Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Search for Mrs Claus

As strange as it may seem, the holidays will be coming up sooner than some of us would like.  We're moving into the early autumn.  Can Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas be far behind?

Normally I'm not in the mood for Christmas until much later in the year.  But I just read a charming holiday novel entitled The Search for Mrs Claus by Courtney Daisey.

In this novel, Santa Claus is forced by ancient prophecy to seek his bride only one week each year.  If he fails, it will be another year before he can resume his search. She has to meet certain requirements and he has certain restrictions under which he must conduct his search.

He decides to spend his week in Quebec.  It is a perfect setting, cold and snow-covered.  On the first day of his quest he meets Sophie Laurent, assistant sous chef, pastry chef, and part-time lounge singer.  There is an electric connection between them from the first meeting. Both are attracted to each other.

There follows a warm, sweet courtship, in which they grow to know each other better.  The attraction builds until he is in danger of breaking the biggest restriction to his search.  Will he make it to the end of his search this time? Is Sophie the one true love he is meant to find?

This lovely confection of a novel would make a great Hallmark Channel Film.

It's a must for all fans of clean romance.


Each year Nicholas Claus searches for the one woman who will fulfill the prophecy foretold

before his time: the one who will become his bride. Has he finally found his future Mrs. Claus

in a young pastry chef from Quebec? With the help of a spunky elf named Kringle, Nick plays the

dating game to win the heart of Sophie Laurent. Will Sophie and Nick be able to earn the love of

the other or will their desires shatter the prophecy and any hope of being together? Humor,

love, and the magic of Christmas all come together to guide Nick and Sophie down the same

path and find love where neither expected it.

Product Details
Links to purchase: 

Barnes & Noble


Monday, August 25, 2014

Good night, True Blood

Inevitably, even the best of things come to a close.  Last night, we bade farewell to the town of Bon Temps and its denizens, both human and supernatural. As a cable series, it has had a long run - seven seasons.  HBO, the network which aired True Blood, is now announcing this is the final season of Boardwalk Empire as well as The Newsroom.  Neither of which lasted as long as our TB buds.

The last two seasons of TB were harrowing, lots of carnage and seemingly insurmountable odds to turn it all around.  It has always been a roller coaster ride but it graduated from the one in kiddieland to the granddaddy of them all in thrills and chills. 

As a writer I know a bit about what you need for a good story.  You need a hook in the beginning to keep the reader(or tv viewer) interested.  That makes them want to come back.  Then you keep putting in hooks at the ends of some of the chapters (or episodes) to make them anticipate the next one.  You need characters to which the audience can relate - real, recognizable emotions and interactions.  You need to build a fictional world that will draw the audience deeper into the story.  Again, you need real, recognizable characters and situations.  If you have that, doesn't matter if your character is a vampire, a werewolf, a fae, or a plain old human - your audience will be drawn into the story and come back for more.

When your audience learns to care about your characters, you've struck the mother lode.  I'll let you in on a little secret, most writers (at least the ones I know personally) are intimately involved with their characters.  The authors live with these people in their heads, usually banging on the inside of their foreheads demanding to be let out...So the authors care about their characters, their creations, their literary children.  It's obvious that the writers, executive producers, cast, and crew of TB cared about their characters as well.

The final episode did the best thing for all those characters - they wrapped up all the storylines nice and neatly.  No character's situation was left hanging.  That's the way to end a good novel.

Of course, if you're going to do a sequel or a spin-off you  have to leave something to build your new creation.

There was no hint of that with the characters in Bon Temps.  Looks like last night was well and truly it.

This final season has been particularly hard on the series' regulars - several of them met the true death unexpectedly and horribly.  In a sense it wrapped up the story, but that old roller coaster ride got steeper and harder to take when it plunged down into the abyss. Yet even one of them had her story resolved last night and she was able to ascend to the next world after being bound to the earth.

The finale was filled with danger, excitement, comedy, and extreme pathos.  Sort of the emotional seven-year run of TB encapsulated in one last burst of glory.

I don't want to ruin it for anyone who hasn't seen it and wants to - so I won't go into plot details.

I will say the worst moment in TB history came for me last night.  It wasn't unexpected and it was completely in character for the ones involved.  But, lordy, it made me SOB...I sat there gulping and grabbing for my Puffs-with-lotion by the handful.  Of course, in true TB fashion, only a minute later I was howling with laughter at the next bit. My shih tzus viewed me from the floor with worried expressions.

The conclusion was more than satisfactory.  Everyone got what was coming to them in a good way or not...Everyone, except the true villain of the piece, was happy, radiant even at the end of the episode.  The villain got her just desserts and got them for eternity...That was a funny bit, too.

So like in a good novel, we know that although we will make no new visits to the town of Bon Temps, the citizens (like the "heart" in Celine Dion's song) will go on with their lives or afterlives whichever the case may be.

Author Charlaine Harris made one final appearance in the series based on her books.  Look for her manning the production console at the filming of the infomercial...that's all I'm sayin'.  It was a quick shot, but long enough to recognize her.

To the cast and crew of True Blood - thank you for seven glorious years of keeping us all spellbound and coming back for more.  And thank you to the writers and producers for providing us "Trubies" with a most satisfactory ending. 

Sorry, Ms. Harris, but I liked the resolution of the series better than the one in the books.

I wonder if Game of Thrones will make it seven years?  Shoot, honey, with all the written material (I don't know how many books are out now, but they're each as thick as a medium sized town's phone book in the past) - that show may go on forever...

Bonne Nuit, Bon Temps - go gently into that good night. 

We'll revisit you on video and remember the good times.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Take Me There by the Louis Romanos Quartet

I haven't reviewed any music on this blog, not because I don't like music, I do, I love it in fact.  My tastes are eclectic.  Some things I like are not necessarily what is popular today.  So I've stayed away from music as a reviewer.

But a friend of mine introduced me to the new CD Take Me There by the Louis Romanos Quartet.  It was love at first hearing.

All original songs, the CD is a beautiful work.  I'm hard pressed to name a favorite cut.  All of the music is distinctive and unique.

These are talented musicians who come together to make sublime music.  It has a hint of smooth jazz, of spiritual music (i.e. some contemporary Native American music like that of Carlos Nakai), and an ethereal quality all its own.

If you like listening to music after a stressful day, this one's for you.  It is lovely, calming music that will take you to another place as your cares melt away...

Honestly, I haven't heard such evocative tunes in many years.  This music transcends your daily cares and woes, taking you away to a place of serenity.

I predict great things for these talented men.

Check out the link below to hear selections from the album and to purchase it. 

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Until next time...

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams - Manic Genius

Robin Williams was an original - granted he was influenced by some who came before him, but he took from them and added his own flair.

Spectacularly breaking onto the TV scene in the 1970s as Mork from the Planet Ork, his character was silly but unique.  The best bits were the ones he improvised as the rest of the cast learned to be ready for whatever he might do.  The classic bits from the show came when his long-time idol, Jonathan Winters, appeared on the show as Mork and Mindy's son.  For some reason the Ork folks are born old and grow younger...what a concept!!!

Anyway, the audiences were treated to improvisation like no other, from two of the world's best practitioners of the art. We tuned in to laugh and worship at the altar of grand comedic timing.  The old saying is true.  Timing IS everything in comedy.  What's more it cannot be taught.  It is an instinctive ability.  You've either got it or you don't.  If you don't, best forget a career in stand-up. It's like having an ear for music or not...

Williams did not just do comedy.  He was a well-rounded actor, capable of playing a wide range of roles.  Contrast the magnificent drag impersonation in "Mrs. Doubtfire" to the cold, calculating, superior serial killer in "Insomnia."  Like the queen of drag, RuPaul, Williams was more than believable as a female.  It was a stellar performance, in a warm-hearted family movie.

In "Insomnia" he was frightening in his role, keeping pace with the great Al Pacino and Hillary Swank.  His performance gave me the shivers as much as Anthony Hopkin's did in "Silence of the Lambs."  Williams was totally real in his role with no semblance to the comic performer we knew.

I liked him in "Good Will Hunting", "The World According to Garp", "Dead Poet's Society", and especially "Patch Adams" where he got to play a caring doctor who sought to help those who were in need.

He was wonderful in "Good Morning, Vietnam", "Awakenings", and as the Genie in Disney's "Aladdin."

If you want to rouse me out of a sound sleep, play Williams' classic line "Good morning, Vietnam!!!!" I'll be wide awake.

Williams was a classically trained actor, graduating from the Julliard School in NYC, who had a far ranging talent.  At the time Williams was a student, the late John Houseman only recommended two young actors for their advanced studies program.  One was the late Christopher Reeve.  The other was Robin Williams.

Houseman was known as an exacting teacher/director, much like the character he played in "The Paper Chase."  That he only selected two students speaks volumes about the talent he saw in them.

Of all the things that impressed me about Robin Williams, it was his brain that worked at warp speed.  Manic in his delivery of improv, it was incredible to watch his brain function at a speed few people could dream about, much less achieve.

If you ever saw him on any late night talk show, you know what I mean.

I don't know the cause of the despair that led him to his final act, but I do know the result.  The world has been left a sadder place.

Robin, thank you for the glimpse of supernova brain power you gave us and for all the years when you made us laugh or cry or shrink down in our seats from fear. 

We will miss you.

Rest in peace.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Starz new series - Outlander based on Diana Gabaldon's books

I got an early look at Starz new series - Outlander on demand the other night.  It's due to premier tonight on Starz.  If you don't have access to the cable channel, try this link:

 At the very least you should get a preview of the first episode.

Diana Gabaldon wrote the bestselling Outlander several years ago, followed with a number of successful sequels.  It was a revelation to romance readers at the time.  A wonderful story of time travel, it spanned backward from World War II to the year 1743 in which the Highland clans were in constant battle with the English.

The first episode is true to the novel.  As a Charlaine Harris fan AND a big fan of HBO's True Blood, I am constantly disappointed and then glad in some cases that they deviate so far from the books.

It's nice to see a great book portrayed on television as it was written, at least in the first episode.  I'll reserve my judgment until after the season is over...HBO has done this to me, turned me into a cynic -both with True Blood and now with The Leftovers.  I may never trust a cable network again.

No, I'm not making a big deal out of nothing...this is just the sort of tactic to make an author cringe. Imagine what they could do with my sweet little Regency - turn it into Seventy-Five shades of Treachery - starring a blond bimbo with a Brooklyn accent and Joe Manganiello (oh...that last one is a good idea...)

Back to Outlander - I thoroughly enjoyed the premier episode.  The cast is perfect.  Caitriona Balfe plays Claire Randall, the married combat nurse who stumbles back through time while on a second honeymoon with her husband in the highlands of Scotland. She is well-cast as Claire.

Running afoul of an enraged English colonel bent on rape, who happens to be her husband's famous ancestor, she is found by Jamie Fraser, a highlander riding with a raiding party from his clan, played by the devastatingly handsome Sam Heughan.  He is a perfect Jamie. I predict a big future for him as women in the audience discover him.  He could be Outlander's Eric Northman..(you Trubies out there know what I'm talking about.) Come to think of it, he shares a certain facial bone structure with Alexander Skarsgard.

Thus, Claire's adventure begins.  She ingratiates herself to the clan by tending Jamie's dislocated shoulder and his other wounds.  More and more she and Jamie are attracted to each other, while back in the future her husband begins his search for her.

Shot in Scotland, the scenery is gorgeous.  The music which was uncredited is the traditional combination of pipes, drums, and strings.  It adds authenticity to an already well researched production.  The look of the show from the costumes to the sets to the props and weapons is accurate and impressive.  That is also something from the book.  Ms. Gabaldon excels at research, filling her work with historic accuracy.

If you like a good historical romance that does not run smooth, this one's for you.

Besides, they had one of my very favorite scenes from the book.  Claire is up in their room in 1940's Scotland, wearing a nightgown and robe and brushing her hair.  Her husband walks back to the small hotel and sees a man wearing full highlander regalia standing under the streetlight in rapt attention at the vision of Claire through the upstairs window.  Her husband approaches the man intent on warning him away from Claire when the man suddenly the ghost he is...


Seriously, check this one out.  You won't be disappointed...You won't understand the Gaelic dialogue, but hey, you don't really have to...

Until next time.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Divergent - The Movie

Well, my long wait is over.  I reviewed the Divergent trilogy in books a while back just before the film hit the theaters.  And now the film has just been released on video.  I should say the first film, based on the first book.

Veronica Roth, the author of the trilogy, is listed as Executive Producer in the credits.  I'm glad because the film closely follows the book.

Divergent is the story of Beatrice Pryor, a young woman, who like all students at her age is tested for which faction of five best fits her.  Then they undergo a public choosing ceremony and basically can choose the one they want.  She has been raised in the Abnegation faction, one of self effacement and helping others.  Abnegation members spend very limited time in front of a mirror.  To stand gazing at oneself would place more importance on self rather than others.  Beatrice has been a good member of Abnegation, helping to feed the hungry and assisting the ill with her parents who are council members of their faction.

But when they are out and about she has watched the members of the Dauntless faction running through the streets, laughing, looking far more free than she is.  Dauntless is the quasi-military faction - the one that polices their city.

Set in a post-war Chicago in which there is ample evidence of the horror of war, they are penned in the city with a huge wall.  Lake Michigan is dried to the sandy bottom.  There is little vegetation and few vehicles.  For most people their only transportation is the old elevated train system.  Dauntless members wait until it has started and run after it, bravely jumping aboard and jumping off while it is in full motion.

When Beatrice is tested, she shows aptitude for Abnegation and for Dauntless - something rarely seen in this world.  Those whose test results show aptitude for more than one faction are called Divergent.  They are weeded out and studied or destroyed as too dangerous for the dystopian system.  Fortunately for Beatrice the person doing the testing is sympathetic and marks down Abnegation only on her test results.  She tells Beatrice not to say anything to her parents or anyone else.  She warns the frightened girl that she must not let anyone know she is divergent.

After her brother has chosen the Erudite faction (the intelligentsia) and shocked his parents, Beatrice chooses Dauntless, leaving them stunned.  They both go immediately to their new faction, the motto of the society being "faction over family."

Thus begins a new life for Beatrice, who changes her name for Dauntless to Tris.  Initiation and training is rough in this fighting faction.  No exemptions are given for females.  They live, train, and fight just like the men.  For Tris especially it is a revelation that is not always pleasant.

Her trainer is Four, with whom she ultimately develops a special relationship.

I could go on and on, but need to get back to the movie.  This is truly a filmed version of the book, no major plot differences or new characters thrown into the mix.

The film was shot in Chicago, the seedier parts, with CGI making it a partially ruined wasteland.  Beyond the wall is where the food is grown to feed the citizens.  Tended by the Amity faction, few people are allowed to leave the walls to go there.  But it can be seen beyond the walls, the only green haven in view.

It boasts a wonderful cast.  Shailene Woodley, who has been popping up in several recent movies since her wonderful work in George Clooney's film, The Descendants, plays Tris.  She is a beautiful young woman who looks much too frail to be in Dauntless.  But Tris' strength is her bravery not her physical power.

Theo James plays Four, Tris' trainer and ultimate love interest.  Four has his own secrets and is a troubled young man with quite a history.

Kate Winslett plays Jenine, the coldly arrogant villain of the piece.  It is Jenine who is responsible for ordering all Divergents to be reported and dealt with accordingly.

Jai Courtney plays Eric, the vicious leader of Dauntless, who can and does turn on his own faction members.

Tris' parents are played by Tony Goldwyn and Ashley Judd. 

All of the cast does a wonderful job, following the characters as written, and adding to the richness of the story.

Divergent has abundant action scenes showing life from the Dauntless point of view. 

If you don't like heights there are a couple of scenes that might get to you.  Remember Dauntless members are brave to the point of uber recklessness.  If you fail, you are not a true Dauntless member.  But there is one scene with Tris that is incredibly exhilarating and foreshadows the climax of the trilogy.  That's all I'm sayin'....

I'm afraid from watching the film that I would definitely be a divergent, most of us probably would.  I think I would be an Erudite Abnegation least in this life.

But I don't think I'd like to live in that society...there's absolutely no pop culture!  No wonder everybody's getting antsy living in those conditions...

Seriously, this is a wonderful film, full of action and strong emotions.  It is a thrill ride with mystery and secrets to be revealed later in the trilogy of films.  It is a fascinating world, but I'm so glad I don't live in it.

Check it out!

Until next time...