Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

They seek him here, they seek him there, those Frenchies seek him everywhere. Is he in Heaven, or is he in Hell, that dammed, elusive, Pimpernel.

In all the years, since the first time I saw Anthony Andrews as the Scarlet Pimpernel, I've never forgotten those words. Among my friends and I, we knew that line better than the seemingly ubiquitous "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of good fortune must be in want of a wife." from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice novel that we were forced to read. It was a line randomly brought into group conversations, and said loudly in unison followed by fits of laughter. We all knew that poem. To this day, I can't say what made that movie so attractive to us silly teenage girls, but it was, and today, I still think about it.

But, this isn't generally a movie blog, and to write about the story properly, I felt I should take things a bit farther and actually read the novel. I also found, very little to my surprise, that I enjoyed the book as much as the movie.

Baroness Orczy does a wonderful job in telling the story of The Scarlet Pimpernel, an elusive rescuer to French aristocrats awaiting their turn at the guillotine in the midst of the French Revolution. Meanwhile, back in England, Marguerite St. Just, also known as Lady Blakney, the wife of Sir Percy Blakney, is approached by A French officer to help discover the true identity of the Scarlet pimpernel. In exchange for her help, her brother, who has been accused for crimes against the revolution, might escape his own trip to guillotine. Marguerite feels she has no choice but to do as asked, and later discovers a plot during a party for one of the Pimpernel's men to meet him in a meeting room. She gives this information to the officer, but when he goes to the meeting room at the appointed time, he only finds Sir Percy stretched out asleep on the couch. Later, as Lady Blakney's suspicions arise, she investigates her husbands private office and discovers a seal bearing the Scarlet Pimpernel's sign. Has she unknowingly betrayed her husband? And, will she be able to save him from being condemned to the same death he works to rescue others from?

In a story of romance, adventure and fun, Baroness Orczy gives us a novel for the ages, that I personally, will never forget, (nor will I forget the memories that story has given me).

The Scarlet Pimpernel

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Darker Place by Laurie R. King

Laurie R. King has a knack for creating novels with wonderful, strong female heroines, and once again, she does it beautifully in A Darker Place.

Anne Waverly is a forty-five year old alternative religion professor who occasionally is asked by the FBI to infiltrate religious communities and help determine if they are becoming dangerous. Four times she has been sent, each time escaping dark memories of her past, in hopes of atoning for a mistake that led to the loss of her husband and young daughter. This last time however, doesn't go as planned when Anne Waverly has a hard time becoming Ana Wakefield, her alter ego, and her past keeps trying to catch up to her, and threaten her mission.
So, could she trust herself in this state? Her mind was urging caution and rationality, forcing her to admit that the individual threats she had seen here did not necessarily add up to the sort of desperate scenario her inner eye was putting together: An antagonistic attitude toward the authorities, a man in the woods carrying a shotgun, a titular leader who was thinly connected with reality, and a de facto leader who was overly full of himself. That was it . Everything else came from her and her strange ties to two children, and all of it was tainted by her own past. Dulcie reminded her of Abby - that was where the cracks had begun. And then Bennett looked like Martin Cranmer, and the woods made her nervous, and by the time the pantry and the communal phobia about outsiders entered into the equation, she was so sensitized to parallels that a particular brand of pencil would take on an ominous significance. She had no business being there, no right to jeopardize everything by making decisions that could be based only on irrationality. The best thing for everyone would be if she were to stand up and walk away from the compound.

Leaving behind Jason in his alembic.
Abandoning Dulcie to strangers.
They would survive, her mind insisted. They would be fine.
But her gut, her heart, her every instinct cried out that here and now, the rational decision would be the wrong one, that the long term goal was just too far away. There were times when the expedient solution was not the right one, when only faith justified and action - educated and open - eyed faith if possible, but if that failed, blind faith would have to do.

There was, in truth, no choice to be made.
The deep trembling had subsided while she wrestled with her demon, and with that final realization, that a decision had made itself, she actually drifted into sleep for a while, free at last of the tension of being of two minds

As Ana works to discover what is really going on in the upper echelons of The Change movement, and tries to save the children put in her care, she also must come to terms with her past, and finally decide, once and for all, what her life is really worth.

The story is intelligent, full of portent, and you never quite know what path the author is going to take you down until you are there. And once again, Laurie King takes you down it brilliantly.

A Darker Place

Monday, January 17, 2011

The in between

It's been a couple of weeks since by last blog, and I have been reading, I just haven't been blogging because both of the novels were sequels, and it felt a bit repetitive to once again write about a similar story. That, however, is not to say I didn't enjoy both of the novels, I did very much, I just didn't want to be redundant.

Like, for instance, Crime Always Pays by Declan Burke, the sequal to The Big O. I found it an interesting story, and enjoyed the characters, especially where each one was going to take their scheme, but since I'd recently blogged about The Big O, (which can be read here)I felt it repetitive.

Also, there was Iris Johansen's Chasing the Night. I'm not sure if I've blogged about the Eve Duncan series before, and I did enjoy the book for it's easy to follow, non-complex story line, but in all honesty, it didn't stand out to me enough to warrant a blog. It was entertaining yet somewhat unremarkable.

The third book I've recently finished, I may yet get around to blogging about since it was, and is, an old favorite. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy. I am now reading I Will Repay, the second of the Pimpernel series, and am curious as to where the story is going to go. I may, instead, wait and see if it warrants more of a blog since I think the original is already rather well known.

So, there you have it. The in between in my world of blogs. Soon to follow, as I'm currently reading it now, will be A Darker Place by Laurie R King, and very possibly, a Scarlet Pimpernel review. I will say, that, as always, I am in awe of Ms. King's writing, she never fails to tell a brilliant story.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, (movie)

In all honesty, I was very surprised by the movie of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I have heard so many things about the book, and have actually tried, unsuccessfully, to listen to the audio version, that I really wasn't expecting a whole lot from the movie. That said, last night I finally got around to watching it.

First off, what I've heard or observed, myself, about the book. Like I said, I haven't successfully finished listening to the book, I made it a few hours into it and felt bogged down with so much information I ended up giving it up. It seemed as soon as I would get interested in what was going on, the the inner workings of the business world would take over and the story would start to drag. As for what I was told by people who had read it, well, that amounted to an affirmation of what I felt, along with being told of some very graphic sexual violence that I won't go into here. Lets just say it was very over the top and unnecessary in its excessiveness, and, from what I saw on the movie, I can easily believe it.

So, then, what made me want to watch the movie? In all honesty, curiosity. I didn't have the patience for the book, but I wanted to know what all the hoopla was about this supposedly inspiring story. I was glad my curiosity got the best of me, and a bit shocked at the plot. I had no idea there was a pretty interesting murder/mystery story involved...that seemed to get lost amongst the criticisms. I was pretty disconcerted at how this intriguing story was buried beneath over indulged details. I'm also tempted to give the book another try just to make sure I'm not missing something. I believe I would, none the less, only prove myself right and end up wasting good time I could have spent reading another book on my never ending "to be read" list.

Regardless, if you have the stomach for it, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is an interesting movie, though I don't recommend it for a romantic date night.