"A plate of apples, an open fire, and a 'jolly goode booke' are a fair substitute for heaven", vowed Barney. -L.M. Montgomery, 'The Blue Castle'
Monday, January 31, 2011
In defence of the BOOK: in all of its glorious, dusty, old-fashioned splendour
Friday, January 21, 2011
BOOKS in the NEWS!
Canadians Read ( and worry... and read)
And you thought you had read ALL of Dashiell Hammett!!
Sherlock: Anthony Horowitz-style
Real life mystery and macabre: the case of the missing cognac-drinking Poe grave visitor
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Because it's not books all the time (although I wish it was!)
A few media type things:
FRAMED was produced by the BBC and aired on Masterpiece Contemporary recently. After reading favourable reviews (and needing something to budge me over the 25.00 free shipping limit on amazon), I went ahead and ordered it.
It was a delightful and quiet romance set in the Welsh highlands. In WWII, priceless masterpieces from the National Gallery were transported to a small village in Wales for safe keeping in a cave. When the National Gallery is flooded, the same precautious measures are taken and thousands of paintings are lorried up the hill in protective yellow cases. The custom in the war years was for one painting to be presented in London for a month at a time while all others were holed up. Apparently, the queues were quite monumental: locals trying to grasp some semblance of beauty and normalcy in their war-torn city.
I greatly enjoyed the interior shots of the National Gallery. It has been years since I was there; but I remember it clearly.
The portion of the story in Wales includes a soft and mature love story. It also paints wonderful characters of the townspeople. Quentin, the liaison from the National Gallery, who devotes his life to expressing the meaning behind countless works of art, is shocked by the perspective of art that comes from the Welsh countrymen. However, once he is able to comprehend art in the way they see it, and mostly as it pertains to their lives, his appreciation is shaken: for the better.
A poignant scene has the local schoolteacher guiding through works of art Quentin has known innately all of his life. She expresses a completely different viewpoint and his ideas of culture and beauty are stirred.
Based on the novel by Frank Cottrell Boyce (see: Millions) this was a great January escape.
I loved this film. I remember watching snippets of the 1960s series with Van Williams and Bruce Lee and this is very much a homage rather than an adaptation. At the hands of Seth Rogen, it is ridiculously funny and I am warning you now: if you don’t prefer his type of humour and are not willing to separate yourself from the more serious hero and comic book movies of late ( Dark Knight, for example), this film is not for you.
The story is pretty basic: Britt Reid, heir to a vast newspaper empire and his innovator friend Kato decide to fight crime by infiltrating the city’s underworld. They wear slick masks and juice up their amazing super-car, the Black Beauty.
What I particularly enjoyed about this Green Hornet and what is, if anything, the centrifugal force propelling the film, is the partnership ( or lack thereof) between Britt and Kato. Kato is, at first, the kid who fixes the Reid’s cars and makes the outstanding coffee. Brit soon discovers that Kato is, in fact, a human “swiss army” knife: remarkable skilled, an innovative genius with a preternatural eye for trouble and resolution.
At first, as Kato and Britt speed off to take on the city, Kato assumes chauffeur role while Britt sits in the back playing rich kid. While Britt creates the image of the Green Hornet, Kato not only develops the name but is the reason the operation runs successfully (especially when it comes to weapons and gadgets). While Britt tries increasingly to assert himself as the hero and streamline Kato into the sidekick role, Kato is very aware of his lessened state and he rails against it! I LOVED when Kato punched his fist into a wall and threatened Britt should he ever ask him to run a coffee errand again.
The tension and jealousy between Kato and Britt( mostly on Britt’s side) results in a major physical blow-out for supremacy between the two. Britt becomes increasingly stubborn and just cannot admit that Kato has always had the upper hand. I loved this dynamic and I loved the growth of their relationship. In fact, slowly, but surely, Britt learns that the only way to be successful, get out of scrapes, and save his life is to move into the front seat aside Kato. Fabulous!
(episodes 1 and 2)
I must confess that I mostly watch this show because it is set in gorgeous St. John’s, NL: a city I often have to visit for work ( and one of my favourite cities in Canada). The show, a sort of “Newfie Noir” features a father and son Private Investigator team battling crime in a colourful Atlantic Canadian community.
Jake is played by Alan Hawco ( I love his accent and his nonchalant air) and Mal is played by Sean McGinley ( a veteran of Bleak House and Braveheart). Reclaiming a vital Canadian space, Republic of Doyle flashes a Newfoundland rarely portrayed in cinema or television. It is a modern place, peppered with eccentrics and brimming with life. The music, as provided by Canadian legends Great Big Sea, as well as several guest-spots by Canadian actor greats ( Victor Garber! Gordon Pinsent!) make it the ultimate Canadian experience. Jake and Co.’s favourite pub on McMurdo’s Lane, the Duke of Duckworth, is also my favourite pub in NL!
The second season premiered this week and I caught up on Netflix.
Unfortunately, the writing this season is a mess. It seemed to drop a lot of threads sewn at the end of the first series and never really picked up speed. It is disjointed and lacks fluidity. Moreover, the scenes are clunky and awkwardly edited. The mystery at the heart of the first two episodes ( if we can indeed call it that) were lackluster. I hope they are just finding their sea legs again.
They make the most of glorious St. John’s, however, and as long as it remains at the forefront of the drama, I am apt to keep tuning in.
Glorious St. J's!:
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Rachel's Certified Savvy Reads
Friday, January 14, 2011
Alatriste: Elusive no longer
It seems like I have wanted to see the Alatriste movie since the dawn of time. Well, at least since I first got word of it.
I have read ALL of the Alatriste books since their English publications began being released. I love them. Veteran soldier and sword-for-hire, Diego Alatriste, runs around Madrid all swashbuckling. Sometimes there is a battle; or a lover; or a boat; or tavern-drinking; or swordplay and conspiracy… the surrender at Breda….the Spanish Inquisition and a particularly gruesome auto-da-fe.
17th Century Madrid is a remarkable canvas ---especially when rendered by Alatriste’s page ( and the series’ narrator), Inigo Balboa. Inigo’s father, Lope, was a friend and comrade of Alatriste’s during one-of-the-many-wars-he-fights-in and after he is killed in action, Alatriste takes care of his son.
Both Inigo and Alatriste have complicated loves: Diego adores a married Spanish actress and Inigo pines for the Machiavellian temptress Angelica.
The film version captures most of it.
Be ye forewarned. If you have not read the books and are not familiar with the series, the movie will make no sense to you. Because, it doesn’t really have a plot. It is just a series of vignettes about Alatriste’s life: snatching the best moments of the books.
You know those VH1 countdowns where they pick the “Top 30 scandals of the 80s” or what have you? This is sort of like that: “ Top 50 Alatriste Book Moments” and they filmed them and patched them together and that’s what you get.
So, as a film separate from the series, it is not that good of an adaptation. But, as a companion TO the series, it is a wonderful homage.
Beautifully filmed: expertly sub-titled. The second most expensive film Spain has ever produced.
It looks and feels and tastes and sounds JUST as I imagined it to. The casting is PERFECTION: from Viggo Mortensen’s swarthy and silent Alatriste, to Inigo, to Angelica ( she is divine) … even to the peripheral characters like Don Francesco.
I have rarely seen a film that so matched my conceptualization of a fictional world. For that, I am so glad I waited ( and waited and waited ) for Alatriste to be released in Region 1.
The Alatriste books made me crave Madrid and the film makes me want to go there even more so.
I really enjoyed it. I REALLY loved the guy who played Inigo.
Sunday, January 09, 2011
Petite Anglaise by Catherine Sanderson
Saturday, January 08, 2011
BOOKS in the NEWS!
Some books in the news:
Thursday, January 06, 2011
Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace
Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace was a book I had wanted to read since it popped up on numerous Christian fiction book blogs in the fall. I had first heard of the Besty-Tacy series ( surprisingly) in You’ve Got Mail: thanks to Meg Ryan’s gorgeous little Shop Around the Corner bookshop!
With the re-issue of many of Lovelace’s books, I really wanted to see what it was all about.
I was not disappointed. In fact, I can’t wait to read more. It is the prime sort of Americana that recalls soda shops and dime stores, parasols and bandstands, fourth of July fireworks and ice skating with your friends. It recalls a time of innocence so grandly painted in Pollyanna and the Music Man. In fact, the years preluding the First World War are a cocoon of splendid innocence and a wonderful setting for a great coming-of-age story.
Emily of Deep Valley made me nostalgic for a time I never lived in and made me steal into a cozy, snow-globed world of sparkle and sunshine and laissez-faire.
Emily is saddened at high school graduation. She feels like she has shut the door on a wonderfully potent part of her life and, due to her ailing grandfather and her inability to go to college as she so desires, she has little in her future to look forward to.
The sacrifice Emily makes to live with her sweet-tempered
( and awfully funny ) Civil war Veteran grandfather is at the heart of the novel and Emily’s core. So many of her flighty high school chums ( to whom a post-secondary education seems wasted amongst the debris of socializing and sororities) have fabulous stories to tell and places to go, Emily must reconcile herself to Deep Valley life.
What Emily lacks for in tangible opportunity, she makes up for in will and resourcefulness. While bound to Deep Valley, she will make the most of a life’s education that those at college could scarcely dream of. Whether it’s volunteering to plow through Browning with a favourite teacher one night a week in literary debate or helping the burgeoning immigrant Syrian community, Emily expands her circle and breaks the boundaries of her high school persona.
Moreover, she meets ( and eventually falls in love ) with a warm-heartedly delightful high school teacher whose interest in Emily stems from her social conviction.
There is a strong sense of social consciousness at the heart of the book: from Emily’s debate subjects to Emily and Jed’s recognizing of the world at the edge of Deep Valley and the immigrant community that expands their horizons.
From the moment Emily wears her hair up for the first time to a fateful New Year’s Dance, Emily establishes herself as a strong-willed, resilient, charitable and delightful heroine. Indeed, Jo March ( of Little Women) would probably have given an approving nod of Emily’s decidedly Pilgrim’s Progress spirit.
I highly recommend this to the Louisa May Alcott, Frances Hodgson Burnett and L M Montgomery sort. The Harper P.S. edition had interesting facts about Maud Hart Lovelace and her illustrator.
My sincere thanks to Harper Collins Canada for an engaging Christmas read!
Tuesday, January 04, 2011
Saturday, January 01, 2011
2010 in books (and more)
A few favourite books and book moments of 2010: