Movie Review: Emma

Screenwriter Eleanor Catton has produced a streamlined version of Jane Austen’s classic novel, Emma. While significant chunks are missing, the final product is a delightful, easy-to-follow film with most of the dialogue left intact.

Anya Taylor-Joy delivers an excellent performance as Emma Woodhouse, a 21-year-old busybody who enjoys meddling in other people’s lives. After successfully arranging the marriage of her governess, Miss Taylor (Gemma Whelan), to widower Mr. Weston (Rupert Graves), Emma decides to pair her friend Harriet Smith (Mia Goth) with the local vicar (Josh O’Connor).

A series of comical (and not-so-comical) misadventures follow, and Harriet ends up with a bruised heart.

Disappointed by the turn of events, long-time friend George Knightly (Johnny Flynn) chastises Emma, commenting: “Vanity on a weak mind produces every kind of mischief.”

Undaunted, Emma turns her attention toward new arrivals Jane Fairfax (Amber Anderson) and Frank Churchill (Callum Turner). Often thoughtless, sometimes even cruel, Emma continues to poke her nose in other people’s affairs. One particular barb sets in motion Emma’s unraveling. Ashamed and embarrassed, she tries to atone for her behavior. And, in the process, she falls in love.

Bill Nighy steals every scene in which he appears as Emma’s father.

Definitely light fare and a welcome distraction during these challenging times.

Book Blast: Single Chicas

I’m happy to welcome author Sandra C. López. Today, Sandra shares her latest release, Single Chicas.

Blurb

Single Chicas is a collection of stories about modern Latinas being in, out, and around the zany hurdles of relationships. One woman receives strange calls from a lonely soul, another seeks advice on how to love herself, and another wakes up in a parallel universe to a man she’s never met. These chicas will make painstaking effort to survive the complexities with humor and grace. Once again, López dazzles audiences with her brilliantly candid craft. Smart, witty, and funny, these stories will explore the true endurance of singlehood.

Excerpt

I’ll never forget the day my brother gave me a stroke. Of course, being that he was my little brother, a stroke should’ve been classified a recurring condition by then. Instead, the most he had ever given me was a chronic eye twitch, which, now that I think about it, may have been an indicator of an on-coming stroke. But, yes, it was definitely a stroke I had when Benito (I always called him Benny) came over that day to tell me he was getting married.

My brain blew a short and my whole body went numb. I think, at one point, the world before me was engulfed in a white flash, and then somehow I ended up on the floor. When I finally got the feeling back in my jaw, the only thing I could muster to say was: “Are you a moron?” The clear answer was “yes.” He was a moron. Getting married? Was he out of his freaking mind? Oh, hell yeah! Let’s put aside that he was only 19, not even old enough to drink, for god sakes; let’s put aside that he’d only known the girl for 6 months, at most; let’s even put aside how annoying the girl was and how I couldn’t stand her. Why in the hell would he want to hang himself like that? Had he forgotten that marriage is basically a prison? Had he not paid attention to all the disaster stories I’d told him? Broken marriages from all around the table, starting with our parents and going all the way to our grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, to damn near everyone else we knew. It all ended the same: divorce, the blissful release from a life sentence.

“Why, Benny, why?”

“Oh, Bea, don’t you even start,” he retorted with a dismissive wave of his hand. “I don’t want to hear your putdowns on marriage…again. I’ve heard them over and over and over.”

“Well, have you heard that marriages basically suck the big weenie?”

“I believe I did hear that from you, yes.”

“Well, then tell me why? Why the fuck would you do something like that!?” Oh, I could feel my poor blood pressure rising. Good grief, the boy was going to give me a heart attack. I tried taking in a few calming breaths, but the whole thing was basically useless. I was in total freak-out mode. “C’mon, Benny, tell me, please, because I’m not understanding here. What, did she pull that voodoo-hoodoo crap on you? Did you crack your head on something? Have you just completely lost your mind? C’mon, you gotta give me something here.”

With an easy shrug, he said, “Oh…you know.”

“No, I don’t know!” Okay…one, two, three…breathe. I shot him a stern glance and asked directly, “Did you knock her up?”

He looked at me accusingly, his dark eyes narrowing. “You would think that, wouldn’t you?”

“Well, I don’t know what else to think.”

Benny shook his head with a petulant eye roll. I know that eye roll. It’s the same one he pulls whenever someone tells him to pick up his socks or wash his hands. In a huff, he simply stated, “No. I didn’t knock her up.”

“Then why?”

“Because she’s just…”

“What? Say something.”

“You know…” At a loss for words, he paused then added, “she’s just so…you know…great.”

A literary master at work here. “Great? What’s so great about her?”

He shrugged his shoulders.

“That’s a good answer,” I inserted wryly.

“Well, I can’t think with all these questions,” he snapped.

“I’m sorry, do you need a minute? I mean, I know I’m throwing really hard questions at you. Worse than poking your nose or scratching your balls, evidently.”

“Why you gotta be like that, huh?”

“Hey, I’m not the one ruining my life here. I’m not the one going after those little titties.”

Pulling his “talk to the hand” gesture, Benny turned to walk away.

Amazon (US) | Amazon (Canada) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (Australia)

Author Bio and Links

Sandra C. López is a writer, artist, blogger, and book reviewer. She is one of today’s funny and influential authors in YA and chick lit. Her first novel, Esperanza, was published in March 2008 WHILE she was still in college. Her most recent and bestselling book is Single Chicas, a collection of humorous short stories about zany chicas. She is currently working on the next installment of the Single Chicas series called Holiday Chicas. Release date coming soon! When not writing her stories, Sandra supports the art and literary communities with freelance work and book promotion. For more info, see below:

Website | Book Review Blog | Facebook | Twitter

Giveaway

Sandra C. López will award a $15 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Find out more here.

Follow Sandra on the rest of her Goddess Fish tour here.


A Meaningful Mindfulness Routine

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

Start your mindfulness practice with one (or more) of these suggestions:



Reading in the Time of COVID-19

I like to aim for a fiction/non-fiction balance in my choice of reading material. But during these challenging times, I find myself gravitating toward escapist fiction with intriguing storylines. This past month’s selections include time travel, domestic noir, and women’s fiction with historical elements.

Here are my reviews:

Intrigued by the premise of this delightful short story, I set aside an evening to read it. An excellent storyteller, Ms. Baron excels at descriptive detail. I could easily imagine visiting Florence and immersing myself in its culture.

As for the ‘What If’ scenario…I had no problem imagining a younger Kathryn Buckthorn emerge, toss aside her cane, and connect with a dashingly handsome Italian heartthrob.

A perfect distraction!






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Told from the perspective of Meredith, an abused wife and mother of two, this novel crackles with tension. Her husband Brian has uprooted the family from sunny California to a ramshackle house in the backwoods of Idaho. Lacking roots and a support system, Meredith fantasizes about Brian’s death.

When he is found shot in the head and left by the side of the road, Meredith is pegged as the prime suspect. A series of eccentric characters emerge, and unexpected twists follow as Meredith and Curtis, the handsome Sheriff, solve the murder.

I recommend setting aside large, uninterrupted blocks of reading time. You won’t be able to put this book down.

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Ms. Probst has crafted a powerful novel about a woman’s desperation and reawakening in the most unlikely of circumstances. A self-proclaimed nerd/owl, Elizabeth struggles with the many expectations of her roles as wife, mother, sister, and Ph.D. student.

Adding in the secondary story of Georgia O’Keeffe and her obscure Hawaii paintings was an inspired move on Ms. Probst’s part. A longtime admirer of the artist, I was fascinated by all the details provided in this well-researched, multi-layered novel.

I was also able to get into Elizabeth’s head as she made the decision to re-enact those famous nude photos.

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Spotlight on The Nightjar’s Promise

I’m happy to welcome author/agent/publisher Barbara Casey. Today, Barbara shares her latest release, The Nightjar’s Promise.

Blurb

Jennifer Torres, one of the three FIGs (Females of Intellectual Genius) who is a genius in both music and art, is the last to leave the closed rehearsal for her upcoming performance over Thanksgiving break at Carnegie Hall when she hears something in the darkened Hall. Recognizing the tilt of the woman’s head and the slight limp of the man as they hurry out an exit door, she realizes it is her parents who were supposedly killed in a terrible car accident when she was 15 years old.

Devastated and feeling betrayed, she sends a text to Carolina and the other two FIGs—THURGOOD. It is the code word they all agreed to use if ever one of them got into trouble or something happened that was too difficult to handle. They would all meet back at Carolina’s bungalow at Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women to figure it out.

As soon as they receive the text, because of their genius, Dara starts thinking of words in ancient Hebrew, German, and Yiddish, while Mackenzie’s visions of unique math formulae keep bringing up the date October 11, 1943. That is the date during World War II when the Nazis—the Kunstschutz—looted the paintings of targeted wealthy Jewish families and hid them away under Hitler’s orders. And as Carolina waits for the FIGs to return to Wood Rose, she hears warnings from Lyuba, her gypsy mother, to watch for the nightjar, the ancient name for the whip-poor-will.

As they search for “The Nightjar’s Promise” and the truth surrounding it, Carolina and the FIGs come face to face with evil that threatens to destroy not only their genius, but their very lives.

Excerpt

Right on time, the guard arrived at the front gate and unlocked it. Once he drove away, Jas slipped unnoticed through the entrance into the cemetery. When he had first been given the assignment, the cemetery bothered him, especially the mausoleum. Unfamiliar sounds and smells, being surrounded by cold stones and even colder death, made his imagination work overtime so that by the end of each day when he left—just before the guard locked the gate—he would be nervous and irritable; at night, unable to sleep. Now, after all this time doing the same thing day in and day out, he was used to it. In fact, he sort of enjoyed it—thinking about the dead and all the different ways their lives might have come to an end. Lately, his imagination had taken a more brutal turn. More violent and macabre.

Ignoring the hundreds of grave sites that stretched in every direction, he quickly made his way toward the mausoleum. Having already been there many times before, he knew exactly where he wanted to go and what he needed to do.

Ten Interesting Things About My Protagonists

1. Dara Roux – abandoned when she was 7 years old by her mother. Exceptionally gifted in foreign languages. Orphan.

2. Mackenzie Yarborough – No record of her parents or where she was born. Exceptionally gifted in math and problem-solving. Orphan.

3. Jennifer Torres – Both parents killed in an automobile accident when she was 16. Exceptionally gifted in music and art. Orphan.

4. Carolina Lovel – Discovers on her 18th birthday that she was adopted. This fact helps her gain the trust and confidence and love of the three F.I.G.s when she is hired by the headmaster at Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women to “keep the F.I.G.s on a short leash.”

5. The abandoned train car where Carolina and the F.I.G.s eventually find Dara’s mother in Book 2, The Wish Rider, actually exists beneath the train tracks underground at Grand Central Terminal in New York City.

Dara is the physically strongest and the most adventurous of the F.I.G.s. It is Dara who comes up with their “creative expressions” that keeps them in trouble with Headmaster Thurgood Harcourt. She also is more mentally equipped to accept those things over which she has no control. When she finally learns why her mother left her in the candy shop and never returned, she is able to find inner peace and move forward with her life.

6. In The Clock Flower, Mackenzie’s insecurities, such as her lisp when she becomes nervous or upset and her fear of rejection, become even more pronounced when she moves out of the protective stone walled environment of Wood Rose and away from close contact of Dara, Jennifer, and Carolina. As the answers to why she was placed in an orphanage at birth come to light, Mackenzie becomes a more confident young woman, and her insecurities disappear.

7. The Nightjar’s Promise connects Jennifer directly to that evil dark time in history when the Nazis plundered priceless works of art. This theme is based on my research into that period. The references to the music Jennifer creates, and to her art, are also based on correct musical and art terms and historical fact.

8. Carolina discovers that her biological parents are Gypsies. In fact her mother, Lyuba, is a choovihni—a wise woman, an exalted and envied position among gypsy women. The gypsy potions, herbs, and medicinals I talk about in The Cadence of Gypsies come from old books referencing gypsy customs and culture.

9. Probably one of my favorite characters in The F.I.G. Mysteries is Jimmy Bob Doake, the custodian and night watchman at Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women. A simple man who only completed the 8th grade, he is a caring person and loyal employee who enjoys creating poetry during the “witches hours” when everyone is supposed to be asleep. That caring and loyalty extend into his natural love for animals.

10. When we first meet the F.I.G.s in Book 1, The Cadence of Gypsies, they are full of mischief, causing disruption and turmoil on the campus of Wood Rose, and intimidating the professors who teach there as well as the staff. With each book in the series, The Wish Rider, The Clock Flower, and The Nightjar’s Promise, Dara, Mackenzie, and Jennifer learn the truth about their lives, and they also develop a maturity and ability to survive away from the stone walls of Wood Rose and in a world where they are different. It is a journey that takes them into young adulthood, but not so much that they lose their spontaneity to create havoc. After all, they will always be the F.I.G.s!

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Author and Bio Links

Originally from Carrollton, Illinois, author/agent/publisher Barbara Casey attended the University of North Carolina, N.C. State University, and N.C. Wesleyan College where she received a BA degree, summa cum laude, with a double major in English and history. In 1978 she left her position as Director of Public Relations and Vice President of Development at North Carolina Wesleyan College to write full time and develop her own manuscript evaluation and editorial service. In 1995 she established the Barbara Casey Agency and since that time has represented authors from the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and Japan. In 2014, she became a partner with Strategic Media Books, an independent nonfiction publisher of true crime, where she oversees acquisitions, day-to-day operations, and book production.

Ms. Casey has written over a dozen award-winning books of fiction and nonfiction for both young adults and adults. The awards include the National Association of University Women Literary Award, the Sir Walter Raleigh Literary Award, the Independent Publisher Book Award, the Dana Award for Outstanding Novel, the IP Best Book for Regional Fiction, among others. Two of her nonfiction books have been optioned for major films, one of which is under contract.

Her award-winning articles, short stories, and poetry for adults have appeared in both national and international publications including the North Carolina Christian Advocate Magazine, The New East Magazine, the Raleigh (N.C.) News and Observer, the Rocky Mount (N.C.) Sunday Telegram, Dog Fancy, ByLine, The Christian Record, Skirt! Magazine, and True Story. A thirty-minute television special which Ms. Casey wrote and coordinated was broadcast on WRAL, Channel 5, in Raleigh, North Carolina. She also received special recognition for her editorial work on the English translations of Albanian children’s stories. Her award-winning science fiction short stories for adults are featured in The Cosmic Unicorn and CrossTime science fiction anthologies. Ms. Casey’s essays and other works appear in The Chrysalis Reader, the international literary journal of the Swedenborg Foundation, 221 One-Minute Monologues from Literature (Smith and Kraus Publishers), and A Cup of Comfort (Adams Media Corporation).

Ms. Casey is a former director of BookFest of the Palm Beaches, Florida, where she served as guest author and panelist. She has served as judge for the Pathfinder Literary Awards in Palm Beach and Martin Counties, Florida, and was the Florida Regional Advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators from 1991 through 2003. In 2018 Ms. Casey received the prestigious Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award and Top Professional Award for her extensive experience and notable accomplishments in the field of publishing and other areas. She makes her home on the top of a mountain in northwest Georgia with her husband and three cats who adopted her, Homer, Reese and Earl Gray, Reese’s best friend.

Website – http://www.barbaracaseyagency.com

Giveaway

Barbara Casey will be awarding a $20 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Find out more here.

Follow Barbara on the rest of her Goddess Fish tour here.