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Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’

This utterly charming and occasionally hilarious film from 1950, stars James Stewart (and really, who can’t be charmed by James Stewart?!) as Eldwood P. Dowd, a genial, mild-mannered man…whose best friend is a giant rabbit named Harvey. Elwood is a great embarassment to his sister Veta (Josephine Hull) and his niece Myrtle Mae (Victoria Horne), who live with him, due to his insistence on introducing everyone he meets to Harvey!

When Veta attempts to have him placed in a psychiatric institution, a mix-up occurs, and there then follows a comedy of errors, as the doctors try and chase the unwitting Elwood around town. But when they get to know him, they find that Elwood is perhaps not the only person who is charmed by Harvey’s presence…

I liked this film on a couple of levels. It is first and foremost, a gentle comedy, and Elwood is played beautifully by James Stewart. It was impossible not to like the character, and Stewart was an ideal actor for the role. The film also raised the question of whether it is necessary or right to try and cure someone of a condition that makes them happy (for there is no doubt that Elwood enjoyed Harvey’s friendship, whether it was real or not) and does not cause harm to anyone else. By the end of the movie, the viewer questions whether in fact Elwood was the one with the problem at all!

Josephine Hull was great – if a little ‘shrieky – as Veta Simmons, and injected a lot of humour into her role. I found the character of Myrtle Mae a little harder to warm to, but I don’t believe that she was intended to be a sympathetic character.

A lovely film, which will surely make you smile. I definitely recommend this.

Year of release: 1950

Director: Henry Koster

Writers: Mary Chase (play), Oscar Brodney, Myles Connolly

Main cast: James Stewart, Josephine Hull, Peggy Dow, Charles Drake, Cecil Kellaway, Victoria Horne, Jesse White

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This is the story of four archangels, Uriel, Gabriel, Michael and Azrael, who were created by the ‘Old Man’ 2000 years ago, but ended up coming down to earth to search for their four archesses, who could be anywhere at all in the world (and could in fact be anywhen as well).  The story is set in the modern day when Uriel goes by the name of Christopher Daniels and is a well known movie star, Gabriel is a firefighter who lives in Scotland, Michael is a New York City Police Officer and Azrael is a vampire, who performs in a rock band and is known as The Masked One.

When Uriel/Christopher meets Eleanore ‘Ellie’ Grainger, a book store clerk with the power to control the weather and heal people, he instantly realises that she is his archess.  But Ellie has no knowledge of all this, and has always wondered why she has such strange powers.  She finds herself irresistibly drawn to Uriel, but as the two try to form a relationship they are beset by obstacles in the form of Samael – an archangel known as The Fallen One, who was created before the others, but who was thrown over by the Old Man.  He too has come to earth and like the others, has special powers, but unlike the others, he uses his powers for evil.  He is known to the public as media mogul Samuel Lambent – and he is determined to claim Ellie for himself.

Will Uriel and Ellie be able to fulfil their destiny and be together – or will dark forces separate them forever?

This book is the first in ‘The Lost Angels’ series, so I assume that any subsequent books will deal with Michael, Gabriel and Azreal finding their own archesses.  Although fantasy is not a favourite genre of mine, I did enjoy this book.  I felt that the characters who were the best depicted were Uriel, Ellie and Samael.  Samael – despite being the villain of the piece – was certainly very charismatic, but like many great villains, he had his own beliefs and moral codes, which he adhered to.  He was one of the best characters, and I hope that he will be as prominent in subsequent books in the series.

The book does have a couple of sexually explicit scenes, which really wouldn’t be appropriate for younger readers, and some older readers may be put off by them (I wasn’t personally).  The romance story between Ellie and Uriel was believable (in the realms of fantasy fiction), and there was plenty of excitement and lots of obstacles to keep the pace exciting.

There is no religious theme in the book – The Old Man is clearly meant to be God, and Samael is as near to the Devil as a character could be.  However, there is no message here, and clearly no religious agenda of any sort.  What there is, is an exciting paranormal romance story, which I enjoyed more than I expected.

The story did throw up a couple of questions however – if Ellie is only 25 years old, how can she have been created by the Old Man 2000 years ago?  My assumption is that the powers of an archess are passed down in some form of reincarnation, but this is never explained.  That didn’t detract from the storyline however, and only actually occurred to me once I had finished the book.

Overall, it’s a good addition to the fantasy genre, and a book that I would definitely recommend.

(I would like to thank Headline Publishing Group for sending me this book for review.  Headline’s website can be found here.  Heather Killough-Walden’s website can be found here.)

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In 1990, 10-year-old Aubrey Adderley’s mother takes Aubrey to an autograph signing by Hollywood Legend Gene Kelly.  She is slightly surprised by his reaction to her, but puts it out of her mind.  As she grows up however, she becomes an adoring fan of Mr Kelly.

In 2006, while housesitting for the parents of a friend, she discovers a time machine in the father’s office.  With the help of the machine and her best friend Rusty, Aubrey travels back and meets Gene at  three very different times in his life.  She starts to fall for the man behind the movie legend she has always adored, but Aubrey belongs in 2006.  Can two people from different times ever find happiness together?

I’m in two minds about this book.  There were both good and bad parts; the main good point being that the author is clearly a big fan of Gene Kelly and her passion for her subject comes through well (as I am also a big fan of Gene, I can fully appreciate this).

However, it sometimes reads as though the story is author’s own daydreams about a favourite film star, and that the time-travel element has been thrown in as a plot device to allow her to meet him.  Although fantasy fiction always requires the reader to suspend their disbelief, I found it hard to do here.  (It seemed that most of the characters who knew about the time-traveling accepted it with little difficulty – and also worked out how the machine worked, with relative ease.)

Aubrey herself was actually a very likeable main character, feisty, impulsive, loyal and sweet, and she was well described.  I also liked Rusty, and of course Gene himself, who is portrayed as the kind, honest and funny man which I like to think that he was in real life.

There were a couple of elements which jarred slightly.  The main problem was more to do with editing than the story itself.  I don’t mind the odd spelling mistake in a book, but there were quite a few spelling and grammar mistakes here (and at one point Aubrey puts a skirt on, only to raise her pant leg a short time later, in the same scene). It shouldn’t reduce anyone’s enjoyment of the story however.  My main objection to the story though (and there are spoilers here, so you may not wish to read on if you’re thinking of reading this book), is that I found it slightly disrespectful to Gene’s extremely happy marriage.  A fair proportion of the story takes place in 1957, which was after the amicable ending of Gene’s marriage to Betsy Blair, and prior to his extremely happy marriage to Jeanne Coyne – which was cut tragically short by Coyne’s death at the age of 50.  Although I am certain that this was not the author’s intention, the book kind of gives the impression that throughout his marriage to Coyne, at least part of Gene’s heart lay with Aubrey, and this made me slightly uncomfortable.

Overall however, this was a fairly enjoyable book, and worth reading if you’re a Gene Kelly fan (I kept hearing his voice in my head whenever his character spoke).  It’s flawed, but enjoyable, and if Charlotte Sadler writes any more books, I would be tempted to pick them up.

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The Pan of Hamgee is charming, funny, quick thinking – and a coward.  The only thing he’s any good at is running away.  It’s a pretty good skill though, and explains why after being blacklisted for five years, he’s still alive when the rest of his family are dead, and his whole existence is treason.  Perhaps there are some people in his home world of K’Barth who don’t want to kill him, but they seem to be few and far between.  It’s probably lucky then that he literally has eyes in the back of his head.

He puts his getaway skills to use as a driver for a gang of bank robbers, but when they inadvertently steal a precious thimble which has magical powers, he is set on a road to disaster, which pits him against Lord Vernon, the despot leader of K’Barth.  Lord Vernon is prepared to go to any lengths necessary to stop the rightful leader from becoming known – and just because The Pan got in his way once before, there’s no way either of them want that to happen again.

The Pan has never believed that ethics and principles are very helpful in the art of survival, but all of a sudden he finds himself fighting for what he believes in, trying to escape with his life, and becoming captivated by a young woman whose name he does not even know.  Will he survive?  Will he get the girl?  And might he even gain some courage along the way?…

Fantasy is not normally a favourite genre of mine, as I can find it hard to suspend disbelief.  However, I did not have this problem with this book.  It’s packed with humour and action, and held my attention throughout.  The struggles for independence and survival by both The Pan and the residents of the land to an extent reflect real life events which happen in our world.

The Pan is a great hero, precisely because he does not possess the usual ‘heroic’ attributes.  He is happy to admit that he is a coward, who is just desperate to stay alive.  For someone who tries so hard to avoid confrontation, he finds himself in many sticky situations and often exacerbates matters by talking before thinking.  But he has charisma and is very likeable.  I also liked his employer Big Merv, who had hidden depths which are revealed throughout the book.

Lord Vernon made for a formidable villain – powerful, intelligent and without a shred of compassion.

The writing flows easily and the story moves along rapidly, with plenty laughs, and detail about the world of K’Barth which is both similar and very different to life on earth.  This book is the first in a trilogy and I was definitely left feeling that I wanted to know what happened next.

Recommended, especially to fans of fantasy, but also to those who might usually avoid it.

(I would like to thank the author for sending me this book to review.  M T McGuire’s website can be found here.)

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When a young man (Johnny Depp) is brought into the care of psychiatrist Jack Mickler (Marlon Brando), claiming to be the legendary lover Don Juan, Jack finds himself getting drawn into the young man’s world, and realise that some of the magic is missing from his own.  As Don Juan tells the story of his life, and what has brought him to this moment, he starts to have an effect on all around him.  Is he Don Juan, or isn’t he?  And in the end, does it really matter…?

Ahhhh, such a lovely film.  Johnny Depp is probably at his most beautiful here – and plays the part of Don Juan to perfection; this is just the sort of quirky off-beat role that he excels at.  Marlon Brando is also excellent as the world weary Mickler,who finds himself rejuvenated by the magical tales that he is told.  Faye Dunaway (as stunning as ever) plays the part of Mickler’s wife Marilyn, who is curious about the changes she sees in her husband.

There’s plenty of subtle humour in the film, mainly in the form of throwaway one-liners by Don Juan, but it’s also a very charming and sweet movie, which will leave you with a warm glow.  If you’ve never seen it – treat yourself!

Year of release: 1994

Director: Jeremy Leven

Writer: Lord Byron (character of Don Juan), Jeremy Leven

Main cast: Johnny Depp, Marlon Brando, Faye Dunaway

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In Baltimore in the 1860s, Roger Button welcome their son Benjamin into the world…but there is something very strange about him. Benjamin is born with the body and mind of a 70 year old man, which is naturally very disturbing to his parents. They eventually realise that he is aging backwards, and as he gets older, he actually becomes younger! In his prime of life when he appears to be a handsome man of 50 (but in truth is in his 20s), he meets a woman named Hildegarde and falls in love with her. But how can a man who becomes more like a child while his wife becomes more like an old lady ever really be happy?

I read this book in about an hour, and thought it was a lovely story. As it was a short story, there was less characterisation than there would be in a full length novel, but nonetheless, Benjamin evoked sympathy and the story held my attention from the first word, as I found myself wanting to know how his tale would end.

The writing is wonderful – evocative and descriptive, and the problems which a man with Benjamin’s condition would face were well portrayed. This book definitely made me want to read more by the author. My only complaint is that it ended too quickly! Highly recommended.

(For more information on the author, please click here.)

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Deeba, a young girl who lives in London, accidentally ends up in an unusual world where words literally come alive, ghosts have their own suburb to live in, and giraffes are highly dangerous and bloodthirsty creatures.  This is unLondon (Un Lun Dun), and Deeba has entered just in time to see war break out between the unLondoners and the deadly Smog.  She accidentally finds herself in the unenviable position of trying to beat the Smog and save the unLondoners, and along the way, she assembles a motley crew of companions.  The obstacles and dangers they face grow ever more strange and incredible…Will Deeba manage to save unLondon?  And will she be able to get back to her own home in London, before her family and friends forget all about her?

This book is aimed at young adults, but this in no way means that it cannot be enjoyed by adults.  Deeba is a terrific hero – all the more so, because she is an unexpected hero (it is revealed early on that her friend Zanna is the one expected to save this strange city).  But against the odds, people begin to realise that Deeba is intelligent and resourceful.

As well as being a fun story, there is also an underlying message about pollution and the responsible of disposing of our waste – but the book never preaches or lectures.

China Mieveille must have an incredible imagination (and judging by the illustrations in this book, which are also his work, a talent for art as well).  The story moves on at a rapid pace, with plenty of twists and turns.  It never gets boring, and it is impossible predict what will happen next.

A very enjoyable read, and one I would definitely recommend.  Although it could be classed as fantasy, I liked it, although fantasy is not a genre that I am usually drawn to.

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