Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Masterpiece Mystery preview

We're finally getting Masterpiece Mystery previews!!! It's about time, people. :)

Watch Masterpiece Mystery 2013 Season on PBS. See more from Masterpiece.

Delilah Dirk

I stumbled across the website for the Delilah Dirk adventure comics by Tony Cliff and I love the idea so much (not to mention the art, I think it is just gorgeous!) that I had to share it here. Per the website: Delilah Dirk is the heroine of a series of adventure comics set during the early 19th century. Each story is completely self-contained, and they're suitable for readers of all ages! (Now, I haven't yet read the entire graphic novel so I can't speak to that last point yet, just FYI.) Enjoy! :)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Review: Millie's Fling by Jill Mansell

Millie's Fling
By: Jill Mansell
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark


When Millie bolted from her boyfriend's oh-so-romantic proposal in Lover's Lane that they move in together (the cheapskate just wanted to save money on his rent) to the side of a would-be jumper, she little realized that her reflexive action would change her life forever. That would-be jumper was best-selling romance novelist Orla Hart, determined to end it all over the heartbreak of her husband's latest affair. But Millie convinced her to give life a second chance -- and when the flamboyant, larger-than-life Orla takes stock of her career and Millie's (lack of a) love life, she concocts an outrageous plan. Millie will be the fictionalized subject of her next book, a literary, true-to-life account of a working class girl's struggle to find love. When Millie first accepted Orla's offer it was merely as a lark -- but having a multi-millionaire author as one's fairy godmother proves more complicated than she'd imagined. Soon Millie is juggling more male attention -- from more unlikely quarters -- than she's seen in an age, but when the one man who actually makes her heart leap isn't a part of Orla's plotline, will she ever realize her own happily ever after?

People, sometimes nothing of a chick lit will do. And if you're at all like me, an Anglophile at heart, a British chick lit is a dream come true. After seeing reviews of Mansell's titles around the blogosphere and purchasing an e-book or two on sale (and promptly losing track of the titles in my Kindle's packed files), I finally decided the holiday weekend was the perfect time to give one of Mansell's novels a try -- and goodness did that risk pay off in spades.

Millie's Fling is a delightful, frothy confection of a novel, replete with humor, misunderstandings (both comic and heart-breaking),and romance. Clocking in at roughly five hundred pages, Millie's Fling is quite a bit longer than I'm used to when it comes to breezy, entertaining fiction of this ilk -- and honestly it could have used a bit of judicial editing to tighten the storyline. But when you're having such fun indulging in pure, fluffy escapism it's hard to fault story length when you've become so wholly immersed in the story's world, with characters who, foibles and all, have become friends.

Mansell as an apparent knack for peopling her novels with delightfully zany, very human characters, relatable in both their triumphs and heartaches. And here, at least, she favors large casts of characters -- for though this novel is called Millie's Fling, that quickly proves to be something of a misnomer. This is hardly a chick lit about one woman's search for love and fulfillment -- in a welcome turn significant page time is given to her entire circle of acquaintance. Her benefactress-cum-employer Orla and her struggling marriage, her housemate Hester and her romantic travails, her affably eccentric, divorced parents, and all of the men who dance in and out of this circle of women whose lives are rife with romantic possibilities receive significant page time. More than one woman's story, this little novel could perhaps be more aptly likened to an ensemble comedy like the film Love Actually -- this is a novel love wherein each experience is as unique and fully realized as the colorful characters that spring from its pages.

While the novel started a bit slowly, once the characters and premise where established the pace picked up and my fingers flew through the pages. Like comfort food or, better yet, chocolate, Millie's Fling is pure, unadulterated escapism at its finest. This is a novel and world that is a joy to lose oneself in, peopled with characters you can't help but love (even when they're incredibly stupid) and a few twists that may surprise you. I absolutely love Mansell's sense of humor and laughed out loud more than once descriptiosn of between Millie's job as a gorilla costume-wearing kissogram to Orla's well-meaning attempts at matchmaking (and Orla's payoff at the end of the novel? PRICELESS). The perfect summer read, for sheer fun my introduction to Mansell's fiction cannot be beat -- and I'll definitely be checking out her other novels sooner rather than later.

About the book:

He's the best thing that ever happened to her. He's also the worst. He's Millie's Fling.

From one of the premiere contemporary authors in the UK, here is a fun and romantic tale that proves the road to matchmaking hilarity is paved with good intentions.

Bestselling novelist Orla Hart owes her life to her friend Millie Brady, whose rotten boyfriend has just left her. So Orla invites Millie to Cornwall, where Millie looks forward to a summer without any dating whatsoever. But Orla envisions Millie as the heroine of her next novel and decides to find Millie the man of her dreams. Except the two women have drastically different ideas about what kind of guy that should be.

With Orla and Millie working at cross-purposes, and a dashing but bewildered hero stuck in the middle, the summer will turn out to be unforgettable for all concerned...

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Review: The Damnation Affair by Lilith Saintcrow

The Damnation Affair (Bannon & Clare #1.5)
By: Lilith Saintcrow
Publisher: Orbit


Only one thing could induce Miss Catherine Barrowe-Browne to forsake the comforts of civilized Boston and head Westron (West) -- the hope of finding her missing, impetuous brother Robbie. She applies for the position of schoolteacher in the town of Damnation, a godforsaken corner of the Westron territory every bit as uninviting as its name. The children are out-of-control hellions, the townspeople without culture, and the sheriff an infuriating (and attractive) enigma. When the undead breach the boundaries of the charter protecting the town, Cat quickly realizes that darker forces than she'd ever dreamed may have ensnared her brother, as a dark threat stalks Damnation's citizens, determined to destroy anyone in its way.

Sheriff Jack Gabriel headed Westron to escape his past, cloaking his identity behind a lawman's badge, a lazy drawl, and a manner that brooked no questions. He never expected the new schoolmarm to be so pretty or so wholly unsuited for life in a town constantly stalked by the threat of an undead uprising. The more he gets to know the delightfully stubborn Cat, the more he begins to dream of a future outside Damnation's borders. But dark forces threaten Jack's plans, and the cursed mancey (magic) swirling around Cat's search for her missing brother threatens to exact a sacrifice far greater than either is willing to pay.

After falling in love with Saintcrow's first entertaining and evocative steampunnk recreation of Victorian London in The Iron Wyrm Affair, I was left eager for sequels. In an interesting twist, Saintcrow chose to bridge the release of her first and second Bannon & Clare books with this full-length e-book set in the same universe, but halfway across the world with an entirely new cast of characters. The time period may be the same, but the manner in which magic, sorcery, and steampunk technology is employed is wholly new, fresh, and engaging. In the nineteenth-century Westron "New World" that passes for America, the culture of magic is rawer, less refined, and therefore more unpredictable. Saintcrow also adds a layer of religious faith, marrying a traditional 19th-century Christian worldview with the rules of mancey and charter-symbols that make her world-building so richly-drawn and fascinating.

Now I typically avoid prairie-themed romances, but Saintcrow's twisted take on the tropes of the genre is irresistable. Cat is the missish schoolmarm, wholly unprepared for the rigors of Westron life -- but determined to thrive and fearless when it comes to utilizing her magic Practicality, even if it means sacrificing her Reputation. Jack is the dedicated lawman, deliciously uncertain around women of Cat's ilk, and hiding a secret that threatens to destroy his place in Damnation. The two spar constantly, and electric chemistry between two such polar opposites kept my fingers flying to turn pages. This tale is more romance-heavy than its predecessor, and given the secrets involved and threats standing in the way of a happily ever after, I became quickly invested in the future of their will-they-or-won't-they relationship.

The Damnation Affair is a fast-paced, romantic adventure set in Saintcrow's deliciously eclectic, revisionist 19th-century world. While the impetus behind the undead menace is somewhat hazily realized, I loved Saintcrow's twist on zombie lore (a tad reminiscent of the recent film Warm Bodies) and its use as a threat in territories barely settled is wholly fitting to the tenor of the time period. While I enjoyed The Iron Wyrm Affair, I absolutely loved this book. Perfectly paced, thoroughly entertaining, and peopled with engaging characters set against the backdrop of a rich mythology, The Damnation Affair is my favorite Saintcrow novel yet. I loved this book -- and can only, desperately hope that Saintcrow will revisit Cat & Jack in sequels.

About the book:

The West is a wild place, where the poison wind blows and the dead walk. But there is gold, and whiskey, and enough room for a man to forget what he once was--until he no longer can.

Jack Gabriel's been the sheriff in Damnation almost since the town grew out of the dust and the mud. He keeps the peace--sort of--and rides the circuit every dawn and dusk with the chartermage, making sure the wilderness doesn't seep into their fragile attempt at civilization. Away from the cities clinging to the New World's eastern rim, he doesn't remember what he was. At least, not much.

But Damnation is growing, and along comes a schoolmarm. Catherine Barrowe is a right proper Boston miss, and it's a mystery why she would choose this town where everything scandalous and dangerous is probably too much for a quality lady like her. Sometimes the sheriff wonders why she came out West--because everyone who does is running from something. He doesn't realize Cat may be prickly, delicate, and proper, but she is also determined. She's in Damnation to find her wayward older brother Robbie, whose letters were full of dark hints about gold, trouble...and something about a claim.

In a West where charm and charter live alongside clockwork and cold steel, where hot lead kills your enemy but it takes a blessing to make his corpse stay down, Cat will keep digging until she finds her brother. If Jack knew what she was after, he could solve the mystery--because he was the one who killed Robbie.

The thing is, Cat's brother just won't stay dead, and the undead are rising with him...

Friday, May 24, 2013

Review: Summer Falls by Amelia Williams

Summer Falls
By: Amelia Williams
Publisher: BBC Digital


Summer Falls is a short Doctor Who novella purportedly written by none other than Amelia (Pond) Williams (also known as new-to-me Who author James Goss). The book appears in the season seven episode "The Bells of St. John," wherein the Doctor finally reconnects with Clara, the "impossible girl." One of Clara's charges is reading Summer Falls, a book whose eleventh chapter Clara promises will bring tears when it is read. This short slice of Who-related fiction is actually one of the cleverer tie-ins that I've encountered as it serves as a touchstone between the Doctor's newest companion and his much-loved previous ones, Amy and Rory, the latter two lost in the past at the conclusion of "The Angels Take Manhattan."

I absolutely LOVE the concept of Amy becoming an author, and this story fits nicely into the constructs of her "new" timeframe -- mid-twentieth century America. Having grown up reading the likes of the original Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and Bobbsey Twin mysteries, Summer Falls fits comfortably within the realm of fiction of that ilk. Featuring intrepid, adventurous, mystery-solving children, Amy Pond's novel is deceptively grounded in the real world. Young Kate is far to logical to believe in magic of any sort, yet sprinkled throughout the novella are on a former companion of the Doctor's could appreciate -- hints that the ordinary only masks thrilling and terrifying wonders.

I loved the character of Kate, perhaps a thinly-disguised version of the child Amy might have been after waiting that first night for the man in the box to return to her, all focus and determination masking her disappointment when he fails to appear. The entire tale has the feel of a fairy tale, something akin to "The Snow Queen, hinting at the continuing season seven menace of "The Great Intelligence" (and perhaps quoting from Goss's previous full-length Who novel, Dead of Winter). And Eleven-as-the-Curator is pitch-perfect and may just bring forth a tear or two by the time one reaches the sacrifice detailed in chapter eleven.

One could perhaps argue that this novella is the equivalent of an adventure with the Doctor from the ever-resourceful Amy's point-of-view. A lovely concept, marred only by uneven pacing and the restrictions of the novella format, Summer Falls is easily one of the best fictional tie-ins to the current Who-universe. There is a lot of potential in this concept and format, so much so that I can only hope the BBC explores opportunities of this type in the future and in greater, more substantive depth.

About the book:

"When summer falls, the Lord of Winter will arise..."

In the seaside village of Watchcombe, young Kate is determined to make the most of her last week of summer holiday. But when she discovers a mysterious painting entitled 'The Lord of Winter' in a charity shop, it leads her on an adventure she never could have planned. Kate soon realises the old seacape, painted long ago by an eccentric local artist, is actually a puzzle. And with the help of some bizarre new acquaintances - including a museum curator's magical cat, a miserable neighbour, and a lonely boy - she plans on solving it.

And then, one morning Kate wakes up to a world changed forever. For the Lord of Winter is coming - and Kate has a very important decision to make.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Undeniably Yours by Becky Wade

This week, the

is introducing

Bethany House Publishers (May 1, 2013)



During her childhood in California, Becky frequently produced homemade plays starring her sisters, friends, and cousins.  These plays almost always featured a heroine, a prince, and a love story with a happy ending.  She's been a fan of all things romantic ever since.

Becky and her husband lived overseas in the Caribbean and Australia before settling in Dallas, Texas.  It was during her years abroad that Becky's passion for reading turned into a passion for writing.  She published three historical romances for the general market, put her career on hold for many years to care for her kids, and eventually returned to writing sheerly for the love of it.  Her first contemporary Christian romance, My Stubborn Heart, has been named a finalist for Romance Writers of America's RITA Award.  Her newest release, Undeniably Yours, is available now.

These days Becky can be found failing but trying to keep up with her housework, sweating at the gym, carting her kids around town, playing tennis, hunched over her computer, eating chocolate, or collapsed on the sofa watching TV with her husband.


When Meg Cole's father dies unexpectedly, she becomes the majority shareholder of his oil company and the single inheritor of his fortune. Though Meg is soft-spoken and tenderhearted--more interested in art than in oil--she's forced to return home to Texas and to Whispering Creek Ranch to take up the reins of her father's empire.

The last thing she has the patience or the sanity to deal with? Her father's thoroughbred racehorse farm. She gives its manager, Bo Porter, six months to close the place down.

Bo's determined to resent the woman who's decided to rob him of his dream. But instead of anger, Meg evokes within him a profound desire to protect. The more time he spends with her, the more he longs to overcome every obstacle that separates them--her wealth, his unworthiness, her family's outrage--and earn the right to love her.

But just when Meg begins to realize that Bo might be the one thing on the ranch worth keeping, their fragile bond is viciously broken by a force from Meg's past. Can their love--and their belief that God can work through every circumstance--survive?

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

A summer of free audiobooks? Yes, please!

Thanks to Juju at Tales of Whimsy for making me aware of this upcoming promotion! There is an entire summer of free audiobook downloads coming thanks to SYNC and their publisher partners. You read about the books that will be offered and the free promotion schedule for the titles HERE.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness

People, where do I begin? How can I possibly articulate in a semi-coherent manner how much I ADORED Star Trek Into Darkness?!

If you're worried about spoilers, this is NOT the place to be. Consider yourself warned. 

I mean it. :)

Okay, here we go. :) Prior to Abrams' spectacularly entertaining re-boot of the Trek franchise in 2009, I wasn't a Trek fan in any way, shape, or form. I knew who Kirk and Spock were and that was about it. Any effort to engage with the film's source material previously had ended in apathy. But that film -- what Abrams and his cast and crew did for me then was introduce me to a vibrant cast of characters with a chemistry and an energy that reminded me of my personal science fiction favorite -- Star Wars. So the four year "drought" waiting for a follow-up has been absolute torture -- and to be quite frank, I was beginning to wonder if this movie would ever happen. And when it WOULD finally appear, could it possibly succeed in recapturing everything about the first film that I loved so much? COULD IT POSSIBLY LIVE UP TO THE HYPE??

Amazingly my answer to that question is YES. Yes, yes, and THEN SOME. Star Trek Into Darkness (do you have ANY IDEA how desperately I want to but a colon between "Trek" and "Into"?!) is a thoroughly entertaining, engaging sequel that continues to reinvent the tropes of this world while letting these new cast members, this perfect "Abrams-caught-lightning-in-a-bottle" ensemble make these characters their own.

Prior to this film's release I'd been reading rumors of the identity of villain, and the storyline's relation to what is (apparently?) considered one of the best classic Trek films -- The Wrath of Khan. So the night before I was due to meet friends to see Into Darkness I decided it was time to not just read about Khan online, but to watch the film -- and goodness am I ever glad I did, as I thought it thoroughly enriched my viewing experience and appreciation of everything Into Darkness works to accomplish on-screen.

So much of the success of Star Trek (both new and old) rests on the strength of the ensemble, and in particular New Trek is a positive gold mine of pitch-perfect, once-in-a-lifetime casting decisions and amazing group chemistry. But the relationships between various members of the crew (and I love them all) pales in comparison to the importance of the Spock/Kirk friendship, and here Abrams delves deeply into what friendship between two people who, on the surface at least, should have nothing in common to bind them together in friendship.

Now I can't speak in any great depth to how the classic Kirk and Spock friendship compares to the incarnation Abrams has given us in his re-boot, except to say that I feel New Trek is not only intent on examining how a human/Vulcan friendship works, but is perhaps more interested in how that friendship changes both men irrevocably. And for my money you could not ask for two better actors Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto to bring this legendary duo to life on-screen.

Pine's Kirk is cut very much from the Han Solo-hero mold -- good-looking, brash, and cocky, his Kirk would much rather act than reflect, sieze the day than think through the consequences. And his brash confidence has paid off in spades, bringing him success and command of the Enterprise -- but his success, his willingness to disregard the rules time and again has earned him not only the ire of Starfleet Command, but has arguably instilled in him a false sense of security in life and his ability to lead others.

Quinto's Spock absolutely fascinates me. Not only do we have Spock in a romantic relationship (more on that later), but Spock seems shaded with a touch more transparency, more hints of inner conflict rippling just below the logical Vulcan surface of his persona. And that conflict between his Vulcan and human halves, between the logical, unemotional side of his heritage and the part of him that genuinely wants to understand why he drives Kirk and Uhura insane just plays out brilliantly on-screen (when Kirk finds himself caught in the middle of what passes for a Spock/Uhura "fight" is one of the film's most hilarious scenes). When Kirk flouts convention and returns to save Spock from a volcano explosion at the beginning of the film, he genuinely does not understand why Kirk would be compelled to act so illogically or the potential consequences of his truthful reporting of the incident (which sees Kirk demoted). That gut reaction vs. a measured, intellectual response is the trigger that sets Spock on this inward journey to understand and relate to those around him throughout the film which culminates in a spectacular -- and very un-Vulcanlike -- emotional finale.

For his part, Kirk's character arc through the film not only neatly fits within the beats of Joseph Campbell's definition of the heroic journey, but the hothead must also learn the value of what someone of Spock's experience and perspective can bring to his life. Speaking to the heroic journey -- if the first film covered step one, the separation, than this second installment is Kirk's initiation and trial by fire. Disappointing his mentor, Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood -- okay let me just say, I get why this had to happen, but losing Pike was dang near as traumatic for me as the whole Coulson dying thing in The Avengers), and then seeing that surrogate father figure murdered sets Kirk on a path to revenge. This hearkens back to Kirk beating the Kobayashi Maru test in the 2009 film (also referenced in The Wrath of Khan) -- if the purpose of that test is facing a no-win scenario, of seeing how one would act in the face of sure death, having never accepted that as a possibility, Pike's death and the events that follow force Kirk to confront his fallibility. And in doing that, in recognizing that "how we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life" is a critical step in Kirk's heroic journey and maturation as a man and a leader.

In my rather random and sporadic watching of anything Classic Trek, while I always got the sense that Kirk and Spock were close friends what I LOVED about their relationship in this film is the glimpse we get into the DEPTH of that friendship. It is no stretch in my mind to say that the events of Into Darkness are a crucible through which the bond of friendship between them is solidified and strengthened. And we really see that played out in a powerful manner in how they push each other, how they change each other, and how through their friendship, through how they each take on the other's best qualities, each man is changed, arguably, for the better.

I understand that among some Trek purists Spock's relationship with Uhura (Zoe Saldana) is the subject of some controversy. Personally I think it is one of the best aspects of the new films, and I promise that isn't because I am a total romantic sap. *wink* I don't feel that Uhura fundamentally changes the logical, intellectual, supremely rational being that Spock is; rather she stretches and changes and challenges him in a way that is pure and simple an utter delight to watch on-screen. Quinto and Saldana play this atypical couple with more class and maturity than most film romances today in my opinion. Yes, Uhura gets frustrated with Spock -- but witness the looks she gives him before he's lowered into the volcano on Nibiru and after they survive the incursion into Klingon territory. It's love and acceptance pure and simple, and her ability to be so passionate about their relationship and ultimately so accepting of who he is (even though certain qualities occasionally drive her mad) just BAFFLES him. (And when he tells her that when he thought he was going to die he couldn't think about her because he feels TOO MUCH?! -- I DIE!) And watching Spock puzzle through the nuances of the relationships in his life, that will never get old, especially with an actor as fantastically expressive as Quinto in the role.

We all know I love Benedict Cumberbatch, right? :) Benedict did me proud here, and it was an absolute thrill to see him figure so prominently -- and so well -- in such a big-screen spectacle. In my experience following his career I've never seen him play such a villain. And being the superlative actor that he is, and stepping into a franchise that has grounded itself in the relationships between core characters, it's a testament to his considerable ability as an actor and the material that he was given to work with that his Khan is such a memorable, three-dimensional, terrifying villain. For while his actions -- blackmailing the Starfleet officer (hello Mickey from Doctor Who) into blowing up the archive, attacking Starfleet HQ -- are reprehensible, Cumberbatch never lets us forget that he is driven by a genuine love and fear for the safety of his crew, his family. There was a moment there when Kirk and Khan prepare to board the Reliant that I thought maybe, just maybe, "new" Khan was going to end more heroically -- Cumberbatch did a fantastic job playing painting Khan not in black and white, but shades of grey. And much like he will do anything to achieve his aim, so Kirk must also embrace what it means to be a true leader of his own crew, and come to terms with what he's willing to sacrifice for his family, the perhaps never-considered reciprocity of what he expects of them as their commander. While both men are driven by the same impulse, it's the choices each makes that ultimately defines who they are, for good or ill.

(Side note: Did Benedict perform in the fight scenes? Because that moment in Klingon territory when he saves Kirk, Spock, and Uhura is PURE DEADLY POETRY in motion.)

Where Kirk and Spock and Uhura and BENEDICT would be more than enough, Into Darkness goes above and beyond giving viewers a tremendous array of well-realized supporting characters that steal the show more often than not. *wink* I don't even think I can pick favorites, people, seriously -- I love them all. :) Off-hand I'd say Sulu's (John Cho) wins for most improved over his appearance in the 2009 film, as short but critical scenes give him the chance to test his own leadership potential when Kirk grants him the captain's chair. Please, can we have MORE of his character in the third film? Cho is a badass. ;-)

I absolutely LOVE Chekov (Anton Yelchin), and it was such a treat to see him get stressed out over assuming Scotty's position as chief engineer, when the latter resigns in protest over the presence of sketchy photon torpedoes on the Enterprise. I was seriously concerned about his safety when Kirk ordered him to don a red shirt, but thankfully that temporary transfer didn't blow up in his face (literally). And when he saves Kirk and Scotty I could barely contain my glee. :)

And Scotty! Could anyone else but Simon Pegg be so perfect for the role? I think not. I loved his professional outrage over the whole torpedo debacle, his insistence that he'd never help Kirk with anything EVER AGAIN, and then his own personal entering the Death Star moment when he discovers Admiral Marcus's secret warship Reliant (not to mention his solo heroics in the bowels of the oddly deserted ship). But more than all that, his indignant OUTRAGE at returning to the Enterprise after an absence of like a DAY only to discover she's falling apart around his ears. :)

I like Karl Urban a lot, and I like him as Bones...but maybe this is just a part of the original character that I don't get, but he seemed to spend an awful lot of time telling Kirk or Spock or whoever that he couldn't believe they were doing whatever it is they were going to do, instead of, you know, doing something. And while there's a lot of humor and warmth in his interactions with Kirk in particular, and he gets a moment with a TRIBBLE (!!), and those thirty seconds where he thinks he's going to get blown up by a torpedo, I am always left wanting. Like I just feel like there's more he should be doing than throwing around "dammit Jim's" and being hilariously neurotic. I LIKE it all, don't get me wrong, I just feel like he could play a bigger role vis-a-vis Kirk and Spock...I think that's what I'm getting at is I want more Bones being incredible. :)

While I don't know that I'd call Into Darkness a remake of The Wrath of Khan, exactly, it does borrow and adapt substantially from that film to fit certain story beats into the New Trek world -- and I love that. If the 2009 film established the two separate but similar timelines, this film takes that further by exploring how these new incarnations of the classic characters can take canonical story beats and experiences and make them their own. I think there must always be certain parallels, no? I find that it really enriches my appreciation of the Abrams films as I learn more about the source material.

That said, I LOVE LOVE LOVE how this film takes Spock's sacrifice in Wrath and turns it on its head. In this timeline, Kirk needed to come to the point where he was willing to sacrifice for a cause, for his family. And Spock -- with the insight offered from his counterpart Spock Prime (Leonard Nimoy) on New Vulcan, I truly believe he thought that defeating Khan would require him to make the ultimate sacrifice. So when his friend Kirk sacrifices his life to save the Enterprise he's absolutely gutted. Only then does he understand Kirk's drive to save him earlier in the film and how deep the bonds of friendship run between them, and how when evil threatens something near and dear to one's heart the gut response -- not the logical one -- oft-times demands action. (On a lesser level -- much less, since I didn't find Alice Eve as Carol terribly interesting -- I am looking forward to where the franchise goes with the canonical Kirk/Carol relationship given the characters' history in the show. I DO hope that the scripts up Carol's smarts in subsequent outings, as Eve was barely given enough to work with to raise her above my least favorite female scientist on film of all time, Denise Richards in The World is Not Enough -- that is NOT a mark you want to aspire to.)

So, wrapping things up, I basically think this film is pretty much pitch-perfect (just in case you couldn't tell). It's a fast-paced, energetic, engaging, and slickly-produced piece of summer entertainment with heart, thanks to memorable, well-drawn characters. Not only do you have the characters and special effects, but the film is just plain GORGEOUS. From the pops of vibrant yellows and reds on Nibiru to Abrams's apparent love of light halos illuminating the bridge of the Enterprise in space, every frame of this movie is a feast for the eyes. Finally, composer Michael Giacchino returned to score the film, and I think he outdid himself. From the action cues to gorgeous piano solos to his adaptation of the Classic Trek theme, every note of music complements the on-screen action perfectly. Very well done.

If you've seen the film I would (obviously) love to discuss! :) I can't wait to see where this crew takes us next, and I can only hope that the five year mission the Enterprise sets out on at the film's conclusion isn't some sort of sign that it is going to actually take FIVE YEARS for a sequel. Please, for the love Abrams, don't make me wait that long.

*Images copyright Paramount.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Review: Devil in the Smoke by Justin Richards

Devil in the Smoke
By: Justin Richards
Publisher: BBC Digital


Released as a prequel to the 2012 Doctor Who Christmas special "The Snowmen" (a personal favorite), Devil in the Smoke explores the presence and activities of "The Great Intelligence" in Victorian London prior to events that introduced a depressed, embittered Doctor to a governess named Clara, also known as the impossible girl. While the Doctor doesn't feature in this short tale, it is nonetheless one of the stronger Who novellas I've read, thanks in no small part to its focus on the trio of Vastra, Jenny, and Strax, three of the more colorful and frankly interesting supporting characters that have been introduced during Matt Smith's run as Eleven.

The tale opens with a positively Dickensian touch -- two young boys, Harry and Jim, sweeping snow from the workhouse yard, steal a few moments in which to build a snowman. But their stolen moment of play is transformed into horror when a dead woman emerges from within the snowman they just built, setting into motion a chain of events that threatens not only their lives but the very existence of the entire world. Clearly it's a case that calls for the considerable investigative powers of the Great Detective.

And so enters Madame Vastra, the green-skinned Silurian from "A Good Man Goes to War" who has made a life for herself in Victorian London, as the veiled and enigmatic Great Detective. I LOVED this aspect of the Christmas special, as since Moffat is showrunner for both Who and Sherlock, it seemed inevitable that at some point the two worlds would cross paths. In introducing Vastra as the "real life" Great Detective of literary legend, Moffat cleverly brings his Holmes-related duties to bear in the Doctor's universe. And I loved that he turns expectations on their head by having Vastra, a female alien,claim the title of Great Detective when going into the concept I would've expected the Doctor to lay claim to that honor -- and relish it.

Richards is one of the better and most consistently reliable novelists to work in the Who universe, and here he delivers a fast-paced, engaging story that not only expands on events of "The Snowmen" but makes a compelling case for more appearances by the trio of Vastra, Jenny, and Strax -- if not their own spin-off show. *wink* Playing with the tropes of both the Who universe and Holmesian fiction, The Devil in the Smoke is engaging novella with a surprisingly literary tone for fiction of this ilk. Marred only by its short length and several typos, Devil in the Smoke is a lightly diverting, worthwhile entry in the ever-expanding world of Who-related fiction.

About the book:

Madame Vastra, the fabled Lizard Woman of Paternoster Row, knew death in many shapes and forms. But perhaps one of the most bizarre of these was death by snow...

On a cold day in December, two young boys, tired of sweeping snow from the workhouse yard, decide to build a snowman - and are confronted with a strange and grisly mystery. In horrified fascination, they watch as their snowman begins to bleed...

The search for answers to this impossible event will plunge Harry into the most hazardous - and exhilarating - adventure of his life. He will encounter a hideous troll. He will dine with a mysterious parlour maid. And he will help the Great Detective, Madame Vastra, save the world from the terrifying Devil in the Smoke.

Follow the Heart by Kaye Dacus

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Follow the Heart

B&H Books (May 1, 2013)


Kaye Dacus


Humor, Hope, and Happily Ever Afters! Kaye Dacus is the author of humorous, hope-filled contemporary and historical romances with Barbour Publishing, Harvest House Publishers, and B&H Publishing. She holds a Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, is a former Vice President of American Christian Fiction Writers, and currently serves as President of Middle Tennessee Christian Writers. Kaye lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she is a full-time academic advisor and part-time college composition instructor for Bethel University.

Kaye Dacus (KAY DAY-cuss) is an author and educator who has been writing fiction for more than twenty years. A former Vice President of American Christian Fiction Writers, Kaye enjoys being an active ACFW member and the fellowship and community of hundreds of other writers from across the country and around the world that she finds there. She currently serves as President of Middle Tennessee Christian Writers, which she co-founded in 2003 with three other writers. Each month, she teaches a two-hour workshop on an aspect of the craft of writing at the MTCW monthly meeting. Kaye lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she is an academic advisor and English Composition instructor for Bethel University.


Set during the Industrial Revolution and the Great Exhibition of 1851, Follow the Heart is a “sitting-room romance” with the feel of a Regency-era novel but the fashions and technological advances of the mid-Victorian age.

Kate and Christopher Dearing’s lives turn upside down when their father loses everything in a railroad land speculation. The siblings are shipped off to their mother’s brother in England with one edict: marry money.

At twenty-seven years old, Kate has the stigma of being passed over by eligible men many times—and that was before she had no dowry. Christopher would like nothing better than to make his own way in the world; and with a law degree and expertise in the burgeoning railroad industry, he was primed to do just that—in America.

Though their uncle tries to ensure Kate and Christopher find matrimonial prospects only among the highest echelon of British society, their attentions stray to a gardener and a governess.

While Christopher has options that would enable him to lay his affections where he chooses, he cannot let the burden of their family’s finances crush his sister. Trying to push her feelings for the handsome—but not wealthy— gardener aside, Kate’s prospects brighten when a wealthy viscount shows interest in her. But is marrying for the financial security of her family the right thing to do, when her heart is telling her she’s making a mistake?

Mandates . . . money . . . matrimony. Who will follow the heart?

If you would like to read the first chapter of >Follow the Heart, go HERE

Friday, May 17, 2013

Review: Far in the Wilds by Deanna Raybourn

Far in the Wilds (A Spear of Summer Grass #0.5)
By: Deanna Raybourn
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA


With this slim novella, released as a prequel to A Spear of Summer Grass, Deanna Raybourn -- best known for her superb Lady Julia Grey mysteries -- introduces a new leading man, hunter Ryder White. Canadian by birth and African by choice, following the conclusion of the Great War Ryder chose to lose himself in the wilds of Kenya, taking the the occasional guide job or indulging in an affaire de coeur with any one of the lovely female European expatriates all too eager to succumb to his rugged charm. When a minor member of the Danish royal family wants to mark his stay in Kenya with a big-game kill on a hunt led by Ryder, the enigmatic guide agrees -- but only so he can determine the prince's mark, an animal that's gone rogue. But when the prince's mistress sets her sights on Ryder, she unwittingly sets in motion a dangerous chain of events that unleashes a threat greater than any in the wild that Ryder's ever faced -- the power of a heart scorned and a man humiliated, a threat the hunter is ill-equipped to comprehend.

Oh, this was SO much fun people! Not only is this a thoroughly delightful change-of-pace and setting from Raybourn's superb 19th-century historicals, but it is quite simply a rollicking good adventure. I adore the classic Stewart Granger film King Solomon's Mines, and Ryder is very much cut from the same cloth as the Allan Quartermain of literary legend. A brooding alpha male, burdened by secrets and loss, determined to protect his heart -- Ryder is a hero practically begging to meet his romantic match, and I for one cannot wait to see how his story unfolds in Raybourn's full-length follow-up.

Far in the Wilds is old-fashioned adventure and high romance at its finest. Within its slim pages Raybourn transports readers to a world of startling beauty and life-threatening danger. While Ryder is arguably a little *too* invincible, able to face down death by leopard with just his arm and sheer force of will, it works. I like my brooding, smoldering heroes (hello BRISBANE), and in Ryder Raybourn has crafted a larger-than-life character that stands comfortably alongside the pulp fiction heroes such as Quartermain and his ilk who perhaps inspired him. This slim volume is a thoroughly entertaining introduction to Ryder's world, replete with Raybourn's trademark sharp characterizations and wry humor -- this is a hero I'm eager to revisit in A Spear of Summer Grass. *wink*

About the book: 

New York Times bestselling author Deanna Raybourn takes readers into Africa during the height of British colonialism, to meet a man as wild as the land he loves in this prequel novella....

Kenya, 1918

Ryder White is Canadian by birth but African by choice. He is more at home in the wilds of the savannah, shooting and sleeping his way across the continent, than amongst the hedonistic colonists of Kenyan society.

In a landscape where one false move can cost a man his life, Ryder's skill as a guide is unparalleled, but only the rich or royal can afford his services. When a European prince hires Ryder to help him hunt an elusive leopard Ryder thinks it's just another well-paying job with yet another spoiled voyeur. But this perilous journey is full of dangers that may change Ryder forever....

Ryder returns in A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn, where he encounters a woman from a very different world, to explore beauty and darkness and what is truly worth fighting for.

Review: Whisper on the Wind by Maureen Lang

Whisper on the Wind (The Great War #2)
By: Maureen Lang
Publisher: Tyndale
ISBN: 978-1-4143-2436-4


Wealthy and privileged Isa Lassone and her parents escaped the German onslaught that would ultimately overwhelm her beloved Belgium at the start of the Great War. But her freedom exacted a steep emotional toll, for Isa was abandoning not only her home but her heart, leaving behind Genny, the innkeeper's wife who practically raised her and whose son, Edward, Isa's loved since childhood. Against all reason and advice Isa makes arrangements to sneak back into Belgium with enough gold and jewels to successfully smuggle those she loves across the border, far from their German oppressors. But when Isa arrives with her unexpected treasure, the welcome she receives is far cooler than she'd hoped -- Edward, stripped of his once-vibrant faith thanks the horrors of war, refuses to leave Brussels, determined to sacrifice his life if need be for the resistance newspaper La Libre Belgique.

Despite Isa's brave if foolhardy journey into occupied territory, Edward continues to view her as nothing more than a spoiled child, a product of society-obsessed parents sure to buckle under the rigors of life in occupied Brussels, stripped of the privileged lifestyle her class once held dear. When Edward refuses to abandon his resistance work, Isa seizes the chance to remain, determined to prove to Edward that in the two years that have elapsed since the start of the war she's become a woman worthy of his love and respect. But with the German Army determined to destroy the voice of the resistance paper and all who support it, Isa's faith in her God and her cause are brutally tested. For the price of her hopes and girlish dreams, the price of resistance may demand nothing less than her very life.

After recently finishing Look to the East, the first installment in The Great War series which told the story of Isa's brother Charles, I was eager to continue my exploration of Lang's fiction. While Charles's story of finding danger and romance behind enemy lines is powerfully-rendered on the page, characterization and pacing issues left me hungry for more fully-rounded characters and a more action-driven plot. Happily, Lang's second outing featuring a member of the Lassone family delivers on all fronts. If one sets aside the incredulity with which Isa's audacious action at the beginning of the novel must be met -- I find it impossible to believe that a young woman of her breeding and standing could decamp to an occupied country with so little remark or regard for those she leaves behind -- Whisper on the Wind is nothing less than a thoroughly enjoyable tale of intrigue, danger, and romance against the backdrop of a war-torn world.

Though Isa can at times seem incredibly foolish and headstrong, I was quickly able to forgive her penchant for viewing her role as a "resistance heroine" during wartime with rose-colored glasses. Her youthful enthusiasm and determination to live out the tenants of her faith make for an appealing character, one whose moxie I cannot help but admire. Likewise, Edward's determination to play a vibrant role in the dangerous resistance community, driven by a desire to avenge the horrors he's witnessed under the occupation is compellingly sketched on the page. While not exactly a spy per se, Edward's work with La Libre Belgique lends the narrative all the drama and intrigue of a spy story, since his work necessitates false identities, safe houses, and a loosely-connected, sprawling network of ordinary men and women willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the cause of Belgian freedom.

While this is very much Isa and Edward's story, Lang introduces a secondary romance that completely captured my heart. Genny, widowed when a German bullet took her husband's life, is forced to keep a wounded German major distracted from Isa and Edward's illegal newspaper work. Max, billeted at Isa's one-time family home since his injury, finds himself re-evaluating his life and work following two years of war that cost him the lives of his sons, a foot, and his wife's sanity. Against her better judgement, Genny finds herself drawn to the major's quiet strength, and the two erstwhile enemies find themselves drawing ever closer as the bonds of their shared faith overcome the politics of wartime. Forbidden romance between two would-be enemies? I am SO THERE. The restrained passion with which Lang paints Genny and Max's relationship is breathtakingly sweet, and Max's deeply-rooted sense of honor is swoon-worthy. This couple is so good they nearly steal the show -- a masterful example of peopling one's world with vibrant, memorable secondary characters.

One of Lang's greatest strengths in both Whisper on the Wind and its predecessor is the powerful manner in which she explores what it means to be a believer on both sides of the conflict. Rather than than succumbing to the temptation to make those on either side of the conflict either wholly "good" or "evil," Lang's three-dimensional characterizations explore what it means to literally love one's enemy, to place the call to faith and love before prejudice and hatred. When everything within Genny and Isa screams to deny any kinship with one of their loathed German oppressors, Max's quiet faith forces them to acknowledge a commonality stronger than national loyalty. And therein lies the power of Lang's narrative -- by forcing those on opposite sides of the conflict to recognize a spiritual kinship, she underscores the shattering, tragic, very human cost of the conflict.

Whispers on the Wind is one of the best war-set inspy historicals I've read in years, reminiscent of the Thoenes' classic Zion Covenant series in the colorful, absorbing manner in which it brings history to life. By peppering the narrative with accounts of Edith Cavell, a British nurse executed for helping Allied soldiers escape German detection, and the efforts of harried American ambassador Brad Whitlock to aide the Belgian people, and incorporating the actual resistance newspaper, La Libre Belgique into the storyline, Lang adds authenticity and atmosphere to a tale rife with intrigue and danger. Lang's grasp of the history and time period are stellar, resulting in a thoroughly absorbing read. With her well-drawn characterizations, a tightly-plotted storyline, and deft handling of action sequences, this is my favorite Lang novel yet. A richly-drawn, romantic, and thought-provoking tale of faith and honor in a world at war, Whisper on the Wind is a gorgeously-rendered tapestry of a pivotal moment in history vibrantly re-created, where faith and fear collide in a world bent on destruction. If this is what Lang is capable of, I cannot wait to read more of her work!

About the book:

Belgium, 1916

The German Imperial Army may have conquered Belgium on its march through Europe, but it can't crush their spirit. An underground newspaper surfaces to keep patriotism alive and bring hope and real news of the war to the occupied country. It may be a whisper among the shouts of the german army, but it's a thorn in their side nonetheless, and Edward Kirkland will do anything to keep it in print -- even risk his life.

Isa Lassone's family fled Europe at the first rumblings of war. Now, two years later, she sneaks back across enemy lines, determined to rescue Edward -- the man she has loved from afar since she was a child.

But will he ever see her as more than the wealthy, silly girl his mother once cared for as a daughter?

When Edward refuses to leave, so does Isa, and soon she is drawn into his dangerous double life. As the Germans close in, Edward realizes he's put more at risk than he'd planned...especially the beautiful, smart, yet obstinate young woman who has inconveniently managed to work her way into his life -- and into his heart.

the things one forgets...

...when you haven't watched the 2009 Star Trek in awhile, and all of a sudden you're like "hey! there's Emma from Once Upon a Time!" Kirk really did have an illustrious lineage...Emma and Thor. Can't beat that combination. *wink* (And no, I haven't seen Into Darkness yet, that's happening tomorrow!)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Doctor Who: Season 7 Previews

Doctor Who wraps up its seventh season this weekend with an episode tantalizingly entitled "The Name of the Doctor." Check out an episode preview and prequel below:

Lego Casino Royale

This is just all kinds of awesome and amazing, the opening of Casino Royale LEGO-IZED! The fight scene where Bond kills the guy in the bathroom is especially impressive in brick form. *wink*

You can watch the side-by-side comparison here.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Jennifer: An O'Malley Love Story by Dee Henderson

This week, the

is introducing

Bethany House Publishers (May 1, 2013)



Dee Henderson is the bestselling, award-winning author of 15 previous novels, including the acclaimed O'MALLEY series and UNCOMMON HEROES series. These days, most authors are out there energetically promoting their books in print and broadcast and via social media—wherever they can get attention. But Dee Henderson keeps a low profile. She avoids telephone interviews because of hearing problems, declined to provide a current photo, and will say only that she lives in Illinois.


It's a summer of change for Jennifer O'Malley. The busy physician has a pediatrics practice in Dallas, and meeting Tom Peterson, and falling in love, is adding a rich layer to her life. She's sorting out how to introduce him to her family--she's the youngest of seven--and thinking about marriage.

She's falling in love with Jesus too, and knows God is good. But that faith is about to be tested in a way she didn't expect, and the results will soon transform her entire family.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Jennifer: An O’Malley Love Story, go to HERE.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Okay, apparently I'm really falling down on the job here, because I just discovered today that Keith Urban released new music, TODAY. YAY! This probably means a new album THIS YEAR, right?! SO. EXCITED. You can purchase "Little Bit of Everything" from iTunes here.

yet another Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. trailer

Coulson! COULSON! Oh how I love you. Fangirl-flailing like crazy over here. :)

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland - first trailer!

Okay this looks AWESOME.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland - first look!

Last week the rumored Once Upon a Time spin-off received a series order from ABC and the first official image from the project was released, featuring Sophie Lowe as Alice. Here's the series description:

In Victorian England, the young and beautiful Alice (Sophie Lowe) tells a tale of a strange new land that exists on the other side of a rabbit hole.  An invisible cat, a hookah smoking caterpillar and playing cards that talk are just some of the fantastic things she’s seen during this impossible adventure.  Surely this troubled girl must be insane and her doctors aim to cure her with a treatment that will make her forget everything.  Alice seems ready to put it all behind her, especially the painful memory of the genie she fell in love with and lost forever — the handsome and mysterious Cyrus (Peter Gadiot).  But deep down Alice knows this world is real and just in the nick of time, the sardonic Knave of Hearts (Michael Socha) and the irrepressible White Rabbit (John Lithgow) arrive to save her from a doomed fate. Together, the trio will take a tumble down the rabbit hole to this Wonderland where nothing is impossible.

The title -- Once Upon a Time in Wonderland -- is ridiculously clunky, but you know I'll be watching. :)

Dracula - teaser trailer

Well, NBC's Dracula looks surprisingly promising in this teaser... *fingers crossed*

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - teaser trailer

COULSON LIVES! This makes me so happy. :)

Doctor Who meets Call the Midwife

Apparently Doctor Who met Call the Midwife as part of the BBC's Comic Relief earlier this year and I'm just now finding a clip on YouTube...

Monday, May 6, 2013

Masterpiece Mystery Summer 2013 Schedule!

Last week PBS unveiled its slate of new summer programming which you can read all about here -- but obviously the most important part of that press release has to do with Masterpiece Mystery! While I am heart-broken, positively BEREFT over the fact that this summer marks Inspector Lewis's final season, I can't wait for more Lewis and Hathaway followed by FOUR new Endeavour episodes! Here's the schedule and brief episode descriptions:

MASTERPIECE MYSTERY! “Inspector Lewis, Series VI”
Kevin Whately returns as Inspector Lewis for the sixth season of the popular series. He and his young partner, DS Hathaway (Laurence Fox), continue solving cases in the seemingly perfect academic haven of Oxford. Sundays, June 16-30, 9:00-10:30 p.m. ET

“Down Among the Fearful”  – June 16
When a psychic is found murdered, Inspector Lewis and DS Hathaway discover that the victim is really an Oxford psychology research fellow. As they probe further, the truth behind the psychic’s double life unravels, revealing numerous suspects.

“The Ramblin’ Boy” June 23
With DS Hathaway on holiday, Inspector Lewis is assigned a new partner to investigate the discovery of an elderly man’s body in a field. Finding that the man had already been embalmed, the inquiry leads to a funeral home and those connected to it, including one of Lewis’ former colleagues. Peter Davison (“Doctor Who”) guest stars.

“Intelligent Design”June 30
Lewis and Hathaway are called in to examine the brutal death of a chemistry professor — recently released from prison — who may be connected to the discovery of a murdered Oxford student lost for 15 years. As more casualties and suspects emerge, Lewis considers his future on the force. Edward Fox (“Miss Marple,” “Foyle’s War”) guest stars. 

MASTERPIECE MYSTERY! “Endeavour, Series 1”
Before Inspector Morse, there was the rookie Detective Constable Endeavour Morse, fed up with police work and ready to nip his career in the bud by handing in his resignation. That is, until a murder turned up that only he could solve. Shaun Evans stars as the young Detective Constable Endeavour Morse, before his signature red Jaguar but with his deductive powers already running in high gear. Sundays, July 7-28, 9:00-10:30 p.m. ET

“Girl”July 7
DC Morse (Shaun Evans) and DI Thursday (Roger Allam) investigate burgled gas meters, the sudden death of a young secretarial student and a string of post office robberies, confounding the solution to a pair of violent murders. Could Morse’s future on the force be in jeopardy? 

“Fugue”July 14
Morse and Thursday are confronted with a new breed of murderer, as a string of Oxford homicides continues with no end in sight. The entire police department is working round the clock and a special expert comes on to assist, but Morse’s love of opera may be the key to stopping the killing …

“Rocket”July 21
A royal visit to a family-owned munitions factory begins as a proud occasion for the people of Oxford, but the joyous day ends with murder. Morse delves into the family’s murky past, as well as his own, as he attempts to uncover the culprit before more lives are lost.

“Home”July 28
While studying for his upcoming sergeant’s exam, Morse investigates the hit-and-run death of an eminent Oxford professor. The pressure mounts with his father’s illness and the appearance of an enemy threatening to reveal aspects of Inspector Thursday’s past. In the end, Morse must choose between the responsibilities of his job and loyalty to his mentor.

Review: The Assassin and the Empire by Sarah J. Maas

The Assassin and the Empire (Throne of Glass #0.4)
By: Sarah J. Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens


Following Arobynn's last betrayal, Celaena uses her hard-earned savings to pay her and Sam's debts to the King of the Assassins, and leaving the Assassin's Keep that served as her home and the source of her renown, she and Sam determine to make their own way in the world. But as assassins lacking the blessing of Arobynn, no matter their fame or skill set, work proves hard to come by, and their savings quickly dwindle, threatening to bring an end to their grand bid for freedom. Then Sam is approached with a commission, a job that, if their are successful, will secure their future as independent agents. Someone wants Jayne, the Rifthold's infamous crime lord, and his sadistic second Farron dead. Against her better judgement Celaena acquiesces to Sam's wish that they accept the job, desperately certain that they cannot fail. But a plot is afoot to destroy Celaena and all she holds dear, an unseen enemy who knows her every move. And when they strike a devastating blow, Celaena is forced to confront her deepest fears and face the ashes of life and loss that threaten to consume her.

People, I love this novella SO MUCH. The fourth and final novella prequel to Maas's full-length debut is the best yet, and taken as a whole the novella project is a fascinating, compulsively readable introduction to her gloriously realized world. Celaena is a fantastic paradox -- deceptively mature, coldly calculating and efficient, it's easy to forget that she is still in her teens. She's an expert dealer in death in a world rife with political intrigue and peril, successful beyond her wildest dreams. Her fighting prowess belies the fact that she's little more than a girl, unsure of herself and fearing vulnerability, and that is why I love Sam so much -- because he sees the parts of herself that she tries to hide and loves her anyway. 

But pride and youthful naivete blind Celaena to a threat too close to her heart to be detected, and the cost that is meted out against her threatens to destroy her. I knew, having read the summary for Throne of Glass, what had to happen in here, but I didn't expect to be so affected by it. Simply put, over the course of four short novellas Maas has made me extraordinarily invested in Celaena and Sam, and here, when the blow comes, she stole my breath and broke my heart. Maas writes scenes of both high action and heart-rending emotion with a technicolor cinematic sensibility -- this is thoroughly entertaining and emotionally engaging fiction, a heady, addictive mix guaranteed to leave you eager for the next installment.

The Assassin and the Empire is the finest installment of Celaena's adventures yet, an intoxicating mix of fantasy, romance, and pulse-pounding action. Here Maas provides a tantalizing glimpse into the politics of Adarlan, and in a world already so richly textured I eagerly anticipate seeing events unfold as Celaena is drawn ever-deeper into the heart of the kingdom, a treacherous world that threatens to destroy her. I highly recommend reading the novellas in order and as a prequel to Maas's Throne of Glass -- taken as a whole they are one of the richest, most enjoyable e-book supplements I've ever encountered. Highly recommended.

About the book:

Celaena Sardothien is the assassin with everything: a place to call her own, the love of handsome Sam, and, best of all, freedom. But Celaena won’t be truly free until she is far away from her old master, Arobynn Hamel – so she and Sam decide to take one last daring assignment that will liberate them forever. And that’s how Celaena learns that having everything… means everything can be taken away.

This fourth e-novella gives readers an inside look at the characters who appear in the full-length novel THRONE OF GLASS. Don’t miss it!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The official Foyle's War website!

There's a snazzy new website that just launched recently dedicated to one of the very best television shows around, the inimitable Foyle's War, you should check it out. Lots of history and episode info and PRETTY PICTURES! Michael Kitchen, I love you. :) :)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Review: The Clover House by Henriette Lazaridis Power

The Clover House
By: Henriette Lazaridis Power
Publisher: Ballantine Books
ISBN: 978-0-345-53068-4


Calliope "Callie" Brown, a first-generation Greek-American living in Boston, is shocked when she receives a phone call from her cousin notifying her of their uncle Nestor's death, and that she has been named heiress of all his worldly goods. At first uninterested in claiming the unexpected bequest, Callie's interest is piqued when her estranged mother Clio, who returned to her Greek homeland following the death of Callie's father, makes a rare call in an blatant attempt to dissuade Callie from fulfilling her uncle's dying wish. Eager to escape her commitment-ready boyfriend, Callie makes arrangements to journey to Patras, Greece, determined to discover a clue among her uncle's possessions to her own thorny relationship with her mother. As a child, Callie was captivated by her mother's stories of growing up in Greece, stories that painted an almost idyllic portrait of life in a world that was, in actuality, riddled by conflict. But her mother's stories are the only truth Callie knows, a truth she stubbornly clings to in the face of familial discord and her own increasingly fractured life. The deeper Callie delves into her uncle's treasures, the closer she comes to uncovering truths about her mother and family that threaten to fracture already-fragile bonds, unless those involved choose to accept Nestor's final bequests -- the light of truth and the balm of forgiveness.

The Clover House possesses a fascinating premise -- combining Callie's contemporary search for meaning and identity with stories from her mother's childhood, Power spins a highly-relatable tale of tension-fraught parent-child relationships peppered with the fascinating (and arguably generally un-studied) history of Greece during and after the second World War. As an amateur student of the era, I loved the opportunity Power provides of diving deep into the wartime experiences of a culture and its history that in my experience has not been given wide exposure in books or films. Through Callie, Power taps into not only I think a very human tendency to romanticize the past, but as her mother's story is gradually meted out throughout the novel it becomes a powerful exploration of how the past informs the present, and how secrets -- kept for good or ill -- can crack the foundation of relationships.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the idea behind The Clover House, and the gradual unfolding of the mystery surrounding Clio's life, I was struck over and over by the devastating lack of any sort of maturity or emotional health as exhibited by both Callie and her mother. Immaturity is more excusable of course in the chapters detailing Clio's childhood -- not only was she a teenager, eager for adult experiences, but her growing up was irrevocably changed by the advent of war -- a new norm that only those who lived like experiences could perhaps ever fully grasp. Callie, however, is another story entirely. I get that she had a terrible childhood and that she's been damaged by her parents' fighting and her mother's emotional distance. But when this novel opens she's about to turn thirty-five -- determined to destroy her boyfriend's attempts to build a future with her, getting upset when holes are discovered in her mother's DECADES OLD stories (hello, memory is not an exact science), and becoming petulant when others in her extended family don't share her obsession with their collective dysfunctional past and are more concerned with building reasonably happy lives in the present. I get that I can't (thankfully) relate to Callie's horribly skewed relationship with her mother, but what grates most is the immaturity and lack of any sense of personal responsibility for her own emotional health, for determining the trajectory of her own life, in a woman approaching her fourth decade.

Despite the fact that neither main character is particularly likable, The Clover House is a welcome addition to World War II-era fiction and a well-written, oft-times fascinating treatise on how the past, while gone, is never truly forgotten, its repercussions impacting the lives of generations to come. Power's narrative delves deeply into the richness of Callie's family heritage and provides a fascinating glimpse into Greek culture, particularly the importance of family ties in anchoring one's identity, critical in Callie's search for closure. I loved how Power intersperses the storyline with chapters from Clio's historical perspective, illuminating critical truths relative Callie's most recent discoveries. It's an effective narrative device, one I wouldn't mind seeing Power develop in subsequent novels but balanced by a protagonist who is at least marginally likable. While The Clover House didn't resonate with me quite as deeply as I'd hoped, it is nevertheless a richly-drawn and thought-provoking reading experience.

About the book:

Perfect for fans of Tatiana de Rosnay’s Sarah’s Key, this stunning debut novel brings to life World War II-era and modern-day Greece—and tells the story of a vibrant family and the tragic secret kept hidden for generations.
Boston, 2000: Calliope Notaris Brown receives a shocking phone call. Her beloved uncle Nestor has passed away, and now Callie must fly to Patras, Greece, to claim her inheritance. Callie’s mother, Clio—with whom Callie has always had a difficult relationship—tries to convince her not to make the trip. Unsettled by her mother’s strange behavior, and uneasy about her own recent engagement, Callie decides to escape Boston for the city of her childhood summers. After arriving at the heady peak of Carnival, Callie begins to piece together what her mother has been trying to hide. Among Nestor’s belongings, she uncovers clues to a long-kept secret that will alter everything she knows about her mother’s past and about her own future.
Greece, 1940: Growing up in Patras in a prosperous family, Clio Notaris and her siblings feel immune to the oncoming effects of World War II, yet the Italian occupation throws their privileged lives into turmoil. Summers in the country once spent idling in the clover fields are marked by air-raid drills; the celebration of Carnival, with its elaborate masquerade parties, is observed at home with costumes made from soldiers’ leftover silk parachutes. And as the war escalates, the events of one fateful evening will upend Clio’s future forever.
A moving novel of the search for identity, the challenges of love, and the shared history that defines a family, The Clover House is a powerful debut from a distinctive and talented new writer.

*Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the review opportunity, and my apologies for the late post!