Feminist, Fictionista, Foodie, Francophile

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Coriolanus...Hiddleston versus Fiennes

Coriolanus is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays and I didn't come to appreciate it until long after I was out of school.  (My introductory Shakespeare class was taught by a noted Shakespeare scholar who was hands down, the most boring teacher I ever had.) In a way, the title character, a Roman general who hates the plebian rabble, is a hero for the one percent. In one of the play's most famous lines, he compares the idea of plebians controlling patricians  as crows pecking on eagles. Caius Martius sees himself as an eagle and his inability to deal with the "crows," much less respect them leads to his downfall.


There is currently a very good versions of the play available on dvd. Tthe 2011 version directed by and starring Rafe Fiennes as the title character is terrific. It costars Vanessa Redgrave as his mother, one of the great middle-aged female characters in the Shakespeare canon and Gerard Butler as the enemy who becomes an unlikely ally. (He's good too.) Fiennes is terrific. I don't think he's been this good since Schindler's List. It's a ferociously masculine peformance and his rage at the rabble is mesmerizing.

there's also another version of the play currently making the rounds of the specialty movie circuit, a filmed play version from England's National Theatre starring Tom Hiddleston. I missed it when it played locally, and I can only hope that it'll be available for home viewing soon. I would have said Hiddleston was a bit too young to play the character, but as you can see from the trailer below, he inhabits the character like he was born to it. (Anyone who saw him in The Hollow Crown already knows what a strong Shakespearean actor he is, and his Coriolanus looks like a treat.) Cojpare the two trailers and you decide.




Friday, May 30, 2014

Return of Summer of the Shakespeare...

It's going to be an amazing summer for Shakespeare geeks and I have decided the way to celebrate it is to embark on the long-delayed stories I've wanted to write for my "Shakespeare Noir" collection. Over the course of the summer I'll publish the stories here and tie them together with various and sundry posts about what's going on in the Shakespeare-verse. Yes, it will be all Shakespeare, all the time. At least for the summer.  And you know Shakespeare is still relevant when he has his own "Hey Girl" posters.

A Picture Launches a Series!

Photographed by NejroN
I spend a lot of time looking at images. I'm a fan of Pinterest (which was a total surprise to me) and I also like to browse the stock photo banks like Dreamstime and Big Stock. Because I've got a couple of books coming out soon and they need covers, I activated a month's subscription over at Big Stock and have been happily downloading images for the past week. And that's how I cam across this image. It's one of maybe a dozen using the same models in a variety of poses and (in the woman's case) vintage dresses.
I took one look at those photos and I saw a series about stylish vampire lovers (Think The Thin Man meets The Hunger). His name is Theo. Hers is Miranda. Or maybe she is Thea and he is James. Perhaps she was Russian in a former life,.
Perhaps he was a Robber Baron.
They've been together ... a long time.
I could find out their real names, but that would feel like I was stalking them. To me they are Miranda/Thea and James/Theo and they have inspired me to write a new series of books.  Thank you!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Starry Starry Night--A fantastic picture of the Milky Way

I'm a city girl and in the city, the sky hardly ever gets dark enough to see the whole blanket of stars out there. But a few years ago my best friend and I went to New Mexico and there I saw the Milky Way for the first time. it was awe-inspiring in the old, mythic meaning of awe. When you see the Milky Way, especially for the first time, you understand why ancient people made it a part of their myths. I saw this photograph on cnn.com this morning. It's like something out of a fairy tale.  You can see a whole gallery of such images here.

Monday, May 19, 2014

May Flowers...Black-Eyed Susan by Thomas Pluck

Thomas Pluck is a great writer.  If you haven't read his story "Black-Eyed Susan," you're in luck. It's one of the stories featured in his collection, Steel Heart: 10 Tales of Crime and Suspense, which you can buy right now on Amazon for 98 cents. You have 99 cents in your sofa cushions right now, so don't wait another minute. Go get the book. "Black-Eyed Susan" isn't the first story in the collection (it's "Gumbo Weather") but turn right to "Black-Eyed Susan" for a story that will hit you like a punch to the solar-plexus, knocking the breath right out of you. Thomas Pluck is a great writer.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

May Flowers...Lauren Willig's The Secret History of the Pink Carnation



In Lauren Willig’s The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, a lovelorn American historian stumbles across a series of letters that unmask a historical mystery and tell another love story.

ELOISE KELLY is a Harvard-trained historian spending a year in England researching her dissertation.  It has a bland title that got it past the committee (something to do with aristocratic espionage during the 19th century) but what she really wants to do is unmask the identity of a spy known as THE PINK CARNATION. Unlike the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian (two other aristocrats who saved others during the French Revolution), the Pink Carnation’s identity has never been revealed. 

Desperate for information, Eloise has resorted to sending out letters to the descendants of the Pimpernel and the Gentian, in hopes that the families might have some information for her.  She sent out almost two dozen letters but received only three replies.  One was a form letter with the times the Scarlet Pimpernel’s home is open to the public.  One was a letter from Mr. COLIN SELWICK clearly discouraging her interest in his family.  And one was a letter from MRS. ARABELLA SELWICK-ADDERLY inviting her to tea.

The dual time-frame story that unfolds from there manages to avoid most of the pitfalls of most such stories (an unbalanced narrative where the past story is more engaging than the contemporary one as it was in both THE FRIENCH LIEUTENANT’S WOMAN and POSSESSION) but the story that takes place in the past really is a romp.

That section of the novel reads like a regency romance, with a dash of old fashioned books like THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL and THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO thrown in.  (One of the conventions of this book is that the Scarlet Pimpernel was a real person and that his masquerade inspired imitators like the Purple Gentian and the Pink Carnation.)  There’s also a strong dash of Jane Austen here, and the writer seems to be having a great time.

The double sets of lovers—Colin and Eloise in the present; Richard and Amy in the past—are types we’ve seen many times but Willig makes the obstacles to their relationships engaging and entertaining. We like Eloise and are curious to know how her story turns out. Amy (the Elizabeth Bennet character) is headstrong and spoiled but she’s also smart and brave and resourceful.  She and Richard are a perfect match and we know that the moment we see them together. (We also suspect that Richard’s formidable mother will approve of Amy.)

There’s talk of this book being turned into a graphic novel, and that could be a lot of fun too.

May Flowers...a GoodReads poll

There are many reasons I enjoy GoodReads andI love looking at their lists and polls. This month they have a poll asking readers what book with a flower in the title they're looking forward to reading in May. Read it here.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

May Flowers--Phillip Kerr's March Violets

March Violets is the first book in Kerr's "Berlin Noir" trilogy featuring the detective Bernie Gunther.  the story takes place during the 1936 Berlin Olympics and the backdrop of the mystery is seething with anti-Semitism and the consolidation of Hitler's power. ("March violets" was a term used to describe late-comers to the Nazi Party.) If you're a fan of historical mysteries, you owe it to yourself to check out Kerr's books.

Cannes 2014


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Water is life...

As much as I love words, I also love pictures and sometimes...a picture really is worth a thousand words. This PSA is one of the most powerful I've ever seen. Really gets to the point. If you want to know more about the Tar Sands Blockade, click here.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

May Flowers... Apothecary Rose by Candace Robb

Apothecary Rose is a book that combines a couple of my favorite things. It's a mystery; it's written by a woman; and it's set in medieval times. Owen Archer is the hero/detective of the 14th century tale, a Welshman who lost an eye in the "wars in France" and now makes his living as "an honest spy" in the employ of the Archishop of York.  Apothecary Rose is the first in the series, which now number in the double digits. While Owen is the protagonist of the books, his "supporting cast" includes a couple of strong female characters--his apothecary wife Lucie, and Bess Merchet, a local tavern keeper.

Candace Robb has a PhD in medieval literature, and the books are full of all sorts of vivid details that make the time period come to life. She also writes a series of novels about Margaret Kerr, which are set in 13th century Scotland. Margaret's first "case" involves her own missing husband (A Trust Betrayed),  I find it kind of amazing that A Trust Betrayed has only 17 reviews on Amazon while other books (Gone Girl comes to mind) have thoursands. (Gone Girl, in case you're wondering, has more than 18,000 reviews.  I liked it too but really?  Eighteen thousand and Candace only gets 17?  The balance seems a bit off.) 

Candace's books are cozies, and sometimes, after a long day of dealing with clients, that's just what I'm in the mood for. If you are too, and you've already read all of the Brother Cadfael books twice, check out Candace's books.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

May Flowers...Torch Ginger

In my misspent youth, I lived in Honolulu for a year, working as an assistant editor at Aloha Magazine, a gorgeous, slick quarterly magazine that mostly catered to the tourist trade. I lived in a high-rise apartment that overlooked the Iolani Palace (familiar as the office of the original Hawaii 5-O) and Punchbowl Veteran's cemetery. Of the many things I appreciated about Hawaii after living in Los Angeles was that the air was always warm and scented with flowers not car exhaust. When I think of Hawaii, I almost always think of flowers.

Torch ginger
Hawaii is made of flowers--many of which are too delicate to transport to the mainland. I grew particularly fond of pikake, which is often used in lei-making.  Pikake" is the Hawaiian word for jasmine. One of the showiest flowers I saw in Honolulu was torch ginger. It was used a lot in hotel flower arrangements and my office was originally in a hotel.  (At the time, Don Ho was the biggest act in the islands and he appeared at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. I often shared an elevator with Mr. Ho, who was always cordial.)  The other cool thing about the hotel (a rumor management tried to stamp out) was that the goddess Pele was said to make appearances every once in a while. Pele's an intriguing and powerful goddess. When she appears to mortals, it's (usually) in one of two forms--either as a beautiful woman or as an ancient crone. She's usually wearing a red dress and fire is usually invovled.  I cannot tell you how much I wanted to run into Pele.  But I digress.

Torch Ginger is also the name of one of Toby Neal's "Lei Crime" series mysteries, and a book I snagged when it was being promoted as a freebie for Kindle. If you're like me, you've probably wondered if giving a book away free does anything for you except distribute your books into the wild, I can tell you that Torch Ginger made me a fan and I've since gone on to read (and buy) other books in the series. there are now six in the series (Shattered Palms, the latest, came out in March.) For those bemoaning the lack of women writing crime fiction that's about women, the novels are a treat. They "star" Det. Leilani "Lei" Texeira who not only island hops (this book takes place on the island of Kauai), but transitions from the police to the FBI. Neal's writing is very accessible and Lei is a likable character. You definitely need to check out the series, which begins with Blood Orchids.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

May Flowers....Tanith Lee's Blood of Roses

My first introduction to the writing of Tanith Lee was a double-novella compilation (Sometimes After Sunset) I got from the Science Fiction book club. (I loved mail orderbook clubs, especially those that would let you get 12 free books for joining.) The two novellas were Sabella, or the blood stone, a vampire tale, and the other was Kill the Dead.

I loved Tanith Lee's writing from the very start, her lush prose and gorgeous imagery just spoke to me and I embarked on a binge of Lee-reading, hoovering through the local library's collection of DAW paperbacks and then haunting used bookstores for copies of other books. Lee's a prolific writer but I still managed to catch up to her pretty quickly, and I've tracked her work ever since. I'm pretty sure I've read almost everything she's written in the last 20 years. Everything, that is, except for Blood of Roses.

Blood of Roses is another vampire novel and it is almost as hard to find as Jane Gaskell's legendary vampire novel Shiny Narrow Grin. Amazon sells used copies beginning at $30 and new copies for $88 and although I love me some Tanith, that's just a bit out of my price range right now. (Used to be I wouldn't think twice about dropping twice that much in a bookstore but these days I'm full-time freelance and $30 is a tank of gas, or a couple of printer cartridges or some other "mission-critical" item and I just can't justify spending that these days. So it's on the wish list for the days when my KDP royalties become more significant than they are now. Has anyone read it?  I'd love to know what you think.


Friday, May 2, 2014

May flowers...Every rose Has Its Thorn

I was surprised the first time I read an unexpurgated version of Sleeping Beauty and discovered how cruel and bloody a story it really was. (Which made me think how interesting it would be if George R. R. Martin wrote a series of fairy tales reimagined in his Game of Thrones world. Wicked Queen Cersei as any number of horrible stepmothers!  It would geektastic. But I digress.)

I've been thinking about the fairy tale because I'm working on a paranormal version of Sleeping Beauty in which the prick that sends the Princess to sleep is actually the sharp kiss of a vampire bite. I'm not sure how it's all going to work out, but it's a lot of fun working on it. And the rose imagery will be everywhere.

And meanwhile, here's my favorite version of the Poison song "Every Rose Has Its Thorn," the duet from American Idol with Brett Michaels and Casey James.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

May Flowers--Flower confidential

I am fascinated by behind-the-scenes stories of various industries, whether it's the "Red Market" trade in organs and bones, and blood or something like the famous expose of the funeral business, like Jessica Mitford's American Way of Death.  turns out the flower business isn't so sweet-smelling either. I ran across Flower Confidential while looking for something else, and it's a book that's now on my wish list.

And if you've ever wondered why those perfect roses you buy for $5 a stem have the fragrance of a fridge-chilled plastic bowl, you'll find out here. This is a book to pique the flower fascination in us all.