Archive for June, 2016

Movie Review: Tarzan

Culture | Posted by Shannon
Jun 28 2016

The foundling raised by animals in the wilderness is an immemorial idea. A couple weeks ago I reviewed a movie about one of the most famous of these foundlings: Mowgli, raised by wolves in the jungle. Today I will review another movie, this one about another foundling of almost equal fame: Tarzan.

Disney released its animated version of Tarzan in 1999, on the dying wave of the Disney Renaissance. After the wave crashed, Disney languished in cheap, lusterless sequels for a decade; as it crested, it released celebrated films such as Aladdin and The Lion King. In between, Disney released more experimental, and now largely forgotten, films – Atlantis, Treasure Planet, and, of course, Tarzan.

Tarzan is the least experimental of the three. It’s a departure from classic fairy tales, but still fantasy, unlike the sci-fi incursions Atlantis and Treasure Planet. The Disney formula of orphaned hero, boy-meets-girl, and animal sidekicks is intact. Variations are evident, however. Tarzan is an unlikely hero, his character made up of two divergent halves – one the epitome of physical strength and skill, the other naive and imitative in the most childlike way. The lively Jane, with her scientific interest and artistic bent, is an unusual heroine, neither too timid to slap Tarzan nor too proud to demand his help.

The music follows a similar pattern. Tarzan features the classic Disney spate of songs, hurrying the story along and encapsulating character motivations. Phil Collins, writing the songs, provides a departure of style. The lyrics are written from the viewpoint of various characters but sung by one outside singer – a technique curiously reminiscent of the songs in Toy Story. The music may well be the highest-quality element in the movie, although the stellar animation of Tarzan’s physical agility and ape-like mannerisms comes close.

Tarzan is strongest in its lighthearted moments; when the movie wants to be entertaining, it is. It stumbles when it tries to be dramatic. Tarzan’s adoption by the gorillas, and Clayton’s trickery, are competent and more. But outside of these and a few other moments, the drama fails to be convincing.

A great deal of this failure springs from Clayton, who manages to be, as the story’s villain, both over-the-top and underachieving. He is so obviously bad you wonder how Jane and her father ever got mixed up with him in the first place. On the other hand, his ambitions aren’t scary, or even particularly impressive. He wants to capture some gorillas alive! Only two of whom we have, as the audience, any reason to care about anyway! Remember when Disney villains plotted spectacular revenge and to take over kingdoms and control powerful magic and fun things like that?

The film is also unconvincing in answering the question it sets itself regarding Tarzan’s nature and place in the world. It comes too quickly, with too little reflection and reckoning. This disappoints me because the question was so interesting. It is, however, the movie’s lesser failure.

Despite the film’s stumbles, Tarzan is a fun romp with two or three musical numbers that are good almost to the point of being addictive. Unlike Tangled and Beauty and the Beast, it may not stand up to a thousand viewings, but it is certainly worth at least one.

 

Postscript: About that music … It’s been in my head.

Now it can be in yours.

 

Prism Tours: The Bridal Bouquet

Misc. | Posted by Shannon
Jun 20 2016

On Tour with Prism Book Tours.

Book Tour Grand Finale for
The Bridal Bouquet
By Tara Randel

We hope you enjoyed getting to know more about flower shop owner Kady and undercover DEA agent Dylan as they face someone who threatens Kady’s life and the possibility of finding love. If you missed any of the stops, go back and check them out now…

Launch – Author Interview

What do you hope readers take with them after they’ve read it?

I love to read and any book that makes me sigh at the end is a keeper. As an author, I want to sweep readers away to a world they can lost in. With The Bridal Bouquet, I wanted to write a story that makes readers laugh, sigh and worry about the welfare of my characters. This book delivers all.

Rockin’ Book Reviews – Author Interview & Review

4. You are the author of ten novels, correct? Which novel did you find the most enjoyable to write? In what ways?

 

Twelve, actually. It sounds so weird to say that. I’ve enjoyed writing the Heartwarming books, mostly because I love romance and weddings, so it’s a good mix. Honestly, The Bridal Bouquet was probably my favorite. I loved the premise from the beginning, which gave me lots of ways to go in the story. I also loved the suspense element. This added layer gave me areas to explore that I had so much fun with. I also write mysteries, so the more I work on these types of books, the more fun I have.

 

Also, I had a blast creating the hero’s brothers. The family dynamics took off out of the blue and I gladly went for the ride. I never expected the boys to take over. Maybe they’ll have their own stories in the future…

 

“This was a delightfully, refreshingly, “clean” story about a woman obsessed about winning a floral convention entry. It wasn’t just vanity, she had a lot depending on it. It would affect the rest of her life! . . . I totally loved it!”

underneath the covers – The Language of Flowers

Because of her love for flowers, Kady is convinced that discovering the personalities of her bride and groom is the important first step. Some brides know right away what their floral theme will be, but for others, Kady quizzes the couple to help with the final decision. What is their outlook on love, romance and marriage? Do certain colors have an emotional response for the couple? Upon gathering all the information, Kady then picks the perfect flowers to personalize the special day.

Mel’s Shelves – Creating the Perfect Wedding…from the Florists Point of View

In The Bridal Bouquet, Kady’s dream is to take the family floral shop into the world of weddings. Love and romance may not be on the table for Kady at the beginning of the story, but her love for flowers remains steady throughout, a plus when coming up with fresh ideas for her clients.

Becky on Books – Author Interview & Review

Where did the inspiration for this book come from?

 

This is the fourth book in The Business of Weddings series. My editor and I discussed coming up with three wedding professionals for this book contract and the first one was a florist. I knew I wanted to have suspense elements in this story, so I plotted with this in mind. I love hunky, Alpha males and the DEA hero in this book fits the bill! Also, researching flowers was lovely. The history behind bouquets is quite interesting.

 

“A sweet romance with a touch of romantic suspense–a fun read!”

JoJo’s Corner – Review

“I absolutely LOVE wedding stories and Tara Randel’s The Business of Weddings series is one of my favorites! . . . This novel is full of humor, memorable characters and romance combined with elements of suspense. I give The Bridal Bouquet 5 long stemmed roses out of 5!”

Bookworm Lisa – Review

“As a reader, you know most of the things going on behind the scenes, just waiting for the characters to discover them. For me, it helped to cheer them on and hope that everyone is happy when it all comes out in the open. I really can’t say a lot more, because I like this book and am giving it a high recommendation.”

EskieMama Reads – The History of Flowers and Weddings

Today, weddings are as different and special as a bride’s vision. There are so many reasons a bride picks certain flowers; personal taste, sentiment, elegance, romance, to name a few. From full-blown, colorful bouquets to brides carrying a single stemmed rose to make a statement, the choice of flower for all wedding related events are vast. But where did the tradition of wedding flowers originate?

deal sharing aunt – Excerpt

Blowing out a relieved breath, she looked over her shoulder, glimpsing the most unusual pair of blue eyes she’d ever seen. Actually, blue wasn’t entirely correct. A hint of silver turned them an unusual shade of metallic gray. The man’s somber expression matched the concern she read there and his very handsome face garnered all her attention.

“Steady there.” His husky voice spoke close to her ear, sending a waterfall of shivers over her skin.

“I loved The Bridal Bouquet! Kady and Dylan are so much fun. I love the banter between them. There is also another romance that develops in the book, but I won’t spoil it for you. The plot is both romantic and suspenseful. If you are a fan of clean romance novels, you will surely love The Bridal Bouquet.”

Harlie’s Books – Review

“Oh my, a sweet contemporary that I read twice. Yes, twice. I loved, just loved this book. I’m a sucker for flowers so this book was right up my alley. . . . In the end, I loved the sweet romance of Kady and Dylan. It wasn’t rushed and had a few twists in it that I LOVED. Plus, the suspense element is on point for these characters.”

Hardcover Feedback – Review

“I loved reading The Bridal Bouquet! The characters were well written and I liked almost all of them, with the exception of the ones you aren’t supposed to like. . . . The romance between Kady and Dylan was so sweet! I loved watching them getting to know each other and see their feelings for each other grow.”

23 Review Street – Review

“The Bridal Bouquet is a sweet, romantic story that has handsome DEA agents, amazingly strong women and an wonderfully written story that will make you wish it wouldn’t end. I would recommend anyone who loves a unique love story and of course a wedding!”

“I loved Kady. There was something so human about her and her need to find acceptance and support from the people she loves. . . . This book was a clean romance with a touch of suspense and danger. It kept me interested from beginning to end.”

With Love for Books – Tips for Choosing a Florist for Your Wedding & Review

In The Bridal Bouquet, Kady Lawrence, co-owner of the Lavish Lily, works with brides to make the dreams of their big day come true. As any wedding professional, she advises her clients to research, then choose a florist who will carry out the vision. Flowers are an important statement at a wedding, and the bride and groom need to communicate their wishes in order for a florist to carry out the theme.

“The Bridal Bouquet is a quick and easy read and it’s very enjoyable. I think it’s an amazing read with a heartwarming theme.”

“I love a good romance, but when there are other elements involved, it really draws me in. With a mystery and some suspense involved, this story really turns into more than the light, fluffy read, like I was expecting–there’s more meat to the book. . . . This is a great read for those who enjoy a clean, contemporary romance with some suspenseful threads woven in.”

“The book is a clean romance novel and can be read as a stand-alone book as well. The book depicts the usual boy meets a girl and falls in love, the story though is a simple read for anyone who loves romance novels.”

Colorimetry – Top Wedding Flowers

Many types of flowers are popular for weddings. Some brides know the exact flowers they want for their special day, others need a little help deciding. A professional florist, like Kady Lawrence from The Bridal Bouquet, work with brides to make their dreams come true.

“There’s romance, there’s deceit, there’s family drama, there’s criminal activity … what more could we want?”

The Bridal BouquetThe Bridal Bouquet
(The Business of Weddings #3)
Tara Randel
Adult Contemporary Romance
Paperback & ebook, 384 pages
June 1st 2016 by Harlequin Heartwarming

Who will catch a lifetime of love?

Winning the annual wedding bouquet design competition may be the closest Kady Lawrence gets to the altar. She has to come in first or risk losing the shop that’s been in her family for generations. Her main competition is Jasmine Matthews. But it’s Jasmine’s son who’s caught Kady’s attention.

 

Kady has no inkling Dylan’s a DEA agent on a case in Cypress Pointe, and Dylan wants to keep it that way…until Kady’s targeted. Determined to keep her safe, Dylan risks a lot more than blowing his cover…he risks losing Kady forever.

GoodreadsAmazonBarnes & NobleHarlequin

Other Books in the Series

Magnolia BrideMagnolia Bride
(The Business of Weddings #1)
Tara Randel
Adult Contemporary Romance
Paperback & ebook, 209 pages
July 1st 2014 by Harlequin Heartwarming

 

Married for a day, in love for life

 

Nealy Grainger knew that returning to Cypress Pointe meant an inevitable encounter with her teenage crush, and momentary husband, Dane Peterson. She could handle it. She wasn’t the wounded girl who’d left Cypress Pointe years ago, heartbroken and furious when Dane had annulled their marriage the day after they’d eloped.

 

Now one of L.A.’s most in-demand celebrity event planners, Nealy’s only come back for a vacation and to help with her sister’s wedding—not for a reunion with her long-lost love. But the more their paths cross, the more the sparks fly! Maybe their connection isn’t over just yet….,

GoodreadsAmazonBarnes & NobleHarlequin

Honeysuckle Bride

Honeysuckle Bride
(The Business of Weddings #2)
Tara Randel
Adult Contemporary Romance
Paperback & ebook, 201 pages
December 1st 2014 by Harlequin Heartwarming

One part happiness. Two parts love.

Relocating to the coast of Florida after becoming guardian of her best friend’s twin daughters could be the best move LA celebrity chef Jenna Monroe ever made. This is her chance to create a stable, loving home—something she never had. But can she be the mother the girls need?

Wyatt Hamilton thinks she can. The rugged charter boat captain, who came home to Cypress Pointe still grieving the death of his son, has faith in her. But the feelings he awakens in Jenna both exhilarate and frighten her. Because Wyatt no longer believes in forever… Unless she can convince him otherwise.

Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA TODAY bestselling author of eleven novels. She is currently working on new stories for Harlequin Heartwarming, as well as books in a new series, Amish Inn Mysteries. Her next Heartwarming, part of The Business of Weddings series, will be released in June 2016. Visit Tara at www.tararandel.com. Like her on Facebook at Tara Randel Books.

Tour Giveaway

ONE WINNER will receive a tote bag including the first three books in The Business of Weddings series (US only)

ONE WINNER will recieve a $25 Amazon eGift card (open internationally)

Ends June 24th

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Movie Review: The Jungle Book (2016)

Culture | Posted by Shannon
Jun 13 2016

Somewhere, at some point, someone at Disney said, “Do you know what we should do, instead of making endless sequels to classic Disney films, as if no one in the company has had an original thoughts since 1997? Remakes. Remakes of classic Disney films. In live-action.”

This was a bad idea. It should not have worked. But it has twice – first with Cinderella, released last year, and now with The Jungle Book, in theaters now. A famous story holds that Walt Disney, when rallying his jungle bookteam to make the animated version, held up a copy of The Jungle Book and said, “The first thing I want you to do is not read it.”

The makers of the live-action version have read the book, and more of Kipling besides. They include Kipling’s jungle creation-myth and even quote his poetry: “This is the Law of the Jungle, as old and as true as the sky …” 

This is, in fact, the great advantage to remaking movies like Cinderella and The Jungle Book, as opposed to remaking (for example) Star Trek. If you want to remake Star Trek, your raw material is limited to, well, Star Trek. But if you want to remake Disney’s Cinderella, your raw material reaches back to Perrault’s Cinderella, and the Grimm Brothers’ Cinderella, and the whole web of Cinderella-like stories that vein the world’s folklore. In the same way, if you want to remake Disney’s Jungle Book, you can look for material also in Kipling’s Jungle Book, and in all of Kipling’s jungle myths and poetry.

Many different silver-screen interpretations of The Jungle Book were always possible. Disney has now created two of them. The live-action Jungle Book follows the general plot of its predecessor – which, considering how little plot that had, is not very constrictive. It even includes, in desultory fashion, inferior renditions of “Bare Necessities” and “I Wanna Be Like You”, as if Disney just felt obligated.

But in tone and in spirit, the new Jungle Book is a revolution. It gives up the fun that ruled the animated version for danger, beauty, and – most surprisingly – grandeur. Much of the grandeur, like much of the beauty, comes simply from the jungle setting, gorgeously realized in a way that the original film could not have even aspired to. There is grandeur, too, in the elephants and the reverence paid to them by all other animals.

One of the greatest accomplishments of this film is the sense it creates of the jungle as an ancient and ordered society, with its own laws, traditions, and even prejudices. There is, in the animals, a confidence in who they are, who others are, and what everyone’s place is. Shere Kahn is so fearsome because of his lawlessness, because he can’t be counted on to stay in his preordained place.

Most unexpectedly, The Jungle Book makes a major theme of how different Mowgli is from the animals that surround him. His human inventiveness, and inventions, befuddle and anger the animals by turn. Bagheera, solemnly commanding Mowgli to bow to elephants passing by them, tells him, “The elephants created this jungle. They made all that belongs: the mountains, the trees, the birds in the trees. But they did not make you.” In the climax, of course, Mowgli defeats the tiger with “Man’s Red Flower”, which the animals cannot control and deeply fear.

The film never suggests the Bible’s vision of Man as the image of God, created preeminent over all the beasts. It does, however, get so far as G. K. Chesterton’s dictum: “Man is an exception, whatever else he is.” In our society, where people are outraged when a gorilla is killed to protect a child, even that is a refreshing breath of sanity.

Disney’s live-action The Jungle Book digs deeper than its animated predecessor both into Rudyard Kipling’s works and into the grand possibilities of film. The result is a rousing, beautiful film with a surprising measure of grandeur and of meaning.

Review: Imbeciles

Book Reviews, History | Posted by Shannon
Jun 06 2016

See if you can follow this chain of logic. Human defects – mental, physical, and moral – are carried through heredity. In order to eliminate these defects from the human race, the genes that cause them must be eliminated from the gene pool. In order to eliminate such bad genes, the carriers of those genes – that is, people – must be eliminated from the gene pool. To put it simply, the defective must not reproduce.

There are three ways to ensure that the defective do not pass on their genes and so continue to drag down humanity with the unfit. The first is to segregate them in institutions where they will not have the opportunity to reproduce. The second is to sterilize them. The third is wholesale slaughter. Which door do you choose to enter a brave, new world?

Eugenicists chose door number two, mass, forced sterilization of people deemed unfit by the powers that be.

All this sounds like science fiction, but in sad truth, it’s history – American history. In Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck, Adam Cohen tells the nearly-forgotten story of eugenics in America. He focuses his account on the Supreme Court case Buck v. Bell, which challenged Virginia’s eugenic sterilization law. 

Cohen tells the story of eugenics through Buck v. Bell, and he tells the story of Buck v. Bell through its major figures. Each chapter of the book is named after one of them: Carrie Buck, the victim; Dr. Albert Priddy, superintendent of Virginia’s Colony for Epileptics and Feeble-Minded; Harry Laughlin, head of the Eugenics Record Office and leading advocate of eugenic sterilization; Aubrey Strode, the lawyer who wrote Virginia’s eugenic sterilization law and defended it up to the Supreme Court; and Oliver Wendell Holmes, the famed Supreme Court justice who coined the epigram from which the book’s title is taken: “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”

This book is structured almost like a series of biographical essays, as the author reaches back into the life-stories of the players in Buck v. Bell and tries to define their motivations. The great strength of this structure is that it makes the book accessible, easy to read, and focused on the individual, human side of the drama. As a way of relating the history of American eugenics, it works surprisingly well, at least in the earlier chapters. The careers of prominent eugenicists like Albert Priddy and Harry Laughlin dovetail nicely with the story of eugenics in America.

The chapter devoted to the lawyer Aubrey Strode is, in this respect, more uneven. Much of it is relevant to the book’s topic, but the author wanders on side trails that are not. It is even worse with Oliver Wendell Holmes. The author is clearly fascinated with Holmes’ background as a Boston Brahmin and whether or not he can be rightly regarded as a liberal judge. No doubt some readers will be as well. But these things, which take up page after page of Imbeciles, have nothing to do with eugenics.

Indeed, it is difficult to justify Holmes’ inclusion in the book purely on the book’s proclaimed subjects. Holmes’ life crossed the eugenics movement in no significant way until Buck v. Bell, and even in Buck v. Bell, his importance is minimal. True, he wrote the majority opinion and made it clever, sharply expressed, and cruel. But although he expressed the Court’s decision, there is no reason to believe he had any special role in making it. The author speculates on how he may have influenced his fellow judges, but there is no evidence that he actually did. The Supreme Court decision in Buck v. Bell was 8-1. Oliver Wendell Holmes was just another vote in an overwhelming majority.

Although Imbeciles lost focus in evaluating the life and career of Oliver Wendell Holmes, it remains a highly informative book on a fascinating, neglected piece of American history. It is also skillfully written, being lucid and articulate without being showy. The information is, moreover, well-chosen and well-presented, and the sources are varied and reliable. I highly recommend Imbeciles to all lovers of history.