Sunday, August 30, 2009

Keith Urban concert

In case I have never made it clear, I absolutely love Keith Urban. Not only is he an absolute doll, but he consistently delivers fantastic, amazing music. Last night was my third Keith Urban concert, and once again he did not fail to deliver. There are very, very few acts that I will actually pay just about any price to see (Keith is one, the other is Chris Botti). There are plenty of acts I would go see if someone gave me tickets, or if tickets were incredibly cheap and a group of friends wanted to go, but I am at the point that only those two artists are "must-sees."

What makes a must-see was perfectly captured by last night's experience. Keith Urban has never, ever failed to bowl me over with his artistry, musicianship, energy, and sheer musical excellence, whether it's on an album or live and in person. And I realize this is probably going to sound incredibly corny, but whatever - I never fail to leave a KU concert on the high that can come only from seeing an artist at the top of their game hold nothing back and just pour themselves into the audience. There's nothing quite like watching a performance of that caliber and just knowing that you're watching a guy doing what he loves, that there's no place he'd rather be than giving 110% on stage.

Here are a couple more pics from last night's show. I'm pretty pleased with my little Kodak camera. :) Sugarland was the opening act, but because Jennifer Nettles gets on my last nerve posting pics of the opening is not on my necessary to-do list. ;-)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Frontiersman's Daughter by Laura Frantz

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Frontiersman’s Daughter

Revell (September 1, 2009)


Laura Frantz


I was born and raised in Kentucky and my love of history goes deep - way back to the 18th-century when my family first came into the Bluegrass State. It will always be home to me, even though I now live with my husband, Randy, and my sons, Wyatt and Paul, in the misty woods of northwest Washington. I go back as often as I can to visit family and all the old haunts that I love.

I grew up playing on the original site of Fort Boonesborough and swimming in the Kentucky River and climbing the Pinnacle near Berea and watching the great outdoor dramas of the early settlers. Often my cousins and brother and I would play in my Granny's attic and dress up in the pioneer costumes she made us and pretend to be Daniel Boone, Rebecca, Jemima, or the Shawnee.

As I grew up I began to write stories and they were always historical, filled with the lore I had heard or read about. It's no accident that my first book (which is actually my fifth book - the others were practice!) is about those first Kentucky pioneers.

I feel blessed beyond measure to write books. My prayer is that you are doubly blessed reading them.

Note: Laura Frantz credits her 100-year-old grandmother as being the catalyst for her fascination with Kentucky history. Frantz's family followed Daniel Boone into Kentucky in 1792 and settled in Madison County where her family still resides. Frantz is a former schoolteacher and social worker who currently lives in the misty woods of Washington state with her husband and two sons, whom she homeschools.


Lovely but tough as nails, Lael Click is the daughter of a celebrated frontiersman. Haunted by her father's former captivity with the Shawnee Indians, as well as the secret sins of her family's past, Lael comes of age in the fragile Kentucky settlement her father founded.

Though she faces the loss of a childhood love, a dangerous family feud, and the affection of a Shawnee warrior, Lael draws strength from the rugged land she calls home, and from Ma Horn, a distant relative who shows her the healing ways of herbs and roots found in the hills.

But the arrival of an outlander doctor threatens her view of the world, God, and herself--and the power of grace and redemption. This epic novel gives readers a glimpse into the simple yet daring lives of the pioneers who first crossed the Appalachians, all through the courageous eyes of a determined young woman.

Laura Frantz's debut novel offers a feast for readers of historical fiction and romance lovers alike.

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Frontiersman’s Daughter, go HERE

Review: Why Didn't They Ask Evans?

Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?
By: Agatha Christie
Publisher: St. Martin’s Minotaur
ISBN: 0-312-98159-7

About the book:

Was it a misstep that sent a handsome stranger plummeting to his death from a cliff? Or something more sinister? Fun-loving adventurers Bobby Jones and Frances Derwent’s suspicions are certainly aroused – especially since the man’s dying words are so peculiar: Why didn’t they ask Evans? Bobby and Frances would love to know. Unfortunately, asking the wrong people has sent the amateur sleuths running for their lives – on a wild and deadly pursuit to discover who Evans is, what it was he wasn’t asked, and why the mysterious inquiry has put their own lives in mortal danger…


While Agatha Christie is best-known for her sleuths like Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, I’ve discovered that some hidden gems among her “standalone” novels. Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? Is a thoroughly enjoyable read, anchored by the terrific chemistry between the protagonists, lifelong friends Bobby Jones, son of the local vicar, and Lady Frances Derwent. Their relationship, particularly the way they constantly spar and view their case, reminds me of another pair of Christie sleuths – Tommy and Tuppence. I could Christie turning Frances & Bobby’s adventures into a series – but perhaps that never happened because it would have been a little too similar to Tommy & Tuppence’s adventures.

Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? is a thoroughly enjoyable read. It’s fast-paced and quite humorous, thanks in large part to Frankie’s character. She operates in a constant, dizzying state of activity that tends to leave everyone she encounters in a wake of confusion – so generally speaking, she can get away with pretty much anything. Witnessing the quieter, more deliberate Bobby keep up with her is a lot of fun. Christie packs the novel with her trademark twists and turns, and keeping up with how the large cast of characters is related can be a bit confusing if you’re not focused on the story. By the end of the novel, the guilty parties have become apparent, but that doesn’t detract from one’s enjoyment of the tale in the least – watching Bobby and Frankie survive their excursion into the detective world is far too entertaining. I rank this as one of my favorite Christie novels.

Book vs. Film:

Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? was the final film to air in Marple series 4 on Masterpiece Mystery a few weeks ago. Despite how the resolution of the episode jumped the proverbial shark and veered into the realms of improbable craziness, the film ranked as one of my favorites of the series. You can read my full review of the film here. This was primarily due to the fact that Sean Biggerstaff played the role of Bobby Jones. But let’s start at the beginning to point out a few key changes:

Since the novel doesn’t feature the character of Miss Marple, she’s inserted into the story as an old friend of Bobby’s mother. She doesn’t disturb the flow of the story too much, probably due to the fact that she’s given rather little to do except to facilitate Frances & Bobby’s investigation. Speaking of Bobby & Frances (a.k.a. Frankie), Biggerstaff and Georgia Moffett absolutely nail their respective portrayals of the amateur detectives and lifelong friends. Their chemistry, and the way they banter back and forth, perfectly mirrors the way their relationship develops in the novel.

Having read the novel, it only confirms how ridiculously over-the-top and contrived the whole China connection was to the resolution of the film. It completely changed the motives of the villains. While I still like this very “loose” film adaptation, the way the mystery plays out in the book makes a hundred times more sense than the way the story was rewritten for the screen.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Inspector Lewis, series 2

The new episodes of Inspector Lewis finally start airing on Masterpiece Mystery this Sunday. I've been going through Masterpiece withdrawals, so I am definitely going to be tuning in for these episodes. Here's a bit about what's coming up for Lewis & Hathaway:

Episodes of Inspector Lewis: Series II
August 30, 2009 at 9pm
Faced with stolen rare books and two murders, Lewis and Hathaway connect the crimes to a gambling support group and two painters. But can they stop a killer in time?

September 6, 2009 at 9pm
The world of no-rules boxing and Cold War intrigue surround the death of a prominent Oxford figure. Consequences from the investigation hit Lewis close to home.

September 13, 2009 at 9pm
A serial killer is targeting a religious group. As Lewis investigates, he is surprised to find Hathaway's personal connections to the group.

September 20, 2009 at 9pm
The prime suspect in the assault of a teenage girl has a seemingly watertight alibi from three pillars of the Oxford community.

October 4, 2009 at 9pm
Literary whimsy becomes murderous reality with the death of a Czech barmaid and two puzzling clues at the crime scene: a bloodstained note and a broken antique mirror.

October 11, 2009 at 9pm
A student Shakespeare is disrupted by a deadly drama when a cast member is killed. Apart from the jealous ensemble cast who can't even muster fake tears over the loss, there is an audience of suspects to consider.

October 18, 2009 at 9pm
The murder of a small-time criminal leads Lewis and Hathaway to a prominent Oxford celebrity atheist who years earlier had been the intended target of a botched murder attempt. Could these isolated incidents be connected?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

movie theme hilarity

I discovered these videos thanks to TCM's Movie Morlocks blog. This guy's got way too much time on his hands, but the results are hilarious. Here are my favorites:

Thursday, August 20, 2009

movie poster love, part 2

Since it's Thursday already, and I can't seem to find the opportunity to get back into some sort of blogging routine, I give you movie poster love, part 2. :) I love TCM, but there's something extra special about their Summer Under the Stars tradition, don't you agree?

First up tonight is this fabulous new poster for one of my favorite films, North by Northwest, starring Cary Grant and James Mason - and prominently featuring the latter, since this poster was designed to celebrate his film marathon earlier this month. I blogged rather extensively about this movie a couple of weeks ago, you can read my thoughts here. I just have to say that I love how they abbreviated the title to NXNW, it cracks me up because that would so happen today. I also love the map overlay, it's a nice touch given the territory this movie covers.

I absolutely love and adore Elvis, yes, even a good number of his movies in all of their cheesy glory. Considering my love affair with the "King" started when I was six or seven, I don't understand how I've lived my life to this point without seeing perhaps his most famous film, Jailhouse Rock. This was only his third movie, but I've got to rate it as one of his better flicks. Sure, he's a bit wooden, but the movie hints at some acting potential that was sadly generally not developed later on (the follow up to this film, King Creole, is a notable exception). Anyways, I love how this poster just focues on the very iconic, black and white images of Elvis's jailhouse performance. After all - that image pretty much tells you all you need to know, doesn't it? ;-)

Roman Holiday is a wonderful little movie, but goodness the ending tears me up every time I see it (yummy Gregory Peck...forget all that duty nonsense, Audrey, I'm just sayin'...I would totally understand). I simply adore the bright pink background, and the way it provides such great contrast for the colorized image from the film - it really makes it pop. I love the fun and whimsical feel. My friend Lori & I were discussing the design of some of these posters, and we came to the conclusion that if Roman Holiday was made today, it would be an indie/art house type flick, probably only coming out in "limited release," distributed by Pathe! or Miramax. LOL! It's been ages since I've seen this movie, I need to rewatch it sometime soon - after I gear myself up to have my heart wrenched by the ending. ;-)

The next few days are going to be a little I'll go ahead and say have a marvelous weekend everyone!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

movie poster love, part 1

It is no great secret that I love and adore old movies. Turner Classic Movies is currently in the middle of their Summer Under the Stars film festival, where every day in August they spotlight the films of one star. This year, TCM created fantastic new posters to celebrate Summer Under the Stars - one newly redesigned poster per day, though some films also have "teaser" posters. If you visit the Summer Under the Stars website you can download your favorite posters or the entire collection for free. I love these so much I just had to spotlight a few of them here.

First up is a new poster for Gilda, from 1946, featuring star Glenn Ford. I love the way Ford's face is half illuminated by the red neon glow from Gilda's name. The image perfectly captures the dark, smoldering ambience of the film - it's a classic definitely worth checking out if you haven't seen it!

Next up is High Society from 1956, featuring Frank Sinatra and Grace Kelly. I absolutely love this image, it's a very classy "romantic comedy" look. Very, very classy! High Society is one of my favorite musicals - it's based on the play/film The Philadelphia Story, so it's hilarious, it's got great Cole Porter songs, and Frank Sinatra's in his prime. *swoon* :)

This poster for The Letter from 1940, starring Bette Davis, quite simply rocks. It's quite arresting, no? The opening sequence of this movie is absolutely unforgettable, and Bette Davis is at her manipulative best throughout. The quote on the poster reads "With all my heart I still love the man I killed."

Movie poster love part 2 coming soon! :)

Friday, August 7, 2009

pending blogging frenzy (maybe...ha!!)

So I really do have intentions of blogging, soon, but I'm watching my parents' house and I hate their computer. Hence the quiet on the blogging front. :)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Sacred Cipher by Terry Brennan

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Sacred Cipher

Kregel Publications (July 31, 2009)


Terry Brennan


Over the past 35 years, Terry Brennan has accumulated a broad range of experience in both the profit and non-profit business sectors.

His 22-year, award winning journalism career included:
• Seven years as a sportswriter and editor with The Philadelphia Bulletin, at the time the largest-circulation afternoon newspaper in the nation;
• Leading The Mercury of Pottstown (PA), as its editor, to a Pulitzer Prize in Editorial Writing;
• Serving as Executive Editor of a multi-national newspaper firm – Ingersoll Publications – with papers in the USA, England and Ireland.

In 1996 Brennan transferred his successful management career to the non-profit sector and served for 12 years as Vice President of Operations for the Christian Herald Association, Inc., the parent organization of four New York City ministries, including The Bowery Mission.

Now Chief Operating Officer of the National Organization on Disability, Brennan also won the Valley Forge Award for editorial writing from the Freedoms Foundation. His two adult sons and their families live in Pennsylvania. Terry, his wife Andrea and their two adult children live in New York City. The Sacred Cipher is his first novel.


History's greatest secret could be tomorrow's greatest threat More historically and biblically accurate than The DaVinci Code and just as adventurous as an Indiana Jones movie, The Sacred Cipher combines action and mystery to draw readers into a world of ancient secrets and international escapades.

When an ancient scroll appears in a secret room of the Bowery Mission in New York City, Tom Bohannon is both stunned and intrigued. The enigma of the scroll's contents will send Bohannon and his team ricocheting around the world, drawing the heat of both Jewish and Muslim militaries, and bringing the Middle East to the brink of nuclear war in this heart-pounding adventure of historical proportions. The Sacred Cipher is a riveting, fact-based tale of mystery and suspense.

If you want to read the Prologue of The Sacred Cipher, go HERE

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Miss Marple: Why Didn't They Ask Evans?

Why Didn't They Ask Evans? is the final installment of series 4 of Miss Marple, and I quite enjoyed it. Haven't read the book (yet), so I'm not sure how it compares to this film - especially since the book isn't a Marple novel - but I'll rectify that situation shortly. :) Here's the story summary from the PBS website:

Bobby Attfield finds a man near death sprawled out on a cliff. His final, enigmatic words — "Why didn't they ask Evans?" On a whim, Bobby and his friend, socialite Frankie Derwent, decide to investigate. The amateur sleuths, along with Miss Marple, uncover several enticing clues — a hotel room key, a pipe and a map with the Savage Castle circled. Getting into the castle under false pretenses, the trio meets a cadre of shadowy characters — the widow of loathed businessman Jack Savage, his two teenage children, a handsome piano teacher, a psychiatrist and his delicate wife. Before long, Bobby and Frankie's playful inquiry turns even more deadly. Amid a backdrop of poisonous snakes and exotic but lethal orchids, will the three decipher the dead man's final words before they are exposed?

This movie is a bit of a Harry Potter fangirl's dream, as Sean Biggerstaff, a.k.a. Oliver Wood (!!), stars as Bobby Attfield, thrust into a dangerous web of intrigue and murder when he discovers a dying man sprawled out on a cliff. I thought he was a cutie in the first and second Potter films (Hey he's only 3 years younger than me! LOL!), but I've got to say he's aged well. Just sayin'. :) Georgia Moffett plays opposite Biggerstaff as his friend and possible romantic interest, socialite Frankie Derwent. I almost didn't recognize her with dark brown hair, but it turns out she played in one of my favorite Doctor Who episodes as Jenny, the Doctor's daughter. She also dated David Tennant - don't know if that's still going on - so by any estimation I should hate her guts (*wink*), but I really liked the spunk she exhibited playing opposite Biggerstaff. It's a lot of fun to watch the way Frankie and Bobby needle each other throughout this film, always dancing around their attraction to each other. (BTW, I just have to point out how adorable it was when Bobby gets dressed up in a tux and rides his bicycle over to Frankie's party, only to leave without announcing his presence - that was such an "awww" moment. :)

This film also has a 2nd Potter connection - Mark Williams, who plays Arthur Weasley, plays Claud Evans, orchid aficianado, who meets a rather grisly end. And then there's a 3rd, more distant Potter connection - Rafe Spall, son of Timothy Spall - a.k.a. Peter Pettigrew - plays the mysterious piano playing Roger who vies with Bobby for Frankie's affections. This brings up an interesting point - why on earth would Rafe Spall be a serious contender against - well, ANYONE else?! I don't get it. *rolls eyes* Oh, and I can't forget to mention Richard Briers as Wilson (a sort of butler I guess??). Briers is a veteran of several Kenneth Branagh films, including Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, and Love's Labours Lost.

Now, I enjoyed this episode, but I have to admit it gets a little looney towards the resolution. Not only does the reveal go on forever, but as far as Agatha Christie goes the whole China subplot seems more than a little far-fetched. I could be going out on a real limb here but I think I'm going to discover the film rewrites a great deal of the original novel. In fact - this may be a case where it turns out that inserting Miss Marple's character into a non-Marple novel actually takes away from the punch of the story. While I enjoyed Julia McKenzie's portrayal of Jane Marple in this episode, and by the end of the ep I thought she interacted quite nicely with Bobby and Frankie, her presence wasn't absolutely necessary. Bobby and Frankie had a kind of Tommy and Tuppence chemistry, a whole lot of fun to watch on their own.

Book review coming soon. Overall, series 4 of Miss Marple has been enjoyable - not quite up to the standard set by the Geraldine McEwan years, a bit hit-or-miss, but there are enough enjoyable moments that I hope a series 5 is commissioned. I'd hate to see Miss Marple disappear from the Masterpiece Mystery roster. :)

Review: They Do It With Mirrors by Agatha Christie

They Do It With Mirrors (A Miss Marple Mystery)
By: Agatha Christie
Publisher: Signet/Penguin
ISBN: 978-0-451-19990-4

About the book:

Responding to her friend Carrie's urgent invitation, Miss Jane Marple has arrived at her sprawling estate. To Miss Marple's surprise, Carrie's remote "Gothic monstrosity" has been turned into a home for delinquent boys. What's more, Carrie's own children and grandchildren have taken up residence - and few of them are thrilled at how mother is squandering the family fortune. Then a brutal murder proves that philanthropy is the least of Carrie's problems - and Miss Marple finds that where there's smoke, there's mirrors.


Sisters Carrie and Ruth are two of Miss Marple's oldest friends - and it's at the behest of Ruth that Jane accepts an invitation to visit Carrie, because of Ruth's worries that something is not quite right in that household. When she arrives, she discovers any number of potential reasons for Ruth's unease - the delinquents Carrie and and her husband Lewis are attempting to rehabilitate, the flirtatious granddaughter and her sullen husband, and the controlling housekeeper who may or may not have Carrie's best interest at heart - just to name a few of the potential suspects. When Carrie's stepson is murdered with little apparent reason, it becomes frighteningly apparent that the universally loved Carrie's life might be threatened. The entire situation is a shell game, and Miss Marple and the local Inspector must work to unravel the truth from the lies before Carrie becomes a victim of her own benevolent, trusting nature.

They Do It With Mirrors has many of the elements of a classic Christie mystery. The setting is tightly contained to a well-off family home - a family where everything *should* be perfect, but everyone has their secrets. Everything's very genteel, but that veneer of proper English respectability masks some pretty passionate familial discord. In the best Dame Agatha Christie fashion, this cast of characters gives her plenty of opportunity to pack the story with red herrings and misdirection. As far as the actual mystery goes - this story falls a bit short when compared to some of Christie's other gems. The culprit becomes apparent rather early on, which is kind of surprising, but it allows Christie to take a look at their motivations and how exactly this "conjuring trick" of a murder was seemingly so flawlessly executed. What's more interesting for me than the actual case is the analysis of Carrie's character, and how this woman who never seemed to have a good grasp of reality sees situations and people much clearer than others. Enjoyable (aren't all Christies?), but not a runaway favorite.

Book vs. Film:

Compared to the recently adapted A Pocket Full of Rye (film review, book review), the novel They Do It With Mirrors features the character of Miss Marple to a much greater degree. I just think it's really interesting how some Marple books barely feature the iconic sleuth - but that's neither here nor there. Overall I'd rate the most recent film version of They Do It With Mirrors as a pretty faithful adaptation of Christie's story. The cast of characters is slightly compressed or their roles are rearranged a bit, but it makes sense within the context of watching the story as a film. For example, instead of having Carrie's granddaughter (Gina) at odds with her aunt Mildred, in the film Gina is elevated to the role of daughter - it makes the sisterly conflict a bit more compelling IMO. Ruth is given a bigger role in the movie, but Joan Collins's portrayal is pitch-perfect when compared to the text. The same applies to Elliot Cowan's take on the role of Wally, Gina's husband - if anything he makes the injured American a bit more sympathetic than he appears in the novel. And Alex Jennings gives an excellent performance as Inspector Curry - absolutely nails it, especially when you look at his scenes with Miss Marple. While some changes were made to the story, I really feel like the filmmakers remained true to the essence of the story, which made for a well done and enjoyable flick.

Inspector Lewis on Masterpiece Mystery

Now that series 4 of Miss Marple has wrapped up on Masterpiece Mystery, next up are the Inspector Lewis mysteries, starring Kevin Whately in the title role and Laurence Fox as his partner, Sergeant Hathaway. I doubt I'll be doing episode-by-episode blogging for this series, but I will definitely be watching - series 1 of this program was quite good as I recall! Here's a bit about the stories from the PBS website:

Kevin Whately returns as Inspector Lewis teamed with his cool, cerebral partner Detective Sergeant Hathaway (Laurence Fox, A Room with a View). Lewis, the former working-class foil to the erudite Detective Inspector Morse, tackles murder and mayhem with the help of Hathaway in the seemingly perfect academic haven of Oxford.

In 2009, Masterpiece mystery! presents two encore presentations from series one of Inspector Lewis: Old School Ties (August 16) and Expiation (August 23).

August 16, 2009

Old School Ties

Assigned to chaperone a celebrity criminal on his controversial visit to Oxford, Lewis thinks the assignment is a waste of time. Soon, though, two people are dead, and Lewis and Hathaway have their hands full.

August 23, 2009

When an Oxford "soccer mom" is found hanged in her home following a visit from a mysterious stranger, Lewis and Hathaway uncover a web of family and sexual intrigue.

Inspector Lewis: Series II premieres August 30th, 2009, showcasing seven new cases:
And the Moonbeams Kiss the Sea (August 30)
Music to Die For (September 6)
Life Born of Fire (September 13)
The Great and the Good (September 20)
Allegory of Love (October 4)
The Quality of Mercy (October 11)
The Point of Vanishing (October 18)

Lewis and Hathaway encounter several crimes that take a personal turn, revealing new sides of the inimitable duo and their deepening relationship.