Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, June 30, 2017

Rejoicing in Jane Austen themed goodness this summer

While some books and authors feel more suited to one season of the year than others,such as Dickens for example, certain writers are able to be ready for reading all the year round.

 Jane Austen falls into the latter category for me and that includes books inspired by her literary legacy.

 The other day, I finished reading Kathleen A. Flynn's The Jane Austen Project, which is not an academic study as one might think upon first glance but rather a debut novel with a rather creative premise.

Dr. Rachel Katzman and actor Liam Finucane travel from a not too distant future to England of 1815, volunteers in a time travel experiment whose goal is to seek out the acquaintance of Jane Austen. They are charged with finding and making copies of her letters to elder sister Cassandra(which were destroyed upon her death) as well as the completed manuscript of Austen's final yet unfinished novel The Watsons.

 In order to complete their mission, Rachel and Liam must pose as a brother and sister, William and Mary Ravenswood, who have sold their holdings in the West Indies and arrive in London with a considerable fortune.

With Liam maintaining an identity as a doctor, he is first able to be introduced to Jane's brother Henry,particular when Henry falls ill for a brief time.  During their growing friendship,it is not long before Henry takes a fancy to Rachel, enough of one that she is introduced to the rest of the Austen family and most importantly, Jane.

As time goes by, however, things become more complicated as both Rachel and Liam struggle not to alter the past,which might endanger the timeline and their journey home. That becomes harder to do as Jane's ill health becomes more noticeable(a bit sooner than expected) and Henry's finances are in serious jeopardy.

To make matters perhaps worse, Rachel and Liam find themselves becoming romantically attached to each other, a dangerous issue considering the personae they have adapted for this moment in time.

Will their Jane Austen goals be met or are Rachel and Liam doomed to be trapped in time? I shall not say more about the plot,although I can safely proclaim that this is a story that honors the romantic spirit of Austen's works.

 The ways of life in the Regency era are well detailed and the science fiction elements are not overwhelming. Instead, both story components are as well blended as a good cup of specially brewed tea.

Rachel is the driving character here and her mixed emotions, from having to repress her forthright nature due to the social norms of the day to fighting her feelings for both Henry and Liam at times, really keeps the story firmly centered. The Jane Austen Project is a charmingly inventive tale that is sure to delight many an Austen fan who often wonders what it would be like to engage with their favorite author or have a foot in both our world and hers:

Another Austen themed novel on my TBR these days is Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge and the Austin of the title is spelled correctly as it refers to the city in Texas where our sisterly heroines must retreat to.

Jane and Cecilia Woodward have no choice but to close their beloved tea shop in San Francisco, due to their father's financial ruin. Packing up for new territory,with younger sister Margot along for the ride, is not as easy as it seems and adjusting to their new circumstances brings out some long hidden tensions between them both.

When Jane has two potential suitors at hand, one of whom is possibly a bit too good to be true, the bonds of sisterhood may be the ultimate decider in choosing the man that's truly the love of her life. This modern take on Sense and Sensibility sounds like a delightful lark and hopefully, the Willoughby of this story is more of a heartwarmer than a heartbreaker:

I will get to that one soon but at the moment, I'm enjoying a reread of Jane Austen in Boca by Paula Marantz Cohen and later this season, plan to revisit The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet as well. Yes, Jane Austen in all of her forms is indeed fashionable for any occasion and a perfect refuge from the hectic romps of the day(summer parties included) yet staying in tune with the world somewhat is just as important, as Jane would no doubt say herself:

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Building a bit of mystery with my latest book haul

Summer has it's many challenges, one of them being that the end of the month usually leads to a holiday weekend. With that in mind, I was glad to do my library book returns early(managed to finish all three books in good time) and pick up a couple of titles that I've been meaning to get to for awhile there.

I was in a mystery mood,perhaps due to a special package in the mail(more on that in a moment),and decided to borrow Fiona Barton's The Widow. The unfortunate lady of the title is Jean Taylor, whose husband Glen was the prime suspect in the disappearance of a little girl.

Jean stood by her husband and never wavered in her public professions of his innocence. Now that Glen has died,under somewhat suspicious circumstances, will her story change? Ambitious reporter Kate Waters is determined to find out, along with the police detective that risked his career trying to bring Glen to justice. Jean becomes willing to tell her tale but her listeners may not like what they hear.

This was Barton's debut novel and the word from both readers and critics was strongly positive, so I'm happy to get a crack at this. Fiona Barton has her second book out already called The Child, which I may also borrow from the library if The Widow is as good as promised. I hope the author won't mind that but then again, I did hear that she's a library fan, as many of the best people are:

I was in the mood for mystery that day, due to receiving a review copy of Anthony Horowitz's Magpie Murders a few days earlier. I started reading it right away and full disclosure, the book came with a tie-in tote bag which still makes me giddy with delight. However, that extra bonus does not influence my feelings about the story.

The plot here is twofold, as we begin with book editor Susan Ryeland settling in at home to read the latest and possibly final entry in mystery writer Alan Conway's series of Agatha Christie style novels featuring private detective Atticus Pund.

As we and Susan read Conway's new book, which are set in a small English town in the 1950s involving the local manor known as Pye Hall, the sense that another mystery,possible from real life, is hidden beneath the surface.

 When the book comes to an abrupt end, Susan tries to contact the author for more, only to discover that he has just passed away. Determined to solve both the fictional and factual cases at hand, she has to assume the mantle of her favorite detective but that may prove more to be more challenging than any adventure Atticus Pund has faced.

 Getting two for the price of one is a real treat when it comes to story telling and so far, my only complaint is that we don't have any other engagingly written Atticus Pund mysteries to explore:

The other advanced review book that came with Magpie Murders has a few mystery elements in it yet it's not quite in that genre. The title alone suggests a rather Gothic tone mixed with female friendly fiction.

The Lightkeeper's Daughters by Jean E. Pendziwol begins with Elizabeth, a woman whose failing eye sight requires her to have some help going through the recently recovered journals of her deceased father who ran the local lighthouse seventy years ago. Her assistant is Morgan, a troubled teen doing community service, and as the two of them uncover a mystery from the past that may have connections to Morgan's present day circumstances.

Their combined interest and the intrigue that comes with it leads to an emotional bond that hopefully will aid them when all is revealed. The book is due out by July 4 and sounds like a sweet summer read indeed.

Heading back to the library, I did pick up something that was completely different from the mystery direction that I've been pointed in. Carrie Fisher's The Princess Diarist is the iconic actress/author's last literary take on her legendary role as Star War's Princess Leia, told with her usual zest and humor.

Having read a couple of her novels years ago(Postcards from the Edge was one of them and I just re-watched the film adaptation about a week ago), I'm familiar with her verbal style but in nonfiction, her forthright nature truly soars and I just got to the Harrison Ford chapter, which I am so looking forward to hearing more, like the chorus of "Summer Nights".

While I do wish both Carrie and her mother Debbie Reynolds were still with us, at least we do have their films and in Carrie's case, a few good books to keep their place in pop culture history properly bookmarked:

Since my holiday plans are in the now traditional staycation mode, I may be able to finish at least the two books that I've already started here before the last hot dog of the day is eaten. We shall see but I am happy to be able to relax at home with my loved ones and some good reads.

 Traveling is fine,of course, but the only place that I want to haul books to is my bedside table and the less need I have for travel guides the better:

Monday, June 26, 2017

Setting up some Beach Book Bingo for July and August of 2017

We're officially into summer, with the July Fourth weekend(which is rather long this year,thanks to the holiday being on a Tuesday) just around the corner. 

This is the time when folks began their serious vacation plans or simply arrange a little at-home leisure time to enjoy a brief break from the everyday world and these days, we certainly need to do just that.

I know that a few people hear the term "beach books" and think it's all lighthearted fare,which it can be, yet it doesn't have to mean mindless entertainment. You can have some solid food for thought with your page turning excitement-think Wonder Woman, not Michael Bay's endless Transformers movies! Don't get me wrong, I like blockbuster fare as well but when it comes to finding good reads this July and August, you can mix and match a bit:

SISTERS IN SUSPENSE: In Riley Sager's upcoming novel Final Girls, we met Quincy, who is resisting the title label given to her by the media upon being the lone survivor of a cabin-in-the-woods murder spree ten years ago.

While rebuilding her life and establishing a successful baking blog, Quincy makes a few friends who have gone through similar experiences and when one of them dies under suspicious circumstances, Samantha appears on her doorstep.

 She's also a Final Girl who thinks they need to stick together yet Quincy begins to wonder what her true motives are, not to mention trying to recall those lost memories of that deadly decade old encounter from her own past. This sounds like a great thrill ride that could offer plenty of scary and savvy twists and turns along the way(July):

 POWERFUL PERIOD DRAMAS:  Linnea Hartsuyker takes us back to the days of the Vikings in her debut novel, The Half Drowned King, which tells of a separated brother and sister who fight to reunite.

Ragnvald is meant to inherit his family's lands but in a betrayal arranged by his stepfather Olaf, he is left for dead on the high seas. Upon being rescued and aided by a fisherman, he seeks revenge and restoration of his birthright.

Meanwhile, his sister Svanhild is being forced into a loveless marriage by Olaf and when an opportunity opens up for her to break free, she grasps it strongly, despite having to rely on Solvi, the man who was a major ally in betraying her brother. As each sibling makes their way towards home, their choices are harder to make yet not impossible to survive.

 Hartsuyker was inspired by a potential ancestor of hers in bringing this legendary tale to modern day life and it may become a literary saga worth investing in, especially since this classic tale of a man wronged shares equal footing with one of a woman seeking her own destiny(August):

Molly Patterson's debut novel follows four generations of women in more than one country in Rebellion. starting with Addie, an American missionary who goes missing during the Boxer Rebellion, leaving her sister Louisa to wonder about what happened to her.

As Louisa's own daughter Hazel learns to deal with unexpected loss and the consequences of her own choices, it takes many decades later for the question of Addie's ultimate fate to be brought back to the surface. Some of those answers may come from Juanlan, a college student in modern day China who has to put her dreams on hold to help her family.

An emotional journey that packs punch is what's promised here and I have a strong feeling that it delivers as Patterson is giving us a set of women who still persisted despite what life has thrown in their path(August).

A PURR-FECT FRENEMY: Tim Hanley follows up his excellent histories of Wonder Woman and Lois Lane with another major feminine player in the DC Comics universe. As the subtitle suggests, The Many Lives of Catwoman
dives deep into the "felonious history" of Batman's most challenging foe, one that reflects his inner conflict with his outer duality all too well.

As Hanley shows,however, Catwoman,aka Selina Kyle, is more than just a sinister love interest for the Caped Crusader. Over the years, she's become her own unique persona and had her own series of comic book stories that don't rely on the Dark Knight to support her. Rather, her inclination to become an antiheroine at times has made her an icon of female independence.

In addition to her print and animated incarnations, Hanley also explores the live action versions of Catwoman, from Julie Newmar and Lee Meriwether to Michelle Pffeifer's ground breaking performance and the recent Anne Hathaway depiction, proving that unlike her feline avatar, this character has more than nine lives in her(July):

 DOWN HOME DRAMA: The leading man in Matthew Quick's latest novel, The Reason You're Alive, is David Granger, a 68 year old Vietnam vet who learns that he has a brain tumor after his latest car accident.

While he blames that particular ailment on Agent Orange, David finds that there is a wrong that he committed and must make right from those dark days and with the help of his friend Sue, he seeks a former soldier named Clayton Fire Bear, a name he kept repeating during his stay in the hospital.

Along the way, David tries to reconnect with his adult son Hank, whose art dealer ways are confusing to him, as well as granddaughter Ella who reminds him of what humanity he has left.

Quick's offbeat approach to characters in familiar yet unique circumstances should resonate well with this sore spot in our American history, plus remind us of just how complicated the emotional impact of war upon the people who have to deal it with directly can be(July):

 An old friendship is renewed in Patti Callahan Henry's The Bookshop at Water's Edge, with a few old secrets as well. Bonny Blankenship has fond memories of her South Carolina summers with Lainey McKay, the two of them finding safe harbor at the local bookstore run by Mimi, a woman who sees more than she tells.

With Bonny at age fifty questioning her life choices and wanting to help her daughter Piper deal with a serious mistake she made, the two of them meet up with Lainey and her children back at their former childhood haunts.

 Their reunion brings about joy and sorrow, as Lainey still wonders about her mother's mysterious disappearance that occurred that  long ago summer that has never been resolved. If you're in the need of a good story of friendship,family and summer time bliss, you are in the right place indeed(July).

Hopefully, the remainder of this summer will bring us more good times than bad, but even if they don't, having a good book on hand can make all the difference in the world. At the very least, it's a great distraction from those seasonal annoyances that want to get in the way of your true fun in the sun:

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The three Gs of my Summer TV

We're in a bit of an in-between time with current television, as many of the regular season shows are either finished or about to be finished with their run and not many of the summer series are up and about just yet.

For me, I try to keep my viewing needs simple during the summer months and I have earmarked a trio of shows to keep up this season that happen to all start with the letter G. First up is The Great British Baking Show, making it's fourth season on PBS that will be the last one for judge Mary Berry along with hosts Mel and Sue.

It's sad to see those fine ladies leave but in the meantime, we do have their delightful company as the baker's dozen of contestants battle it out over batter and pastry. The real charm of this show is the relaxed atmosphere and good natured friendship among the bakers, who are truly out to win for the honor of competing.

 Granted, folks do get nervous during certain challenges(especially those showstoppers!) but are always supportive of one another, which is not something you see often on any competition series and perhaps we should. TGBBS airs at different times across the country but in my neck of the woods, it's on Sundays at four in the afternoon, the perfect tea time to sit back and enjoy the sweet bliss of English treats:

Next up is GLOW, a fictional take on the female wrestling show that sprouted up in the 1980s. Alison Brie plays Ruth, a struggling actress who finds unexpected fame as one of the "gorgeous ladies of wrestling"and some new friendships along the way.

Of course, she has to deal with the lackluster direction given by Sam(Marc Maron), who used to put out B-horror flicks and a personal and professional rivalry with Deb(Betty Gilpin),her former best friend. Netflix will have the entire first season available on June 23 and as a fan of the original GLOW, I can barely contain my excitement at seeing this satirical salute to those wacky wrestling divas of yesteryear:

Of course, the truly big G for me is Game of Thrones, which will airing it's seventh season this July on HBO. There's a lot at stake here, with Dany finally reaching Westeros, Cersei holding the Iron Throne and the forces of the Night King on the move.

This will be a tricky season for both readers and non-readers of the G.R.R. Martin books that the series is based as the last two installments have not yet been published. Odds are that they will be once the show is over,in my opinion, as that way, no one in the audience will have advanced knowledge of what's to come.

That's fine with me, as I know enough from the books to be invested while enjoying the changes made to the story line as part and parcel of such a grand viewing experience. No predictions but I do hope that Tyrion gets to ride a dragon and that Littlefinger finally gets what's coming to him, not to mention seeing Dany square off against the remaining Lannisters. Thank the gods that we have such fine event TV to keep us cool during the cruel summer ahead:

Sure, there may be a few other shows that I'll check out this summer but it's not that often that you have three Gs lined up like this,except for Guy's Grocery Games, which I do watch. It's a cooking competition set in a supermarket-how could you not love it? Anyway, whatever letter of the alphabet fills your viewing basket this season, I hope it's as plentiful as Flavor Town Market appears to be(yes, that's a corny name but hey, it's just a show that lets you really just relax):

Monday, June 19, 2017

Bad Movie Month gets the royal treatment with a salute to Stephen King

One of my summer pleasures is presenting all of you with Bad Movie Month in August, a time to just sit back and chat about some awful film fare. Well, the theme for this year is The Worst of Stephen King and I have to insist that this is not as mean spirited as it sounds.

As a longtime fan of King's work, I think it's important to accept both the highs and the lows of a writer's career and to King's credit, he is the first one to step up to the plate when it comes to critiques.

 Also, he has a great sense of humor about himself and those less than stellar films that have been adapted from his writing from time to time(maybe not The Shining, but that's a whole other discussion there). So, in the spirit of fan love, here is my playlist of sorry Stephen King based flicks for this season:

CHILDREN OF THE CORN: Loosely based on a short story, this corn-fed attempt at cinematic chills has become a cult classic over the years. Some of that is due to lines such as "Outlander! We have your woman,she still lives!", the creepy cult of killer kids devoted to "He Who Walks Behind the Rows" that slaughters every adult in town before the opening credits and the pitiful performances of Peter Horton and pre-Terminator Linda Hamilton as the unlucky couple who stops into town.

What's truly scary about this movie is that fact that it spawned seven sequels, plus a made for TV remake, proof positive that even a bad cinematic seed can become frighteningly potent indeed:

CARRIE(2013): Since I usually include a pick of my sister's(sort of a blog birthday gift to her,as she has an August b-day), this "re-imagined" remake will be highlighted early on.

Granted, it's hard to outdo the original 1976 movie and even with that film's flaws, the story and Oscar nominated performances of Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie still stand the test of time. I did have some hope for this version, given that quality actresses such as Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore were cast as the leading ladies here.

Unfortunately, shoving this tale of a tormented girl's revenge into a modern day setting turned out to be a poor fit. Watching this particular Carrie has the flavor of a favorite dish that's missing some vital ingredients and it's too bad that my sister had to see this instead of the classic fear feast that whetted my appetite for King back then:

FIRESTARTER: One of the big problems with this 1984 flamethrower of a film is that it suffers from what used to be known as "Love Boat casting." In other words, pack the cast with a mismatched set of celebrity names in order to distract from the messy framework of the plot.

A young Drew Barrymore is joined by the likes of Heather Locklear, Art Carney,Louise Fletcher, David Keith, Martin Sheen and George C. Scott, who plays a half-Native American assassin who serves as mentor and would be executioner of Barrymore's pyro-psychic character. Yeah, miscasting is an understatement when it comes to George C. in that role, that's for sure!

The weird special effects that have Barrymore's hair attacked by a gang of hair dryers every time she gets the urge to light up don't help much either to breath life into a story that gives off plenty of smoke but not much of a film-worthy fire:

MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE: It wouldn't be proper to do a Stephen King bad movie salute without the one movie he wrote and directed himself.

Based on his short story Trucks, King turns his strange tale of humanity on the run from their own vehicles(sort of an evil version of Cars) by focusing on a small set of folks trapped in a diner into a full out deadly demolition derby that even has ATMs and soda machines getting in on the "death to humans!" action.

Emilio Estevez stars as Bill, who rouses his fellow survivors into fighting back against the trucks keeping them prisoners by finding a cache of weapons in a hidden bunker beneath the diner(which is the most realistic part of this story). His performance earned him a Golden Raspberry nomination(as did King for Worst Director) but not a win, which is saying something yet I'm not sure what that is.

 Sure, there's great music with AC/DC songs on the soundtrack and the leader of the evil trucks has a Green Goblin face on it's bumper(wonder how Marvel felt about that tie-in) but this movie is a train wreck from the get-go and thankfully, King has stayed away from the director's chair since then:

I also plan to squeeze in a viewing of Stephen King's Silver Bullet(a werewolf movie with Gary Busey, how can I resist?) as well, which should round things out nicely.

 With a lot of King's books being on the better side of adaptation these days, such as the upcoming Dark Tower movie this summer, it's good to truly appreciate such a cinematic bounty by looking back at some of movie manure that has cropped up along the way. When it comes to King, sometimes less is truly more:

Friday, June 16, 2017

What's up next for superheroes in the Movie Trailer Park?

Granted, summer is the big superhero movie season and we've had plenty of offerings in this category already(with Spiderman: Homecoming on the horizon) but looking ahead to the next big thing goes along with the territory.

For example, the release of a teaser trailer for Marvel's Black Panther has gathered a lot of excited buzz and deserving so, despite the fact that the movie is scheduled for February of 2018.

After seeing this iconic character featured in Captain America:Civil War, many were hoping for him to have his solo film hit screens sooner rather later and fortunately, that wish is being granted.

The bare bones of the plot has T'Challa(Chadwick Boseman) return to his kingdom of Wakanda in order to face some deadly opposition from exiled Erik Killmonger(Michael B. Jordan). The supporting cast is made up of seriously stellar stars such as Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o, Angela Bassett,Forrest Whitaker and Get Out's Daniel Kaluuya. I have to admit that for a teaser, this brief glimpse at Black Panther packs a hell of a punch that makes me wish the movie was out right now:

 Meanwhile, November is shaping up to add some super powered movie magic of it's own. DC's Justice League plans to be in theaters before Thanksgiving, even with a last minute switch in directors(due to a personal tragedy in Zack Snyder's life).

For those of us eager for more Wonder Woman, she is a major part of the film as Batman calls upon her first to start up a band of superheroes to save the day from  Steppenwolf(Ciaran Hinds), a general of the intergalactic warlord Darkseid, seeking some deadly hidden objects here on Earth.

Along with Wonder Woman, we get Aquaman(Jason Mamoa), The Flash(Erza Miller) and Cyborg(Ray Fisher). Yes, Superman is still dead but probably coming back from the beyond in some form as Henry Cavill is listed in the credits. I just don't know about this one,folks.

As happy as I am about the quality of the Wonder Woman movie, not to mention a childhood fan of the Justice League, this really looks like a rushed together affair. It would have been better to give some of the newer characters their own movie,particularly Aquaman, before shoving all of them together.

 Hopefully, this will be more like Wonder Woman than Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice(on the other hand, Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor is making a return here as well and in the words of Charlie Brown-ARGGGHH!):

Marvel, of course, is not to be outdone here and in early November will have Thor:Ragnarok at a multiplex near you. Since Thor was nowhere to be found in the last Captain America/Avengers team-up, this can be seen as a "things I did last summer" story.

Turns out he had a lot on his plate as Asgard is under attack from escaped death goddess Hela(Cate Blanchett) and has taken his hammer. Trapped on a warrior planet run by the Grandmaster(Jeff Goldblum) with the aid of henchwoman Valkyrie(Tessa Thompson), Thor is forced to battle for the amusement of the crowds with his first opponent being the Hulk.

Yes, the "Planet Hulk" classic story line has been grafted into this film and from what I see, it looks like a good fit. Doctor Strange is also supposed to show up and Loki will be joining in on the fun as well. Now, this is a Thanksgiving film feast worth waiting for!:

With such goodness coming our way, it goes to show that simply reserving superhero movies for the summer is not an entertainment absolute. Any good genre can work the whole year round,although timing is an important consideration as Deadpool demonstrates in the teaser for his next movie, which should be wicked fun to look forward to next year:

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Truly a Wonder of a Woman movie

I know that I'm a little late to this party but when it comes to our first official Wonder Woman movie, better late than never seeing it in theaters.

 As someone who grew up with the Lynda Carter TV series,along with Super Friends, having this superheroine come to cinematic life like this is a pop culture dream come true and thankfully, it wasn't a nightmare.

Yes, I loved the film and since there have been plenty of reviews of it out there by now, I thought that I'd go over a few talking points. This will be a spoiler-free zone,although I will mention a couple of comic book elements not present in the movie(which won't ruin the story for you at all,I swear!):

IS GAL GODOT THE NEW LYNDA CARTER?: While there were attempts to bring Wonder Woman into live action both before and after the 1970s small screen series(with Cathy Lee Crosby in a prior made for TV film and Adrianne Palicki in a later television incarnation that never made it to air), it is Carter who has held that honor as the defining performance for the character.

In a way, Lynda Carter was the TV equivalent of Christopher Reeve, a relatively unknown actor who was able to make the character their own and establish their career from that point. Neither one of them ever bemoaned that superhero role that got them off the ground,which at times did typecast them severely,and always honored their fans.

Gal Gadot is following in those footsteps and doing a great job to boot. Much like Reeve and Carter, she is able to make this role her own yet honoring the actress who made that seemingly unbreakable mold in the first place with her warmth, humor and battle ready prowess.

I really appreciate having Godot in this role, as a celebrity casting would be too distracting. Yes, Ben Affleck makes a great Batman but it's more like Ben-Affleck-as-Batman than the actual character,which is not his fault but it's also the reason that Ryan Reynolds was a bad choice for Green Lantern and a better one for Deadpool(the full body costume and snark required for that particular Marvel character suited Reynolds to a T).:
Godot is a complete Wonder Woman, full of nuance and heroics, whose chemistry with Chris Pine as Steve Trevor is charmingly electric. She also works well with the ensemble cast and is happy to pose with her fans in the numerous public appearances she's made for the movie. While Lynda Carter will always be known as the first successful Wonder Woman, Gal Godot is giving a new generation a fresh take on the character that does them both justice:


  There are a few things you expect to see in superhero movies, special trademarks of the character such as Batman's utility belt, Superman's Fortress of Solitude and Captain America's shield.

In the case of Wonder Woman, most of her iconic hallmarks are checked off here. We get plenty of bullets and bracelets action as well as use of the magic lasso of truth and the basics of her outfit tie well into some of the redesigns that her costume has had over the years.

A few things that don't show up are the invisible plane(which makes sense, given that Diana and her Amazonian folk are determined to stay apart from the world of men) and the part of her origin story where Princess Diana disguises herself in order to compete for the honor of escorting Steve Trevor back to the society of men.

 Nothing wrong with that, as it's become a cliche by this point but I do ponder why the setting is in World War I rather than WWII,as originally written in her legacy, but perhaps that was simply a creative choice. Regardless of whatever tweaks given to Wonder Woman's abilities over time in the comic books and now reflected in this film, her powerhouse presence is not marred by any new elements. Rather, they're considerably enhanced:

ANY PROBLEMS WITH THE MOVIE?: Well, I do think that there was a battle in the third act of the film that ran way too long and could have been wrapped up more firmly.

Also, it would have been nice if Wonder Woman had more interaction with other women once she got to the outside world. There was some but it was minimal at best, except for Etta Candy, who I wish had some more screen time.

Perhaps Etta will have a bigger role in the announced sequel, which is said to be set in America. I really loved her time with Diana and hope that she'll be allowed a little bit of action in future films(apart from the upcoming Justice League film, which is placed in the present day). Other flaws would be too spoilery to go into but let me say that as a first go-round, Wonder Woman made a grand entrance through the superhero door, even if she had a small stumble or two:

To conclude, I was thrilled beyond belief to have such a good Wonder Woman movie and to finally see DC be able to make a credible superhero film that isn't Batman. Hopefully, this will be the start of better DC Comics adaptations in general and spark off more female focused genre films that give us the super powered heroines we deserve. At the moment, I am thankful for this wonder of a film to offer us a glimpse of hope in the better nature of humanity:

Monday, June 12, 2017

My Series-ous Reading is enticed by The Seduction of the Crimson Rose

I have to admit that part of the fun in my Series-ous Reading challenge is being able to engage more with the characters in each book, particularly in Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation novels, where a supporting player in one story can become the featured performer in the next.

In The Seduction of the Crimson Rose, Mary Alsworthy feels as if she has been demoted in stature as her sister Letty accidentally wound up marrying the man her older sister was attempting to snare as a husband in the previous entry,The Deception of the Emerald Ring.

 Being at the age where another season of husband hunting may not do the trick and hating the fact that Letty and her new brother-in-law would be the ones to sponsor such a move, Mary is frustrated and willing to take whatever chance she can to escape her current situation.

Oddly convenient timing brings Lord Sebastian Vaughn into her path with a strange offer: become the bait to catch the deadly French spymaster known as The Black Tulip for the price of a full Season. Mary is naturally suspicious of a trick but Vaughn is not the type of man to play foolish games and at first, he does not seem entranced by Mary's beauty, although they are on nearly equal footing when it comes to snark laced wit:

 As it turns out, Vaughn is recruiting Mary at the behest of the Pink Carnation(who does not wish to let that particular Alsworthy sister in on her true identity) as he owes her a favor from their last encounter.

Despite his better judgement, he is attracted to Mary and even has a  bout of jealousy in cold shoulder form when she receives the attentions of  Mr. St.George, a known French sympathizer and rather handsome fellow they both run into while working to get the attention of the Black Tulip.

Another complication arises when a woman from Vaughn's past shows up to demand his aid and things get even more complicated as Mary finds herself full deep into the spy game,finding it to be more dangerous than she ever imagined. Once the Black Tulip crosses her path, the stakes are high indeed and could cost someone their life, particularly Vaughn, as they make their moves on that sinister spy chessboard:

Meanwhile, modern day scholar Eloise Kelly finds herself in a bit of a Darcy vs. Wickam situation.  Doing her research using an archive of Lord Vaughn's letters, she meets Dempster, the rather inquisitive curator who has his own ideas about the real identity of the Pink Carnation.

Rather unexpectedly, she runs into Dempster during her first official date with Colin Selwick(her source of info about the Pink Carnation) and the mutual mistrust between the two men is readily apparent.

Eloise soon learns that Dempster has ambitions to publish a cheesy expose on the Pink Carnation and willing to go to any lengths to snoop into the Selwick stash of letters, including an underhanded romance with Colin's quite vulnerable younger sister. It's a good subplot that doesn't take the easy misunderstanding twist that many a sitcom would. Instead, it leads to a further development of Eloise and Colin's relationship and a delightful comeuppance:

As for Mary and Vaughn, their relationship,built on sarcasm and a shared disdain for general society, is one of the best ones in their series. Their reluctant romance is a nice breath of fresh air from the regular set of spy crossed couples in these books.

Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy Letty and Geoffrey's love connection in the last book but this clash of wits was wickedly entertaining to watch unfold. So far, The Seduction of the Crimson Rose is one of my favorites in this series and if they ever turn these books in movies(particularly BBC made for TV films), this will be one to stop everything and watch.

For the moment,however, I will be returning to Jane Austen territory as Stephanie Barron's Jane and the Genius of the Place is next on my SR list. For this adventure,Jane visits her brother Edward at Canterbury and gets involved in a murder mystery that involves horse racing, a story line that wouldn't be as Gothic as mystery reader Catherine Morland might like yet she might find some engaging intrigue to it as I expect to:

Thursday, June 08, 2017

My Sci-Fi Summer reading concludes in a slow simmer

As of yesterday, the Seasons of Reading Sci-Fi Summer readathon has officially ended and I find myself coming up a bit short in terms of my reading goals.

Usually, I go with two out of three books read but this time, I only completed one and am halfway through another. Part of the reason for that was my being distracted by a volume of Stephen King short stories(which was a library book due back this week) but I can't blame it all on King.

Things just got busier than I expected and instead of focusing on what I didn't finish, I'll highlight the fun that I did have, starting with completing Sarah J. Maas' A Court of Thorns and Roses. The story has a Beauty and the Beast theme yet it's not completely dominated by that fictional framework.

Our leading lady is Feyre, whose family has fallen into poverty upon the loss of her father's import business and it falls to her to provide for them all, mainly by taking up a bow and arrow to hunt for food.

One day, she winds up killing a wolf in order to claim a deer, selling the pelts of both at the local marketplace. Not too long after, a monster shows up at the family doorstep, announcing that Feyre has killed a fairy,violating the Treaty between humans and the Fae, and must pay for that crime with her life.

As it turns out, her death is not necessary; Feyre is given the choice of dying on the spot or living in exile upon the lands of the High Lord of Spring,Tamlin. She chooses to go with the messenger, who turns out to be Tamlin, in order to protect her father and two sisters, hoping all the while that there is a way to return to them.

 During her stay, Feyre learns more about the Fae, making a few unlikely friends and terrifying enemies, not to mention that Tamlin,whose face is trapped behind a mask due to a "blight" affecting all of the isolated fairy courts, is not as cold and arrogant as he seems.

 She winds up falling in love with him but not willing to openly profess it at first. When she is ready to do so, a whole host of other problems,many of which involve a wicked queen, arrive to make that issue a small one at best.

I've heard many a book blogger talk about how captivating the writing of Sarah J Maas is and they were so very right indeed. Her story telling does weave a page turning spell and you truly feel enchanted by Feyre's hero journey. She's a solid female lead who is willing to walk through fire,so to speak, to protect those she loves,a true warrior maiden to the core whose adventures I intend to follow:

Meanwhile, I am halfway through Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, a futuristic tale that connects all too well to modern life.

 Granted, this first novel in a trilogy came out in 2003 but it's predictions of massive riots caused by massive impoverishment, twisted online shows, human trafficking and scientific advancement gone out of control are a lot like today's headlines.

The main focus of the plot is Jimmy,aka Snowman, the lone human survivor in an overheated world overrun with mutant animals and a race of humaniod beings created by his best friend Glenn, best known as Crake.

 In between bouts of searching for food and dealing with the Children of Crake,whom he was left to be the protector of, Snowman relives his memories of his old life,seeking some meaning from it all. At this point, the story is compelling and heartbreaking,especially when their mutual love interest Oryx recounts her sad childhood.

 It's too soon for me to say,perhaps, but I think that the true crux of this novel is the bond between Jimmy and Crake, a friendship that didn't have the right checks and balances in it to stop the worst from happening, not only to them but the greater world at hand:

 I am happy to have fully read at least one Sarah J. Maas(and yes, I do have the second book in the series on my TBR) and will keep on with the Atwood. I didn't make it to The Country of Ice Cream Star but there's plenty of time this summer to head in that direction at some point.

Much thanks to Michelle S. Miller for hosting these great readathons and I'm looking forward to the High Summer one later this season. Still wish that I had done a little better but this really isn't meant to be a competition here. Maybe next time, it will help if I include one of my library loans into my readathon plans.

For now, it's good to keep in mind that when it comes to reading, it should be about the journey and not the destination. Not to mention that a good book doesn't require anyone to cat fight over it, just to share and enjoy:

Monday, June 05, 2017

Jane Green brightens up summer reading with The Sunshine Sisters

I've read Jane Green novels on and off for many years,enjoying her books immensely. This year, I am happy to report that checking into her literary world recently has been a heartfelt delight.

The Sunshine Sisters is a mother and daughters story, as well as one of sisterhood, with ailing former movie diva Ronni Sunshine calling her trio of estranged girls home to her.

 Ronni has been one of those folks who fancy themselves ill at the drop of a hat but this time, her health problems are very real.

While the story sets up the emotional dilemma that Ronni sets up for her children, we get a chance to know each of them in turn, starting with eldest daughter Nell.

She learned early on in life that her mother would always put her Hollywood career and need for attention in first place, well ahead of her family, causing her to look elsewhere for emotional support.

After a brief romance that made her a single mother, Nell found the maternal love she carved from Theodoria, the owner of a small working farm who hired her and over time, made Nell the manager of the place. With her son grown up and on his own, Nell is content with her life yet still feeling the need for that special piece of the puzzle to make her whole:

Next up is Meredith, who always had a weight problem which her mother constantly reminded her of, never bothering to offer any praise for her other abilities, such as her interest in art.

Meredith wound up moving to London, taking a dull yet dependable job as an accountant and only daring once to act on her desire to draw. When that dream was met with a one night stand that broke her heart, she retreated back into her emotional shell and winds up being engaged to the handsome yet horrible Derek.

 While her family can clearly see what a nightmare Derek is, Meredith is so used to negativity from them on any aspect of her life that she's willing to hold onto him despite the fact that she's not really sure that she loves him:

Last and very insistent that she would be far from the least is Lizzy, the impulsive little sister who shares many of her mother's selfish traits.

Unlike her older siblings, Lizzy never takes the drama that her mother displayed on a daily basis to heart,relying on her own charms and bouts of anger to get her though just about anything.

Nowadays, she's bit of a celebrity as a pop-up dinner chef and organizer with a hit TV show, whose business life has mixed into her personal love life, much to the dismay of her goodhearted husband James.

Even with her newfound fame and ambition, Lizzy is still the bold,brash Sunshine girl who rarely hesitates to speak her mind and grab whatever spotlight she can, not to mention her unsolicited advice to her sisters on how to live life:

When Ronni tells her girls of her condition and what she intends to do about it, the three of them find themselves reexamining their relationship to their mother and each other, making choices that they never expect to make about the future course of their lives.

Ronni's sincere wish is to bring her daughters together and have them fully form a bond, in an attempt to make up for lost time and leave them with a strong bond of love. A nice idea, but is it too late for that?

This is a very readable and relatable book, a true you-can't-put-it-down story. I found myself completely wrapped up in it's character driven charms and although I did wish for more time between Ronni and her adult daughters in the latter half of the novel, The Sunshine Sister is a satisfying summer read with plenty of humor and heart to keep the sad situations from falling into the depths of despair.

The Sunshine Sisters will be out and about at a bookseller near you by June 6, so be on the look out for this engaging read as you seek out those beach bag tomes to tote. These sisters are the type that are hard to resist and even their difficult diva of a mother Ronni has her own special brand of pizzazz that makes it easy to see why she and her girls are true showstoppers:

Friday, June 02, 2017

Setting up some future book haul reading

At the moment, I'm currently taking part in the Sci-Fi Summer readathon(and enjoying it quite a bit) but like any fully invested bookworm, there's always a plan for more reading up ahead.

My latest Library Haul took place just before the recent holiday weekend and I was happy to have one of my holds just come in. The Mothers by Brit Bennett has received so much praise since it was released around this same time last year, making me very eager to get acquainted with it.

The leading lady of this debut novel is Nadia Turner, a seventeen year old girl mourning the tragic passing of her mother. She takes comfort in the arms of  Luke, son of the local pastor and former football player who now works at a diner due to an injury that dashed his pro athlete dreams.

That relationship leads to an unexpected pregnancy and abortion, both of which Nadia keeps secret over the years. That secret becomes hard to hold on to when Luke becomes involved with Aubrey, a childhood friend of Nadia's whose devout faith would be shattered by such a revelation. From what I've heard, this is a beautifully written story of love,loss and choices made or not made.

 I will wait until the readathon is over to start this book but that wait is going to be tough. Then again, it did take a good amount of time for me to get it from the library in the first place and patience is a virtue that definitely pays off when it comes to books. I do hope that we will have another book from Ms. Bennett soon, as her writing sounds like the kind you want to come home to again and again:

Naturally, I couldn't take only one book out of the library(no, I really couldn't) and paired The Mothers with a most unlikely partner indeed. Stephen King's The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is his most recent short story collection,with a few poems included, and I'm a diehard fan of his brand of short story telling.

Some of the stories are out right horror,such as "The Bad Little Kid", which takes bullying to a whole new level, while others like "Ur", which offers up an e-reader with books that are truly out of this world, have a touch of fantasy to them. Many of them fall into the realistic realm of when bad things happen to good people like "Under the Weather" and "Batman and Robin have an Altercation."

I did start this book already,mainly because I had finished two domestic dramas in a row and needed something completely different for a change of pace. Truth be told, I'm still reading it now and it's sort of cheating on my readathon but not really as a few of these strange tales certainly qualify for the sci-fi/fantasy requirements there.

What I do like best about this collection are the author's notes that headline each entry, giving them that personal touch that means so much. It's almost like having Stephen King sitting beside you to offer a little commentary, a real literary bonus indeed:

After that library visit, I did a little online book buying(courtesy of Thrift Books) and picked up a couple of hardcovers that I might have to save for fall reading.

One of them,Barkskins by Annie Proulx,I did consider borrowing from the library but since it's a rather long and challenging read, it felt best to get myself a copy to keep.

 The novel follows two Frenchmen,Rene and Charles, who emigrate to Canada(then called New France) in 1693 and their descendants who follow their forefathers in the lumber business. Both men are bound to a feudal lord yet one of them escapes his servitude and makes his own timber empire while the other marries a local woman not by choice.

The book covers about 300 years, with both families crisscrossing their lives at odd times as well as tracking the course of the lumber industry and the ecological consequences of persisting in that field. I haven't read a lot of Proulx's work other than Brokeback Mountain and yet, something about this book intrigues me. Perhaps it's the length of the story or the multi-generational aspect of it or just the lavish amount of praise.

Or maybe, it's that need for complete immersion that I sometimes get(particularly when watching the news these days) and that only a book can give me. Barkskins should provide that and then some:

Meanwhile, watching the miniseries The White Princess lately, as well as finishing The Taming of the Queen, has put me in the mood for some more Philippa Gregory.

Three Sisters,Three Queens highlights three of female family members connected to Henry Vlll in his early years- betrothed bride Katherine of Aragon, Margaret Tudor who becomes the Queen of Scotland and her younger sister Mary.

While Margaret and Katherine literally find themselves at war with one another, Mary upturns her elder sister's personal ambitions in a most surprising way that has dire consequences for more than one party.

  Based on some of the Goodreads entries that I've read, the novel focuses mainly on Margaret, which I find interesting as I really don't know much about her.  Yes, this is historical fiction but when it's as well researched and thought out as Gregory's works tend to be, I don't mind having this as a good source of knowledge to start from:

 I may have to return to the library soon than expected, as another one of my holds has come in(The Wangs vs. The World by Jade Chang) and by that time, the readathon will be over. Don't get me wrong, I'm having fun with Sci-Fi Summer but it is tricky to have so many books on my plate, so to speak.

 However, this is summer time reading season and an activity that allows me to stay safely indoors and out of the gruesome glare of the sun, which makes it all worth it. I don't know how folks can actually read on the beach in true comfort but, hey, to each their own:

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Celebrating Wonder Woman's warrior maiden ways

On the eve of the very first big screen version of Wonder Woman, it's great to see that the advance word on the film has been strongly positive.

For many of us, this has been a long time in coming and with the odds firmly stacked against a female superhero movie, high hopes are being pinned on this production.

Considering that the fight to bring a fully realized Wonder Woman into the major movie leagues has been a hard fought campaign, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at how our Amazonian princess has been depicted as a warrior over the years.

In the iconic 1970s TV series, with Lynda Carter, Wonder Woman was a good fighter but not really a brutal one. Sure, she did take down the bad guys efficiently, either in groups or one on one combat, and thwarted a lot of evil schemes with intelligence as well as physical strength.

However, she wasn't a rock-em,sock-em type of hero. Instead, Wonder Woman tended to toss henchmen around, make incredibly high jumps and rely on her always dependable "bullets and bracelets" trick.

Also, in those days, there was much more use of the magic lasso to capture fleeing felons and get info out of them. Granted, TV standards and practices were much more restrictive back then but it was also a way to keep the character in the family friendly zone:

Speaking of family friendly, Wonder Woman's battle prowess in the Super Friends shows was even more laid back. Most of the fights involved running after escaping villains(again, major magic lasso use) and figuring ways out of the various booby traps that were set up for her and the other members of the JLA.

Most often times, mainly in the Battle of the Super Friends series, Wonder Woman was pitted against the Cheetah, one of the few female foes that DC was willing to showcase then. As fun as it was to see Wonder Woman have her own nemesis to go up against, their bouts did get pretty repetitive and usually ended with Cheetah being tied up by that lasso.

 It would've be nice to see her take on someone else, like Lex Luthor or Solomon Grundy directly and not just in a group battle, that's all I'm saying. Sure she fought Darkseid on occasion but also got captured by him more often than not. The Cheetah is a formidable enemy but back then, she came off like a Catwoman knock-off:

By the time the animated Justice League Unlimited series came around, Wonder Woman was finally allowed to be the true powerhouse that she had become in the comic books and graphic novels during the eighties and nineties.

She was not only a smart strategist, Diana was a full on fisticuffs kind of gal ready to throw down against any and all comers. Even her fellow JLU members were nearly outdone when forced to fight a mind controlled Wonder Woman, with four against one still not good enough odds:

Why all of this focus on Wonder Woman's fighting skills? Well, because, in my opinion, part of the reason that there has been a delay time and time again in bringing Wonder Woman to cinematic life is that some people would rather see her take on bad guys in a "ladylike" manner.

Mind you, I don't fault the Lynda Carter series or the Super Friends for their more milder approach. Just getting her on TV back then was a big feat in and of itself.  However, I do find it interesting that heroes like Batman and Superman have been allowed to grow more forceful in their actions in both live action and animated formats while Wonder Woman has lagged behind there.

Fans did and do want to see Wonder Woman at full capacity-she is the original Warrior Princess, after all! If her shoehorned role in the dreadful Batman vs. Superman movie wasn't enough to convince you, watch this short from a couple of years ago put out by Rainfall Films.

 It's a bit eerie how similar it looks to the current Wonder Woman movie but it was a internet sensation for awhile due to showing everyone just the kind of WW film people were hoping to see one day on the big screen:

So, with that in mind, I hope that the new Wonder Woman movie will conquer the box office and pave the way for more fighting females on the big screen. Yes, we do value Wonder Woman for her courage and honor but seeing her do battle in true warrior maiden mode is the sweet surprise center of such a cinematic treat: