Friday, October 29, 2010

Sherlock continues Sunday!

So, so happy that Sherlock continues on Masterpiece Mystery this Sunday with the second of its three episode run. This episode is entitled The Blind Banker. I can't wait. Did I mention that I LOVE this show?? Not trying to wish away my weekend, but the broadcast of this show can't come soon enough to suit me. :) Here's a bit about the story:
Living with a genius isn't easy — just ask Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman, The Office UK). Watson is scrambling to do errands and find a job while Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch, The Last Enemy) awaits a challenge. When two men are found dead, Sherlock springs into action and takes Watson from the sidelines to the center of a dangerous new case. Sherlock is co-created by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat. (One episode; 90 minutes; TV-PG).
And here's a short preview:

See you on the other side with my review. :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Review: Anthems by Kerry Ellis

With soaring pop vocals and anthemic orchestra-meets-rock arrangements, Kerry Ellis makes an unforgettable statement with her debut album, Anthems. I’m a huge fan of classical crossover music (i.e. Sarah Brightman) and have a fairly extensive collection of solo albums from various theater stars. Anthems is a standout project in both categories. Ellis is perhaps best known as the longest-running British actress to play Elphaba in the musical Wicked, playing the role on both the West End and Broadway stage. Many times when theater stars put out albums, they choose to record fairly straightforward versions of musical theater standards, not so with Ellis. Partnered with Brian May, lead guitarist from Queen, Anthems is an inspired fusion of rock-orchestra melodies paired with Ellis’s soaring, passionate vocals. The album opens with the exotic Brian May-penned track “Dangerland,” reminiscent of “Fleurs Du Mal” from Sarah Brightman’s rock-inspired Symphony album, with a distinctive Middle Eastern vibe. Ellis then moves on to a soaring, rock-tinged version of “Anthem” from the musical Chess – her voice soars, and the blistering guitar solos transform the track into an arena-ready anthem. Two tracks from Wicked make appearances with fantastic new arrangements. “Defying Gravity” is transformed into a rousing, rock-driven anthem of empowerment, while “I’m Not That Girl” is an absolute showstopper, one of my favorite tracks on the album. Ellis’s powerful pop voice shines on this song, simultaneously both poignant and hopeful. Another favorite track of mine is a cover of the Brit group The Feeling’s “Love It When You Call,” which is given a rocking “girl group” sound. I absolutely LOVE Ellis’s interpretation of “Diamonds Are Forever” – it’s great to see a classic James Bond theme revisited. Shirley Bassey owns this song, but Ellis fearlessly takes it on and makes it her own. The album ends with a pair of Brian May-penned tracks – a gorgeous, powerful rendition of Queen’s “No One But You (Only the Good Die Young)” and the beautiful and poignant “I Loved a Butterfly.” Kerry Ellis’s debut is a standout. The press release in the product description section of Amazon states that “Broadway’s about to get a little bit grittier” with Ellis’s debut – and to that all I can say is more, please. Kerry’s powerhouse vocals married to musical theater-meets-rock-orchestra-fusion is an addictive combination.
Here's a brief video to give you a taste of Kerry's sound:

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sherlock: A Study in Pink

"I'm not a psychopath, Anderson, I'm a high-functioning sociopath. Do your research." ~ Sherlock

Sherlock, how can I even begin to sing your praises? There’s something you need to know about me, in case you’re a new reader to the blog – I’m a little obsessed with all things Sherlock Holmes. Okay, make that more than a little. I cut my BBC-drama loving teeth on Granada Television Sherlock Holmes series, starring the inimitable Jeremy Brett. For me, Brett is Holmes, and no one before or since his interpretation has come close. Now, I found a lot to enjoy about the Robert Downey Jr.-led Sherlock Holmes picture last Christmas (click here to read my review). But having seen the first episode of Sherlock, created by Steven Moffat (the Doctor Who showrunner!) and Mark Gatiss, the big-budget movie pales in comparison. I have finally found an heir worthy to stand in the shadow of Jeremy Brett’s interpretation of Holmes. Benedict Cumberbatch, you are a freaking genius.

In some respect I feel completely inadequate to review the first episode of this series, because it was so, so brilliant and I loved it so much. People, this show is so genius it brought tears of joy to my eyes on more than one occasion, I kid you not. It’s going to take many, many viewings of this episode for me to even begin to come close to fully grasping and appreciating the way in which the showrunners and actors brought these iconic, beloved characters into the 21st century. There are so many brilliant little nods to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s characterizations, so many wonderful humorous touches, and absolutely inspired dialogue that each subsequent viewing of this episode will be a miniature journey of discovery, I’m sure.

A Study in Pink was inspired by an original Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet (one of only four novel-length Holmes adventures penned by Doyle). Here’s the story summary from the PBS website:

Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman, The Office UK) is back in modern-day London after serving in the war in Afghanistan. His therapist, convinced that Watson is plagued by violent memories, urges him to express himself in a blog. But nothing much ever happens to Watson, and it's not that he's haunted by the war — he longs for it. Enter an eccentric roommate — one Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch, The Last Enemy). He plays the violin when he's thinking, sometimes doesn't talk for days, and has a dubious career as a self-described consulting detective. When what appear to be serial suicide cases surface in London, a desperate Detective Inspector Lestrade (Rupert Graves, The Forsyte Saga) reluctantly consults the freakish Sherlock. To Sherlock, a crime spree is like Christmas — only made better by the possibility that these crimes may be the work of a devious serial killer. The game is on, and before it is over, Sherlock will put his life on the line — all to keep from being bored to death. Sherlock is based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and is co-created by Doctor Who producers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss. (One episode; 90 minutes, TV-PG)
Possible spoilers from this point on...

First of all, there’s an eerie sense of symmetry to the introduction of Dr. John Watson. When Doyle first penned the character, it was entirely plausible to have a former army doctor be a veteran of the Afghan wars – and once again we’re at a point in history when that is true. Now, if you’ve been living under a rock or you willfully ignored all news related to the casting of the upcoming Hobbit films, you may not know that Martin Freeman, playing Watson, is going to be Bilbo Baggins. There’s a moment at the very beginning of the episode, where Watson is sitting silently on the side of his bed after some particularly horrific post-traumatic stress induced dreams, where he looks very hobbit-like. Maybe I was just projecting…? *g* Either way, the more I see of Freeman, the more I think he’s a brilliant choice to play Bilbo.

And he’s obviously not just a brilliant choice to inhabit Middle Earth – he’s a fantastic Watson. Throughout the history of Holmes appearing on-screen, Watson has too often been doomed to appear increasingly buffoonish, the comic sidekick if you will. Freeman’s incarnation of Watson is a dream come true. He really comes across like a former soldier. He’s sharp, astute, and disciplined, and there’s a part of him that he struggles with just a bit that loves risks, the adrenaline rush that comes from finding oneself in a life-or-death situation. AND he’s a blogger, and I know it pretty much goes without saying how much I loved that. Watson’s struggles with his memories of his wartime experiences are extremely well portrayed in my opinion, quite realistic. I thought it was fascinating that he starts out the show with a limp and a hand tremor, issues that Sherlock pegs as psychosomatic. I really enjoyed the process the show takes Watson through, as he works through those issues and through his new friendship and partnership with Sherlock he finds he’s learning to function in the “real” world again.

Now, what to say about Sherlock? Benedict Cumberbatch, I hardly knew ye. I’ve always liked Cumberbatch (for one thing, his name is fantastic!), but until last night I never classified him in the brilliant actor, or even favorite actors, category. I cannot stress this enough. Like Brett, Cumberbatch was born to play this incarnation of Holmes. He owns every scene he appears in, takes clear delight in the character and the dialogue, and is utterly and completely engrossing and unforgettable. He has the manic swings that really defines Holmes in my mind (thank you for that expectation, Jeremy Brett!). His energy and the almost child-like delight he takes in a challenge (“Serial killer! It’s like Christmas!”) is at once completely absorbing and laugh-out-loud hilarious. The show does a great job of incorporating modern technology into Holmes’s repertoire of investigative tricks – I really love the fact that he’s addicted to texting, and the use of pop-up “text bubbles” throughout the show was such a funny touch.

As Sherlock, Cumberbatch is by turns selfish then kind, manically energetic then lethargic, and always, always supremely intelligent, constantly spouting a steady stream of incisive, witty one-liners. Sherlock is constantly after his next “fix” – nothing is more dangerous for him than boredom and lethargy. He craves a challenge – and we’re given the best hint of what’s to come at the conclusion of this episode (nice nod to Moriarty, people!). He has a perfect foil in his brother, Mycroft, who still works for the British government, only for a change he isn’t simply an older, more set in his ways version of Sherlock. Played by show co-creator Mark Gatiss, this Mycroft is tightly wound, practically neurotic, but clearly as driven in the end of his own means as is his brother. I’m very curious to see where they take the relationship given that Mycroft seems to make a regular thing of keeping his brother under surveillance. The moment at the end of the episode when Mycroft and Sherlock come face-to-face for the first time in the series was HILARIOUS. I loved when they started talking about stressing “Mummy” and “can you imagine what Christmas dinner was like?” Hysterically funny stuff, as was Watson’s somewhat crestfallen reaction to the realization that Mycroft was Sherlock’s brother, and not the sinister criminal mastermind he first seems to be.

Sherlock’s reluctant associate on his investigations is Detective Inspector Lestrade, played by Rupert Graves. After seeing his rather unsavory turns in the just-completed seasons of Inspector Lewis and Wallander, can I just tell you it is so nice to see him finally playing one of the good guys?! Turns out he’s actually capable of that, LOL! It’s really interesting to see a character of Sherlock’s caliber, who’s so freaking high maintenance, interact with modern police. Many view him as a potential threat, a loose cannon, and rightly so – but others, like Lestrade, recognize his brilliance, even though his methods are unconventional and he’s oh-so-difficult to stomach, and his limitless potential.

A few notes about some other cast members…Mrs. Hudson, Sherlock’s landlady, is played by actress Una Stubbs. I’m not really familiar with any of her previous work, but the way the show sets up her relationship with Holmes and Watson had me in stitches (“I am not your housekeeper!”). She’s going to be a great member of the core cast, as despite her affection for Sherlock (due to getting her husband put to death on some charge in Florida, LOL), one can see where her unconventional tenants will test the limits of her patience. The villain of this piece is perfectly played by Philip Davis. Davis has appeared in Collision, Doctor Who, Miss Marple, and Bleak House, and really the man seems to excel at playing creeps. I really enjoyed his showdown with Sherlock, it was interesting to see him get under Sherlock’s skin.

The look of this show is just spectacular. I loved everything about the sets and costumes (Benedict can rock a scarf, just sayin’!), to the innovative way the filmmakers let us “see” how Sherlock thinks. The show is fast-paced and thoroughly modern, but very, very true to the spirit of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s creations and his writing. And the music – oh my how I loved it! Both David Arnold and Michael Price have credit for the show’s music on the IMDB, and I’ve got to say they did a fantastic job. The music is bright and vibrant, the perfect accompaniment to the action on-screen. There are moments, flourishes in the music that reminded me of Sherlock’s origins in Victorian London. The score is definitely cinematic in scope and an integral part of fleshing out Sherlock’s world as the sets and actors.

I can already tell my biggest problem with this show is that this season is only three episodes long! Needless to say I cannot wait till next week. If you watched this episode, I’d love to hear your thoughts, so bring on the comments! And if you didn’t – well, what are you waiting for? PBS is streaming A Study in Pink online here through December 7th.

There’s so, so many more things I could say about how much I LOVED this show, so many more observations I’ll have to make after subsequent viewings – but I’ll leave it at this. It goes without saying that I would LOVE to discuss this, so comments are MORE than welcome on this post, especially. *g* Sherlock is the crown jewel in what has been a pretty spectacular Masterpiece Mystery season. I can’t wait till next Sunday!

PBS made the fantastic poster image on the left available to fans of their Facebook page for download. You can snag that image here (perhaps make it your Facebook profile picture like I did...just a suggestion!).

Now, any post where I'm discussing the one and only Sherlock Holmes at length just wouldn't be complete without a little nod to the man who started my obsession - the lovely Jeremy Brett.

Sherlock happily contemplating his latest incarnation...
I like to think that if he was still with us, he'd be pleased with Sherlock...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

"The End of the Story" video

Hat tip to Charleybrown of Enchanted Serenity of Period films for pointing out this fantastic period drama compilation video on YouTube. Click here to watch Period Drama - The End of the Story by KatSw3. The video features clips from the following productions:

Becoming Jane
Bright Star
Emma 1996 & 2009
Ever After
Girl with a Pearl Earring
Jane Eyre 2006
Little Women
Lost in Austen
Mansfield Park 1999
Nanny McPhee
New World
North & South 2004
Persuasion 2007
Phantom of the Opera
Pride & Prejudice 1995 & 2005
Sense & Sensibility 1995 & 2008
Shakespeare in Love
Wives & Daughters

Enjoy! :)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Peter Jackson Sets First Names For 'The Hobbit'

Peter Jackson Sets First Names For 'The Hobbit'

This is a dream come true! According to this article, RICHARD ARMITAGE will play Thorin Oakenshield!!! OHMYGOSH OHMYGOSH OHMYGOSH!!! My happiness knows no bounds!!!

Sherlock's almost here!

Sherlock starts THIS WEEKEND on Masterpiece Mystery, people. I'm so excited I can hardly stand it! The first episode is entitled A Study in Pink. As if I wasn't already crazy for this show to start, here's a bit about the story:
The Baker Street sleuth stalks again in Sherlock, a thrilling contemporary version of the Victorian-era whodunits based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. In A Study in Pink, Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman, The Office UK) has returned from Afghanistan to a quiet life. That is, until he meets the eccentric Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch,The Last Enemy) and encounters a case of apparent serial suicides. (One episode; 90 minutes; TV-PG).
Can. Not. WAIT! I am going to do my utmost best to review these episodes in a timely fashion here on the blog, I do hope those of you who are watching too will join in the discussion!

The Last Station

Apparently I’m on a Russian movie kick this week. I’ve watched The Last Station two or three times now, so I suppose it’s about time I review it. The film is a fascinating look at the last year in the life of a literary giant, Count Leo Tolstoy. This movie is based on a novel of the same name by Jay Parini, and it’s safe to say that both the film and book take some license with history, as to be expected. If anything, from what I can gather from a cursory reading of some of the biographical information available about Tolstoy on the internet, he was probably more difficult to live with than the movie depicts.

Tolstoy is brilliantly played by Christopher Plummer. Plummer plays the venerable writer with a sort of wry awareness – he’s famous and revered and highly aware of it, but there’s also the occasional acknowledgement that he doesn’t take himself quite as seriously as those who look to him for leadership and guidance. I had no idea there was such a “cult of celebrity” surrounding Tolstoy – there was the 1910 version of the modern paparazzi laying in wait around his home, hungry for the latest bit of family gossip, or for his latest writing or stance on current issues to be released. Helen Mirren plays Tolstoy’s passionate and long-suffering wife, Sofya. Whenever the two of them appear on-screen, sparks fly – Plummer and Mirren are truly one of the most memorable screen couples I’ve ever seen, the on-screen chemistry they exhibit in this film is amazing. I have got to say, despite all of Tolstoy & Sofya’s ups-and-downs, I loved seeing such a passionate marriage, between older people, portrayed on-screen. At the end of the day they loved each other – the fights and disagreements were outgrowths of the clash between their passionate, vibrant personalities. When they were good, things were very, very good – and when they were bad, things were horrid. But even in the bad times shown in this film, Tolstoy and Sofya had a love and need for each other that could not be denied by ideology or politics.

As portrayed in this film, Tolstoy was an interesting man of contradictions. Incredibly wealthy thanks to the popularity of his writing, towards the end of his life Tolstoy began to advocate passive resistance and came out against government oppression. He also advocated celibacy and shunned private property – two ideas that frustrated his wife to no end. For you see, for a man who claimed to shun sex, Tolstoy apparently really enjoyed it, and had 13 children with his wife (eight of whom survived). Sofya in this movie is a woman who needed that passion and connection, and to have it denied her for any reason proved incredibly frustrating. Also, as someone who played an integral part in forming and supporting her husband’s writing, acting as both muse and confidant, Sofya was also enraged by the idea that Tolstoy would give away his family’s inheritance by leaving the copyright of his works to the Russian people.

Paul Giamatti plays Vladimir Chertkov, a close friend of Tolstoy’s and a leader in the Tolstoyan movement, which advocated all of the ideals set forth in Tolstoy’s writing (community property, celibacy, passive resistance, etc.). Chertkov is Sofya’s great nemesis in this film, as he is intent on using his influence to convince Tolstoy to leave the copyright to his works to the Russian people, his great gift to humanity as it were. As part of his effort to undermine Sofya’s influence in her own home, he selects a new personal secretary for Tolstoy – Valentin Bulgakov, played by James McAvoy. (Allow me to pause here and just say it’s great to see McAvoy in another period film, those are definitely my favorite of his works, besides the fantasy film Penelope). Valentin is an eager disciple of Tolstoyan teachings and is excited for the chance to embrace that lifestyle and work under the great author. Chertkov has other plans – he wants Valentin to keep a diary, documenting Sofya’s “subversive” influence. Valentin’s life becomes extraordinarily complicated when Sofya takes a liking to him as well, and wants him to keep a diary to document her side of the story. I really found the struggle between Chertkov and Sofya fascinating, particularly how Valentin becomes torn between his dream of living a perfect Tolstoyan lifestyle and his growing realization that Sofya’s point of view has merit, even appeal. To complicate matters even moreso for the young secretary, Valentin falls in love with Masha, played by Kerry Condon. Masha is one of the women working at the Tolstoyan commune, but she’s not as devoted to the strict principles of the movement as hard-line leaders like Chertkov would like.

Oh, I can't forget to mention that Anne-Marie Duff also stars in this film (she's James McAvoy's wife), playing Sasha Tolstoy. Sasha apparently acted as her father's secretary and was one of his most ardent supporters. She was also constantly at odds with her mother's view on her father's work. The mother-daughter relationship between Sofya and Sasha brought me to tears at the very end of the film. When Tolstoy's "handlers," including Sasha, finally allow Sofya to come to Tolstoy's side as he lay dying, the way the two women connect, and reach a truce over their mutual grief was absolutely heart-rending. Very, very well played by both Mirren and Duff. Duff, incidentally, is a Masterpiece veteran, having appeared in The Virgin Queen miniseries back in 2005 as Elizabeth I opposite Tom Hardy of Wuthering Heights fame, who played Robert Dudley. (I totally forgot Tom Hardy was in that show, I need to go back & rewatch it!)

This film is a gorgeous work of art. Every frame is filled with eye-popping, gorgeous scenery and practically screams of extreme attention and care to historical detail, from the furniture filling the Tolstoy home to each stitch of clothing worn by the actors. And the score – I absolutely loved it! The music was composed by Russian composer Sergei Yevtushenko. This is a classical score, a throwback in a sense to the great orchestral scores that were the norm in Hollywood’s golden age. The music is a wonderful reflection of Russian culture and the story in general. It quite simply ranks as one of the most beautiful scores I’ve heard in recent memory – loved it!

Ratings-wise, this movie is rated “R” for the sole inclusion of two completely unnecessary s*x scenes between Valentin and Masha, that show off way more of Masha than is necessary if you get my drift. I get how this affair radically changes Valentin's view of the Tolstoyan movement, but there was no need for them to share quite so much skin on-screen, *sigh* If you’re intrigued by the story, those scenes can be easily skipped or fast-forwarded. Other than that, this isn’t a violent film and any language is minimal. It’s a very, very intensely emotional film, though. I think that’s why I like it, though – it paints such a great picture of the passion, joy, and pain that great love, that loving deeply and wholly, can bring to those involved.

The Last Station is a fascinating snapshot of the twilight of a great man's life and his place in Russian history - a Russia on the brink of great social upheaval. The history that serves as the backdrop to this intensely personal drama is a fascinating, tumultuous time. Whether you agree or not with any of the ideaology that drives the characters in this film, it is in some ways one of the most realistic marriages I think I've ever seen on-screen. Tolstoy and Sofya were most definitely not without their problems, and neither of them were anywhere close to perfect - but inspite of all of their problems, the film clearly illustrates how deeply and passionately they loved each other, warts and all, if you will - and I loved that.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Review: Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers

Whose Body? (Lord Peter Wimsey #1)
By: Dorothy L. Sayers
Publisher: Harper Mystery
ISBN: 0061043575

About the book:

The stark naked body was lying in the tub. Not unusual for a proper bath, but highly irregular for murder - especially with a pair of golden pince-nez deliberately perched before the sightless eyes. What's more, the face appeared to have been shaved after death. The police assumed that the victim was a prominent financier, but Lord Peter Wimsey, who dabbled in mystery detection as a hobby, knew better. In this, his first murder case, Lord Peter untangles the ghastly mystery of the corpse in the bath.


If you've never read a Wimsey mystery, you're in for a treat. With Whose Body?, Dorothy L. Sayers introduces the delightfully witty and urbane Lord Peter Wimsey, gentleman detective. First published in 1923, Lord Peter's first documented case opens on a particularly curious note - thanks to a tip from his mother, the Dowager Duchess, he's called to investigate the sudden appearance of a dead man wearing nothing but a pair of gold pince-nez in the bathtub of an acquaintance. Wimsey is of course intrigued by the novelty of the case, and things become even more interesting when the pince-nez case intersects with the case of a missing financier being investigated by his friend Parker of Scotland Yard. As the two work together to solve the seemingly disparate crimes, aided by the invaluable assistance of the indefatigable Bunter, Wimsey's valet, it becomes clear that they're on the tail of a fiendishly clever killer whose methods are more gruesome and whose motive is more diabolical than they'd ever imagined.

I really love mystery series that feature strong, quirky, memorable protagonists (i.e., Poirot, Marple, Sherlock Holmes). For me, it's more about how the detective in question solves the case than the case itself - I want a detective that I enjoy spending time with, you know? Lord Peter Wimsey fits these requirements perfectly. He's cultured, witty, devilishly smart, and possesses a sarcastic sense of humor that's absolutely to die for. He rather reminds me of Sir Percy Blakeney (a.k.a. the Scarlet Pimpernel), whose foppish manners masked his intelligence, with a little of P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster (Bunter is a close cousin to the long-suffering Jeeves, but Wimsey is light-years ahead of Wooster in the brains department). Wimsey's the reason I love reading Sayers, and as the series progresses so does the strength of the mysteries he encounters.

This isn't an example of Sayers's most polished Wimsey novel. There is more than one occasion where the narrative meanders or loses focus. Tone-wise the novel also veers between witty comedy and the fairly gruesome manner it is discovered that the crimes in question were carried out. That said it's still a highly enjoyable introduction to Lord Peter's quirks and deductive brilliance. I absolutely love Sayers's ability to turn a memorable phrase - she was absolutely brilliant at penning funny and sarcastic dialogue. Everything comes fast and furious with Wimsey, and Sayers, being a master wordsmith, uses her ability to full advantage to establish Wimsey's character through sparkling, funny, incisive dialogue. Lord Peter Wimsey is a fascinating mass of contradictions and brilliance, and I look forward to my next stop through the novels chronicling his investigations!

A Very Private Grave by Donna Fletcher Crow

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
A Very Private Grave
Monarch Books (August 1, 2010)

Donna Fletcher Crow is author of more than thirty-five novels. She has twice won first place in the Historical Fiction category from the National Association of Press Women, and has also been a finalist for "Best Inspirational Novel" from the Romance Writers of America. She is a member of The Arts Centre Group and Sisters in Crime. Find out more at

"History and mystery and murders most foul keep the pages turning ... A fascinating read." –Liz Curtis Higgs, bestelling author of Thorn in My Heart
“A Knickerbocker Glory of a thriller, a sweeping, page-turning quest served up with dollops of Church history and lashings of romance. Donna Fletcher Crow has created her own niche within the genre of clerical mysteries.” – Kate Charles, author of Deep Waters
“As in Glastonbury, Donna Fletcher Crow’s descriptions of the English and Scottish settings in her new mystery are drawn with real artistry. Lovers of British history and church history will be impressed by her grasp of both.”—Sally Wright, Edgar Award finalist and author of the Ben Reese Mysteries

Felicity Howard, a young American studying for the Anglican priesthood at the College of the Transfiguration in Yorkshire, is devastated when she finds her beloved Fr. Dominic bludgeoned to death and Fr. Antony, her church history lecturer, soaked in his blood.

Following the cryptic clues contained in a poem the dead man had pressed upon her minutes before his death, she and Fr. Antony—who is wanted for questioning by the police—flee the monastery to seek more information about Fr. Dominic and end up in the holy island of Lindisfarne, former home of Saint Cuthbert.

Their quest leads them into a dark puzzle...and considerable danger.

If you would like to read the Prologue and first Chapter of A Very Private Grave, go HERE.

Watch the book video:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


I have to be honest, the initial reason I wanted to watch Archangel was because of this fabulous image on the DVD case. Daniel Craig can be positively mesmerizing, no? *g* But let me tell you, this movie is so much more than just a showcase for Daniel Craig’s fabulousness. Based on the novel of the same name by author Robert Harris (who I've never even heard of till I discovered this film), Archangel is a crackerjack thriller, one where history collides with the present and long-buried secrets surface, threatening the fate of an entire nation.

Here’s a bit about the story from the back of the DVD case:
Archangel tells the story of four eventful days in the life of Fluke Kelso - a dissipated, former Oxford historian attending a conference in Moscow on the newly opened Soviet archives. He is about to leave the city, when a surprise visit from an ex-officer of the Soviet Secret Police changes his mind, revealing a deadly scandal which promises to expose dark secrets from the Russian underworld and the KGB.
When the man is found brutally murdered, Kelso seeks out the victim's estranged daughter to help unravel the mystery, which traces back to the night of Stalin's death.
Teaming up with the stunningly seductive Zinaida, Kelso embarks on a treacherous quest that leads to the remote Russian seaport of Archangel, where the final secret of Josef Stalin has been hidden for almost half a century. Relentlessly pursued by ruthless Russian authorities and immersed in an underground world of violence and intrigue, Kelso and Zinaida must race against time to expose the shocking truth. 
Intrigued yet? *g* This made-for-TV film was released the year before what I consider to be Craig’s breakout role as James Bond in the mind-blowing, amazing Casino Royale. That movie, my friends, rocked my world. The international scope and fast-paced storyline of Archangel give Craig the chance to showcase the screen presence that made his take on Bond such a success. His character has the sort of devil-may-care, offhand charm that he gave James Bond - but always, there's an undercurrent of tension and intrigue. Here Craig plays a British professor in Russia giving a series of lectures – the gist of them being stark reminders that Stalin was an evil madman. He discovers that his message is not one all Russians are willing to hear – in a time of economic upheaval, many are nostalgic for the efficient way things were run under the Communist regime. Then everyone had work, and that equaled pride and fulfillment.

I have to mention that I think Craig’s character’s name is absolutely hilarious – he’s “Fluke” Kelso, the fluke having two possible meanings. 1) His parents had him very late in their lives and 2) the book which won him professional acclaim was published more than five years ago, with no apparent follow-up in sight. When an old Russian man corners Kelso, insisting he has a story worth hearing to share, Kelso is shocked to have a potential find of earth-shattering proportions laid at his feet. His informant, Papu Rapava, was present when Stalin died, and under the direction of Stalin’s chief of security buried a notebook, believed to be Stalin’s diary. Though he spent years in a gulag, Papu never revealed the notebook’s location. Knowing it to be an item of potentially priceless historical and monetary value, Papu came to Kelso with his story, believing his status as a respected academician would authenticate the book, allowing him to leave an inheritance to his estranged daughter.

When Papu disappears before giving Kelso the book’s location, this is where things really start to get interesting. I absolutely loved watching Craig’s character comb the streets of Moscow, sitting at the edge of my seat while he’s followed by police and other, more threatening parties who have a vested interest in securing the book and its secrets. The atmosphere the filmmakers created is just incredible, I felt completely immersed in Kelso’s dangerous world. Craig wears the cloak of devil-may-care, brilliant academic well. If the Indiana Jones films were being made today, this role leaves me convinced that Craig would be an ideal choice for putting a modern-day spin on the role of adventuring professor who isn't afraid to put himself in harm's way in order to secure a find or get the story.

To make a long story short, and without (hopefully) giving away too much, Kelso joins forces with Papu’s estranged daughter (Ekaterina Rednikova) and a story-hungry American newspaperman (Gabriel Macht). The unlikely trio soon finds themselves in way over their heads as it becomes clear that Papu’s notebook, and their association with it, has made them pawns in a political power play designed to see Stalin’s legacy resurrected, no matter the cost. I really liked Zinaida's character arc throughout this film. She's been estranged from her father in large part because she works as a prostitute in order to get supplemental income, and also because her father was, well, cold towards his family. The deeper she and Kelso dig into her father's story, the more she comes to realize that many of the factors that made him the hard man she knew were forced on him by a dictatorial system. Perhaps her father's greatest legacy to her wasn't the notebook, but his legacy of survival, no matter the cost.

This movie is such a treat to watch unfold. I loved the way puzzle pieces dropped into place one by one, revealing a plot so unexpected and mind-blowing in its ramifications that it left my head spinning. This was a story I LOVED getting lost in. Not only did it give me two whole hours of Daniel Craig being amazing on-screen, but it played to my love of history – Russian history in particular – and how the past can condition and inform the present. Russia has such a rich, storied past, and the atmosphere, history, and “what if’s” Archangel makes it, in my view, a highly worthwhile movie experience. This is a fast-paced, fascinating film. I loved the filmmakers' pacing and color palette - the washed-out, often bleak look of the settings added to the film's intensity. I also thought they made very effective use of cutting between the present and historical scenes - very nicely done.

I'm going to end my review here...this is one movie that I enjoyed so much I don't want to delve too much into the particulars (hopefully I've managed to find that balance!).

The back of the DVD case label this an "R" rated film - honestly I'm not sure why. It's violent, but I don't feel it's "R" rated in its level or intensity. There is some language, but again I've heard more in many PG-13 releases. Just some things to keep in mind if you're intrigued by the story but like to watch ratings (I totally get that BTW).

You can purchase the Archangel DVD from Amazon here, currently at the fabulous price of only $6.49! TOTALLY worth that price!!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Masterpiece Contemporary 2010 Schedule

Well, PBS has finally released the Masterpiece Contemporary schedule for this year. With the extra long Mystery season we've had this year, I was beginning to wonder if they'd have time to show any contemporary dramas - and they've come through with three - two new films and one encore. Here are the details:

November 21:

Lennon Naked
Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who) channels John Lennon in this acclaimed recreation of Lennon's last turbulent years with the Beatles, co- starring Naoko Mori (Torchwood) as Yoko Ono, the woman blamed for breaking up the band, and Christopher Fairbank (Tess of the D'Urbervilles) as Freddie Lennon, John's absentee father. (90 minutes)

December 19:

Endgame (Encore Presentation)
A nation teeters on the brink of civil war in this real-life political thriller about the negotiations that led to the end of apartheid in South Africa. Seemingly doomed to failure, the secret talks were held against a backdrop of terrorism, spying, blackmail, and escalating unrest. The international cast includes Chiwetel Ejiofor (American Gangster, Kinky Boots) as President Thabo Mbeki; William Hurt (Damages) as Professor Will Esterhuyse; Jonny Lee Miller (Eli Stone) as British businessman and negotiator Michael Young, Derek Jacobi (Gosford Park) as Young’s boss, and Clarke Peters (The Wire) as Nelson Mandela. (120 minutes)

December 26:

An eccentric Welsh village learns that London's National Gallery is storing its entire art collection in a nearby mine during the museum's renovations—leading to curious encounters between the village locals and the gallery's urbane, lovelorn curator. Trevor Eve (David Copperfield) and Eve Myles (Little Dorrit) star in this gentle comedy, based on Frank Cottrell Boyce's best-selling novel. (90 minutes)

Generally, I'm all about the Classic and Mystery seasons and can take or leave the Contemporary shows - however, I'm quite intrigued by the description of Framed. It sounds like a sweet, fun story - and it'll be great to see Eve Myles on-screen again. Since Torchwood: Children of Earth she's been AWOL from TV screens. (Actually, this Contemporary season is so sci-fi heavy it's kind of funny. We have two Torchwood team members - Myles and Naoko Mori - and the ninth Doctor Who - Christopher Eccleston!)

You can download a .pdf copy of the schedule here.


Friday I went to see the new Bruce Willis movie Red with Lori, capping off a day of shopping and eating and enjoying the fantastic fall weather in general (though it’s still a little too warmish some afternoons for my tastes!). I should note, in case you haven't guessed this from reading my blog, that going to see Bruce Willis movies is REALLY out of the norm for me. But this one intrigued me for a couple of reasons - I love a good spy story, especially one with a "lighter" touch (i.e., the TV show Covert Affairs or the old Hepburn/Grant classic Charade), plus Karl Urban looked drop-dead gorgeous in the trailers. Hey, this blog is all about being open & honest as regards all things in the entertainment world, right? *g* 
I also have to add, I think it's kind of funny that in the last four months we’ve seen three movies (at least – let me know if I’m forgetting something) involving plucky, innocent women who get thrown into the high stakes world of spies because they fall for an undercover agent. They then must end up learning to hold their own, etc., against unimaginable danger, and of course end up loving the spy lifestyle. Quite the trend, no? First there was KillersThis could have been a really cute movie about spies in suburbia, but the not-so-dynamic combination of Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher made it fall flat (you may have noticed that I never blogged about this movie - not worth the space IMO!). This was followed by the Tom Cruise/Cameron Diaz flick Knight & Daywhich was brilliant fun, I absolutely loved it! And now Red, which was not quite as good as Knight & Day in my estimation, but was pretty fun overall, and I enjoyed it way more than I expected.
I don’t know what I was thinking, exactly, going into the movie, but I certainly wasn’t expecting Red to be as quirky and odd and funny as it was. It seems very out of the norm for a Bruce Willis movie, but I’ve got to say he handled the light comic tone of the film pretty well IMO. The ensemble cast is what really makes this movie work. It is of course led by Willis as a retired CIA operative, Frank Moses, who has found it quite hard to adjust to living a “normal” suburban life. He was forcibly retired code “red” (not for communist, LOL…for retired, extremely dangerous). The one bright spot in his hum-drum existence is when his pension checks arrive, which he promptly tears to pieces, and then he calls his favorite pension customer service rep (played by Mary-Louise Parker). The two chat about growing avocadoes and romance novels and her desire to travel (and I’ve got to say, the idea alone of Bruce Willis reading Harlequins in order to impress a woman is pretty funny). Parker is completely believable as a tired, disillusioned woman whose life hasn’t turned out anything remotely like what she’d imagined. It’s quite fun watching her warm to the idea of embracing the life of a fugitive and spy.

Frank’s old spy crew is made up of Joe (Morgan Freeman), who can’t believe he’s lived long enough to be in a retirement home dying of stage four liver cancer (and seriously, for someone at stage four of anything he’s remarkably spry…gotta love the movies!), Marvin (played by a scene-stealing John Malkovich), and Victoria (played by Helen Mirren). Malkovich and Mirren were by far my favorite characters out of the group of retired spies. Malkovich’s character is absolutely crazy, though it should be noted that his insanity isn’t entirely his fault. Turns out some of his conspiracy theories were true, since he was the subject of some “tests.” I absolutely LOVED the scenes of Malkovich with the stuffed pig – hilarious! Mirren was quite a surprise in this movie. Playing a spy and hardened killer is quite out of the norm for a woman who has often played such refined, aristocratic characters. I mean c’mon, she’s brought Elizabeth I and II to life on the screen! It is glaringly apparent, I think, that Mirren had the time of her life playing against type here, and it gave her a welcome chance to showcase her rather dry sense of humor. Besides the novelty of seeing Mirren shooting up the screen, I loved the “forbidden” romance she had with a Russian agent, played by Brian Cox. Their scenes were priceless, the fallout from their Cold War-era romance so dramatic and over-the-top! Cox was great casting as a Russian agent who misses the good ol' Cold War days.

It was great fun seeing Karl Urban on-screen again. Since his turn as Eomer in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, there hasn't been a whole lot I've been interested in seeing him in to be quite honest, the notable exception being the reboot of Star Trek. And even the latter was somewhat diminished by his accent...I know it worked for the character, but that and the gosh-awful hair just detracted a bit from the awesomeness that is Karl, if you know what I mean. *wink* Anyway, here Urban is quite dangerous and sophisticated as Frank's nemesis (or is he?), the CIA operative tasked with eliminating the RED agent. One of the movie's highlights, I've got to admit, was watching Willis beat up Urban. Talk about a fight for the record books, LOL!

There are a couple of other cast members whose appearances are definitely worth mentioning. I'll start with Richard Dreyfuss as the unscrupulous businessman, Alexander Dunning. I have to admit, the first thought that ran through my mind when Dreyfuss appeared on-screen was "Mr. Holland's gone bad!" *wink* Dreyfuss appeared to be having great fun with this role, and his manic villain made me think he'd have played a decent Bond villain in the pre-Daniel Craig days. Julian McMahon makes an appearance late in the game as the Vice President trying to tie up loose ends so nothing interferes with his aspirations for a run at the presidency. McMahon has such a square-jawed, strong personality look to him, was fun to see him play against that as a power-hungry character who is really just a snivelling coward at heart. And last but certainly not least I have to say it was a real treat to see Ernest Borgnine on-screen again as Henry, the records keeper. People, Borgnine is 93 years old, believe it or not, and still going strong! Talk about being an inspiration!

I understand that Red is based on a graphic novel, which I know absolutely nothing about so I have no idea how this filmic adaptation holds up against the source material. The movie does have a rather episodic feel, which is aided by the funny postcards thrown up on-screen every time the characters travel to a new city in their quest to survive and take out the bad guys. It's a fairly fast-paced movie, with nary a dull moment, but it does occassionally feel a little choppy editing-wise. Part of that may be due to the nature of the source material from which the story is drawn, and it's not enough of an issue to keep one from getting involved in the story in my view.

Red was a nice surprise. Not an all-time favorite or anything like that, but it's a highly enjoyable action flick, and I suspect it is probably accessible to a larger-than-usual audience for a Bruce Willis film thanks to the movie's comic touches, balancing out the requisite PG-13 levels of action movie violence. I actually wouldn't mind a sequel (just sayin'...).

While We're Far Apart by Lynn Austin

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
While We're Far Apart
Bethany House (October 1, 2010)
Lynn Austin


It was during the long Canadian winters at home with her children that Lynn made progress on her dream to write, carving out a few hours of writing time each day while her children napped. Lynn credits her early experience of learning to write amid the chaos of family life for her ability to be a productive writer while making sure her family remains her top priority.

Along with reading, two of Lynn's lifelong passions are history and archaeology. While researching her Biblical fiction series, Chronicles of the Kings, these two interests led her to pursue graduate studies in Biblical Backgrounds and Archaeology through Southwestern Theological Seminary. She and her son traveled to Israel during the summer of 1989 to take part in an archaeological dig at the ancient city of Timnah. This experience contributed to the inspiration for her novel Wings of Refuge.

Lynn resigned from teaching to write full-time in 1992. Since then she has published twelve novels. Five of her historical novels, Hidden Places, Candle in the Darkness, Fire by Night, A Proper Pursuit, and Until We Reach Home have won Christy Awards in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008, and 2009 for excellence in Christian Fiction. Fire by Night was also one of only five inspirational fiction books chosen by Library Journal for their top picks of 2003, and All She Ever Wanted was chosen as one of the five inspirational top picks of 2005. Lynn's novel Hidden Places has been made into a movie for the Hallmark Channel, starring actress Shirley Jones. Ms Jones received a 2006 Emmy Award nomination for her portrayal of Aunt Batty in the film.


In an unassuming apartment building in Brooklyn, New York, three lives intersect as the reality of war invades each aspect of their lives. Young Esther is heartbroken when her father decides to enlist in the army shortly after the death of her mother.

Penny Goodrich has been in love with Eddie Shaffer for as long as she can remember; now that Eddie's wife is dead, Penny feels she has been given a second chance and offers to care for his children in the hope that he will finally notice her and marry her after the war.

And elderly Mr. Mendel, the landlord, waits for the war to end to hear what has happened to his son trapped in war-torn Hungary. But during the long, endless wait for victory overseas, life on the home front will go from bad to worse.

Yet these characters will find themselves growing and changing in ways they never expected--and ultimately discovering truths about God's love...even when He is silent.

If you would like to read the first chapter of While We're Far Apart, go HERE.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Wallander concludes tomorrow on Masterpiece...

Just a heads up...tomorrow Wallander concludes its second stellar season on Masterpiece Mystery. I promise, I'll have episode reviews up, eventually. :) Kenneth Branagh just gets better and better in this role! Here's a bit about the final episode of series 2:
Wallander Series II concludes this Sunday, October 17, 2010, on MASTERPIECE MYSTERY! In The Fifth Woman, a bird-watcher is dead and a florist is missing. Two disparate murders while Wallander is dealing with one harsh, heartbreaking reality — the demise of his father. It's Wallander's most personal case, one that brings him into unexpected kinship with a killer. (One episode; 90 minutes; TV-PG).

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sherlock - background video

I absolutely positively can't WAIT for the new Sherlock series to start on Masterpiece Mystery. October 24th can't come soon enough as far as I'm concerned. :)

Here's a new video that's recently been released, featuring some new footage from the show as well as interview segments with showrunner Steven Moffat and star Benedict Cumberbatch.

Embers of Love by Tracie Peterson

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Embers of Love
Bethany House (October 1, 2010)

Tracie Peterson


Tracie Peterson is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than 85 novels.

She received her first book contract in November, 1992 and saw A Place To Belong published in February 1993 with Barbour Publishings' Heartsong Presents. She wrote exclusively with Heartsong for the next two years, receiving their readership's vote for Favorite Author of the Year for three years in a row.

In December, 1995 she signed a contract with Bethany House Publishers to co-write a series with author Judith Pella. Tracie now writes exclusively for Bethany House Publishers.

She teaches writing workshops at a variety of conferences on subjects such as inspirational romance and historical research.
Tracie was awarded the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for 2007 Inspirational Fiction and her books have won numerous awards for favorite books in a variety of contests.
Making her home in Montana, this Kansas native enjoys spending time with family--especially her three grandchildren--Rainy, Fox and Max. She's active in her church as the Director of Women's Ministries, coordinates a yearly writer's retreat for published authors, and travels, as time permits, to research her books.


The logging industry in eastern Texas is booming, and Deborah Vandermark plans to assist her family's business now that she's completed college. Unexpectedly, her best friend, Lizzie Decker, accompanies her back home--fleeing a wedding and groom she has no interest in.

Deborah, the determined matchmaker, puts her sights on uniting her brother and dear friend in a true love match. Deborah soon meets Dr. Christopher Clayton, a much-needed addition to the town. As their lives intersect, Deborah realizes that she has a much greater interest in medicine and science than the bookkeeping she was trained in.

But when typhoid begins to spread and Lizzie's jilted fiance returns, Deborah wonders if true love can overcome such obstacles...for those dearest to her, and for herself.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Embers of Love, go HERE.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Reason 9,396,732 (at least!) to love Richard Armitage...

"Close your eyes."


Excuse me while I go scrape myself off the floor. Don't watch if you care about Spooks/MI-5 season 9 spoilers, BTW. And Primeval fans, you may recognize Laila Rouass (lucky woman!).

Thanks to Maria at Fly High! for linking to this video. :)

Couple of videos...

These three videos have nothing in common except I thought they were worth sharing. :)

First of all, we have Grover spoofing the Old Spice Guy...

And the new international trailer for The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (I think it's subtitled in Polish?!) courtesy of Ribbons of Light...

And last, but certainly not least, someone spoofed the trailer to the upcoming Christina Aguilera/Cher flick, Burlesque, but Austen-fying it. Marianne Dashwood is channeling her inner Christina, and Mrs. Jennings, most disturbingly of all, is channeling Cher (video link courtesy of Jane Austen Today).

Life as We Know It


Saturday night I wasn’t in the mood to watch something from my DVD collection, so I decided to go see Life as We Know It. Since I wasn’t in the mood to cook anything, either, popcorn for dinner seemed like a perfect idea. *g* I find myself somewhat conflicted about my take on this movie. I really wanted to like it (mainly because I thought Josh Duhamel was so freaking adorable in When In Rome), but I didn’t like it nearly as much as I expected or wanted to, to be honest. That’s not to say the movie isn’t without its charms – I just wish the good wasn’t counterbalanced by so much meehhhh…

If you’ve seen the preview, you know the story – Duhamel and Katherine Heigl play a pair of constantly at-odds singles (Messer and Holly) whose respective best friends (played by Hayes MacArthur and Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks) just happen to be married. When the aforementioned best friends have their first child, Messer and Holly are made the baby’s godparents. When both parents are tragically killed in a car accident, Duhamel and Heigl are shocked to learn that they were named baby Sophie’s joint guardians.

Of course, Holly and Messer took an instant dislike to each other when their best friends tried to set them up on a blind date a couple of years earlier. She’s organized and punctual, he’s sloppy and laid-back. They couldn’t be more different, but since this is a romantic comedy, of course we can guess how things are going to turn out. When it comes to romantic comedies, I don't mind predictability if the stars have chemistry and the storyline adds one or two fresh takes to the formula. The end point, for me anyway, is how much I enjoy watching the journey unfold on-screen. Since this film centers around two single adults trying to raise a young child, there are a TON of comedic possibilities for the filmmakers to mine, and they take full advantage for the most part. It helps that baby Sophie is played by the freaking adorable Clagett triplets (who totally look like they’re related to Christina Hendricks, right down to the eyes!), so any scene with the baby are some of the movie’s best moments.

Katherine Heigl movies are either hit-or-miss for me. Personality-wise she typically comes across as someone I think I would get along with. Movie-wise, I either love her films (i.e., 27 Dresses), find them forgettable (i.e., Killers), or I won’t touch them with a ten-foot-pole (i.e., The Ugly Truth, because no matter how much I love Gerard Butler, R-rated romantic comedies are way too crass for my tastes). Heigl is better here than she was in Killers, but falls short of the charm and likability found in 27 Dresses. My problem with her character is that I just didn’t buy the process she goes through that results in her change of heart towards Messer…and this is due to the incredibly attractive “option B” the script throws in her way in the form of Sophie’s pediatrician played by Josh Lucas. (Side note: Why isn’t Josh Lucas in more movies I want to see? The man needs another Sweet Home Alabama moment ASAP.) Holly goes from hating Messer, to tolerating him, to falling for the doctor, to jumping into bed with Messer, back to the doctor, and then back to Messer so fast and with so little context it just leaned too much towards contrived for my tastes.

As he proved from his turn in When In Rome, Josh Duhamel has got a lot of potential as far as being the star of romantic comedies goes. Life As We Know It taps into some of that – in fact, I’d rate Messer’s character arc as the best part of the film. Messer is quite a womanizer when the movie starts, and personality and lifestyle-wise he seems to have the most adjusting to do when it comes to deciding whether or not he’ll accept his friends’ wishes and become Sophie’s guardian. I LOVED watching Duhamel interact with the baby – seriously, a guy like him carting around an adorable baby like Sophie? I’d fall for him in two seconds flat, if that. *wink* Watching Messer bond with the baby is hilarious, especially when he becomes fascinated with her TV shows (like the super-freaky Wiggles!). I thought that Messer’s change of heart towards parenthood and Holly was much more believable than hers – it didn’t hurt that once he makes that jump we only see his feelings for Holly, he doesn’t move back-and-forth between Holly and another romantic option. I get why Holly turns to the doctor when she thinks she can’t depend on Messer or trust his feelings for her, since she’s a character who craves security. I get that. Yes, he doesn’t tell Holly about his across-the-country job offer and he should have, but good grief he was going to loan her all sorts of money to see her dreams for expanding her restaurant come true – that gesture apparently didn’t mean quite as much to Holly initially as it did to Messer, as that was the first time he was really willing to invest in another person’s dreams. Josh Duhamel is adorable, even moreso when he starts to “grow up” into his new responsibilities as one of Sophie’s guardians, and incredibly patient with Holly’s quirks – so yeah, I can’t help but pull for him to “win” in the end. But that didn’t lessen my dislike for how poor Josh Lucas ends up getting his heart stomped on. The doctor’s storyline deserved better IMO.

So basically, I’d watch this movie again just to get a Josh Duhamel fix. It’s too bad that the end product doesn’t quite live up to the story’s potential, though. I also wish the script hadn’t called for the characters to make the "oh-so-hilarious" batch of pot brownies and get high while the kid was sleeping, for one thing. Seriously?! It’s just beyond me how that scene was funny. For a film that touched on some serious issues – grief, adjusting to unexpected life changes, etc. – scenes like that just felt grossly irresponsible.

As far as the movie’s supporting cast goes, the highlight was Melissa McCarthy as one of the neighbors, DeeDee. McCarthy is just hilarious and in everything I’ve ever seen her in (The Back-up Plan or Gilmore Girls), she pretty much steals every scene.

Life as We Know It left me wanting more Josh Duhamel romantic comedies – the guy can take the most roguish, irresponsible character and make him likeable. The movie's main problem boils down to tone - it can't decide if it wants to be a rom-com or a romance touching on serious issues like grief and parenthood. Cute, but falls short a bit. I'm curious, if anyone else out there has seen this, what are your thoughts?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The INSPY Awards

Many of you may have seen news of a new book award floating around the blogosphere the past few weeks, but in case you've missed it, I want to take a moment to tell you about the INSPY Awards.

About the INSPYs:

Recognizing the need for a new kind of book award, the INSPYs were created by bloggers to discover and highlight the very best in literature that grapples with expressions of the Christian faith.
I am thrilled and honored to be a judge in the historical fiction category. These are the books on the historical fiction shortlist:

The Frontiersman’s Daughter by Laura Frantz, Revell Books, 1st August, 2009

The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen, Bethany House, 1st January, 2010

The Fiddler’s Gun by AS Peterson, Rabbit Room Press, 1st December, 2009

She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell, Bethany House, 1st April, 2010

Her Mother’s Hope by Francine Rivers, Tyndale House, 1st March, 2010

Some good reads, no? You can read the rest of the short listed books in the other categories here. The INSPY winners will be announced December I'd better get reading. :)

Booksigning photos

If you have a LifeWay store near you, you may have gotten wind of the news that today was LifeWay's Fiction Day, where you could find all sorts of great deals on fantastic reads and in many stores meet some of your favorite authors and get them to sign their latest releases. I was fortunate enough to visit the LifeWay store hosting authors Kaye Dacus, Tamera Alexander, and Nancy Rue. Kaye's a dear friend, and I've met Tamera before (but it's been WAY too long since I'd seen her!), but I'd never met Nancy Rue which was a real treat. :) Here's a few pics from the afternoon:

Me with Nancy Rue!

Tamera with my friend Rachel*

Me & Kaye!
*Rachel is the author of LifeWay's new fiction blog, A Novel Bookshelf.

Tomorrow on Masterpiece...

Tomorrow night on Masterpiece Mystery, Wallander series 2, starring Kenneth Branagh, continues with its second episode, The Man Who Smiled. Here's a bit about the story:
Wallander Series II continues Sunday, October 10, 2010, on MASTERPIECE MYSTERY! In The Man Who Smiled, a suspicious car accident and a friend's suicide lead Wallander into an international conspiracy that threatens countless innocent lives. Rupert Graves guest stars. (One episode; 90 minutes; TV-PG).
I know I haven't reviewed the first episode (Faceless Killers) yet, but the week just got completely away from me. However, that's no comment on the episode because it was FANTASTIC. Since that happened, I may wait to review the series once it comes out on DVD.