Book Review -The Mutual Admiration Society

The Mutual Admiration Society Synopsis

When eleven year old Theresa “Tessie” Finley watches her father drown, she determines to redeem herself and to honor her father’s memory by becoming the emotional caretaker and guardian of her younger mentally handicapped sister Birdie. Their mother hides her grief and immediately starts dating a man with hopes of marrying him but Tessie does not trust her mother and detests her new boyfriend.

She also names herself president of The Mutual Admiration Society, a group consisting of herself, Birdie and Tessie’s wannabe boyfriend Charlie. The group’s purpose is to either solve crime or use it to blackmail  others as a way of earning money in case Tessie must take Birdie and run away from home for their own safety.

When Tessie witnesses what she believes is a murder in the cemetery behind her home, she must use all of her wiles to solve the crime while also dodging her mother and their evil next door neighbor lady.

Personal Review

The Mutual Admiration Society was an unusual read for me due to it’s setting and subject matter. It is a coming of age story set in a blue collar neighborhood of Milwaukee in the 1950’s. Continue reading “Book Review -The Mutual Admiration Society”

Film Review-BBC’s North and South (2004)

With the popularity of BBC films and series more and more people are being exposed to quality historical dramas.  I’m just going to give my recommendation right off the bat. If you are a BBC fanatic, if you love their Jane Austen film adaptations, then this four part series is a must see.

Taken from Elizabeth Gaskill’s novel of the same name, North & South addresses social issues of the time as seen through the eyes of its’ female protagonist, Margaret Hale. Margaret is forced to leave her beloved, sunny, southern England to transplant with her parents to cold, harsh, industrial Milton in the north of England. While acclimating to her new environment she meets proud and reserved mill owner, John Thornton. These two clash, both in personality and outlook as Margaret begins to befriend and encourage a few of the poverty stricken mill workers. Through her friendship with them and also her hesitant yet growing relationship with John Thornton and his mother, she is exposed to ideas and conflicts on both sides of the working relationship between mill owners and unions during the Industrial Revolution.

Margaret’s opinion of the cotton mills.

This really is an interesting look at the attitudes and beliefs of employers and employees during a time of great social change. The story is told with both points of views and with honesty without trying to sway the viewer’s sympathy for either side. You see the pros and cons of the argument from both perspectives. Continue reading “Film Review-BBC’s North and South (2004)”

Foreign Film Friday -Romantics Anonymous (2010)

When the opening credits began with a French version of the song I Have Confidence from the Sound of Music, it set the tone and immediately convinced me that I would love this film.

A French-Belgian film originally titled, Les Emotifs Anonymes, Romantics Anonymous introduces us to Angelique, a woman crippled by shyness. We see her faint in her group meeting, for which the film is named, but she works up enough courage to attend her interview with the owner of The Chocolate Mill.

When we first meet Jean-Rene, he is introduced to us and to Angelique as a mean man, but it turns out he is also socially challenged and unable to deal with many simple human interactions. Although the interview between these extreme introverts is awkward, Angelique manages to impress him with her knowledge of chocolate and he offers her the job. The only problem is that she thinks that she will be making chocolate and he just hired her as a sales representative to help boost the shop’s faltering sales enough to keep it out of bankruptcy.

On her sales rounds, Angelique discovers that although their buyers think the chocolate is good, it is not exceptional and neither does it live up to current trends in the market. But she has a secret. Angelique is a gifted chocolatier who has had extreme success in the past with her chocolate recipes. The trouble is that she sold her chocolates anonymously. But with the shop in jeopardy, Angelique is convinced that she can help.

In the midst of the chocolate shop story line is a concurrent one about the relationship that develops between Jean-Rene and Angelique. As you can imagine, with their personality challenges it is a very awkward and bumpy path they travel. They are immediately stricken by one another, but their own insecurities keep cropping up as obstacles. Continue reading “Foreign Film Friday -Romantics Anonymous (2010)”

Top Ten Tuesday -Things That Instantly Make Me Want to Read a Book

Today I am linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for their Top Ten Tuesday prompt.

There are many things that will instantly make me want to read a book and I had a hard time deciding how to classify this list. To keep it simple, I condensed it as you see below.

  1. Author -I keep a list of authors who I consider must-read, meaning I own most if not all of their books and immediately purchase any new releases. Unfortunately or fortunately for me this list continues to grow!  Just a few of the authors on my list include: Jenny B Jones, Nichole Van, Tessa Afshar, Laura Frantz, Tamara Leigh, Heather Burch, Joanne Bischof, Elizabeth Camden, Nicole Deese, Tammy L Gray, Becky Doughty, Sibella Giorello, Jody Hedlund, Kristen Heitzmann, Susan May Warren, Denise Hunter, Ronie Kendig, Julie Klassen, Siri Mitchell, Amy Leigh Simpson, Brandy Vallance, and Becky Wade.
  2. Setting -I can pretty much guarantee you that any book set in Russia at any time in history or with a Russian character is going to be one I have to read. Don’t ask me why, but I’m fascinated with Russia’s culture and history and there are not nearly enough novels set there. Susan May Warren has a couple of series set in Russia that I enjoyed such as the Heirs of Anton and Mission:Russia. I also loved Ronie Kendig’s Russian spy hero in her book Talon.
  3. Time Period -Historical fiction is my favorite genre with the medieval time .period being my favorite. So, I am constantly on the lookout for good stories set in medieval Britain and have even found a few set in France and Italy such as Lisa Tawn Bergren’s YA series River of Time and also her Novel of the Gifted series.
  4. Time Travel -I feel time travel stories are the best of both worlds, contemporary and historical fiction, so when I find one I haven’t read I am immediately intrigued. Nichole Van is my current favorite author of this type of story.
  5. Cover -Let’s be honest, who isn’t drawn to a book by it’s cover? Why else would that be a popular phrase to use, because we do judge books by covers. I am currently anticipating two new books from new to me authors simply because the covers caught my eye! And now I am eagerly awaiting the release of Ascension of Larks by Rachel Linden along with Toward a Secret Sky by Heather MacLean.
  6. Sale -Again, ladies let’s be honest. Which one of us can resist a good sale? I have read many a book written by an author I had never heard of, simply because the book was either discounted or even free. I have discovered several of my favorite new authors this way, particularly indie authors who self-publish. I say yay for book sales!
  7. Book Reviews -Sometimes I will read a book I didn’t think would interest me simply because I read a review by someone I trust. I don’t often take random book recommendations from friends, but a review gives me information about the story itself while also highlighting things the reviewer loved about it.
  8. Sequel -I love/hate books with sequels, mainly because I always want to know how the story ends. I’m one of those readers who read the back of the book first. So, if I fall in love with a story which takes more than one book to tell, then I absolutely have to read the sequel to find out what happens! I am currently biting my nails waiting on Firstborn, which is the sequel to Tosca Lee’s book The Progeny that I read last year. I loved it, but I hate that I have to wait so long to find out what happens. Therefore, I can promise you I will be buying Firstborn as soon as it releases.

I know I’m a bit short of ten, but there you have it.

Foreign Film Friday -Sadece Sen (2014)

I have recently discovered the world of foreign films. The joy of watching a foreign film is that it exposes the viewer to countries and cultures much different than our own without ever needing to leave home. I have found many of these films to be of equal, sometimes better caliber than American films. One such example is the Turkish romantic drama Sadece Sen (English translation: Only You)  a remake of the Korean film Always.

SUMMARY

Ali is a lonely, former boxer with a tragic, violent past he would like to forget. When he meets Hazal, a beautiful, blind woman, he rejects her overtures of friendship. But he can only resist her for so long. Hazal’s unconditional acceptance of Ali and her cheerful optimism begin to break through the walls he has built to protect himself. As their relationship develops, it changes and enriches both of their lives. But a shocking revelation and subsequent sacrifice will challenge everything they have known.

For the full review, please follow me over to The Silver Petticoat Review.

Classic Film Review -Voice in the Wind (1944)

 

SUMMARY

Voice in the Wind is a relatively obscure film which tells the story of Jan Volny (pronounced with a soft J like the French name Jean), a Czech citizen and his beloved wife Marya. We are first introduced to Jan on the island of Guadalupe, a safe haven for refugees of the Nazi regime. Jan is only known as El Hombre or the crazy one, as none of the other island occupants know his true identity since he himself has forgotten it and lost his memories.

Jan is treated with some wariness, but is befriended by the morally challenged Angelo, who along with his brothers owns a ship and preys on unfortunate refugees, promising to take them to America, only to steal their valuables, kill them and toss them into the sea.

The local bar owner, another friend, allows Jan the use of his piano on which Jan continually plays the same song over and over while staring into space.  In flash backs we see Jan as a popular concert pianist preparing for his last concert in his home country before emigrating to America with Marya to escape the Nazi occupation. A Nazi soldier stops by to warn him not to play The Moldau, a musical symbol of Czech patriotism, but during his encore Jan defies this order. Continue reading “Classic Film Review -Voice in the Wind (1944)”

Favorite Historical Fiction Series

Since historical (romance) fiction is my favorite genre, today I’m sharing a list of my favorite series in this genre. Some of these are long-time favorites some are newer. The list may seem a bit long, but believe me, I got it as short as I could. I can’t help that there are so many good stories out there. So without further ado…

BIBLICAL HISTORICALS

The Reluctant Demon Diaries by Linda Rios Brooks -tells the events of the Bible from the perspective of a demon longing for redemption.

Harvest Series by Tessa Afshar -not technically a series, but I love this book and it’s sequel which tells the story of the biblical Nehemiah’s fictional female cousin who finds herself married to a Persian prince when all she wants is to be a scribe. Continue reading “Favorite Historical Fiction Series”

TV Series Review -Endeavor

ABOUT THE SHOW

Endeavor is an ongoing British television series about young detective Endeavor Morse who is taken under the wing of his superior DI Fred Thursday as they investigate crime for the City Police of Oxford in the 1960’s.

For British detective series fans, this is an origin story for the long running series Inspector Morse which featured Morse as the senior officer of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Oxford Police.  But how did this irascible, classical music and literature lover, beer swilling, unrequited romantic become the head investigator and the difficult yet brilliant character Inspector Morse?

In Endeavor, we see hints to Morse’s personal background as well as his early years with the Oxford Police. He is not quite socially awkward, but his high brow interests, extreme intelligence, lack of personal ambition and unwillingness to pretend personal and professional interest where he has none, does make him somewhat of an outsider and a loner, until Detective Inspector Thursday decides he has promise and becomes his mentor, friend and father figure. Continue reading “TV Series Review -Endeavor”

Hitchcock’s Romantic Films

WHO IS ALFRED HITCHCOCK?

Alfred Hitchcock earned his title as the Master of Suspense and it is one that he certainly deserves. Unlike other directors who worked in multiple genres, Hitchcock remained true to his preferred theme.

Whether directing gothic mysteries, international intrigues, courtroom dramas or thrillers, Hitchcock managed to titillate his audience with the tension inherent in the suspense of the unknown, feeding their fear with mystery.

Romantic tension is a recurring sub-theme. While usually not the focus, it is often the boiling undercurrent which adds to the overall suspense inherent to his films. Hitchcock does not display the contented happy side of romance, but rather the darker aspects of love and desire. He generally shows the male and female leads wrestling with a vital question and component of any relationship – trust, all while already finding themselves in murky circumstances.

I have seen a large number of Hitchcock films and have made a list of a few which highlight his view of romance. Hopefully, this will give a new perspective to Hitchcock’s title as the Master of Suspense. Here are five romantic films, Hitchcock style.

To see the list, please follow me here to The Silver Petticoat Review.

Eight Reasons I Loved Beauty and the Beast

At this point, everybody and their dog has seen or at least knows the story of Beauty of the Beast. The last thing the internet needs is another review. Despite the few quibbles I had with Disney’s latest version, (the CGI Beast and wolves, just…no and what was up with Belle tucking her dress up to show off her bloomers? Weird) I found it absolutely enchanting. So, I thought I would share eight things I loved about Beauty and the Beast none of which have to do with the title characters or their romance.

  1. Old Songs -It was such a pleasure to hear the familiar and famous songs of the animated classic.  It brought a feeling of nostalgia and connection and it was fun to see the song and dance choreography portrayed in a feature film.
  2. New Songs -Honestly, I didn’t love two of the three new songs, but I did appreciate what they added to the film. I did love the Beast’s solo Evermore and thought the song itself was romantic and beautiful.
  3. Gaston & LeFou -These two were one of the highlights of the film for me. Despite the controversy behind LeFou’s character, I loved how Josh Gad played him. He made me giggle. Luke Evans nailed, the arrogance, self-absorption and manipulative anger of Gaston. I really thought his was the strongest performance of the film.
  4. Phillipe the Horse -Perhaps it was just me, but Phillipe the horse seemed like a character in itself. Somehow that animal displayed personality and some acting skill. I was more worried about Phillipe than Belle when they were attacked by the wolves.
  5. Unintentional Homage to a Classic Musical -Again, maybe it is just me, but did anyone else think that the scene of Belle finishing her song on the hill outside of town, looked remarkably like the scene of Maria singing The Hills Are Alive in the Sound of Music? It literally looked like Belle was plopped down into the Austrian mountains outside of Salzburg.
  6. Honored Other Versions -I didn’t realize this while I was watching the film, but after doing some research I found that this new Beauty and the Beast honored past film and stage versions by incorporating parts specific to each version.
  7. Backstory -I saw Phantom of the Opera on Broadway once and was haunted by so many questions afterwards. Thankfully, the film version expanded the story and gave more depth and detail, particularly to the Phantom’s story, answering some of those questions. Beauty and the Beast received similar treatment and I loved having a fuller picture of both Beast’s and Belle’s pasts.
  8. The Big Reveal -I know at some point in the marketing lead up to the release of this film, I came across the names of the actors who were in Beauty and the Beast. But aside from a few glimpses at the start of the film when I saw Audra McDonald and Stanley Tucci, I had no idea who was voicing the inhabitants of the castle. So, when the spell is finally broken, and the characters became human, it was a big reveal for me to see which actors played which part. I had reactions like, I KNEW that voice sounded familiar (Ewan McGregor) and Oh my gosh, he’s so perfect as this character (Ian McKellan), or Wow, I did not expect that (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and finally, Oh, I love her so much! (Emma Thompson) And even though I knew Dan Stevens was the actor behind the Beast, in the opening scene before the curse, he is so covered in makeup as be to almost disguised. So when the Beast was transformed into human form again, it was still the first time we see the real Beast. And can I digress briefly and just say how much I love Stanley Tucci?! He is reminiscent of the character actors of Classic Hollywood and steals scenes in every film he’s in. He’s fearless as an actor and I’m always thrilled when I see him pop up in a film.

Beauty and the Beast is a film that I will want to watch again and again. I really can’t wait to see which animated fairy tale Disney will choose to remake next. I think it would be really interesting to see how they would film The Little Mermaid.

What about you? Which Disney animation tale would you love to see on the big screen?