for our second scoop of Austen related sweetness,we will discuss Katherine Reay's debut novel Dear Mr. Knightley,which has been talked about in many other forums but as Lady Catherine would say, I must have my share of the conversation!

The leading lady of this story,told mainly through letters,is Samantha Moore,a young woman whose troubled past still haunts her. She is planning to attend college with the help of a grant obtained for her by Father John, a mentor that runs Grace House,a way station for kids in the foster care system.

One of the main conditions of the grant is for Samantha to write progress reports to the head of the grant foundation who prefers to be called "Mr. Knightley" after the main hero of Jane Austen's Emma. That name suits Samantha just fine,as her major refuge from the traumas of her former and current life are classic literature such as Austen,Charlotte Bronte and Alexandre Dumas( Edmund Dantes often inspires her to feel brave).

Samantha's social awkwardness causes folks to encourage her to venture outside of her comfort zone and I found myself getting a little perturbed at some of their insistence,such as not allowing her to go for an English Lit degree and signing her up for a journalism major instead. Granted,they all meant well but you know you're invested in a book when you find yourself wanting to tell other characters to back off there:

 Samantha does begin to open up,particularly in her letters to Mr. Knightley,but there are a number of obstacles for her to overcome and some are due to Samantha's habit of directly quoting from her favorite books in regular conversation.

Others come from school,as one of her teachers increasingly demands that she show him her "true voice" in writing and some of the new friends Sam makes feel as if she deliberately holds back from them.

Once some of those hurdles are jumped,new ones arise but not without some real emotional benefits like the bond Sam forms with Kyle,another at risk youth at Grace House who shares her joy of running track. Eventually Sam winds up with two potential love interests,Josh who seems like a Colonel Brandon at first but turns out to be more of a Mr. Elton and Alex Powell,a popular yet reclusive mystery writer who becomes a close friend but has secrets of his own to hide.

 As Sam's inner and outer world experiences expand,she learns to take more joy in life and to start trusting others,although that trust is sorely tested by a startling revelation from the last person she would expect it to come from.

 While Samantha's personal journey was extremely engrossing,some of the strongest sections of  the book for me dealt with Grace House,which at times put me in mind of a film released last year called Short Term 12 that deals with this subject well.

 While Dear Mr. Knightley is actually loosely based on Jean Webster 's 1912 novel Daddy Long Legs(made into a Hollywood film in 1955),it does have a contemporary vibe that gels with the overall tone of the story. The balance between old fashioned storytelling and modern day sensibilities is nicely done and most importantly,DMK is one of those hard to put down page turners that make you stay up all night to finish(granted, I read it in ebook form but still...).

In short, I highly recommend Dear Mr. Knightley for any constant reader who takes delight in a good story well told as well as Jane Austen fans. That's all of the Jane Austen news we have at this time,thank you all for tuning in and best wishes for you and your own Mr. Knightley this upcoming spring season:

Monday, February 24, 2014

Springing into March and April with a bouquet of books

While winter is still dragging it's feet as spring is about to turn the corner,the best way to keep your spirits warm is by looking forward to all of the delights of the new season to come.

For many of us, those anticipated joys include books and there are plenty to go around. Whether you prefer something on the magical side or would rather embrace a more down to earth read, the handful of upcoming titles here should offer you a little of each and then some:


Author Helen Oyeyemi blends the classic fairy tale of Snow White into her latest novel,Boy,Snow Bird,which is set in Massachusetts during the 1950s.

When Boy Novak moves into town, she's hoping for a better and more beautiful life that she once had in New York and by marrying Arturo Whitman,her dreams promise to come true.

Becoming the stepmother to his daughter Snow,however,brings it's own challenges and upon the birth of her own child Bird,a dreaded secret threatens to be revealed that can and will transform all of their lives. This tale of how fragile a family becomes due to perceptions and prejudices from the outer world is more haunting than any fairy tale foe could be(March):

In Stephen Leigh's Immortal Muse, a married couple become immortal due to creating the perfect potion but their love proves to be less than eternal.

Nicholas Flamel and his wife Perenelle wind up spending their extra long lives as adversaries due to her desire to thrive as artistic inspiration for others and his dark need to bring death and suffering along for the ride.

The two of them chase each other throughout the centuries,assuming different lives and personae during their travels, until a fateful encounter in modern day New York has the potential to bring their private war to an end. Yet,the price for that peace may be dear,not to mention deadly. This flight of fancy could be a real boost for your imagination to take flight(March).


Comedienne Carol Leifer offers her take on the business of show in her memoir How to Succeed in Business Without Really Crying,where she chronicles her life and times in entertainment.

As one of the women who came up in the comedy clubs during the late  eighties, Carol has had her share of the boys' club mentality amongst her peers but refused to simply give in to any of the pressures from that front. This collection of essays recounts many of those troublesome times with her bit of sage advice for others following in her funny footsteps.

Her writing skills have been on display for such shows as SNL,Seinfeld and Modern Family but in this book, the real Carol gets to stand up and show us what she's got and it's definitely worth taking a seat for(April):


Laura Kasischke's Mind of Winter has mother Holly judge spending Christmas day being suspicious of Tatiana,the daughter she and her husband Eric adopted thirteen years ago from Siberia.

Trapped indoors with Tatiana during a violent snowstorm,where Eric and his parents are unable to come home from the airport, tensions rise between Holly and her moody child,who she is convinced is the source of some sort of evil.

Are Holly's fears due to a real threat or a delusion to explain away her current emotional malaise? Either way, this chilling suspense ride has quite a few surprises in store for any literary traveler (March).

Emma Donoghue returns to her historical fiction roots with her follow-up from the amazing Room in Frog Music,which takes place in 1870s San Francisco.

Burlesque dancer Blanche decides to look into the murder of Jenny Bonnet, a friend of her who died before her eyes. Jenny's independent ways may have been a motive for her death and a few of the suspects include Blanche's lovers.

There are plenty of other folks who had reason to kill Jenny,who didn't take to her interfering with the baby farms that poor offspring were packed into or her helping abandoned children. Donoghue's past performance in the historical fiction genre  with such works as Slammerkin and Life Mask is given a larger stage with this crime drama that exposes more than one dank area of life in those times that still resonates today(April):


While Maeve Binchy is no longer with us, her enduring tales are still on the shelf ready to be read and Chestnut Street is one last gift to be shared.

This set of previously unpublished interconnected stories is set on familiar ground, in the neighborhood of St. Jarlath's Crescent where the lives of it's average folk are not as simple or unrelated as they seem to be.

I've been catching up to a lot of Maeve's later books since her passing and while her take on intimate dramas may appear to be standard fictional fare at first glance,she put plenty of hard work into keeping the world of her characters as fresh and relatable as possible,something that I think a good number of so-called "serious writers" would do well to emulate. In any case, Chestnut Street promises to be a friendly place to call home this season(April):

Past and present collide in Yvette Manessis Corporan's debut novel When the Cypress Whispers, as restaurant owner Daphne tries to revive her spirits by going to visit her grandmother(called "Yia-yia") in Greece.

With the death of her husband and the struggles to raise her young daughter alone,Daphne hopes to recapture the security of her youth with her beloved Yia-yia,the woman that inspired her to become a chef.

However,her grandmother has more to give her than a few reassurances as an incident from that good lady's past is brought into the light as an example of what security really means. A heartfelt story that many people of all nationalities can and will relate well to.(April)


Francine Prose weaves historical fact and fiction into her latest novel,Lovers at the Chameleon Club,Paris 1932,in which leading lady Louisianne "Lou" Villars is at the heart of more than one complicated relationship.

Working at the Chameleon Club introduces Lou to a number of offbeat characters, such as the Baroness Lilly de Rossignol,a patroness of the arts and Lionel Maine,a snarky American writer. Those friendships,as well as romances,evolve over time and are retold for a biography being written by Natahlie ,her great niece.

 Lou's life tends to take many different turns as her career changes from cross dressing nightclub entertainer to race car driver to a spy for the Nazis leads her to very unexpected ends. This intriguing look into a world both far away and yet so near to our times should be a very moveable feast for readers to partake in(April):

I hope that spring will arrive soon,making it easier for all of us to go out and about,especially if your local book club is back in session. Just don't have any spoiler fights with your fellow readers because no one is a winner when it comes to those:

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Drawing the curtains at Downton Abbey,Chopped Canada and revving up for Rupaul's Drag Race!

The fourth season of Downton Abbey is nearly at the end,with several plot line being tied up while others get an extension.

Speaking of extensions,I love how Countess Violet zeroes in on the truth about Edith(something that her own mother seems incapable of-really,is a charity bazaar so distracting that you can't see the anguish your daughter's going through right under your nose?!) and reluctantly admitting that Rosemund's plan to take an extended vacation in Switzerland where the baby can be adopted far from England is a good one:

 Also glad that horrid Mr. Green is dead,mainly for Anna's sake(and yes, Mary,if Mr. Bates had anything to do with it,you should let him get away with it) and I hope that is the end of that sad storyline.

There's a lot of potential romance in the air(not surprised about Rose and Jack breaking up,as she clearly was motivated by the need to shock her elders rather than true love and he deserves better than that) and with Tom and perhaps even Isobel finding a little love interest,next season may have some real delights for us in that department.

The finale is this Sunday,with Shirley MacLaine making a return appearance as Cora's feisty mother and Paul Giamatti making his Downton debut as Harold,the feckless enterprising brother. That ought to be rather amusing indeed to see such a snarky fellow up against the likes of Countess Violet:

For the past few weeks,Food Network has been airing Chopped Canada, the version of one of their most popular programs as done by our neighbors to the North.

The set-up is pretty much the same,with the main difference being the host is Dean McDermott(a winner of Rachel vs. Guy Celebrity Cook-off) and judges from that part of the world.

 I will say that I really like the warm earth tones of this Chopped set and the pantry section seems to be laid out a little better than the US one. Some of the food choices for the mystery baskets are local Canadian items,which is interesting because one of the joys of any Chopped show is finding out about edible goods that don't turn up in your neighborhood grocery store.

As someone who doesn't know much or seen anything other than episodes of Degrassi about Canada,this is a fun foodie way to learn a bit more about that neck of the woods. It airs on Thursday nights and I hope it becomes a regular part of the FN rotation:

Arriving at long last is the new season of Rupaul's Drag Race,
starting next Monday on Logo. The fresh crop of queens eager to fight for the crown will certainly warm up the small screen and chase away these dire winter blues.

Yes,it is a campy reality show but when done right,is oh so fun,especially by the time they get to the Snatch Game(you gotta see it to believe it). Plus,how can you hate on the strong sense of humor that Drag Race about itself,I ask you?:


GAME OF THRONES: Season four is coming soon than winter is leaving us and for those who feel torn up by the Red Wedding,take heart in the payback that is yet to come:

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Jennifer Chiaverini settles a score with Mrs. Lincoln's Rival

Author Jennifer Chiaverini,best known for her series of Elm Creek Quilts novels,has been expanding her literary scope lately with a trio of books that highlight previously unknown ladies of the Civil War era,the newest one being Mrs. Lincoln's Rival.

The young lady of the title is Miss Kate Chase,daughter of Salmon P. Chase who was once the governor of Ohio. With her father being a widower three times over,Kate has had to become his political hostess using her considerable charms to woo support for his greatest ambition,the Presidency of the United States.

However,despite his prominence and merit,Chase has to watch on the sidelines as his party gives their preference and votes over to Abraham Lincoln,a rising star on the campaign scene. Sharing his disappointment,Kate joins her father in resigning themselves to playing what parts they can in doing their best for the new administration. Kate's challenges,however, are more on a social level as she winds up competing for status amongst the grand ladies of Washington with the First Lady herself,Mary Todd Lincoln:

Gaining popularity over Mrs.Lincoln turns out to be rather easy at the beginning,due to many people finding the First Lady's melodramatic flair and lavish spending habits a ready source of material for gossip and sniping.

Kate's brief encounters with Mary Lincoln(where she feels slighted and unduly snubbed) further encourage her to indulge in listening to numerous tales told by acquaintances such as John Hays about Mrs. Lincoln's interfering ways that earn her such nicknames as "The Hellcat" and "Her Satanic Majesty".

While Kate does wish to give Mrs. Lincoln the proper respect due to her, she also relishes the thought that someday she'll be the one to reign supreme in the White House when and if her father achieves his true political dreams:

Yet, other more important concerns arise that manage to put this unspoken rivalry aside as the Civil War begins between the North and the South. As Secretary of the Treasury,Salmon Chase has much to do in keeping the troops going and his daughter is with him nearly every step of the way.

Kate hopes that the war will be quick and result in ending slavery,another campaign that she and her father are most passionate about.

 Along with the tension that this major upheaval brings for the nation comes signs of true love for Kate as she has an on-again,off-again romance with William Sprague,the "Boy Governor" of Rhode Island who she eventually marries. While Kate is torn between smoothing the path for her father's ultimate goals and following her heart, the overall impact of the War Between the States puts everything into it's true perspective:

Chiaverini caps off her trilogy of Civil War heroines nicely with this slowly engaging story of a behind the scenes mover and shaker in skirts during that era. This portrait of a young woman being made to choose between daughterly duty and personal desire lifts this story beyond the expected level of cattiness between her and Mrs. Lincoln.

 Kate Chase may have the same type of overbearing confidence that  Jane Austen's Emma Woodhouse possesses but takes somewhat of a different journey in seeing the error of her ways and yet,like that particular Austen heroine, her vulnerabilities are the greatest part of what makes her a strong woman in the end.

 Even if you haven't read Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker(which shares a few references here) or The Spymistress ,Mrs. Lincoln's Rival offers plenty of historical and emotional insight into two great ladies of that age and is worth reading for it's own merits:

Friday, February 14, 2014

Having a Jane Austen Valentine's Day

For Jane Austen fans,Valentine's Day is naturally a huge deal-it's sort of our Super Bowl of the heart,if you will. Celebrating this special time without a touch of Austen would be like not having a Christmas tree or going to bed at 10:30 on New Year's Eve or...(insert your particularly special holiday tradition here).

So,my plans are definitely Jane inspired with tonight's entertainment spotlight falling on Austenland,which happily arrived from Netflix just before the latest snowstorm hit my particular neck of the woods.

 Yes, I know the reviews for this weren't great but I did enjoy the Shannon Hale novel that is based upon and some of the casting choices are sweet,with Jane Seymour being very bitchy British and several of the gents being rather fetching eye candy.

One particular leading man on board here is JJ Feild,who has played an Austen love interest before and this time,he's the "resident Darcy",a role that suits him well indeed:

Speaking of Feild, I intend to make this a double feature by watching him in the 2007 version of Northanger Abbey(which is part of my permanent video library) and I happen to be rereading the book as well.

It's been some time since I went to Bath with Catherine Morland and it is most refreshing to see it again through her young and eager eyes. Plus, any novel that celebrates the joys of reading is always a welcome sight for world weary eyes.

The other  charms of this book include some very witty passages regarding the social pretensions of the day(some of which are still present even in this social media era) as well as the delights to be had in the company of Henry Tilney. Granted, he's not my instant go-to for an Austen man but spending a bit of Tilney time tonight should melt a good deal of the current chill from this bothersome bout of winter weather away:

Another Austen themed title that is now on my regular reading rotation is Mr. Darcy Forever,the third book in Victoria Connelly's Austen Addicts series. This one has a bit of a Sense & Sensibility vibe,as the plot focuses on a pair of sisters,Mia and Sarah Castle,who both share a love of Austen's books but not the same viewpoints about men.

The girls have not spoken to each other in three years,due to a falling out about a man and yet are bound to run into one another at the Jane Austen Festival in Bath,which they are attending separately.

 I'm mid way through and really hoping for these sisters to reunite as bonds of love that Austen's work showcases is not limited only to the romantic;sisterly devotion is shown to be just as vital to achieving true happiness in life as well:

My Austen Valentine adventures would not be complete without a shameless plug or two for my own JA themed work so here is a gentle reminder that my newest ebook,Fanny Price:Slayer of Vampires,is now on sale and that the giveaway goodness that will win five lucky Austen admirers a pair of Fanny Price pins is under way(just leave a comment either here or here to enter,US residents only).

Also,my other Austenesque ebook,The Austen Avenger,is currently available as a free download and if you like superheroes as well as Jane Austen,this is the surprise inside slice of cake for you! Happy Valentine's Day to one and all and may all of your dreams be Darcy ones:

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Edith's choices on Downton Abbey,Chopped's latest food themes and The Amazing Race All-Stars!

As I feared,Lady Edith of Downton Abbey is most definitely pregnant and this past week,came rather close to having an abortion. Her last minute hesitation is understandable due to such procedures being seriously life threatening in those days,even with the connections to a higher quality of medical care she had available to her.

What is really the saddest of all is that Edith had no one to confide in for such a dilemma,other than her Aunt Rosamund(not the warmest of people) who seemed resigned to be taking this position. Part of Edith's whole problem in maintaining any sort of romantic attachment is the lack of emotional support given to her by her family- I'm not even sure she has any friends outside of that particular social circle!

 This disinterested display of affection from her immediate family for most of her life,with just about everyone either invested in Mary or Sybil(mainly Mary,who rarely misses an opportunity to slam her Jan Brady of a sis) and only making a fuss about her marrying a much older man out of concern for how it would look to others, it's no wonder that she suffers from an extreme lack of self esteem.

Don't get me wrong,Edith has had her bitchy moments(that letter from season one) and is prone to be quite as snobbish as any Crawley can be. However,she also has talents that have been lately giving her the freedom to break away from those lower expectations and find a new life in London,which I hope continues.

With Edith deciding to keep the baby for now(I suspect a dubious plot maneuver in mind to somehow allow her to stay "respectable" as it were), her road will be a rather hard one to walk on. Yes,Mary is finding new love just about everywhere, including muddy patches while watering pigs(a very cute moment there,I grant you), but would it be too much to ask for Edith to get a break in this department just once?:

In the meanwhile,it does appear that new love is blooming below stairs as Moseley is becoming rather smitten with the new lady's maid Baxter,from what I gather in this preview clip.

Baxter seems nice enough and Moseley deserves to be cheerful about something for once,so I hope it will work out. Then again,Thomas does have some sort of hold on Baxter  which means trouble is just around the corner...:

The gang at Chopped is trying to keep things interesting,so one of their latest themes is making their quarter of chef contenders make one type of dish for all three rounds, like pizza,burgers,bacon(due this weekend) and this past week it was chocolate.

I find that kind of fun,especially since it's pretty hard to make certain things work-how would you make a dessert pizza or a dessert burger?  Plus,the judges also take a whack at these culinary challenges for the online series Chopped: After Hours and it certainly is satisfying to see them put their talents up to the same task as the contestants:

Coming soon(as soon as February 23) to Sunday nights is a fresh new season of The Amazing Race All-Stars,which gives some of the former fan favorite teams another shot at winning.

While it's great to see such likable pairings as Harlem Globetrotters Flight Time and Big Easy or cowboys Jet and Cord(not to mention lifelong buddies Mark and Bopper) back in the TAR saddle again,plenty of obnoxious folks are also on board here.

*sigh* I had hoped to never again see the likes of  Big Brother players Brendon and eternal whiner Rachel or the sneaky "Twinnies" Natalie and Nadiya but I suppose you have to take the bitter with the sweet here,in order to make things interesting. With any luck, a really deserving team will take home the big money and a good time will be had by all:


THE WORST COOKS IN AMERICA:  Season four of this instructional competition starts next Monday and as past participants can tell you, Chef Anne and her current co-chef challenger Bobby Flay insist that their teams talk the talk as well as cook the food right:

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Celebrating Fanny Price,Slayer of Vampires with some giveaway goodness

Today is the official publication date of my new Jane Austen themed ebook entitled Fanny Price,Slayer of Vampires, and I hope that admirers of Mansfield Park(which celebrates it's 200th anniversary this year) will enjoy this fang in cheek take on the story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

My main goal in taking on this much debated novel was to showcase Fanny in a format that would allow her natural heroism to shine though. Yes,she is one of the meekest and milder Austen leading ladies but her strength of character is just as noteworthy as Lizzie Bennet's in my humble opinion.

Part of the fun is in having Fanny face off against her literary foes with not only a stake in hand but plenty of knowledge gleamed from a very special book. Her quiet demeanor does not conceal her keen mind or sense of fairness and consideration,traits that may not make her appear to be exciting but do offer plenty of food for thought there:

I do confess that I also took great pleasure in turning Mary Crawford(along with her brother Henry) into a vampire. They are not the only blood drinkers in this bunch but more than that,I shall not reveal!

 Back to Miss Crawford, I found that her sultry scheming ways make her the perfect vampy villainess and while many people prefer Mary over Fanny, at least in my book one is not in danger of having their shirt collar torn apart when spending time with Miss Price! It is hard to deny that Mary with her dark looks and sly verbal manner is inimitably suited to be a vampire queen:

To celebrate the arrival of Fanny Price,Slayer of Vampires,I am offering a specially made promotional pin to five lucky folks that features artwork from the cover designed by my sister Stephanie.

As the picture on the left shows,this is a square button about 1.5 inches and starting today, I have ten to give away(two for each of the five winners) and all you have to do to enter is leave a comment either at this post or The Austenite Adventures Facebook page.

This is a US only giveaway,as I am a lady of limited means, and you have from now until February 25 to comment on either Mansfield Park or your favorite vampire characters or which Jane Austen character you wish was a vampire(besides Mr. Darcy,of course!). Prizes will be sent out in early March when hopefully the last of the many snow storms attacking the East Coast(where I reside) will be at an end!

Currently, Fanny Price:Slayer of Vampires is now on sale at Barnes & Noble and Smashwords,with arrivals at other fine online retailers(as well as subscription services such as Scribd and Oyster) due very soon. I thank you all in advance for any good wishes sent my way and one of my wishes is that Fanny Price gets the recognition for her heartfelt devotion that she deserves:

Monday, February 10, 2014

I'll take Sinister Sweet Love Songs for 800,Alex!

I get musical crushes from time to time,you know how that is when you can't resist playing one certain song over and over again. My latest lyrical love affair is with Lana Del Ray's cover version of "Once Upon a Dream" from the animated Disney classic Sleeping Beauty.

Lana's rendition is meant for the upcoming live action remake of that movie entitled Maleficent starring Angelina Jolie as the iconic Bad Fairy. To be honest, I'm not much of a Sleeping Beauty fan and while I do appreciate the elegantly evil look of that story's villainess, my wicked heart belongs to the Evil Queen who tried to take out her Snow White competition armed with a Magic Mirror and a poisoned apple.

However,the gorgeously gloomy tones that Lana gives to this song(which is really intended as the original title princess' lovelorn lullaby) turns this sweet little number into a haunting anthem for the femme fatale fairy taking over this new version of the story. Certainly makes me more interested in seeing the film this summer,that's for sure:

So,along with the fact that Valentine's Day is less than a few days away, I thought that this new take on Sleeping Beauty's signature song was the perfect excuse to share some of my other eerily romantic favorite tunes from fantasy themed films. Quite a mouthful there,I know!

First up is Siouxsie and the Banshees with their contribution to the Batman Returns soundtrack,"Face to Face",a song that plays in the background of a pivotal scene as Batman and Catwoman recognize each other outside of their costumes in public.

The song is incredibly lush with it's fluid rhythms and angst ridden lyrics that purr-fectly reflect the tormented romance between the two so alike it's scary leads:

Next on my list is one of David Bowie's alluring Goblin King songs from Labyrinth and while "As the World Falls Down" is more out and out romantic, the dark undercurrents of "Within You" always get me going.

Granted,the attraction between the almost teenage Sarah and the Goblin King is more of a metaphor for early notions of romance for young women, you do get the sense that Jareth relishes the attention from her and in many ways,needs it desperately.

After all, magic requires belief and by luring her into a reality created and fueled by her escapist desires,Jareth remains in power. His hold on her is fragile at best and this menacing plea displays that push-pull nicely:

Last but far from least is "Old Souls" from Phantom of the Paradise. There are a good number of love songs in this film but this one in particular has a bittersweet irony to it.

For one thing,it's the song that Phoenix,the leading lady of the title character's affections,gets her chance to perform after the gruesome demise of the star attraction to make her famous. He gets no thanks from her,alas and if anything,she is determined to embrace all that this unexpected taste of fame can offer.

 That leap into the spotlight,however,spells her doom as the evil music mogul Swann fulfills her desire for fame and prepares to destroy her for the sake of sales. The Faustian themes of the plot are very well expressed in this haunting tune as well and yes,Jessica Harper does her own singing here:

It'll be some time before we find out if Maleficent is a good retake on the Sleeping Beauty story or not but at least we have a great new twist on a familiar fairy tale tune from it. The Snow White remake film frenzy is over and done with for now but who knows, the Evil Queen may rise again to strut her stuff in song someday:

Friday, February 07, 2014

A pair of serious pop culture situations to consider

This past weekend, two major items of pop culture(as well as human interest) news hit the media in full force and while most everyone has had their say on both matters already, I took some time to gather my thoughts about each one.

By now, most of you out there have read either about or the actual open letter that Dylan Farrow wrote regarding the contention that Woody Allen sexually abused her when she was a child.

 This case came to light during the time that Woody left her adoptive mother Mia for Soon-Yi Previn,another child adopted by Ms. Farrow. Yes, Woody Allen was not officially charged and he still maintains his innocence in that matter. However, this sincerely brave letter from Dylan has opened up the floodgates for people to debate and speculate about the entire Woody/Mia/Soon-Yi affair.

It's very telling to me that while Mia Farrow has pretty much disappeared off the Hollywood radar since that terrible time, people are all too willing to forgive and forget when men like Woody have such stains upon their reputations that are never really cleared up. One well known example is,of course, Roman Polanski but Charlie Sheen still gets work,not to mention Mel Gibson and Arnold Schwarzenegger....you get the point.

What I think may be getting lost in the discussion is what happened to Dylan and the lifelong consequences of that encounter. Regardless of what you believe did or didn't take place,(for the record,I believe her) this is a young woman in serious emotional pain whose main motivation is to be heard in order to help other victims. She's been treated for PTSD and while she is now an adult with a family of her own, her struggles are painfully familiar to many just like her out there.

All that Dylan is asking for is to be listened to and taken seriously,which I believe we should do her the courtesy of.  It's not about what Woody and Mia's relationship was or was not,it's not about anyone who has an Oscar nomination for Blue Jasmine having his or her chances ruined for a win, this is about Dylan. I don't think it is too much to ask that we give her the respect that she was denied so many years ago in letting her side of the story be given as much of a spotlight as anyone else involved in this sad circumstance:

Also,we learned of the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman whose untimely end came from losing his long term battle with drug addiction. This loss is most grievous to his family and friends,especially to his partner Mimi and their three children,and my condolences to all.

PSH was long known for his character actor roles,both on screen and stage, even before he took home an Oscar for Best Actor in 2005 for Capote and he was one of those nondescript performers whose talents would make him the center of attention in any scene.

He was versatile enough to move from big budget to indie films and still make time for theater work which earned him a lot of praise and respect amongst his peers,along with audiences. He will be greatly missed by his fans yet left a strong artistic legacy behind him.

Some out there in the media make mention that talking about his tragic death might be seen as "glamorizing" drug abuse but being found dead with a needle in your arm is hardily anyone's Hollywood fantasy. What Hoffman did hope was that if he succumbed to his addiction,his sudden departure would wake up others teetering on the edge of their drug abuse abyss. With any luck,some good will come from his sad demise. Meanwhile,there is nothing wrong with mourning such an amazing actor who had so much more to offer us all: