Friday, November 30, 2012

I kind of love this...

Okay, I'm really not sure how I feel about the news that NBC is planning a new version of The Sound of Music starring Carrie Underwood as Maria. I mean I LOVE her music and her voice, but she and Julie Andrews are SO different. However this video has come across my radar and it is a stunner...

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Across the Universe (Across the Universe #1)
By: Beth Revis
Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin
ISBN: 978-1-59514-467-6

About the book:

Amy is a cryogenically frozen passenger aboard the spaceship Godspeed. She has left her boyfriend, friends -- and planet -- behind to join her parents as a member of Project Ark Ship. Amy and her parents believe they will wake on a new planet, Centauri-Earth, three hundred years in the future. But fifty years before Godspeed's scheduled landing, cryo chamber 42 is mysteriously unplugged, and Amy is violently woken from her frozen slumber.

Someone tried to murder her.

Now, Amy is caught inside a tiny world where nothing makes sense. Godspeed's 2,312 passengers have forfeited all control to Eldest, a tryannical and frightening leader. And Elder, Eldest's  rebellious teenage heir, is both fascinated with Amy and eager to discover whether he has what it takes to lead.

Amy desperately wants to trust Elder. But should she put her faith in a boy who has never seen life outside the ship's cold metal walls. All Amy knows is that she and Elder must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets before whoever woke her tries to kill again.


When Amy's parents are chosen to participate in Project Ark Ship aboard the Godspeed -- her mother for her scientific knowledge, her father for his military expertise -- Amy is given the option of joining them as a "nonessential" passenger. But saying yes to the Godspeed means giving up life as she knows it -- family, friends, her world -- for the participants in Project Ark Ship are being cryongenically frozen, set to awaken 300 years in the future when the Godspeed is scheduled to reach Centauri-Earth and their knowledge is needed to seed life on humanity's new planetary home. Terrified of life without her only family, Amy agrees to be frozen and consigns herself to a never-waking nightmare, a dream existence where her frozen body is powerless to stop her racing imagination.

Centuries later, Elder, the teenage heir to Eldest, the all-powerful leader controlling every aspect of life aboard Godspeed, from the workers' reproductive lives to their very purpose aboard ship, discovers a secret -- the existence of the cyro chambers and their frozen cargo. Elder is the leader who was never meant to be, the replacement heir, and as such is one who insists on testing the boundaries of the controlling Eldest's authority. When cyro chamber #42 -- Amy's -- is unplugged, nearly killing her, Elder is fascinated by this girl from another time and place, a relic of old Earth, whose flame-red hair denotes an individuality that threatens the centuries-old way of subservient, unquestioning obedience that characterizes life aboard Godspeed. As a relationship blossoms between Elder and Amy, the two teens find themselves locked in a struggle for survival against an unseen and deadly enemy -- one who seeks to quell any hint of individuality and rebellion. But the power of questions, the power of free will proves to be an irresistible lure, and Elder and Amy find themselves at the center of an unlikely battle for the very soul of Godspeed and her passengers, with the future of mankind hanging in the balance.

Last month I was able to attend a booksigning where Beth Revis spoke about her writing process and inspiration for Across the Universe -- in short, a murder mystery in space. I've always had a weakness for space operas -- epic, fast-paced, other-worldly adventures -- stories of that ilk have an ability to captivate the imagination like no other. And on that score, Across the Universe delivers in spades. This is a thick, meaty novel, consisting of alternating chapters between Elder and Amy's points-of-view. With many of the chapters consisting of a single page, Revis establishes a rapid-fire sense of pace and tension that manages to sustain itself throughout the novel's 400 page-length. With its claustrophobic, contained setting wherein those who question authority have no hope of outside recourse and support but their own wits and determination, the resulting product is a thoroughly engaging novel that kept me entertained from the start.

That said, for all Revis focused on only two points of view they remain, in the end, frustratingly out of focus, a touch flat. Given the "hive" mentality Elder grew up surrounded by, that reticence towards vibrant self-expression is somewhat understandable. But as Elder is positioned as the lead -- and a romantic one at that -- I hope in subsequent volumes he develops into a more fully-realized character, dare one say it? -- more of an alpha, a leader of men with a touch of charisma worthy of the title, but the humanity and empathy necessary for a believable connection with Amy. Revis needs to work on penning a more authentic male voice, as Elder's is a tad effeminate which makes the burgeoning romance between him and Amy fizzle rather than spark. Amy is an engaging, more realized character, and while she spends a fair amount of page time bemoaning her fate (understandably), I'm looking forward to seeing how she navigates this brave new world she's been unceremoniously thrust into.

For all it can be argued that Revis's debut lacks subtlety, her writing possesses an infectious and promising energy that leaves me with high hopes for the second and third volumes in the trilogy. Now that the "murder mystery" aspect of the storyline has been resolved (or more accurately, devolved into a non-issue), and the secrets of Godspeed revealed, I look forward to seeing Elder and Amy navigate the fallout from the revelations of the latter. With more nuanced character development and forward-moving plot momentum, Revis is poised to deliver a thoroughly entertaining space opera. Across the Universe marries a dystopian vision of the future with the heart of a thriller and a dash of romance, touching on issues of freewill vs. predestination and individuality vs. conformity. A rollicking adventure from start to finish, Revis's debut marks her as an author to watch.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

when the Doctor met a Disney princess (or two...)

Thanks to being recently featured on Ript Apparel, I discovered the art of Karen Hallion. She has created some absolutely GORGEOUS Doctor Who/Disney art that you can purchase as prints or notecards through her Etsy site. I opted to purchase one each of her the Doctor-meets-a-Disney-princess cards for framing purposes, and they are gorgeous -- vibrant colors on sturdy cardstock, fabulous for framing or mailing. :) With Karen's permission I'm thrilled for the chance to feature her art and shop on the blog today.

"Adventure in the Great Wide Somewhere" (purchase):

"Part of Every World" (purchase):

"Come Away With Me" (purchase):

"You Coming Blondie?" (purchase):

Please be sure to visit Karen's shop to check out all her other awesome Doctor Who, Star Wars, and Firefly inspired art!

limited-edition Once prints

Just in time for Christmas gift-giving, ABC has released a set of limited-edition prints featuring the cast of Once Upon a Time. Personally I think they are a tad over priced, but the images are gorgeous! My favorites are the Queen and, of course, Rumple. :) The prints can be purchased here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Grimm 2.10: "The Hour of Death"

In my never-ending quest to get caught up with TV blogging, today I'm THRILLED to welcome my friend Tasha from Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books to talk about episode ten from this season of Grimm (and our mutual love of all things Renard-related).

After the short break from the "norm" for a spectacular special Halloween episode, Grimm made a fantastic return to form with the following episode. This show never fails to surprise and delight me. :) Going forward this season, I suspect there's a chance that this week marks the moment Nick begins to come undone -- his "Grimm" life and his "normal" life appear rapidly headed towards a collision course, and I for one cannot wait to see how that all plays out! This episode opens with Nick (David Giuntoli), still exiled to the living room sofa -- since apparently his house with Juliette only has ONE bedroom (does anyone think that is a realistic possibility?) -- haunted by dreams about his latest case involving a missing woman. Between the stress of the case and his less-than-ideal sleeping arrangements, Nick is getting a little testy -- and my only question is it took him THIS long? Guy has a LOT of patience. *wink*

Tasha: I loved the way this episode began by setting up the plot and the emotions of the characters through Nick’s trouble sleeping. He does have a lot of patience. Not only does he have to sleep on the couch IN HIS OWN HOUSE, Juliette treats him like a houseguest who won’t take the hint and leave. That’s cold. She and Renard may make a better couple than I first thought. I find it odd that they don’t have a spare bedroom (where was Mama Grimm sleeping when she was staying over, btw?), but I suppose the couch works as a metaphor. If they had a dog, Nick would no doubt be in the dog house.

I LOVE the idea of the couch as a metaphor! I think you're onto something with that! And all things considered I do think she started to check out of this relationship with Nick faster than I ever expected.

The following day (or the same day :) (not sure loL!) Nick and Hank (Russell Hornsby) are proceeding with the missing woman investigation, canvassing a local neighborhood for any clues. At the home of a skanky looking guy named Adrian (Michael Maize) burning photos of said woman in his stove (subtle, not), Nick raises the alarm and the aforementioned skanky guy transforms into a Schakal. Nick is clearly losing control as he lays into the guy, freaking poor Hank out and even the suspect, who for some reason thinks yelling about Nick wanting to kill him is going to divert suspicion from him (dude,  a tip, that is only gonna work if you have nothing to hide, which you most assuredly do not...). Unfortunately for Nick, the only concrete evidence burned in their suspect's stove -- so they are forced to release him.

Nick clearly gets pretty grouchy when he hasn’t had his beauty sleep. It seems like he’s been punching people in the face A LOT lately. If he doesn’t punch Renard at some point, I’m going to be hugely disappointed. Surely that's coming!!! I live in hope. :)

After Adrian's release, which sees him yelling about Nick wanting to kill him, Renard (Sasha Roiz) takes the opportunity to call Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch) -- ostensibly because they are both SO CONCERNED about Nick (yeaaahhh, right *wink*). He suggests they meet for coffee, and Juliette agrees, because seriously what woman COULD resist the magnetic pull that is Renard in a sharp suit? Not I, just sayin'! :) How adorable is Renard on the phone? Like a nervous teenage guy calling a girl he really really likes for the first time. I CAN HARDLY STAND IT.

Haha, ye olde “Let’s get together to discuss your current boyfriend,” ploy. Renard really is like a teenager in those scenes. Although I don’t get Juliet; it’s like she doesn’t want to get all squeey (“He’s calling! He’s calling!”) so instead she just acts like cardboard. She’s playing her cards pretty close to her chest.

Agreed. :) Hopefully Tulloch will loosen up in scenes like this in the future...just a tick at the very least.

Meanwhile Nick has decided to go all Grimm on Adrian in order to extract a confession and asks Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) to whip up some truth serum to be injected via crossbow (because CLEARLY that is the best subtle). I just have to ask, I'm sure Monroe's getting a cut of the spice shop profits while Rosalee is out of town, but how the heck is he making his mortgage payment and utility bills? Does clock repair on the side pay that well? Discuss. Anyways -- Nick heads to Adrian's house, and by this time it is dark, but he is very casual about carrying a FRIGGIN' CROSSBOW across the yard and breaking into his house, because that would be oh so easy to explain away (I jest). To his ever-lasting surprise, he finds his suspect #1 strung up and dead in the basement, covered with a mysterious brand. Continuing with the theme of freaking Hank out, Hank arrives to see Nick standing over Adrian's tortured body and thinks HOLY CRAP NICK'S FINALLY LOST IT. Thankfully at this point we get the sense that Nick is starting to realize that he *might* be on the verge of going off the rails -- but his resolve to become less suspicious is sorely tested when Sgt. Wu (Reggie Lee) arrives on the scene with backup, prompted by a call from the now-dead Adrian where he confessed to the kidnapping. THE PLOT THICKENS!!!

Monroe probably invested in Whole Foods right when they started up and now he lives off a trust fund and just works more as a hobby. :) It certainly doesn’t seem like he spends a lot of time fixing clocks. Anyway, Nick better cool it or Hank’s not going to let him move in with him.

At this point I'm not sure that Nick and Hank's working relationship and friendship could survive being roommates, lol!

So, all's well that ends well for the kidnapped woman (years of therapy for the trauma aside of course), and that leaves Nick and Hank tasked with the mystery of uncovering the meaning behind the mysterious symbol burned all over Adrian's corpse. Not wanting a vigilante on his hands, Renard takes the info they have public during a televised press conference -- and to say the symbol creates quite a stir among the Wesen residents of Portland would be the understatement of the century. Both Monroe and Bud (Danny Bruno), the latter now even more nervous than normal, contact Nick when they recognize the symbol -- but it's Monroe that Nick and Hank turn to first for more info. The symbol is known in the Wesen world as the symbol of Endezeichen-Grimms, an ancient and much-feared branch of the Grimm family known for their merciless killing of Wesen. They are the "monsters" Wesen children learn of in their own book of cautionary tales -- "Albtraume fur Wesen Kinder." I LOVE the fact that the writers have chosen to flip the fairy tale mythos on its head, creating the Wesen equivalent of our traditional fairy tale mythology. It's a nice touch and one I hope is explored in greater depth in upcoming episodes of the show. The possibilities are endless!

I loved how Nick and Hank nodded through that whole explanation by Monroe as if the German words made perfect sense to them. “Albtraume für Wesen Kinder,” there’s a mouthful. Also, he just happens to have a copy of the book there even though he has NO KIDS?

Ha! Good point...maybe he's sentimental and its his copy from when he was a young Wesen...

The bloody "G" symbol means that someone is invading Nick's territory and isn't afraid of making a very public statement of intent. The danger to Nick is of course that he will be blamed for the attacks on Wesen -- while he has many Wesen friends, his good relations with them are certainly NOT the historical norm. Methinks this is a harbringer of difficult times to come for Nick -- no matter how close to "unhinged" he becomes, if he is going to maintain any semblance of a normal life in Portland he is going to have to be VERY careful how far he lets the Grimm within overtake him.

Nick’s not going to have a normal life, that went out the window when Aunt Marie died. I think this episode did do a good job of reminding us/Nick how fragile his credibility still is with the Wesen in Portland. He can’t really take the law into his own hands even if he wants to.

Renard being Renard, he of course recognizes the symbol and suspects that someone from "the family" has sent a Endezeichen-Grimm to Portland in a blatant power play. While this lead doesn't play out for the Captain, it leaves me DYING to know more about his own family dynamics. The writers are driving me crazy teasing out information about Renard's tension-fraught family and his own plans for power. GIVE ME SOMETHING TO WORK WITH PEOPLE!!

Back to the E-G investigation -- Adrian's killer calls Nick, confirming Monroe's suspicions that someone isn't happy with Nick's rather personable relations with the Wesen world thus far and is seeking to clean up what he perceives as Nick's shoddy messes. Making things more difficult for Nick, the killer's video of Adrian's murder goes viral overnight (SICK). In an attempt to tie up the case's loose ends, Nick and Hank interview the kidnapped woman who confirms that two men snatched her, and her description of the van they used leads to some handy-dandy security camera footage and another Schakal, who proceeds to freak out that Nick is going to kill him (clearly, clearly, this "G" makes Wesen lose any filter of self-preservation!). While Nick and Hank conduct this new interrogation, their forensics team discovers Donna's purse and wallet in the van, and her kidnappers are revealed to be the STUPIDEST CRIMINALS OF ALL TIME. While this evidence means essentially a slam-dunk conviction, their suspect manages to escape the precinct and in short order turns up dead covered in "G" brands. The rogue Grimm takes particular delight in taunting Nick over having once again succeeded where he perceives rank failure.

Haha, okay, at this point in the show, you know the G person has to be one of two people--either Ryan the Clumsy Intern, or the uniform officer who hangs out in the hallway for no reason and tells people things. “Where are the suspects?” “Oh, we had to let them go.” V e r y suspicious. But it’s more likely Ryan because there’s really no reason for him to be on this show other than to kill people.

I also want to say the ceilings in Nick’s house are AMAZING. Tri-colored trays? I bet Nick hand-painted that all himself. That’s hot. If he cooks, too, he should have no problems finding a new roommate. ;)

I could totally see Nick being very into house renovations... :)

But let's take a break from all this to talk about RENARD, more specifically Renard crushing on Juliette and their much-previewed coffee-talk scene. The LOOKS, oh he kills me...positively smoldering. *wink* Renard is all concern for her and Nick (yeah right...), and Juliette OF COURSE checks any common sense she may possess at the door and starts to open up -- and I can't say I blame her. There's even a telling slip where she states since the coma she's starting over with Renard instead of Nick...pretty sure he loved that. *wink* When Renard reaches out and TOUCHES HER HAND (I can barely type this as just RECALLING the moment is a bit overwhelming...ha!), she freaks out and leaves -- but leaves her sunglasses behind. The PERFECT excuse for a follow-up meeting. Well-played, Juliette, well-played. :)

What I loved most about that scene is that the entire time you can tell Renard’s thinking, “Don’t do it, DON’T DO IT,” and then he does it! *dies* How do you like that, Mr. Commanding Armani Suit Guy? Hmm, there might be a disturbing Fifty Shades of Grey tie-in there...

HA!! I'm dying over here... :)

Back to the whole, you know, murder investigation part of this episode (why oh why couldn't they have given me a WHOLE HOUR of Renard angst? Whatevs...). An extremely stressed-out Bud finally goes to the station and corners Nick for a one-on-one conversation about the fact that he is about to lose ALL the tenuous goodwill he's managed to accumulate among the Wesen community if the E-G killer isn't stopped ASAP (the "E-G killer"...I feel like I'm writing about an episode of Bones, LOL!). Reassured Bud leaves Nick to his work, who in short order is called over to Wu's desk where he's uncovered some disturbing surveillance footage. The second kidnapper is on film, aided in leaving the precinct by none other than RYAN THE SAPPY INTERN (Michael Grant Terry)!

I have to admit, people, that I did not see that one coming. Terry's previous two appearances on this show were SUCH throwaways, so pointless, in hindsight I should have realized that the writers had something worthwhile up their sleeves for a recognizable face like Terry's. Well done writers! IT ALL MAKES SENSE TO ME NOW!! After some quick research and an oddly pointless detour to Ryan's druggie mother's house (that was his mom, right?), the pieces of the puzzle start to fall into place as they discover Ryan's cache of photos and articles about Nick -- this is a stalking case that has been in the works for months. They arrive in the nick of time (no pun intended) to save Bud from becoming Ryan's third victim -- and I have to tell you that seeing sweet lil' ol' Bud threatened like that stressed. me. OUT. As Ryan flees the scene he reveals himself to be not a Grimm as first suspected, but the MOST DISGUSTING WESEN EVER -- a Lebensauger, which is basically the NASTIEST LEECH you can imagine. *shivers* That said, i did think it was an interesting way to touch on what severe self-loathing and projection might look like in the Grimm/Wesen world. Also, I'm betting that this is just a preview to real Grimms-visit-Portland shenanigans that Nick is going to have to deal with at some point, if not this season than the next!

I totally saw it coming, sorry. But I did like how Ryan was revealed to be the killer. I was really worried Nick’s face would show up in that reflection by some odd quirk of fate, and I did NOT expect him to be a Wesen. Although who can blame him for wanting to be Nick, what with the painting skillz and all. But the real loser in this scenario was poor Sgt. Wu! See what happens when you take a kid under your wing--he turns out to be a psychopathic leech monster.

Go you! And you are right, poor Wu...needs to work on his people reading skills...

Source: via Ruth on Pinterest

Now, now I finally get to talk about my favorite five minutes perhaps ever on this show. *fangirl squeal* Renard stops by Juliette's house to drop off her sunglasses (it is all kinds of convenient that Nick is out on a case and he's just on his way home...ha!!). I love love LOVE seeing Renard all awkwardly is TOO CUTE. I know, I KNOW his attraction to Juliette is all because of the pure heart potion, but I am DYING for this to become something real for him. Think of the angst! Think of the potential for SMOLDERING GLANCES!!! How will I survive it?! As they play the whole "it's late I/you should go" dance, he suddenly kisses Juliette -- and not only is that one of the most perfectly staged & filmed kisses EVER, but it also triggers a memory in Juliette of the kiss that woke her from her coma. "It was you" -- and without a word Renard kisses her AGAIN!!!! I cannot, CANNOT begin to tell you how much I LOVE THIS SCENE! When Juliette finally breaks the kiss and basically slams the door in Renard's face (it's okay, he's dazed too, ha!), she takes a page from my book and crumples to the floor in shock -- and this sets up fantastic tension between the two of them for the next two episodes, ending with the fall finale.

LOL You are too funny. I agree that I’d LOVE to see the spell/curse broken, with Juliet having no memories of Renard while he realizes he’d actually fallen in love with her. Ah, unrequited love! It will be so sweet. When Nick is sad on this show, I’m sad; but when Renard is all brooding and sad, I’m all like:

Bring it!

Um that is TOO PERFECT, you know how much I love Sleeping Beauty, right?!

ONE MORE Renard photo (I can't help myself):

Needless to say for the Renard moments alone this episode of Grimm ranks high on my favorites list. But I also appreciate the way in which the show surprised me by the reveal of Ryan's identity and the way it explored Nick essentially coming apart at the seams from the stress of his dual life. Reviews of the next two episodes coming soon!

I agree. Overall this was a very well-written and ambitious episode where they tried to show the emotional lives of the characters in creative ways. Really kind of like a mini-novel! 

Thanks so much for joining me in recapping this fantastic episode, Tasha!

Judge by R.J. Larson

This week, the

is introducing

Bethany House Publishers (November 1, 2012)



R. J. Larson is the author of numerous devotionals featured in publications such as Women's Devotional Bible and Seasons of a Woman's Heart. She lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with her husband and their two sons. Prophet marks her debut in the fantasy genre.


Kien Lantec, you will bear witness to my followers in ToronSea.

The last thing Kien Lantec expects on his first day of military leave is to receive marching orders from his Creator, the Infinite. Orders that don't involve destroyer-racing or courting the love of his life, Ela. Adding to Kien's frustration, his Infinite-ordained duties have little to do with his skills as a military judge-in-training. His mission? To warn the people of ToronSea against turning their backs on the Infinite to worship a new goddess.

Tell them I see they are beguiled. Tell them I seek their hearts. The wise will hear Me.

But why Kien? Isn't this the role of a true prophet, such as Ela of Parne? Seeking answers, Kien visits Ela and finds her stricken by a devastating vision of her own. Her birthplace, Parne, has forsaken their Creator and will soon suffer judgment. Pulled in separate ways, each must seek to follow the Infinite's leading...and hope He will reunite them again soon.

Child of dust, will you be My servant?

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

Monday, November 19, 2012

Restless Preview

Thanks to Kaye for giving me a heads up about the upcoming Sundance Channel miniseries Restless, starring Lady Mary...I mean Michelle Dockery. :) Here's a short preview (if it doesn't load, click through to the Sundance website -- I found the embedded viewing option a little glitchy):

Hayley Atwell is perfect in 1940s-era period pieces (remember Captain America?), but oh. my. WORD. Rufus Sewell! RUFUS SEWELL!!! In a friggin' amazing suit!! I die. :P

Restless premieres on December 7th.

Starflower by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

This week, the

is introducing

Bethany House Publishers (November 1, 2012)



Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she enjoys her profession as an art teacher, giving private lessons from her personal studio, and teaching group classes at the Apex Learning Center. She is married to the handsome man she met at fencing class and lives with him and a gaggle of cats. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University. Heartless is her debut novel.

Anne Elisabeth is also the author of the Tales of Goldstone Wood, a series of fantasy adventure novels told in the classic Fairy Tale style.


The Black Dogs Are on the Hunt, But Who Is Their Prey?

When a cursed dragon-witch kidnaps fairest Lady Gleamdren, the Bard Eanrin sets boldly forth on a rescue mission...and a race against his rival for Gleamdren's favor. Intent upon his quest, the last thing the immortal Faerie needs is to become mixed up with the troubles of an insignificant mortal.

But when he stumbles upon a maiden trapped in an enchanted sleep, he cannot leave her alone in the dangerous Wood Between. One waking kiss later, Eanrin suddenly finds his story entangled with that of young Starflower. A strange link exists between this mortal girl and the dragon-witch. Will Starflower prove the key to Lady Gleamdren's rescue? Or will the dark power from which she flees destroy both her and her rescuer?

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

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Call the Midwife Christmas Special Preview

A short preview for the upcoming Call the Midwife Christmas special was recently released in connection with the annual BBC Children in Need fundraiser:

All I've got to say is, OF COURSE someone leaves a baby on the steps of Nonnatus House at Christmas. OF COURSE. Is anyone surprised by this? *wink*

50 Years of James Bond: The Movie

I find this strangely fascinating:

Friday, November 16, 2012

Doctor Who Christmas Prequel

Okay, clearly I should've read more of my Google Reader before posting the previous entry with the Doctor Who Christmas special trailer -- because there's a PREQUEL! Here is the "minisode" entitled "The Great Detective" (gotta love that!):

Doctor Who Christmas Special Trailer

The trailer for the upcoming Doctor Who Christmas special has been released, and it looks AMAZING!!

Can't wait!!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

New trailer for Oz: The Great and Powerful

A new trailer for Oz: The Great and Powerful has been released, and I've got to say I'm really thinking this film has potential:

Sorry things have been a little quiet around here...I've come down with a cold and am fighting fuzzy-headedness... :P

Monday, November 12, 2012

I'm having withdrawals...

A Change of Fortune by Jen Turano

This week, the

is introducing

Bethany House Publishers (November 1, 2012)



Jen grew up in the small town of St. Clairsville, Ohio, where she spent an idyllic childhood riding her purple spider bike, ice-skating on a little pond and reading Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon books in her tree house. High School was, surprisingly enough, fabulous as Jen spent time with her girlfriends. She headed off to college with no idea of what she wanted to be when she grew up, but settled on pursuing a career in fashion because she thought it sounded glamorous. Her parents thought she’d lost her mind, but they resigned themselves to her choice and after earning a BA degree in Clothing and Textiles, Jen set off to take the fashion world by storm, only to discover retail was certainly not the glamorous career she’d imagined it would be. She moved to Buffalo, New York to take a job in the buying office of a large department store, learning all there was to know about cookware, which again, was hardly glamorous, especially to a girl who did not have a knack for cooking. She met her future husband, Al, a few months after taking this job and eight months later, they were married. After moving into management at another department store and working that for a few years, the company went out of business and Jen decided she’d had enough. One year later her son was born and Jen hung up her heels for good and concentrated on being a mom.

She began dabbling in writing when her son, then in elementary school, said he liked her made up stories as much as those in his books. It was then that she  fired up the computer and never looked back.

Jen loves to write humorous stories with quirky characters and a dash of intrigue and finds historical romances especially appealing, seeing as how she’s been reading them since she was a teenager. Her mother gave her a copy of Kathleen Woodiwiss, The Flame and the Flower, and Jen was hooked on the genre. When not reading romance, she loves to read mysteries, young adult and her favorite series of all time, Harry Potter.

Besides writing, Jen enjoys spending time with her family and friends.


Lady Eliza Sumner is on a mission. Her fortune was the last thing she had left after losing her father, her fiance, and her faith. Now, masquerading as Miss Eliza Sumner governess-at-large, she's determined to find the man who ran off with her fortune, reclaim the money, and head straight back to London.

Mr. Hamilton Beckett, much to his chagrin, is the catch of the season, and all the eyes of New York society--all the female ones, at least--are on him. He has no plans to marry again, especially since his hands are full keeping his business afloat while raising his two children alone.

Eliza's hapless attempts to regain her fortune unexpectedly put her right in Hamilton's path. The discovery of a common nemesis causes them to join forces and, before she knows it, Eliza has a whole retinue of people helping her. Eliza's determination not to trust anyone weakens when everyone's antics and bumbling efforts to assist her make her wonder if there might be more important things than her fortune and independence.

When all of Hamilton's and Eliza's best-laid plans fall by the wayside, it will take a riot of complications for them to realize that God just might have had a better plan in mind all along.

If you would like to read the first chapter of A Change of Fortune, go HERE.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


Oh my word. Oh. My. WORD. People, I'm not even sure I know where to start talking about why I think Skyfall is basically the best thing ever, Bond at his most brilliant. Fifty years ago James Bond first appeared on movie screens in Dr. No, all Technicolor gloss, 1960's sophistication, and Sean Connery, all hard edges and devil-may-care attitude. Some incarnations of Bond have arguably been more successful than others, but always there are certain elements in place -- beautiful women, exotic locales, thrilling fight scenes, and unimaginable peril. In 2006 the franchise took the opportunity of reinventing itself once again with the introduction of Daniel Craig, the sixth actor to play Bond (in the officially licensed Eon Productions film series) -- and with a new actor, all hard angles, rough edges, and piercing blue eyes, the chance to re-align the film series with the gritty tenor of its source material. And in a post-Cold War world, where danger lurks in the shadows of cross-border ideological factions and cyberspace, it was a move that was not only smart but necessary for the series to survive and thrive in the twenty-first century.

If Casino Royale (and Quantum of Solace -- that movie seems to get a lot of flack for failing to live up to Casino, but from my standpoint anything with Craig is ten times better than a Craig-less Bond alternative) reintroduced Bond, establishing him as the dedicated agent, but one who is damaged and fallible, Skyfall returns the character to his roots -- both in respect to Fleming's text and the early years of the film series. This is Bond deconstructed, cut down, beaten but not bowed -- and reborn. A Bond who acknowledges his history with a wink and a cheeky hint of a smile while walking into a second fifty years of filmic possibilities.

Because I can't help myself, and like have NO filter when it comes to gushing about things like Bond films, this post is going to be VERY spoiler-y. This is also quite possibly going to be the longest movie post of all time, with a ridiculous number of pictures. You've been warned. I can't help myself. *wink*

And here's another one:

Skyfall opens with Bond (Daniel Craig) and fellow MI6 agent Eve (Naomie Harris) in Istanbul on a mission to retrieve a stolen hard drive -- a drive that contains the identities of every NATO agent embedded in deep cover operations with terrorist organizations around the world. The mercenary in possession of the drive, Patrice (Ola Rapace), left a room full of dead or critically injured agents in his wake. But to Bond's chagrin, M (Judi Dench) has no time for sentiment when the bodies are discovered -- the aim of the mission, the retrieval of the list, must be achieved no matter the cost. The ensuing chase through the crowded streets surrounding the Grand Bazaar is absolutely thrilling, one of my favorite moments being Bond's pursuit of Patrice via motorcycle across the roof of the Bazaar. In a suit. All spying shenanigans should involve men in such suits.

Eve and Bond have a deliciously cheeky rapport -- she is the best kind of "Bond girl" -- intelligent, smart, sassy, and more than capable of holding her own in a firefight. When Patrice and Bond take their fight to the top of a train, she stays in close pursuit. Bond's use of the back hoe ON the freight car was positively inspired, and the moment he connects the two cars, walking down the arm and into the passenger car -- and STRAIGHTENS HIS SHIRT CUFFS!! -- is BRILLIANT. Even this Bond, no matter how damaged, how emotionally eviscerated we've seen him, this is a man who is still used to winning. Who thrives on his unflappable, collected, capable image. This veneer comes crashing down when Eve sees the train -- and the fight -- about to disappear from sight through a tunnel, and from the London offices M orders her to take a shot at Patrice. But Bond and Patrice are still viciously engaged, and the shot isn't a clean opportunity. Eve takes the shot and hits Bond -- and in seconds one of M's most valuable agents is plummeting to almost certain death, and the precious list is in the wind. And that is all before the opening credits and Adele's gorgeous theme song.

I just adore Adele's theme, and against a seductive underwater backdrop, where Bond's shed blood mimics branches of coral the filmmakers give us perhaps one of the most introspective opening sequences in the franchise's history. Yes, there's the requisite silhouettes of beautiful women, but sprinkled throughout are startling images of death -- graves, falling daggers mimicking headstones, Bond shooting blindly at shadows, bleeding out all the while. Of course Bond survives the fall, but the result is perhaps a bit unexpected when taken in relative to the franchise's history. This near-death experience has left Bond in the throes of a mid-life crisis -- the once impeccably dressed, unflappable agent has traded in his designer suits for wrinkled shirts and stubble, and heavy (well heavy for him) drinking while dancing, quite literally, with scorpions.

Back in London, M is being called to account for the lost list, the endangered agents, and the death of 007. The new Intelligence and Security Committee Chair, Gareth Malloy (a very dapper Ralph Fiennes) urges M to take the opportunity to "retire with dignity" -- but M, ever the spitfire, refuses to leave until the job is finished, the list made safe. When returning to the office with her Chief of Staff Bill Tanner (Rory Kinnear -- and since I've read two of Fleming's novels, can I just say that he is perfectly cast? Also of interest, you can purchase his reading of the unabridged Live and Let Die, which is SUPERB), they receive word that their computer network has been hacked. The signal is traced to M's own machine, and when the arrive at headquarters they are stopped by a police barricade and are shocked to witness M's office blown sky-high. It's a surgical strike -- a personal attack on M and her power and influence, one that leaves MI6 and its already hard-hit leader reeling.

When news breaks of the attack, Bond returns to London and unceremoniously shows himself into M's home. It is a stroke of genius, making the attack so personal. Of course there are wider ramifications (i.e., the endangered agents), but at fifty if a series is looking to prove its relevance, what better way to do so than to tear down the two most recognizable figures at its center -- M and her favorite "blunt instrument," the ever-faithful, always capable, James Bond. So Bond, broken and bruised, rehabilitates himself for field work. And this is where the script is just genius -- every ache is acknowledged. Craig pushes himself to the brink but keeps going, all with a wink and a groan and a long-suffering sigh. It's perhaps as "real" as this film is going to get -- but given Bond's historic oft-times seeming invincibility, it's a nice touch.

So that's the set-up -- and the balance of the film sees M and Bond proving their relevance and testing their mettle, seeking the mastermind behind the theft of the list and the bombing of MI6 headquarters. Taking a bit of a break from the play-by-play to look at what that does for the characters and storyline -- a veritable treasure trove for long-time Bond fans. MI6's temporary headquarters are in the old tunnels beneath London utilized by Churchill during the Blitz -- very literally taking the service back in time, back in history. Along with the "new digs" comes a new Q (Ben Whishaw), the Quartermaster in charge of equipping Bond for field work. Their first meeting was PRICELESS -- the wary Bond, representing the MI6 "old guard" and the floppy haired, thin as a rail Q who, much like his predecessor, refuses to be over-awed by Bond's brusque manner.

Q was played by Desmond Llewelyn for nineteen of Bond's twenty-three films, first appearing in From Russia with Love. When the film series is at its craziest, Q is responsible for equipping Bond with the most outlandish of gadgetry and weaponry. The rapport between Q and Bond, the former always exasperated by Bond's inability to return equipment unbroken is a long-standing story beat within the film series. Thanks to smart scripting, Whishaw and Craig have some fun with Q's history -- when he's given "only" a pistol (a Walther PPK/S -- I nearly squealed seeing Bond's sidearm of choice restored to him, with the added bonus of a grip coded to recognized only Bond's palm print) and a radio, Bond half-heartedly bemoans the lack of "bells and whistles." But by bringing the Walther PPK back into the spotlight as Bond's firearm, the film acknowledges it's history while maintaining a certain welcome level of street cred. *wink* And I nearly DIED when Q tells Bond to bring everything back in good working order -- of course that goes up in flames when a casino thug in Macau is dragged into an alligator's lair with Bond's pistol. When Bond hops on the alligator's back to escape their pit -- well I'll just say I wasn't expecting a nod to Roger Moore's escape from  Mr. Big's alligators in Live and Let Die.

When Bond's would-be assassin and thief behind the stolen agent list is identified, Bond follows Patrice to Shanghai with orders from M to discover the identity of his employer and then to eliminate him. Their fight, against the neon-lit backdrop of Shanghai's skyline, is just spectacular -- all struggling shadows, punctuated by gunfire and the glitter of broken glass. A gambling chip found among Patrice's belongings lead Bond to a casino in Macau, which of course got me to thinking about The Man with the Golden Gun. The casino is a classic Bond set piece, all rich reds and brilliant gold tones -- and it is there that Bond meets Sévérine (Bérénice Marlohe), the beautiful companion of Silva, the man behind the plot to discredit M and reveal the identities of the undercover agents. Sévérine fits perfectly within the canon of classic "Bond girls" -- as I'm learning from reading the novels, Fleming had a penchant for penning women as damaged -- or worse -- than his master spy. A study in that subject alone could prove very illuminating, to say the least.

With Bond's promise of help, Sévérine arranges to take him to Silva's location, a nearby island that Silva appropriated for his own purposes through fear-mongering and carefully-placed intel. Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) is in many respects the other side of the coin when it comes to Bond -- the once-favored, capable agent, gone completely off the rails and turned cyber-terrorist. Silva, it turns out, blames M for his capture and torture at the hands of the Chinese years earlier. He's a curious, creepy mix of careful, precise manners masking a completely unhinged interior. Bardem makes Silva a megalomaniacal villain of the first order, in the best tradition of Bond villains -- only better (and by that I mean more disturbing) in that his focus is SO personal vis-a-vis M and Bond and the Service in general. He really reminded me of Christopher Lee's Scaramanga in Golden Gun -- not only the Macau setting, but the precision with which he approaches his work -- even their "duel" over a glass of 1962 Scotch (the year of Dr. No's release) placed atop the bound Sévérine's head for target practice (ending in her death, of course, because it is inevitable that at least one Bond girl dies per film). (Arguably among the most effeminate of Bond villains, some reviewers have pointed out similarities between Silva and other Bond bads such as Louis Jourdan in Octopussy or Wint and Kidd in Diamonds Are Forever, comparisons that likewise have much merit.)

With Silva's capture, all seems well -- and M heads to a public hearing on her leadership in office with the supposed win in her back pocket. But people, that would be all too easy -- for it was Silva's plan all along to be captured and brought within the confines of M's protected domain. With Q's backup (which was a brilliant balance of humor and tension), scenes of Bond chasing Silva through the London Underground and intercut with scenes of M in many respects on trial for her life, her very legacy at stake (interrogated by an Member of Parliament played by Helen McCrory, a.k.a. Mrs. Damian Lewis, the lucky woman). This is how much I get into this film series -- when she quoted the following lines from Tennyson's "Ulysses," I nearly cried:

Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

I loved seeing Mallory win Bond's respect during the ensuing firefight when he proves his mettle as a former field agent and takes a bullet in his should saving M's life. That wink of Craig's, oh that killed me. :) They win a temporary reprieve, and Bond takes M on the run, leaving Q and Tanner to spread a virtual trail of breadcrumbs for Silva to follow, culminating in a do-or-die face-off. (Mallory also wins their respect when he gives his stamp of approval to their unsanctioned, unorthodox scheme.) In a surprising and poignant move, Bond takes M to Scotland and Skyfall, which turns out to be the name of his old family home -- in the original Aston Martin DB5, first seen in Goldfinger. I knew that car was coming and STILL when it was revealed I could barely contain myself. 

I cannot begin to articulate how much I LOVED THIS TWIST. The novels hint at James's backstory and life as an orphan following his parents' deaths, but never, ever have we seen the childhood home, met the crotchety caretaker who new James as a child (Kincade, played with aplomb by Albert Finney). This was a storytelling stroke of genius. Not only has this film made multiple nods to Bond's antecedents, forced himself to re-evaluate his life and worth as an agent, but it takes us quite literally to where it all began -- the desolate moors and a home worthy of playing a setting in a Bronte novel. 

The final fight is a spectacular affair, seeing Bond, M, and Kincade face-off against Silva and his thugs, resulting in Bond's childhood home getting torn to PIECES. That hurt. But seeing no other recourse, when Bond chooses to set the fuse that literally blows his past sky-high -- that was a fantastic, layered moment. For while this entire film is in many respects a homage to Bond's past, by his willingness to burn his final tie to his childhood bond becomes a literal phoenix, rising reborn from the ashes, refined by fire. I loved the dichotomy between Silva and Bond's relationships with M here. The wounded M barely has the strength to withstand Silva, who reveals in full his complex emotions toward M, his "mother" -- issues that eerily reminded me of Norman Bates in Psycho. But it is Bond who proves true -- and on the land containing his parents' graves Bond saves M, only to have her die in his arms -- losing another parental figure (though neither would admit to it, I'm sure) on land positively saturated with painful memories. That scene just about killed me -- though Bond was soaked from his previous battle in the lake with one of Silva's henchmen, I have to choose to think those drops hitting M's face were a few hard-won tears. At his childhood home, Bond proves to be M's greatest legacy, the one thing she got right. (The water imagery from the aforementioned lake fight -- the idea of rebirth and renewal through this fight is really powerfully done, especially in light of the scenes immediately following with M.)

The final ten minutes or so of this film is a brilliant, BRILLIANT set-up for the movies to come. Having come through the fire and been reborn multiple times (three in this film alone by my count) Bond and MI6 are renewed and ready for duty. These last ten minutes -- oh it was like CHRISTMAS to my James Bond-loving heart. From the moment atop HQ where Eve gives Bond his bequest from M (a Royal Doulton Bulldog figurine painted with the Union Jack -- a possible nod to Bulldog Drummond as a proto-Bond figure), with the sun shining and the flag in the background -- which would be lovely enough, but IT GETS BETTER. Then Bond follows her below into her new office, where she's agreed to serve as Mallory's executive assistant -- and the moment I saw the coat rack I nearly fell out of my chair, and could barely contain myself from screaming oh no they didn't!! For Eve's last name, you see, is Moneypenny. Best character reveal EVER -- their rapport, their banter is going to be priceless in the coming sequels. And then to have Tanner open that familiar leather-covered door with a "he's ready to see you, sir" and Bond to enter to find Mallory behind the desk and say "reporting for duty, M" -- I am smiling SO HARD typing this as I relive that moment it is ridiculous. But I can't help it. In an uncanny fashion Bond has come full circle, always the same yet entirely made new.

Director Sam Mendes and team have delivered a Bond adventure that skates the delicate balance between embracing tradition and prepping for the next phase in the storied spy's career. After seeing this film, I'm thrilled to learn that screenwriter John Logan has already been contracted to pen the scripts for the next two films that will see Craig through his current Bond commitment. This is a smartly scripted action flick filled with humor, and daredevil thrills -- the bar is set extraordinarily high, for this Bond flick is very nearly perfect. I'm a shameless score junkie, and I was pleasantly surprised by the caliber of Thomas Newman's score for this film. A Bond flick seems a bit out of his norm, but he adroitly incorporates the notes of the original John Barry theme and its David Arnold adaptation while wrapping it in a lush, orchestral score with exotic flourishes reflecting the film's globe-trotting canvas. (I LOVED the moment when Silva destroy's Bond's car, and the look on Bond's face coupled with the notes of his theme was absolutely DIVINE!)

Skyfall is slick, spy-caper storytelling at its finest -- this, can this ever get old? I think not. *wink* If I missed any nods to the Bond canon, please chime in with a comment -- obviously, I can talk about this subject endlessly. :)