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‘Tis the Season for Witches, Ghouls and Goblins…Or Something Like That! A Review for Led Astray: The Best of Kelley Armstrong

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Led Astray

Two brand new tales anchor this wide-ranging collection from one of urban fantasy’s most successful authors. Here is the first time that best-selling fantasy, YA, and crime author Kelley Armstrong has had her stories collected from Otherworld and beyond. With her signature twists and turns, Armstrong gives a fresh spin on city-dwelling vampires, werewolves, and zombies, while also traveling further afield, to a post-apocalyptic fortress, a superstitious village, a supernatural brothel, and even to feudal Japan.

With tales that range from humorous to heart-stopping, these are the stories that showcase Kelley Armstrong at her versatile best.

  • Rakshashi (standalone)
  • Kat (Darkest Powers universe, non-series narrator)
  • A Haunted House of Her Own (standalone)
  • Learning Curve (Otherworld universe, Zoe)
  • The Screams of Dragons (Cainsville universe, non-series narrator)
  • The Kitsune’s Nine Tales (Age of Legends universe, non-series narrator)
  • Last Stand (standalone)
  • Bamboozled (Otherworld universe, non-series narrator)
  • Branded (Otherworld universe, non-series narrator)
  • The List (Otherworld universe, Zoe)
  • Young Bloods (Otherworld universe, non-series narrator)
  • The Door (standalone, original to this collection)
  • Dead Flowers by a Roadside (standalone)
  • Suffer the Children (standalone)
  • The Collector (standalone)
  • Gabriel’s Gargoyles (Cainsville universe, Gabriel)
  • Harbinger (standalone)
  • V Plates (Otherworld universe, Nick)
  • Life Sentence (Otherworld universe, non-series narrator)
  • Plan B (standalone)
  • The Hunt (Cainsville universe, non-series narrator)
  • Dead to Me (standalone)
  • Devil May Care (Cainsville universe, Patrick, original to this collection)

REVIEW

I recently had the opportunity to read the ARC for Kelley Armstrong’s latest offering, Led Astray, which is due to be released this October, just in time for the “witching hour” of Halloween. As a general rule of thumb, I tend not to read short story anthologies, probably for the same reason that I prefer hour-long dramas versus a short, half hour sitcom, if I like something then I always want more. That said, Armstrong has long proven to be able to satisfy her readers over the years regardless of the format of her storytelling. She has always been generous with her fans, posting short stories related to her current writing projects via her website. This latest collection of Armstrong’s work is no exception. Armstrong’s knack for grabbing her reader’s attention from page one and propelling them through the various adventures of the supernatural world has definitely not faded over the years.

BittenIt is hard to believe that it has been almost 15 years since Bitten was first published, Armstrong’s debut novel which introduced us to the werewolf super-couple Elena Michaels and Clayton Danvers (my personal favourite) from her Women of the Otherworld series. From there, she has gone on to write a wide-range of novels and short stories, mostly in the supernatural realm, with the odd exception such as the Nadia Stafford series which is about the adventures of a female hit woman. After reading Bitten, I read through most of the Otherworld series, firstly to get my Clay and Elena fix, but I also learned to appreciate her many other cast of characters that included witches, demons, ghosts, vampires and of course werewolves. Armstrong has also achieved acclaim with her YA series’ such as the Darkest Powers and Darkness Rising books.

BTVSWhat I enjoyed the most about Led Astray was the fact that I found each story to be compelling. Some of Led Astray’s short stories are companions to pre-existing series’ like the Otherworld such as “Bamboozled” which goes back to the days of the wild west and a couple not unlike Elena and Clay living in the American frontier. I really enjoyed reading about a another female werewolf and her mate, as it clearly debunked the myth that Elena was the only female werewolf ever to exist. In the stories, “Learning Curve” and “The List”, we are introduced to a vampire named Zoe who is living in Toronto and after an evening of being “stalked” by a half-fire demon who fancies herself to be a vampire hunter, Zoe decides to take her would-be stalker and turn her into her protege. After reading “Learning Curve” which comes earlier in the anthology than “The List“, I was fondly reminded of my “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” days, and thoroughly enjoyed reading the evolution of the friendship between Zoe and her trainee, Brittany. Supernaturals need to stick together, you know.

Of the standalone stories, one of my favourites was the first entry in the anthology entitled, “Rakshasi” which is about a demon warrior named Amrita who is enslaved by a curse to walk the Earth trying to make up for her crimes during her human life in order to regain her freedom. As a “rakshasi”, Amrita is bound to her master, also known as an “isha”, who orders her to eliminate the most wanted criminals in society, but Amrita has been doing her job for 200 years, and she is beginning to wonder when her debt will be repaid, if ever?

The “Last Stand” is a dystopian story that explores the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. Who doesn’t love a good zombie apocalypse??? In the “Last Stand” we meet survivors who are forced to become soldiers, to fight the zombies, or so we think that is who the enemy is in the beginning. And of course, a little romance or something like is always able to flourish even in the most dismal post-apocalyptic landscape. For both of these standalone stories, “Rakshasi” and “Last Stand”, I was left wanting more, and hopefully, Armstrong will explore both stories a little more in the future. I think that both short stories have the potential to be great novels.

In the early days, I really enjoyed reading Armstrong’s collection of short stories online, so having a collection such as this is a great way to sample Armstrong’s talents. But beware, sometimes Armstrong’s story-telling can become a little too engaging, as she weaves the fine threads of the supernatural world with that of horror and you might just find yourself looking over your shoulder or wondering about the things that go bump in the night.

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If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It! My Plea to The Austen Project

GUEST POST by teachergirl73

The Austen Project is celebrating 200 years of Jane Austen’s works, which I think is a wonderful thing because some of my all-time favourite novels are written by her. I think that my love of Jane Austen’s writing is part of the problem that I keep running into as I read these “re-imagined” classics. For Sense & Sensibility by Joanna Trollope and now for Alexander McCall Smith’s interpretation of Emma, I am left feeling disappointed for I truly believe that both novels had the potential to be more engaging than they were.

After reading Trollope’s version of Sense & Sensibility, I came to the realization that it is the adherence or lack thereof to the basic premise of the story which I have the most difficulty with. Regardless of which version be it the many film adaptations or Trollope’s modernization. You can read my review for Sense & Sensibility here http://wp.me/p3xI0z-173.



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From GoodreadsThe summer after she graduates from university, Emma Woodhouse returns home to the village of Highbury, where she will live with her health-conscious father until she is ready to launch her interior-design business and strike out on her own. In the meantime, she will do what she does best: offer guidance to those less wise than she is in the ways of the world. Happily, this summer brings many new faces to Highbury and into the sphere of Emma’s not always perfectly felicitous council: Harriet Smith, a naïve teacher’s assistant at the ESL school run by the hippie-ish Mrs. Goddard; Frank Churchill, the attractive stepson of Emma’s former governess; and, of course, the perfect Jane Fairfax.


When I picked up Emma by Alexander McCall Smith, I thought for sure that I would get the satisfaction of reading a new and modern twist on a story that I already adored. An added bonus was that I had already read several books in Smith’s series “The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency” and thoroughly enjoyed them, so I felt like it was almost a guarantee that I would enjoy his take on Emma. After much pondering, I think that are certain elements of the story that Smith did a very good job at such as adding comedic moments and characterizations that were quite entertaining. In the end, however, I really believe that he missed his mark with his portrayal of the two most important characters in the book, Emma Woodhouse and George Knightly.

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Jeremy Northam and Gwyneth Paltrow as George Knightly and Emma Woodhouse in Emma (1996)

The story begins with a brief explanation of how Mr. Woodhouse had grown into the most lovable “worry-wart” you might ever encounter. His bemoanings and theories of how the proverbial “sky is falling!” were some of the best and funniest parts of this novel. Smith also created more of a background for some of the smaller characters in the story which were highly entertaining, such as Mrs. Goddard, “the hippie”, who was known for adding her “special” ingredient into her cakes, and Mr. Elton, the vicar, who was desperately looking for a wife with a large family fortune to bail him out of some bad property investments.  Smith’s embellishment of these characters was definitely an excellent addition to the story. Unlike Sense & Sensibility, Persuasion and even Pride and Prejudice, Emma is a lighthearted story that is definitely meant to make you smile or even laugh out loud in places. I would say that Smith kept with that theme throughout the book.

Ever alive to the social comedy of village life, beloved author Alexander McCall Smith’s Emma is the busybody we all know and love, and a true modern delight.”

Source: http://theaustenproject.com/books/#sthash.kgwCPjPy.dpuf

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Alicia Silverstone as Cher Horowitz in Clueless (1995)

My problem with this description about the book is the part that states “Emma is the busybody we all know and love”.  I have to say that I did NOT love Emma. I had the exact opposite reaction to her character, which was a first given that I’ve seen several variations of the story in film and read the original novel. It was his description of Emma from almost the very beginning that gave me great pause. His interpretation of Emma was that of a completely self-absorbed, spoiled, mean, little rich girl who was so completely ignorant of how her words and actions impacted others that she was completely unlikable.

This characterization of Emma left me quite confused because my recollection of the story did not leave me hating Emma, and if I had only ever read Smith’s version of the story, then that is exactly what I would feel about her. Smith’s attempts to describe Emma’s motivations were also erratic with at one point he seems to try to imply she is bi-curious and that is why she becomes so fixated on Harriet Smith’s friendship, to making her almost into a “madam” as she encourages Harriet to become a kept woman as a way to help fund her “gap year” travel plans. It is an interesting interpretation but not in keeping with the core of the story, which no matter how an artist reimagines, it should remain constant. Emma in this version, hardly shows much affection or true caring for anyone else other than herself.

EMMA [BR / US 1996]   GWYNETH PALTROW, TONI COLLETTE     Date: 1996 (Mary Evans Picture Library)
EMMA [BR / US 1996] GWYNETH PALTROW, TONI COLLETTE Date: 1996
As for Mr. Knightly, here again, I was left wanting. I kept waiting for the magic to spark between Emma and Knightly as I knew that it should, but it never actually happened. As I struggled through the novel, I kept thinking, “Why would this guy ever want to be with her?” When it came down to the significant moments in the story where Mr. Knightly tries to help Emma see the error of her ways, I never got even a hint of the passion that I knew should have been there between them. I kept waiting for the chemistry to erupt, but it never really happened. Even when Knightly and Emma were arguing which is where you would expect the fireworks between two people who are in love and don’t know it yet to show, the emotion just seemed to fizzle.

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Jonny Lee Miller as George Knightley in Emma (2009)

I was so perplexed by the novel, that I felt the need to go back and watch the BBC mini-series that aired on Masterpiece Theatre back in 2010, starring Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller. I also went back to the original novel by Austen to do some comparisons between scenes and dialogue. In both cases, Emma’s character was written with far more depth so that we see that there is more to her than her being a spoiled, indulged little girl, but she also demonstrates great affection throughout the story for those closest to her, such as her father, Ms. Taylor and Mr. Knightly. It is these signs of empathy and humanity that I felt was really lacking throughout most of Smith’s book. Most importantly, you can feel the passion between Emma and Knightly and it is clear that there is more than just friendship developing between them from the beginning, even if neither character realizes it.

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Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller as Emma Woodhouse and George Knightley in Emma (2009)

So this all brings me back to the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it“, something that I sincerely believe those involved in The Austen Project need to consider. Modernizing Austen’s stories is a tall order, no doubt about it. My next book from The Austen Project to-be-read list is Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid. Here’s hoping that Northanger Abbey will live up to its inspiration!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

AMSAlexander McCall Smith is the author of the international phenomenon The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie Series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, and the 44 Scotland Street series. He is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and has served on many national and international bodies concerned with bioethics. He was born in what is now known as Zimbabwe and he was a law professor at the University of Botswana. He lives in Scotland.

WEBSITE

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Attachments by Rainbow Rowell – A Review

GUEST POST – teachergirl73

“I’d know you in the dark,” he said. “From a thousand miles away. There’s nothing you could become that I haven’t already fallen in love with.”
Rainbow Rowell, Attachments

bookcover_2

ATTACHMENTS

Rainbow Rowell


FROM GOODREADS

“Hi, I’m the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you . . . ”

Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It’s company policy.) But they can’t quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives.

Meanwhile, Lincoln O’Neill can’t believe this is his job now- reading other people’s e-mail. When he applied to be “internet security officer,” he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers- not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke.

When Lincoln comes across Beth’s and Jennifer’s messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can’t help being entertained-and captivated-by their stories.

By the time Lincoln realizes he’s falling for Beth, it’s way too late to introduce himself.

What would he say . . . ?


REVIEW

Rowell’s debut novel is set in the final months of 1999, and centers around the lives of three characters: Beth, her best friend Jennifer, and Lincoln, who all work for a small newspaper The Courier somewhere in the American Midwest. Lincoln happens to be the IT guy responsible for “spying” on his fellow employees’ by reading any emails that get flagged for inappropriate content. This is a job that Lincoln falls into for the lack of any better options.

I was in need of a book that I could get lost in quickly and Rowell’s Attachments did just the trick. Once I had opened to the first page and realized that the book started with an email conversation, I knew that it was the one. A number of years ago, I read Meggin Cabot’s The Boy Next Door, which told the story entirely through email exchanges. I thoroughly enjoyed it, which is why I hoped that Attachments would hit the spot for my current book need. The story unfolds through a combination of emails and narrative from the point of view of the main character, Lincoln O’Neill. The book jacket description clinched the deal, as it was clearly a little bit quirky, a little bit romantic, and probably with a whole lot of confusion mixed in.

At the beginning of the novel, the reader is introduced to Lincoln who is an ordinary guy floating through his life, living at home with his eccentric mother and who is constantly being badgered by his older sister to find his passion in life, whatever that might be. Lincoln spends his nights working as the Internet Security Officer at The Courier, and his weekends playing Dungeons and Dragons with high school buddies. His one significant relationship left him with a broken heart that although years have passed, he still can’t quite seem to move on from. That is until he starts to read the email exchanges between Beth and Jennifer.

Each day, Lincoln finds himself drawn more into Beth and Jennifer’s world, even though he knows that he is invading their privacy and that his job is to send warnings to both of them. Lincoln just can’t bring himself to do it, he enjoys their correspondence far too much. Soon Lincoln finds himself developing feelings and forming opinions about these two women, as if they were all friends. There’s only one problem, he’s never met either and yet he knows far more about both of them than he should. This is where things get very complicated.

“Lincoln?” she asked.
“Yes?”
“Do you believe in love at first sight?”
He made himself look at her face, at her wide-open eyes and earnest forehead. At her unbearably sweet mouth.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Do you believe in love before that?”
Her breath caught in her throat like a sore hiccup.
And then it was too much to keep trying not to kiss her.”
Rainbow Rowell, Attachments

The character of Lincoln, is the main protagonist of the story, and he truly seems to be a lost soul. Lincoln’s email eavesdropping eventually becomes more than just a way to pass the time in the wee hours of the night. It becomes the catalyst for him to take charge of his life. Through all the hi-jinks that Lincoln finds himself dragged into, he learns to become more of a risk-taker and he actually starts to live his life rather than just let it pass him by. As the story moves along, you see Lincoln falling for Beth, and as much as you want him to get the girl in the end, it becomes increasingly more complicated and very difficult to see how he can ever make it happen.

Colin-Firth-Pride-and-Prejudice-Darcy-colin-firth-16177733-1152-1472Oh, I love period dramas, especially period dramas starring Colin Firth. I’m like Bridget Jones if she were actually fat.”
“Oh… Colin Firth. He should only do period dramas. And period dramas should only star Colin Firth. (One-star upgrade for Colin Firth. Two stars for Colin Firth in a waistcoat.)
“Keep typing his name, even his name is handsome.
Rainbow Rowell, Attachments

If you are looking for a funny story, that is light with a touch of poignancy, then Attachments might just be the book for you. After reading it, I will definitely be adding her other books to my to-be-read list. Rowell’s other adult novel is Landlinewhich is a story about second chances. She also writes YA fiction and is the author of Fangirl, Eleanor & Park, and the upcoming novel Carry On which is due out this fall on October 6, 2015.

A CONVERSATION WITH RAINBOW ROWELL

Q. Attachments includes many references to pop culture, specifically circa the mid to late 1990’s. What is your relationship with pop culture? How does it inform your writing? From which corners of pop culture do you draw the most inspiration?

I’ve always been fascinated by pop culture . . . When I was a kid I would read books about the Beatles and the Monkees and pore over old Life magazines. Now I write a pop culture column for our city’s newspaper, The Omaha World–Herald.

As a writer, I use pop culture references almost as shorthand. Pop culture is shared culture, so if I say that someone is more of a Star Wars geek than a Star Trek geek, you probably know what I mean. If I say that someone prefers John Lennon to Paul McCartney, or Jacob to Edward, or Batman to Superman . . . You get it.

The trick in Attachments was finding nineties references that would still have meaning today. If I mentioned a song (“Who Let the Dogs Out?”) or an actor (Julia Roberts, John Wayne) or a movie (The Matrix), it had to be something that readers would probably still recognize and understand.

Some writers don’t like to use pop culture references in books or movies because they date a story. But I’ve never minded that. I like to experience a story in context.

A few of my favorite artists are really good at this – using pop culture references to help tell a story. I think of Nick Hornby (High Fidelity) and Matthew Weiner, the creator of Mad Men.

Q. So much of the book consists of the email repartee between Beth and Jennifer. How did you go about crafting these exchanges? What was most important to you in creating the specific voices of these characters?

Well, it started as a cheat for me. This is my first novel, and I was really anxious about writing the third–person narrative. The descriptive parts. But I was much more confident about writing dialogue, and email is really just dialogue . . .

So I wrote all of the Beth/Jennifer scenes in first. I wanted their friendship to be a major part of the book – and I wanted to write about how female friendships have moved from the telephone to the computer. In a way, email feels even more intimate than the telephone because you don’t even have to say anything out loud.

I knew that it could get confusing, the switching back and forth between their two voices, so I tried to make them pretty distinct. Jennifer writes more formally than Beth does; she’s a copy editor, so she’s less likely to use sentence fragments or end a sentence with a preposition. She makes fewer pop culture references, and the ones she does make are less hip or current than Beth’s.

Beth is more self confident, and – in part because of her job – more laid–back. If I thought of a silly joke, I’d give it to Beth. If the joke was sharp or bitter, I’d give it to Jennifer.

Also, Beth is really amused by Jennifer, so I tried to make her sound fond and smiling.

I would actually smile when I was typing Beth’s stuff, then furrow my brow a bit when I was typing Jennifer.

Q. What role does this novel’s setting play in your writing of it? How much of Nebraska and the Midwest do you see in this book and how would a different setting have changed the story and characters?

Well, I wanted to set the book in Omaha because people in Omaha almost never get to see our hometown in books or TV or movies – and we get so excited when it happens.

But I didn’t want the location to be a distraction for other readers. (Almost all of the places I mention inAttachments are real Omaha places, but I never actually say “Omaha” anywhere in the book.)

I do think of the characters as very Midwestern . . . The way that Doris talks to everybody who comes into the break room and learns their names. The way that everyone is always offering each other food. The car culture. The gorgeous cheap apartments. The Lutherans.

Q. The characters in this book deal with significant loss and loneliness, but find powerful moments of love as well. What themes or topics do you want your readers to walk away with? For you, which character best speaks to the message of the novel and why?

Attachments is about three people who are all at that age – late 20s, early 30s – where you realize you’re not a kid anymore. You’re an adult. And you can’t just let your life keep happening to you. You have to take the reins, now, or risk never having any of the things you really want in life, whether it’s love or a family or the right job .

But you also realize at that age how little control you really have.

Life isn’t like the movies. Things don’t just fall into place because your favorite song is on the soundtrack or because it’s New Year’s Eve.

Lincoln is the heart of the book for me. He’s the character most in danger of sleeping through life. He has a lot to offer, but he’s been so passive for so long that you really think he might not ever stand up for himself.

Secondarily . I knew when I started the book that I wanted Lincoln to be a truly good guy. I didn’t want him to be the guy in the romantic comedy who starts out rude and sexist and is then transformed by true love into a good guy. I reject that entire idea. Bad guys don’t turn into good guys. If you want a good guy, you need to find one who’s already good.

I wanted Lincoln to be like the guys in my life – sensitive, kind, idealistic, feminist, smart. I wanted to show that a guy like that can be a dreamy romantic hero.

Sourcehttp://www.penguin.com/read/book-clubs/attachments/9780452297548

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

rainbow-rowellRainbow Rowell writes books. Sometimes she writes about adults (ATTACHMENTS and LANDLINE). Sometimes she writes about teenagers (ELEANOR & PARK and FANGIRL). But she always writes about people who talk a lot. And people who feel like they’re screwing up. And people who fall in love.

When she’s not writing, Rainbow is reading comic books, planning Disney World trips and arguing about things that don’t really matter in the big scheme of things.

She lives in Nebraska with her husband and two sons.

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#Droughtlander is Over…Finally! GUEST POST

GUEST POST – teachergirl73

outlander-episode-9

I think that for all of us who are fans of Outlander, the television series, we can all agree that the return of Outlander couldn’t have come soon enough. The second half of the series kicked off with a bang as we were brought right back to where we left off, at the garrison of Fort William where Claire was being held captive by Captain “Black Jack” Randall. This episode, named “The Reckoning”, was different from the first half of the season because there is a change in narration. The episode is told exclusively from Jamie’s point of view. It was a real treat to hear Jamie’s voice as the central focus since the novels are primarily written from Claire’s perspective. All along I’ve really enjoyed the changes that the show’s writers have made because I strongly feel like they have only served to enhance and improve on the storytelling. These changes have given a voice to the thoughts and actions of the other characters in the story. Whether it’s additional scenes, dialogue or even just a lingering focus on a character’s facial expression, the creativity of the show’s writers has filled out the story in new and wonderfully, unexpected ways.

outlander

If you have read the book, then you are well aware that there are some traumatic events to come, and I know that I am eagerly waiting in anticipation to see how the show will deal with the developments between Claire, Jamie and of course, Captain Randall.  One sensitive issue was the spanking scene, which caused much speculation between die-hard fans.  In the book, Jamie had to deliver corporal punishment to his wife for putting all of the Mackenzie men at risk by disobeying his instructions to stay put when he left to confront a deserter from British army who might be able to help clear his name. When the Mackenzie men mounted the attack to rescue Claire from the clutches of Randall, she put everyone’s lives at risk. The show kept very close to the original plot line and I thought that both Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe did a fantastic job pulling off what must have been a difficult scene to navigate.

In Episode 10, “By The Pricking of My Thumbs”, we begin the lead up to a significant twist in the plot that changes the course for Jamie and Claire. There were some excellent scenes and dialogue added that were the perfect complement to the story, such as Dougal’s drunken meltdown upon hearing of his wife’s passing or Laoghaire’s stubborn refusal to accept Jamie’s marriage when Claire confronted her about the ill-wish. There’s also a scene where Claire stumbled upon Geilles conducting a very similar pagan ritual dance that she witnessed at Craigh na Dun the night before she disappeared from Inverness in 1945. We also finally understand how Jamie became involved in a duel, an event that does not occur in Outlander (but does happen later on in in the series). This scene had been in the previews for the second half of the season and it left me wondering how the duel actually came to be.

The episode wraps up with Claire being swept up in the drama surrounding Geilles Duncan, and so once again, Claire’s life is in peril because she didn’t listen to her husband’s advice to stay away from Geilles. Oh the would-have, should-have, could-haves that plague Claire! Even though, I’m well familiar with what is to come, I find myself waiting with great anticipation for the last half of the season to unfold.

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins – A Review

GUEST POST – teachergirl73

The Girl on the Train

SUMMARY – (From Goodreads) Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

REVIEW

“There’s something comforting about the sight of strangers safe at home.” ― Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train

Have you ever had a memory that is just beyond your reach? Where you have hints of a name or a face or maybe even a smell, but you can’t quite remember where you know it from? It can be annoying, as your mind turns the glimmer of something bigger over and over again, until hopefully you get your “Eureka!” moment and the full recollection comes back to you. But what if it doesn’t come back? What if you are constantly plagued with knowing that there’s more to the story?

TGOTTNow try living like that day in and day out and knowing somewhere deep down in the recesses of your mind that hint of a memory is the answer to something big. Perhaps, that memory is the missing piece to solving a violent crime. Maybe, it’s the very thing that will save your own life. Welcome to Rachel Watson’s life.

The Girl on the Train, is the story of Rachel Watson, who everyday travels by train into London. Each day she passes the same houses, and eventually she makes up a “happily-ever-after” story about a couple that she sees regularly as the train passes by their house. Rachel is going through a particularly rough time in her life and by creating a hopeful narrative for this couple that she does not know, she is able to lose herself a little and forget about her troubles. This little bit of escapism doesn’t last forever, because soon into the story, a violent act is committed and Rachel finds herself compelled to discover how and why it happened. This becomes more urgent when she realizes that she may have witnessed something crucial that could help solve the crime, but she can’t remember. Rachel can’t remember what happened to her on that fateful night because her other favorite pass time is to drown her sorrows by drinking herself into oblivion. As the story unfolds, we hear from other characters in the book that are connected to Rachel and we begin to understand the source of Rachel’s troubles. We also begin to get an inkling that Rachel has more of a role than she realizes in this unsolved mystery.

gone-girlBefore reading The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins, I saw lots of comparisons being made to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and to be honest, I was put off. When I was reading Gone Girl, I found myself hating both characters Nick and Amy Dunne, and felt that the two really did deserve one another.  This made reading the book difficult for me, and I certainly cannot say that I enjoyed the book. It was for this reason, when I saw continued references to Gone Girl, I didn’t pay The Girl On The Train much attention at first. But then I saw a comparison to Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson, and knew that I needed to give The Girl On The Train a chance. I’m so glad that I did!

BeforeIGoToSleepHawkins has written a fantastic thriller, which will keep you wondering just what happened right until the end. It was very much reminiscent of Before I Go To Sleep, a story about a woman with amnesia who is unable to make new memories and wakes up each day missing the last 20 years of her life. I remember feeling the same sense of anticipation about what will happen next when reading The Girl On The Train as I did when reading Before I Go To Sleep. As this is Hawkins debut novel, I was very impressed and I look forward to reading more stories from her.

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Bitten Is Back…Should We Care? GUEST POST

GUEST POST – teachergirl73

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After reviewing the first season of Bitten last year, the television show based on the novel and characters created by Kelley Armstrong, I tried to keep an open mind to the inevitable changes that would come with the show’s re-interpretation of the story. The show’s writers killed off Antonio Sorrentino, who was Jeremy the Pack Alpha’s best friend and father to Nick, while choosing to keep Logan, one of the younger Pack members, alive. Both of these events are completely opposite to what happened in the book. Antonio is still alive in the series (to the best of my knowledge) and Logan, whose death in the novel was not only tragic and shocking to the Pack but more importantly it was a key catalyst for the war between the Mutts and the Pack.

Bitten-poster-Space-season-2-2015At the end of Season 1, the audience was left with a clear idea of how Season 2 would begin as Elena Michaels found the severed head of her former boyfriend, Philip, in her bed. Since Elena, had just come to terms with her wolf side and her tumultuous relationship with Clay, her mate, the grisly discovery of Philip’s remains pushed her over the edge. As Philip became one of the last casualties of the war between the Mutts and the Pack, this new twist in the story is bound to impact the reunion of Clay and Elena. We are also left wondering what will happen to Logan’s pregnant human girlfriend has she gets kidnapped by Jeremy Danver’s sadistic father Malcolm, the mastermind behind the Mutt attack on the Pack. As alpha, Jeremy is left cleaning up the mess left over from the Mutt attack at his family home Stonehaven, along with taking care of what is left of his Pack in the aftermath. For the most part, I thought the show improved over the course of the first season, and I found myself enjoying the story for what it was.

bitten-posterSo what do I think now that I’ve watched the first two episodes of Season 2? Honestly, I don’t know. There seems to be something missing in the chemistry between the Pack members, especially between Clay and Elena. The season begins with her seeking vengeance for Philip’s murder. Elena already felt guilty for turning Philip’s life upside down, but the responsibility that she now feels for his death is clearly taking its toll on her. In the novel, Elena chooses Clay when he is taken by the Mutts near the end of the first book. It becomes very clear that he is what she wants and that although they will never have a “fairytale” romance, Elena couldn’t deny that Clay was her mate any longer. In the novel, Elena felt badly because Philip got caught in the crossfire but he went on to live without her. In the show, she chooses Clay because she realizes that he bit her to save her being killed by Jeremy (a MAJOR deviation in story line from the novel) and that he took all the years of abuse from her because he was being loyal to his alpha.

The complication of Philip’s murder is not helping Clay and Elena’s relationship. Now, Greyston Holt, who plays Clay Danvers, might be the best part of the show for me, as he is beautiful to look at and one of the better performers on the show. Steve Lund, who plays Nick Sorrentino, is also quite gorgeous and suprisingly, I’ve found his performances to be much better than I expected. In the novel, Nick is fun and immature whereas in the show, they have matured Nick since the death of his father, and that has been interesting to watch.

The problem that I’m having is that I don’t think the show is being true to the relationships in the book. Character development was what I found to be the weakness in Season 1, so I guess it’s not that surprising this problem has carried over into the second season. The relationship between Clay and Elena is complicated, but ultimately, it is clear that they are meant to be together in the books. Yet, as I watch these characters who are supposed to be mates for life, it still feels like there’s something missing. As for the Pack, there’s no sense of “family” connecting its members. Jeremy still seems to feel the need to rule with a heavy hand to get everyone to do what he wants but that’s just not how the Pack operates in the novel. The Pack are a family, living together throughout the good times and bad, and that is something that the show’s writers need to work on if they want to project the same image.

A new problem for the Pack this season comes in the form of some new supernatural characters who also originate from Armstrong’s “Women of the Otherworld” series. These characters show the wolves that they aren’t the only creatures hiding in plain sight of the humans. My biggest concern with the introduction of these new characters is that the show’s writers already have enough “balls in the air” so to speak and I have little confidence that they can handle the addition of any more characters.

I will keep watching Season 2, if only to appease my curiosity, but if the show doesn’t improve the interaction between its characters making them more real and believable, I’m not sure there will be a Season 3 to watch.

Watch it Saturdays at 9e 10p or online at www.space.ca

 

 

Death Comes to Pemberley – Mini-Series Review

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GUEST REVIEWER – teachergirl73

I was very excited about the television adaptation of Death Comes to Pemberley which aired in early November on PBS’ Masterpiece Theatre. I had read the novel by P.D. James shortly after it was first released, and quite enjoyed the ode to Jane Austen mixed with a very well written police procedural that seemed fitting to the time.

71vOCbpMFoL._SL1280_Amazon.com – It is the eve of the Darcys’ annual ball at their magnificent Pemberley estate. Darcy and Elizabeth, now six years married, are relaxing with their guests after supper when the festivities are brought to an abrupt halt. A scream calls them to the window and a hysterical Lydia Wickham tumbles out of a carriage shrieking, “Murder!” What follows is the somber discovery of a dead man in Pemberley woods, a brother accused of murder, and the beginning of a nightmare that will threaten to engulf Pemberley and all the Darcys hold dear.

 

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I am a huge fan of Masterpiece Theatre and usually any import from across the pond is my cuppa tea, whether it is a period piece or contemporary drama. I fully expected to have the same feelings about Death Comes to Pemberley as I do about Downton Abbey or Sherlock. Sadly, instead of finding another great piece to satisfy my need for British drama, instead, I was left with disappointment. The scenery and setting were beautiful and the casting of Matthew Goode as Mr. Wickham and Jenna Coleman as Lydia Bennet was superb. Coleman’s performance as Lydia, might be the best interpretation of the character that I have ever seen.  It truly was a gifted performance. Goode’s take on Mr. Wickham was also very well done, pulling off the dashing, young cad beautifully.

The Wickhams as protrayed by Matthew Goode and Jenna Coleman in Death Comes to Pemberley

As for the lord and lady of the manor, from almost the beginning, I found that the relationship between Mr. Darcy and his wife Elizabeth, played by Matthew Rhys and Anna Maxwell Martin lacked any real connection. They were not the happily married couple with a young family that we found in James’ novel and as we would expect to find in the years following the original story of Pride and Prejudice. Instead, I found the relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth without any passion, and once the crisis hit, Darcy’s attitude towards his wife was simply unbelievable. To say that it was ungentlemanly would be a severe understatement.

After the first part of the series aired, I was very puzzled by the direction that the creators of the show decided to take, but I still held out hope that in the second night, the series would pull it together and demonstrate a credible reason for the disintegration of the Darcys’ marriage. It did not, and when at the end the writers decided it was time to wrap up everything with a nice, neat, tidy little bow, the reconciliation between Darcy and Elizabeth was not even remotely believable. In the novel, Darcy and Elizabeth stand together as a united front in the chaos that followed the aftermath of a murder on the grounds of Pemberley right through to the subsequent trial.

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James, P.D. Death Comes to Pemberley, Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2012, p. 105.

Even if you hadn’t read the novel prior to watching the mini-series, I still feel like most Pride and Prejudice fans would be confused with Mr. Darcy’s openly hostile behaviour towards his wife throughout most of the show. This point prevented me from getting any real enjoyment out of the series because it felt so false.

The Darcys as protrayed by Matthew Rhys and Anna Maxwell Martin in the series.

So, you win some and you lose some…I’ll just have to wait for the return of Downton Abbey on Sunday, January 4th, 2015, and in the meantime, I’ll just re-watch Pride and Prejudice over the holidays.