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What Jayne has been reading and watching in early October

A lot of my time the past week or so has been taken up with washing machine repairs and acclimating my new kittens to their new home. Guess which has been more fun. But I have gotten a little reading and movie watching squeezed in now and then.

Flawless by Carrie Lofty – A book about a bastard heroine involved in the diamond trade in south Africa in the late 19th century. How more interesting can a premise be? Not much in my opinion which makes the fact that I gave up 150 pages into the story that much more disappointing. Lust, lust, lusting and more lust filled most of those first 150 pages and really nothing was shown of Viv’s diamond business until page 125. By that point, I found I didn’t care. Oh, and the chummy relationship the heroine and her Viscount husband appear to have with the servants aided things not at all. DNF.

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Heart Strings and Diamond Rings by Jane Graves – Funny, filled with realistic dialog and featuring four cats. I went into it with no expectations but had a lot of fun reading this one. Enough fun that I plan to go back and read the preceding books at some point. Full review to come.

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Lawman by Laurie Grant – This is another Harlequin Treasury reissue. It’s 1869 Texas and Cal Devlin is finally returning to the hometown he left to fight for the Union. Livy Gillespie is the girl who not only didn’t wait for him but who ordered him off when she learned whom he would fight for. Now they’re both older, wiser and scarred from what happened in the years between. This is a slower paced book from 1997 and one which, after I got used to that, I found myself enjoying. Full review to come.

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Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey – Darlynne mentioned this novel in our last Open Thread for Readers and the excerpt she provided got me to try it. Stark (called Sandman Slim while he was “Downtown”) is back from 11 years in hell, literally, and he’s out for revenge against his former friends who sent him there and specifically the ones who killed the only woman he’s ever loved. Fast and filled with biting humor and fantastic one liners, this one started great then wound down a little as it went on. Kadrey avoids big info dumps, allowing us to discover Stark’s world and his past as we go along which I liked. Rules for this world are laid down then broken plus all sorts of new paranormal creatures are introduced as the story goes along which I didn’t like. Also, Stark is revealed as not quite what he and we thought he was. I plan to read the next book in the series since I already have it but it will determine how much farther I go with the series – providing the series goes past two books. B

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I’m now reading the new Kathy Love paranormal Devilishly Hot, the Nora Roberts contemporary The Next Always and Addison Fox contemporary Baby It’s Cold Outside arcs. So far, I’m liking but not loving the first two and have just started the Fox but so far, so good.

*****

Paul – In my review of “Hot Fuzz,” Maili mentioned that she views that film – as compare to “Shaun of the Dead” – as an embarrassment for Pegg and Frost. It wasn’t for me but after viewing this movie, I understand what she’s saying. In “Paul,” Pegg and Frost play two Englishmen on holiday to the US. They’re SF fans and after attending Comic-Con and various SF pilgrimage sites in the US Southwest, they come across a real space alien who is running for his life from MiB. As they try and help him to reach a place where a space ship can pick him up, they run across various other characters including a Fundamentalist young woman with whom Pegg falls in love. Parts are funny but the film is overloaded with puerile humor and is obviously Out. To. Make. A. Point. about Fundamentalist Christians – who are mocked – and beer guzzling rednecks – who are humiliated. I’m far from Fundamentalist but this part went beyond any amusement. Beer guzzling rednecks, on the other hand, can be humiliated until the cows come home.

Amazon Instant Rental

Ondine – Darlynne recommended this film to me and I wish I could say I enjoyed it but sadly I couldn’t even finish it. Syracuse, an Irish fisherman, brings up a mysterious lovely woman in his net while out working. She can’t remember anything about her past and nice man that he is – where are these men in my life? – he takes her to his deceased mother’s country cottage to stay. His young daughter Annie is one of these preternaturally wise young characters who quickly starts to imagine the woman is a selkie – even though those are Scottish and they’re in Ireland. This is basically as far as I got – 40 minutes into the film – when I just couldn’t take not understanding one word in three of the dialog. Irish accents are lovely to listen to, so they are, but only if you can figure out what the hell is being said. Since it only comes with Spanish subtitles, I was out of luck. One part I did really like was Syracuse’s time spent in at confession with his parish priest played by Stephen Rea.

Amazon

Stray Dog – This is a fairly early Akira Kurosawa film done shortly after the end of WWII. A Tokyo detective has his service Colt stolen while on a crowded bus. Humiliated, he works to track down the criminal who has rented the gun from an underworld gangster and suffers shame and guilt as that man’s crimes escalate. Part police procedural, part film noir, part view of life in post war Japan, I found myself riveted to it and to Toshiro Mifune as the young policeman who took one path in life while the criminal, who suffered many of the same setbacks in life, took another.

Amazon

The Lives of a Bengal Lancer – “Gary Cooper, Franchot Tone and Richard Cromwell head the cast as a trio of British soldiers in this sweeping saga set in colonial India. While stamping out an insurrection in the country’s northwest frontier, the men wrestle with one another. They also struggle with their internal dissonance. The adventure film racked up eight Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director (Henry Hathaway) and Best Screenplay.” I rented this because it’s such a famous film but at the 30 minute mark I hit the pause button then sat there thinking “I’m not enjoying this. It’s boring. I’m tired of Cooper’s character harshing on one soldier while exchanging snarking comments with Tone’s character. Meanwhile the rest of the cast is either doing the ‘stiff upper lip, old boy network’ thing or barking commands at the natives.” That’s when I decided that this is an older film which, to me, just hasn’t stood the test of time.

Amazon [VHS]

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

37 Comments

  1. Kerry
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 10:39:51

    The end of Sandman Slim almost got it chucked against the wall for me. Bad enough to invalidate most of my initial enjoyment.

  2. Darlynne
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 11:03:19

    Ye gods, I really struck out, didn’t I?

    I agree completely with the inability to understand much of the dialog in Ondine; it’s so frustrating without subtitles. I blame my poor hearing, not the film or the actors, but it does make continuing to watch really hard going. OTOH, it was absolutely worth it, for me, because I loved the story, flawed characters and all, especially Stephen Rea. I just had to sit closer to the TV and it occurs to me, now, that headphones might have helped.

    Jayne, if you can, though, watch the last scene so that you can hear Lisa Hannigan’s Braille. I was totally captivated and enchanted. It’s possible those last few minutes changed everything.

  3. Darlynne
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 11:07:24

    Obviously I need to re-read the ending of Sandman Slim because I love a good book-chucking when called for. But I’m drawing a blank, so apparently it’s not just my hearing that’s going.

  4. Kim
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 11:11:17

    @Jayne I have Black Ties and Lullabies on my TBR pile, so I’ll probably buy Heart Strings and Diamond Rings, too. Were you put off by the heroine’s desperation for marriage? Another blogger didn’t care for this aspect of the story.

  5. Kerry
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 11:22:52

    @Darlynne: I’m just tired of characters who are supposed to be total badasses turning into Mary Sues by the end of the book. (And I will not give this one the manly courtesy of a Gary Stu because he might as well be modeling for Victoria’s Secret now.)

  6. Isobel Carr
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 11:33:56

    As far as I know, Ireland and Scotland share large parts of their Celtic mythology, including selkies.

  7. Sunita
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 12:59:38

    Oh, this really makes me want to re-watch Stray Dog. And I’m definitely picking up the Grant book after this description! How is the OCR proofing?

    Sorry to hear about the Lofty. It’s getting good buzz, but I have the same impatience with endless lusting that you do.

    And I’m going to keep away from Paul because I don’t want my Pegg/Frost crush to be harshed on in any way. :-)

  8. Avery Flynn
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 13:52:47

    Have you read Simon Pegg’s autobiography, Nerd Do Well? With a title like that I had to get it. Pretty funny. Haven’t seen Paul yet, but Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are hysterical.

  9. Barb in Maryland
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 14:45:47

    Jayne
    I am glad to find I am not the only one disappointed in Carrie Lofty’s “Flawless”. And yes, it is the endless lusting that is doing it. I’ll probably finish it, but I am finding it very easy to put down.
    “Bengal Lancers” was never one of my favorite films-so I can easily see why you stopped. I would rather watch “Beau Geste” to get my fill of Gary Cooper in a foreign setting.

  10. Darlynne
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 15:55:58

    I went to see Paul for Pegg and Frost, in spite of Seth Rogan, whom I can barely stand. It is completely over the top, but I confess to really enjoying the movie, all the things it so mercilessly lampoons notwithstanding. That may reveal more about my character flaws than I realize.

    @Kerry: Too often, I’ve gone nearly halfway through a book and thought, “I love this.” And then I pick it up again a few hours later and the rest makes me question my taste and wonder how it/I could all go so wrong. Such was the case with Sandman Slim, but I am interested enough to see what comes in the second book.

  11. DS
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 16:52:10

    Sandman Slim is up to volume 3: Aloha from Hell. Read an ARC about a month ago. I was entertained by it.

    I don’t remember the end of volume 1 being a wall banger but I read it prior to release in summer 2009 so no doubt I’ve forgotten a lot. The books aren’t autobuys, but if someone gives me a copy it doesn’t stay in the TBR pile very long.

  12. Liz Talley
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 17:00:11

    Glad to see Jane Graves satisfied. I haven’t read one of her books in almost two years, but she’s always been a favorite of mine. Good humor, heroines I can relate to, and fun premises. I have neither of the ones mentioned, so I foresee a couple of purchases in my future. Thanks for the preview :)

  13. Rosie
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 17:55:34

    If you liked HEARTSTRINGS & DIAMOND RINGS, you should definitely read Jane Graves’ previous three titles. I really enjoyed HOT WHEELS & HIGH HEELS, TALL TALES & WEDDING VEILS and BLACK TIES & LULLUABIES.

    I wish she wrote faster. And I wish her old Harlequin titles (under the name Jane Sullivan) were available in ebook.

  14. Jayne
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 18:31:25

    @Kim: There is that tinge of desperation on the part of the heroine to get married but she’s given some background reasons for it. Her best friend is now married, she’s headed into her thirties with the “my clock’s ticking” aspect and there are some reasons because of family – no one’s pressuring her but she’s lost her mother and younger brother and her father is in bad health and she doesn’t want to be alone.

  15. Jayne
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 18:32:33

    @Rosie: I just need to track down the older titles. Have you checked the Harlequin site to see if her books have been reissued under the Treasury imprint?

  16. Jayne
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 18:34:11

    @Liz Talley: I really enjoyed the humor in this one. Graves manages to give the heroine some awful dates and still make them – and her reports of them to the hero – really funny.

  17. Jayne
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 18:37:52

    @Darlynne: God, I really wanted to be able to watch Ondine but the frustration of not being able to understand finally did me in. I did have the volume turned up but that didn’t help much as the music started to drown out the dialog and I even stopped and backed the DVD up several times to try and relisten with little luck.

    I think it would have been a good rec otherwise as Colin Farrell was looking very delish.

  18. Jayne
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 18:40:34

    @Isobel Carr: The “selkies are a Scottish thing” was mentioned by one of the characters in the movie. I kind of always thought selkies were more regional instead of being only believed in in one country but haven’t taken the time to look that up.

  19. Jayne
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 18:43:33

    @Kerry: Do you mean when his true make up is revealed? Yeah, didn’t care for that. But remember that after his visit from Satan, Stark might be doing work for both sides. Or maybe that doesn’t pan out in the next two books?

  20. Jayne
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 18:46:08

    @Sunita: OCR proofing?

    I’m really enjoying my Kurosawa movie watching now that I’m picking bettle titles for newbies.

  21. Jayne
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 18:49:45

    @Sunita: Paul isn’t horrible but not nearly up to the standards they’ve set for themselves with previous movies.

    @Avery Flynn: He’s already written an autobiography? Bit early, IMO, but I’m sure it is funny.

    @Darlynne: Luckily for me I know little about Seth Rogan but the “Paul” character did get annoying after a while.

  22. JenM
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 18:51:13

    I haven’t read Heartstrings yet, but I’ve read all of the others and enjoyed them. You don’t have to read in order, but if you can, I would recommend reading Hot Wheels, the first in the series, before Black Ties, the third in the series. Jeremy and Bernie, the couple in Black Ties show up as notable secondary characters in Hot Wheels and it kind of helps set them up.

    Also, Hot Wheels features a pretty unsympathetic heroine (a trophy wife whose husband embezzles money and leaves her high and dry), but she grows significantly and becomes sympathetic over the course of the book. I really enjoyed that aspect of it and thought Jane Graves did a good job with it.

  23. Jayne
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 18:54:28

    @Sunita: I was so disappointed not to like the Lofty book since I had adored an earlier novella of hers as well as one of her medieval books. But I just couldn’t stand any more of the lusting and any less of… well..anything else to keep my attention.

    @Barb in Maryland: Maybe the book will get better.

    I do want to watch Beau Geste so thanks for the vote of confidence about it.

  24. Jayne
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 18:56:25

    @DS: Well, like I said, I’m going to read book two so we’ll see how it goes. And I totally understand forgetting details of books after a few years

  25. Jayne
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 18:59:24

    @JenM: Thanks for the tip. I usually try and read a series in order but in this case…didn’t happen.

  26. JenM
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 19:07:02

    You definitely aren’t missing anything major by reading them out of order, it just gives you some backstory and with the first and third books, a little added insight. They are all self-contained stories.

  27. Susan/DC
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 20:11:52

    I’m sorry you didn’t like “Ondine”. I thought it was a lovely little film, and it was wonderful to see Colin Farrell in a role where I could imagine him as an actual human being (he’s a VG actor, but sometimes the roles are a bit over-the-top). I had no trouble understanding the dialog, but that may be because I saw it in the theater when it was first released. As for whether selkies are Scots or Irish, if you watch till the end you will see that this is rather beside the point. The ending is somewhat bittersweet but romantic.

  28. Rosie
    Oct 15, 2011 @ 06:42:55

    @Jayne: No sign of the Jane Sullivan books in Harlequin’s Treasury re-releases yet. I remain hopeful, though.

  29. Sunita
    Oct 15, 2011 @ 09:34:46

    @Jayne: People have been complaining about the errors in Harlequin Treasury books and a lot of them sound like errors that crop up in the scanning/OCR process. The programs change words (Gwen becomes Owen) and there isn’t sufficient proofreading to fix them before they are uploaded and sold.

  30. Jayne
    Oct 15, 2011 @ 09:50:54

    @Sunita: Ah, now I understand. Yes, I noticed a few problems with it. A lot close together that appear to have been scanning issues. Like the first or last letters in a bunch of words that would have been on the inner or outer edges of the original page which got cut off when it was scanned. It didn’t seem like as many as I’ve heard other people complaining about so I guess I got lucky with this file.

  31. Patrice
    Oct 15, 2011 @ 09:55:11

    Oh man, you did way better than I did the week we were dealing with a hot water heater disaster! I think I will check out Sandman Slim. Hope your laundry is stress free now! ;-)

  32. Janine
    Oct 15, 2011 @ 11:54:59

    A selkie movie I remember really liking (though also set in Ireland) is The Secret of Roan Inish.

    Also really recommend Kurosawa’s Rashomon.

  33. Catherine
    Oct 15, 2011 @ 14:21:28

    I liked Ondine. Like you, I was confused at first and couldn’t quite get into it. At the time though I was on a plane and had nothing else to do I stuck with it and I’m glad I did as the film came together wonderfully at the end- with the twist that changed everything completely, in a good way. I agree with @Susan/DC – it was bittersweet but romantic. I wouldn’t say it’s an amazing film, but it left a good impression.

  34. Jayne
    Oct 15, 2011 @ 18:31:09

    @Patrice: Sorry to hear about your appliance disaster. I did the hot water thing – with water dripping all over the floor – two years ago. I had just done a load of laundry before discovering the washer needed to be fixed so I haven’t taken it on a test drive post-repair just yet. Fingers crossed…

  35. Jayne
    Oct 15, 2011 @ 18:34:02

    @Susan/DC: I’ve seen Farrell in a few other movies including one where he’s a globe trotting photographer whose life gets seriously screwed while in a war zone somewhere and another where he’s a cop in NYC. As you say, he’s a good actor but I just haven’t seen him in a film I love yet.

  36. Jayne
    Oct 15, 2011 @ 18:36:04

    @Janine: I’ve got Rashomon, Seven Samurai and Ran already in my Netflix queue. Anything else I should add?

  37. Janine
    Oct 15, 2011 @ 18:47:02

    @Jayne: I haven’t watched that much Kurosawa. I remember Ran as being beautiful to watch but very dark. You know that it’s a variation on King Lear, right?

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