Monday, November 24, 2014

SHOW REVIEW: The Musketeers (BBC, 2014)

The Musketeers (BBC)
Created by Adrian Hodges
Based on the novel by Alexander Dumas
Cast: Tom Burke, Santiago Cabrera, Peter Capaldi, Howard Charles, Alexandra Dowling, Ryan Gage, Tamla Kari, Maimie McCoy, Luke Pasqualino, Hugo Speer

Who doesn't love The Three Musketeers, in some form or other? Dumas' classic adventure novel is famed in song and story, with several TV serials, at least four major motion picture adaptations, and apparently a musical (written by none other than P.G. Wodehouse) to its name. (A musical? How have I never heard of this before?!) 

I myself spent my childhood with the 1993 Disney version with a star-studded cast, not the least of which was Tim Curry as Cardinal Richelieu. While this version will always be my favorite, I also love The Musketeer with Tim Roth (2001) and most recently The Three Musketeers starring Orlando Bloom and Logan Lerman (2011).

You might be asking "With so many adaptations out there, do we really need another one?"

Let's just say we definitely need this one.

So settle in, put on this excellent opening theme by Murray Gold (of Doctor Who music fame) that can show you the kind of awesomeness you can expect from this series, and I'll give you a few other reasons why this could be my favorite adaptation of The Three Musketeers yet.


   

Characters

Because Adrian Hodges' brainchild is a television series, there is a lot more room to explore events of the novel. Instead of just a new movie boasting new angles, a television format gives us the opportunity to witness more and different facets of these classic characters. We get more depth for each of the Musketeers, and the chance to become better acquainted with them individually. We don't just see Athos of the tortured soul, the scallywag Aramis who's really such a softie, and Porthos with the heart of a soldier, but what made them this way and where they go from here. That is exactly why we need this adaptation.

One thing explored in nearly every single version is the tortured soul of Athos, husband of the now-murderess Milady De Winter. And who doesn't love a good tortured soul story? Anyone who knows anything about the Musketeers knows about Athos' self-loathing and secret history. This show doesn't shy away from the Athos history everyone expects, but but! We also get the chance to see him maybe move past it. Without spoilers, Athos' character believably and beautifully develops throughout the show and I cannot wait to see what the second season will bring for him. I have never imagined a version of this story where Athos gets to be happy again because no version has ever lasted long enough for us to find out.

12 Reasons Why BBC One's "The Musketeers" Is FantasticEveryone's on the lookout for strong female characters so I'm pleased to tell you that Constance, D'Artagnan's love interest, is wonderfully round and developed. She's tough, but in the no-nonsense housewife kind of way. I love her determination and personality. She's fiery and opinionated, but I also love that she has no qualms about being a woman. Too often 'strong female' characters come across as incredibly masculine, so I love it when I find the leading ladies who are feminine and not ashamed of it. Now, this doesn't stop her from asking D'Artangan to teach her shooting and fencing, but she never complains about petticoats...



In addition, I absolutely love that Treville, Captain of the Musketeers, is involved so much in the show. Many versions I've seen gloss over his involvement or leave him out completely, and he is one of my favorite characters from the book.

 
Plot

While there are several story lines and elements that stretch through the entire season, this is much more an episodic adventure. Each episode sees a new thrilling adventure for the Musketeers, political drama/intrigue unfolding at the French palace, and all the while sneaky CapaldiCardinal makes his plays in the shadows. I prefer this format for the show, where the episode's plot takes priority to the season plot, because it has a lighter, funner feel that's appropriate for the (mostly) action comedy.

Now don't get the wrong impression. This show is not all fluff and frivolity. There are several episodes dealing with major social issues and events of the day, like women's rights and education (The Rebellious Woman), slavery (Commodities), revolutions (Sleight of Hand), the frightening power of the Catholic Church (The Rebellious Woman), and all the joys of royalty, like back-stabbing family members and political upheavals (The Good Soldier, The Exiles, Knight Takes Queen). Plus, there's that mind-blowing thing with Aramis and you-know-who in the finale. Like, what the what?!

...it's actually kind of brilliant...

Truer Adaptation

Though there have been many additions and creative differences in this show (and let's face it -that's what makes it fresh and so exciting!), I still feel this series holds to a truer sense of the book.
  • Constance, D'Artangan's one true love, is married. While I don't love that an affair is a major part of the storyline, and it would probably be a turn off for some of the other more conservative watchers like myself, it is originally in the novel and it's also historically accurate. I mean, they're French. It also happens to be another one of those things that hasn't been carried over so much into other adaptations.
  • King Louis is more like a spoiled brat than the young noble wrestling with the best choices for his people. He has his moments, sure, but he delegates most things to Cardinal Richelieu. That's what makes the Cardinal so dangerous.
  • King Louis and Queen Anne have no love story. Unlike the '11 and '93 movies, the royal couple are not portrayed as uncertain budding lovebirds, but more realistically as subjects of an arranged marriage who manage to tolerate one another.
  • A possible Man in the Iron Mask reference. (???) So, you know, maybe they're planning way, way ahead for the show's future. I like the optimism!

My favorite by far has to be the relationship and constant rivalry of Cardinal Richelieu and Captain Treville. This is another thing rarely shown in any version that I've seen. As opposed to the all-out war often depicted between the Red Guard and the King's Musketeers, the novel described what can only be called a constant 'one-upping' on both sides, a rivalry far from innocent as it often involves duels and bloodshed but nonetheless something of a sport to be enjoyed if not downright encouraged by the King of France. The Captain and Cardinal are constantly trying to outdo the other in the hopes of winning the King's favor. Though bitter, this rivalry is often rife with jokes and banter, and this series just flows with it.

Cast

Okay, I'm not usually the person who points this out -there are so many better ways to judge a good show! -but a fact that can't be ignored is the decent amount of eye-candy here. There. I said it. And I am not ashamed!

There is great chemistry and charisma with the four musketeers and -judging from behind-the-scenes features- they have way too much fun with this show. All this bleeds through into the performance, so yeah. These guys embody the musketeer bond.

Peter Capaldi makes such an incredible Cardinal Richelieu, I'm a little scared to see him as the Doctor when I finally get the chance. *chants DVD release date* He's an amazing actor, but he pulls off the plotting, dastardly man of the robe with such conviction and sass it gives me goosebumps. Speaking of DW, his role as 12 has the unfortunate drawback of not allowing him to reprise his role next season on The Musketeers. *sob* So savor these 10 episodes well, dear reader.

I personally love Hugo Speer as Captain Treville. Father Brown introduced me to this actor in his role of Inspector Valentine, which I always felt lacked in character depth. I had a feeling Speer could really do a character much better justice, given the chance, and his work as Treville proves me right.

Plus, the list of guest stars is stunning, with James Callis, Vincent Regan, Ashley Walters, and Sean Pertwee, to name a few.

Add it to your To Watch List RIGHT NOW

You have no reason not to. It's already been slated for a second season and, while they'll have to work some Hollywood* magic to get around Capaldi's absence, we will get to see the Man in Black aka Rochefort finally enter the mix. *squee!* As far as characters, I feel like this next series is going to give us something incredibly unique in really going beyond what we know and taking the opportunity to explore new facets and development for the characters. I'm talking Athos, Athos, ATHOS!



So those are the reasons. Welcome to The Musketeers.


-Also see BuzzFeed's '12 Reasons Why BBC's The Musketeers is Fantastic'.
*Can you really say 'Hollywood' magic when it's a BBC?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

My NaNo-less November + NaNo Resources

For only the second November in seven years, I have opted out of NaNoWriMo. It feels a bit like I'm missing a limb, but I have a very good excuse for bowing out of the writing fanaticism this year. Editing.



For those of you in the throes of NaNo, the promised hopefully helpful resources!

On Writer's Block
Everybody has writer's block problems. It's nothing to be ashamed of. But what is it? What causes it? How do you avoid it? Learning the truth about writer's block is probably the single most advantageous thing a writer can learn, especially a Wrimo writer.

The Four Stages of NaNo
It's always good to know what you're up against. 

PlotNoWriMo
Video playlist | Blog
If your NaNo story is falling apart at this tricky stage, a popular option is to head to the NaNo Dares board or delve into some unnecessary back story. This is great to plump up your wordcount, but in revision that will wind up in the trash. Instead, I advise taking a few minutes, an hour, or even a day to brainstorm. You might lose some writing time, but a brainstorming session could save you from the frustration of writer's block, and lots of revision in the long run.

NaNoEdMo
So what are your plans after NaNo? Are you going to shove those 50,000 words into a shoebox under your bed, or are you going to turn that first draft into a book? This video series is all about editing and revising that NaNo mess into something publishable. And you know you want to publish.

Good luck, Wrimos!

EDIT: Random update, guys, but did you hear Longmire lives?! I'm so excited this show is coming back on Netflix! ^_^ 

Monday, November 17, 2014

MASH [Book Edition]

Remember MASH -Mansion Apartment Shack House- that fortune-telling game we used to play as kids? My sister and I would spend hours playing this (invariably her choice of vehicle would always include a tank, but I think that will be hard to find on the car lot).

jessethereader, a fellow booktuber over on YouTube, has invented MASH Book Edition and it has taken the community by storm, for good reason. The categories are World, Job, Transportation, Best Friend, Pet, with of course the classic Husband and Kids, and ALL of the answers must come from a book.

How could I resist playing that?!



I'm going to be totally addicted to this game, aren't I? There are just so many possibilities!

I know you're all tempted to give it a try now, and I want to hear your results in the comments. ;)

Corny Joke of the Week!
You know by now that a corny joke on Monday is how I set a good tone for the rest of the week. Usually this is featured in the sidebar, and it will continue to be, but it's first appearance will be right here on Monday's blog post.

If everyone in the country drove white vehicles, what would we be called?
A white car-nation.
*ba da ba sssss*

Thursday, November 13, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier

 

In The Brief History of the Dead, Brockmeier uses the idea that, after a person dies, they remain in a world and state similar to life as long as there is someone still among the living who remembers them. When all those who remember them have died, they move on to the next stage of death, which remains a mystery.

The first half of the book held my complete focus. I was absorbed. Brockmeier kept me in a state of suspense, teasing me through the mystery of what exactly was going on, but after the details came into focus, the story quickly lost momentum, because there is not enough plot to keep this book moving. The story derailed with long stretches of prose and pages of description that may or may not have held some second meaning. It left me with an overall sense of 'why?' 

The story itself -and where it doesn't lead- is probably what bothered me. This book has a great concept, and a good start, but it doesn't carry through with enough story or purpose. Everything in this book just is. And there's nothing anyone can do about it. There is no change and there is no potential for change, not for the world or for any of the characters.

The even-numbered chapters follow Laura Byrd, still among the living, trapped in the Antarctic. These scenes in the icy tundra were the hardest for me to get through. Since Laura is alone, there is very little dialogue, only page after page of prose and description. Admittedly, I am a dialogue person, but there is a good way to do large lengths of prose, and in my opinion this was not it. What was meant to be suspenseful or heart-pounding, was made slow and plodding by the tragically impersonal way it was related.

The odd-numbered chapters are devoted to the dead in memoriam, and these were much more interesting. It was the reason I liked this book so much in the beginning, the reason I so hoped to love it. But Brockmeier tried to focus on too many individual characters who had nothing to add to the overall story. Instead of evolving into some story-driving subplot, the dead only served as points for reflection on life. They don't even experience development or much personal revelation. Everyone had questions, but no one got answers, including me. Again, it filled me with the frustration of 'why, why, why?'
 
This book reaches at times into the high-brow end of literary fiction, a little too wordy and all-encompassing for my taste. With so many dead characters, and Laura Byrd contemplating her own demise, there is plenty of reflection on lives lived. In fact, the main focus of the book seemed to be remembering tiny, inconsequential details of one's life. It got stale fairly fast.

I feel like Brockmeier was trying to be deep and insightful, but sacrificed everything else in pursuit of it. Relating to the characters became difficult, and so did cheering them on because by the halfway point I realized it was in vain. There were great opportunities with this setup, but it wound up feeling disjointed, unfocused, and at the end, disappointing.

The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier gets two stars and shuffled off to the Not To Read column.

Monday, November 10, 2014

October Book Haul

MMMMmmmm, I just love the smell of book hauls in the morning!




~~Reviews~~
Always Neverland by Zoe Barton
Gates of Atlantis: Battle for Acropolis by Mikey Brooks

~~Modo: Ember's End~~
http://www.modocomic.com/index.html


That's it for now. I'm going to get back to editing my novel. ;)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

THE EVER AFTERS Blog Tour: Character Playlists (Exclusive Content)



For those of you following this blog tour around, welcome! For my usual readers, WE'RE ON THE EVER AFTERS BLOG TOUR! *hyperventilates*

 http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-5GA7mKyulMo/UqiOQgg2BXI/AAAAAAAAOww/aUYbV-0nRcQ/s1600/tumblr_lxfwegDM5z1r3ovdbo1_400.gif

This has been my favorite series for four years running, so I am beyond excited for the opportunity to share some exclusive content from author Shelby Bach! Sit back and enjoy the music stylings that inspired some of our favorite characters.

EDIT: Because Grooveshark.com has shut down, these handy little playlist icons no longer work. I've put together a YouTube playlist with all the songs mentioned below. Enjoy! -Amanda (5/3/15)

Rory = songs 1-5; Lena = 6-10; Chase = 11-15; Rapunzel = 16-17; The Snow Queen = 18-20; Chatty = 21-23

Rory Landon

Rory Landon by Shelby Bach on Grooveshark
Rory is a powerhouse with a lot of emotion, so the songs that represent her feature powerhouse vocalists, loud percussion, and emotional lyrics. For me, Bastille's "Laura Palmer" and Florence + the Machine's "Heartlines" are all about following your instincts in spite of external pressure. Joy Formidable's "Whirring" and Paramore's "Careful" capture Rory's efforts to protect her friends and family, whether it is from her own emotions or her own destiny. "Hero," by Regina Spektor, has to get special mention—at almost 900 listens, it is the most-listened track on my iPod: it helped me find Rory's emotional core throughout the series. I love the lines "I'm the hero of this story/don't need to be saved" and the way Spektor sings them—wavering between sadness and determination. 


Lena Lamarelle


Disclaimer: Although I tried to make sure all songs in this post would meet with approval from Lena's strict grandmother, the last one in this playlist doesn't. Skip "That's Alright" for those of you who want to avoid (mild) cursing.
Lena Lamarelle by Shelby Bach on Grooveshark

Lena’s music starts off lighter and more pop-oriented than Rory’s. “One Step at a Time” represents Lena’s longing to be a magical inventor like her famous ancestor, Madame Benne. With Lenka’s “The Show,” Lena is starting to feel torn between putting in the hours she needs to become an inventor and keeping up with Rory and Chase, who don’t seem to need her as much as she hoped they would. “Be OK,” by Ingrid Michaelson, has a frantic positivity that totally nails Lena when she is panicking but trying hard not to. The Laura Mvula tunes represent Lena as she is later in the series—“Can’t Live with the World” is how supportive Lena can be to her friends, and “That’s Alright,” which is totally my favorite, shows Lena realizing that she is in control of her own talents and her own life.


Chase Turnleaf

At the beginning of The Ever Afters, Chase could really “Use Somebody,” as the song goes. He needs good friends even more than Rory and Lena, who live with extremely loving (though sometimes overbearing) families. The line that captures Chase in OneRepublic’s “Secrets” is “I need another story.” (If you’ve read Of Witches and Wind, you know why.) “New Low” captures how much Chase feels trapped by the lies he tells. “Changing” and “Demons” capture a lot of the things Chase wishes he could tell Rory, especially after she finds out about his past.





Rapunzel

Rapunzel by Shelby Bach on Grooveshark
Sometimes, a certain artist completely meshes with my take on a Character. For Rapunzel , that is definitely Imogen Heap—her songs have a lot of eerie, beautiful harmonies, and her lyrics are definitely hard to understand, much like Rapunzel’s dialogue. Actually, you could say that about all these songs. Mirah’s “Generosity” captures Rapunzel’s frustration about EAS judging her by her family’s actions, and “Silhouettes” reminds me of Rapunzel when she makes peace with her role in Rory’s life.





The Snow Queen

The Snow Queen by Shelby Bach on Grooveshark
The Snow Queen, a.k.a. Solange, is both sinister and lovely, and the songs that represent her also share those qualities. However, "Possibility,” with all its lost and haunted hope, represents Solange in her youth, before she became immortal and started calling herself “The Snow Queen.” Note: “Apr├Ęs Moi”—with its big chords and its bloodthirsty self-preservation—helped me define the Snow Queen, much like “Hero” helped me with Rory. Actually, they’re by the same artist. That's kind of on purpose. It helps me remember how much my hero and villain have in common.



Chatty

Chatty by Shelby Bach on Grooveshark
Chatty, Rory’s mysterious new friend in Of Witches and Wind, doesn’t talk much (you’ll have to read the book to find out why). A lot of my characterization usually comes through dialogue though, so I had to work extra hard with Chatty. The music helped. “Expression” reminded me that you don’t have to use words to express longing. “Epicy,” “Something in the Water,” and “Salt Water” both have a hyper, bouncy quality that Chatty gives off—like she is just about to pull a prank on someone.

I have a feeling I'm not the only one to be listening to these playlists all day long. A couple of my favorite songs are in Chase's playlist, so I guess it's no wonder he's my favorite character of the series.

Pump up the music and get ready for more fun! We've got access to a great discussion guide for Of Giants and Ice. New Leaf Literary is also hosting a BOOK GIVEAWAY for signed copies of the series thus far. Plus, the blog tour continues until Nov 8, and here's the complete list because I know you don't want to miss a thing. (See that Aerosmith lyric I threw in there? Anyone? ...Bueller?)


Blog Tour Schedule
Nov 3 – Middle Grade Mafioso (Chase and Lena's Orientation Letters)

Nov 4 – From the Mixed-Up Files (Recipe for Fey Fudge)
Nov 5 – Log Cabin Literary (Excerpt from Madame Benne's Book)
Nov
6 – Amanda K. Thompson Blog (Character Playlists)
Nov 7 – Novels, News, and Notes
Nov 8 – Green Bean Teen Queen


Shelby’s Bio

Shelby Bach was born in Houston, Texas and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, but while writing THE EVER AFTERS, she moved almost as many times as her main character. She came up with the idea for the series right before she left New York City, and she finished the first book, OF GIANTS AND ICE, in Montana—the second, OF WITCHES AND WIND, back in Charlotte. Driving up the West Coast to research the settings for the third book, OF SORCERY AND SNOW, Shelby fell in love with Portland, Oregon and settled there.

She would love to set up a Door Trek system in her apartment to visit her family and friends around the country, but she makes do with much slower and less fictional transportation. These days, while
finishing up the fourth and final book, she also works part time for a real-life afterschool program. It is strangely similar to the one where her stories are set—except the students study math instead of fairy tales.

Shelby’s Social Media
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads 



Of course I can't resist including the cover for the upcoming fourth (and final *sob!*) installment of The Ever Afters (coming June 30th, 2015). It's so gorgeous, I can't stop staring at it!

If you want to know more about The Ever Afters -or just hear me rave about them- you can also check out the book reviews and other videos I've done for this amazing series. I'm not kidding when I say that everyone should read these. 

Everyone.