September 2020 Reading Pile

Books & Mags

Some of the books in my pile this month include the following:

Reading Pile September 2020

From left to right: The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow, They Do It with Mirrors plus Three Blind Mice and Other Stories by Agatha Christie, Annihilation Aria by Michael R. Underwood, Thorn by Intisar Khanani and, finally, A Matter of Oaths by Helen. S. Wright.

In other fiction-related news, I also just found out that, according to The Hollywood Reporter, another screen adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion is in the works. How delightful! I like the 1995 version directed by Roger Mitchell, but it has a few weaknesses it would be lovely to see treated differently. This will be exciting – I hope the adaptation will come through!

What of special interest have you read or seen lately? Do share!

August 2020 Reading Pile

Books & Mags

Some of the books in my pile this month include the following:

Reading Pile August 2020

Clockwise from top left: The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood, Cloud Roads by Martha Wells, Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett and The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin.

I held back and didn’t initially buy Jemisin’s The City We Became since I’m not a fan of NYC, but the reviews I read were so good I caved.

What of special interest have you read lately? Do share!

July 2020 Reading Pile

Books & Mags

This month I’m going through mostly library books, but the two books I ordered in June arrived just in time.

Here are some of my recent reads.

Reading Pile July 2020

From left to right: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss, The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow, The Countess Conspiracy by Courtney Milan, The XX Brain by Lisa Mosconi, The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana and, finally, Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender.

Yay, books! 🙂

June 2020 Reading Pile

Books & Mags

I have some re-reading again in my pile this month, plus books from the library.

Reading Pile June 2020

It’s been almost three months since our local library closed due to covid-19, and I’m ecstatic about having materials available again. Granted, it’s only curbside pickup at this point, which means we need to place a hold and schedule a pick-up time. It’s very much not instant gratification; nevertheless, it’s the library! Available! Again!

Anyway, some of the books, from left to right, are: Fortune’s Pawn, Honor’s Knight and Heaven’s Queen by Rachel Bach, plus The Murder at the Vicarage and The Regatta Mystery and Other Stories by Agatha Christie, and, finally, Sixteenth Watch by Myke Cole.

I’m still waiting for a book order to come in, so next month has the beginnings of a good lineup, too.

Have you encountered something worth recommending recently?

May 2020 Reading Pile

Books & Mags

I’ve wanted to order more books for a good long while, so two weeks ago I finally did. And while waiting for the shipments delayed by the coronavirus situation, I’ve been re-reading some books from my own shelves.

Reading Pile May 2020

My new books are on the top of the pile: Yoon Ha Lee’s Revenant Gun, and Network Effect by Martha Wells. The re-reads are both by Genevieve Valentine: Persona and Icon.

I’ve also already re-read Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility. It’s my favorite among her work, and a great comfort read!

Anything you’d recommend? Please let me know – I’d be especially interested in hearing what you like to read multiple times and why.

Some Thoughts on the Sanditon Screen Adaptation

Books & Mags, Movies & TV, Stunt Double

As a Jane Austen fan, I’ve followed the birth of the screen adaptation of Sanditon in this blog. Having seen the series and allowed my brain to properly chew it for a couple of months, now it’s time to share some of my throughts.

Note: Spoiler warning is in effect!

According to IMDB, the main writing credits for this miniseries belong to Andrew Davies, with assists from Justin Young (episodes 3, 4, 6 and 7) and Andrea Gibb (episode 5). I haven’t seen any of Young’s writing, but I have seen Gibb’s Call the Midwife episodes and as far as I can remember, I liked them. In the past I’ve had mixed feelings of Davies’s work, but I’d assumed it was due to the material he was adapting (Dickens just doesn’t do it for me).

I may now have to adjust my opinion of Davis’s writing. Although I should like to know how big of a say the producers and/or financial backers had, for his earlier adaptations were much more internally consistent.

The best I can say about the writing in Sanditon is that it was very uneven throughout, which hurt both the characters, plot and pacing. Moreover, the ending was left open, clearly fishing for season 2, but since this first season didn’t give us much to recommend itself, the intended cliffhanger feels rather insulting instead.

Guest blogger Yosa Addiss critiqued the costuming at Frock Flicks. I don’t have much to add except to say that for a fantasy story set in the regency (or regency-like) period the choices would’ve been more acceptable.

The same goes for the sets. Indeed, some of the interior scenes, specifically at the masqued ball, remind me of the 1986 movie Labyrinth. Just compare these two photos below, the first from Sanditon and the second from Labyrinth:

Ethical Hedonist Magazine The Dance Sanditon

Sanditon (2019) via Ethical Hedonist Magazine

Basement Rejects Labyrinth Ball Scene

Labyrinth (1986) via Basement Rejects

There were other sets that looked more period-appropriate, but I don’t know enough of the details of period architecture and interior design to really say. For instance, the Parkers’ house had a room or two with multiple faux framed paintings that were literally painted directly onto the wall (or wallpaper?). That was a very interesting choice.

Frock Flicks Sanditon Ep1 Faux Paintings on Wall

Sanditon (2019) via Frock Flicks

Overall the sets and photography looked gorgeous, and the lighting was just lovely; I just don’t know how well the design choices represented regency in general.

All of the faults would be more tolerable, however, if the adaptation cast of characters equalled that of Austen’s writing. Sadly, it does not.

The best thing about Jane Austen’s characters is that even when they’re superficially the same, they’re all different. They remain their own people. Every single Bennet daughter, for instance, has their own individual personas, habits and characteristics. Poor Jane Fairfax is different from poor Fanny Price. Notable men in their thirties like Colonel Brandon and Mr. Knightley are very different indeed from each other.

In addition, even the most odious of Austen’s characters often have one or more redeeming qualities. The Sanditon adaptation lacks in this respect, too. Our supposed hero, Mr. Sidney Parker, is initially barely distinguishable from his two foppish drinking buddies he drags to Sanditon for a change of scenery, and it looks like we were supposed to fall for the forced, artificially drawn-out, unconvincing hate-love tug-of-war between him and Miss Heywood a la Pride & Prejudice.

(Incidentally, one of Mr. S. Parker’s London buddies surprisingly turns out one of the best invented characters of the series, but I’ll return to him later.)

Miss Brereton and Miss Denham both come across as bickering sour bitches, with the only difference that Clara is a sexually abused gold digger and Esther a lovelorn gold digger. Miss Lambe reminds me of Lydia Bennet, apart from having a fortune, and the young ladies she lodges with are completely bland. The rich Lady Denham is simply a copy of Lady Catherine, only with an ailment and sans a daughter. Mr. Denham’s a slimy git who resembles Mr. Wickham; of him I have very little to say and none of it good.

Young Mr. Stringer, a builder and aspiring architect, was an enjoyable addition, but sadly he wasn’t given much to do besides complain about not being paid, pine after Miss Heywood and eye moodily at his competition, Mr. S. Parker.

Mr. Parker is defined by his monomania over Sanditon and his irresponsibility, but at least he genuinely loves his wife. I liked the little we were given of Mrs. Parker, but, again, her character fell quite flat; apart from the role of supporting wife and devoted mother, she was good-natured and that was all.

The hypochondriac comic relief characters, Miss Parker and Mr. Arthur Parker, perhaps stay truest to the kind of characters Austen had a habit of writing, and they remain simply delightful throughout.

As I said, it was quite a surprise to find Lord Babbington rise to the level of an Austen hero. He accidentally meets with the pining Miss Denham, falls for and attempts to pay court to her. As we learn more about him, Lord Babbington starts to redeem himself in our eyes and to display quite a different set of characteristics than his drinking buddies (one of whom’s a drunk git and should never have been given as many lines as he was).

Babbington was looking better and better, and the we hit episode 7 where Mr. Denham bursts into a ball and makes a final plea for Miss Denham’s affections despite her obvious disinterest. Mr. Sidney Parker and Lord Babbington physically stop him from getting close to Esther. Later Babbington tells her: “Your brother is not going to make a victim out of you. I’ll not allow it.”

Seriously, crushing hard here! He’d become attractive before, but this kind of determination and caring? Romance novel stuff. Jane Austen romance stuff! This here, right here, is exactly how Austen heroes behave. So why the everloving fork is it that the whiny Mr. S. Parker is the protagonist of the adaptation and Lord Babbington is not?!?

In fact, Lord Babbington and Esther Denham’s story is more compelling to me than that of Miss Heywood and Mr. S. Parker. Babbington and Esther even get the gorgeous wedding at the end:

Ethical Hedonist Magazine Babbington Denham Wedding

Sanditon (2019) via Ethical Hedonist Magazine

I seriously suspect I have a headcanon coming…!

I still need to watch Sanditon again to be sure, but it seems I’m leaning into the direction of not considering it a Jane Austen work, but a more generic (fantasy) regency drama.

Have you seen Sanditon? What did you think of it?

April 2020 Reading Pile

Books & Mags

My reading pile this month has some beloved, comforting re-reads, including Martha Wells’s novellas ahead of the launch of the first Murderbot novel, plus some nonfiction. Here’s a glimpse:

Reading Pile April 2020

From top to bottom: first, the Murderbot novellas by Martha Wells: All Systems Red, Artificial Condition, Rogue Protocol and Exit Strategy. Then two nonfiction works, first Saving the Sacred Sea: The Power of Civil Society in an Age of Authoritarianism and Globalization by Kate Pride Brown and, second, Animal Architects: Building and the Evolution of Intelligence by James R. Gould & Carol Grant Gould.

Fun and interesting times ahead!

Bright Idea: British Murder Mystery Where Stewart and McKellen Garden and Solve Crimes

Geek out!, Movies & TV

Connecticut-based author M.L. Brennan had a brilliant idea the other day and tweeted it out. Basically she posits a murder mystery show set in Britain where “Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen are elderly widower neighbors who bicker a lot about their gardens, and also solve crimes”. Brennan also suggests plot points and gives her casting choices for the supporting characters as well.

 

I really encourage you to read as much of the long, rambling thread as possible. It brightened our evening a lot one night when positivity was needed.

Here’s the beginning:

 

Absolutely fabulous, right? Stewart and McKellen be amazing together.

Like I saw someone remark, I bet we could crowdfund this baby in a second. I sure would watch the hell out of this show! 😀

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

March 2020 Reading Pile

Books & Mags

Here are some of my reads for the month:

Reading Pile March 2020

From top to bottom: Megan O’Keefe’s Steal the Sky, then The Impossible Contract by K.A. Doore, and the non-fiction work Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster by Svetlana Aleksievich (which is amazing!). Back to fiction with The New Voices of Science Fiction edited by Hannu Rajaniemi and Jacob Weisman and, finally, Mazes of Power by Juliette Wade.

Have you read something especially fun or rewarding lately?

The New Emma Launches Tomorrow!

Books & Mags, Movies & TV

Almost time: the new Emma movie adaptation written by Eleanor Catton and directed by Autumn de Wilde opens tomorrow here in the U.S.!

IMDB Emma Johnny Flynn Anya Taylor-Joy

Anya Taylor-Joy and Johnny Flynn in Emma. Focus Features via IMDB

Yay – more Jane Austen on screen! 😀

If, like for me, the wait is almost too long for you, here’s an introduction to the costuming in Emma by Alden O’Brien to tide you over. O’Brien is a curator of costume at the DAR Museum in Washington, DC, and a life-long lover of historic clothing. Enjoy!

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.