Hump Day Classic Movie: Blackbeard's Ghost (1968)

Every once in awhile, Netflix coughs up a recommendation for a movie I haven't seen and end up loving. Blackbeard's Ghost is one of those. It features Peter Ustinov as the hilarious Captain Blackbeard, a selfish ghost who likes his rum too much.

I really loved this movie. It has that old-school feel, but because it wasn't made in today's sanitized family movie environment, it gets away with quite a lot. The hero of the story is played  by Dean Jones (of Love Bug fame), and watching him try to balance talking with ghost only he can see with not wanting to be thought bat-shit crazy is fun.

It's filled with quirky characters, a fantastic script, and overall great pacing, but honestly, Peter Ustinov steals the show. He's perfect in this.

Description from Netflix: In this Disney family favorite, Peter Ustinov, Dean Jones and a perky Suzanne Pleshette deliver plenty of laughs. A college track coach is desperate when he faces off against a group of racketeers who plan to turn his house into a casino. Out of options, he calls upon his ancestor, the great pirate Blackbeard, to defeat the motley crew of criminals. The film's special effects were groundbreaking for its time. Robert Stevenson directs.


Review: When A Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare

Format: Mass market, also available in e
Pub Date: Sept 2015
Publisher: Avon
Length: 376 pages
FTC: Purchased myself

Although I normally love Tessa Dare's books, this one just didn't measure up to her normally high standards. It's not terrible. In the sea of fluffy historical romance, it will still stand out. It's just not as deeply emotional as usual, and her distinctive voice has been muted. House style was a little heavy handed this time, Avon. :(

There are some redeeming qualities, for sure. The best of which is the not-yet-mating lobsters. I guess I was hoping for a bit more along the lines of Ravished by Amanda Quick: an almost fanatical devotion to her "hobby." I wanted there to be some real emotional investment in her talent, but I just didn't really get that from the book.  Even the claustrophobia and anxiety around crowds that Madeline suffers from didn't have the same emotional depth that I usually get from Dare's writing.  The confrontation with a soldier experiencing mental problems also failed to have the suspense  I was hoping for.

Maybe it's me, but it feels like this would have been a different, but so much better book, if Dare weren't aiming for the Avon style of light romance.  The humor is here, but it's not balanced with the emotional gut-punch that Dare normally delivers. The genre needs those emotionally resonant books. Fingers crossed for Dare's next book, because she's more than capable of writing that kind of story.

My Grade B-

The Blurb:
On the cusp of her first London season, Miss Madeline Gracechurch was shyly pretty and talented with a drawing pencil, but hopelessly awkward with gentlemen. She was certain to be a dismal failure on the London marriage mart. So Maddie did what generations of shy, awkward young ladies have done: she invented a sweetheart.

A Scottish sweetheart. One who was handsome and honorable and devoted to her, but conveniently never around. Maddie poured her heart into writing the imaginary Captain MacKenzie letter after letter … and by pretending to be devastated when he was (not really) killed in battle, she managed to avoid the pressures of London society entirely.

Until years later, when this kilted Highland lover of her imaginings shows up in the flesh. The real Captain Logan MacKenzie arrives on her doorstep—handsome as anything, but not entirely honorable. He’s wounded, jaded, in possession of her letters… and ready to make good on every promise Maddie never expected to keep.


Banned Books Week

I've missed most of Banned Books Week this year (see my previous post about my blog). But this is too important to let it pass completely by without saying something.

Shining a light on the books that are challenged and/or removed from school and public libraries across the country is so important. It happens nationwide. It happens where you'd least expect it. It happens under the 'think of the children' brigade of well meaning people. It happens. And it shouldn't.

People who are shocked by content in books are often instinctively driven to shield others from that shock. It's understandable. What parents in particular fail to grasp is that not everyone is the same. A cutting scene in a YA book may seem graphic and gratuitous to someone. For a child who cuts herself, it may help her feel less alone. Reading a book that shows kids doing objectionable things isn't going to drive a kid to imitate. It might open eyes and hearts and allow a little empathy to shine through towards that troubled child who does those things. Having books that show the ugliness of racism and bigotry is important, too. So are books about blended families. About homosexuality. About domestic violence. Because those situations and children are in our schools. They are in our communities.

The most frequent challenges are often based on sex and foul language. I find this one especially hilarious, because often those same parents are perfectly fine with that content in movies. But even if they're still restricting their kids to G rated movies at 13, kids will be exposed to that kind of content by living life, by listening to their peers, by being...a teen. 

Bottom line: You can absolutely decide what's appropriate for your child. Sheltering them from the "harsh realities" of life is your right as a parent. But you're also sheltering them from being empathetic. From being able to understand those who different from themselves. And you are NOT allowed to make decisions for what is appropriate for my child. That's what intellectual freedom is all about: choosing what you want to read and letting others do the same.

Review: Cold Burn of Magic by Jennifer Estep

Format: ebook, Trade paperback
Pub Date: May 2015
Publisher: Kensington
Length: 368 pages
FTC: ARC courtesy of the author/publisher at RT 15

Disclaimer: I do not normally read YA. At all. The closest I came to YA were books written before we carved out that demographic as a genre (Outsiders) or the latter Harry Potter books. So what I'm saying is I'm not your average YA blogger/reader. Make of it what you will.

I picked up this book at the RT Booklovers Convention held in Dallas back in May. I've had it in my car pretty much since then, because an emergency book is as important to me as a first aid kit. I have to have something to read and my phone doesn't always have battery life.

Enter soccer season.

I finally had some time where I could actually concentrate enough to read, and despite my misgivings about YA as a whole, this book just sounded fun. Plus it was written in first person *past* which I love. (First person, present is an auto-no for me which is a big reason for my YA resistance). 

This book is the first in the Black Blade series. Unlike a ton of fantasy series' first books, Jennifer Estep does not bore you to tears with the world building. It's there, but it builds organically. No info dumping. No dense explanation of what makes the world different. Nothing to drag you out of the storytelling, which is nothing short of fabulous.


Hump Day Classic Movie: It Happened One Night (1934)

It Happened One Night

This is one of the oldest movies I've really enjoyed.  Normally, some of those before the 1940s are cursed with the overacting that resulted from the switch from stage to screen and silent to talkies. Not so this one. It's fantastic and Clark Gable is a total hottie in it.

The movie also stars Claudette Colbert who nails the clueless, naive, but determined socialite on the run from a wedding she no longer wants.  There is lots of humor and charm in the script. The acting is superb. It's definitely held up well in the 81 years since it was released. 81 years!

You can watch it on Amazon Prime. It's also available on DVD.

The Slowly Withering Blog

Looking at this year, it has been a BAD year for my blogging. But then, it's been a bad year for reading, too. I've watched my reading time dwindle to almost nothing, and to make matters worse, that one book a month I managed to squeeze in just wasn't working for me. None of them were working.  If the choice was between playing Criminal Case on my phone or reading, honestly? I'm picking playing a game. I have no wish to read. No excitement about reading.

Part of this was a result of being overbooked in real life. My oldest just finished up 6th grade and his hugely important watershed program. Which meant all last year was eaten up in nonstop fundraising. Now that that's over, I'm starting to see the light, but the problem remains: there are so few books I care to read. SO FEW BOOKS.

There are hundreds published every month or two in romance, but it seems like most are just not what I'm interested in. I don't like dark romances. I don't like the high concept Regency. I don't care to read New Adult. I'm not fond of YA, although I recently finished one that bucked that trend. (Review to come). The erotic romance/romance line has become so blurred, it really doesn't matter anymore. Basically, the genre has moved far, far away from my reading taste, and as a result? I'm not finding books that get me excited about reading again. So I've scaled back my time in Romancelandia. I'm still reading Urban Fantasy. I'm reading mystery. Romance? Not so much.

All of that is to say that changes are coming to the blog. Hopefully positive ones, since it's FALL BAKING SEASON. I watched a ton of cool classic movies over the summer that I'll be featuring on Wednesdays. And I'll be reviewing some books in genres I've neglected over the last few years. Here's to the fall blog reset.

Gifts for the Baker