Thursday, January 23, 2020

#2020PopCultureResolution - A Place In The Sun

A Place In The Sun

Director: George Stevens

Length:  122 minutes

Cast: Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift, Shelley Winters

Release Date: August 14, 1951

Synopsis: In this film, handsome young George Eastman goes to work in a relative's factory. He has a brief rendezvous with assembly-line worker Alice Tripp, but he forgets all about her when he falls for dazzling socialite Angela Vickers. Alice can't forget about him, though: she is pregnant with his child.

** Spoilers for real life events and the movie**

It's a tale that any Murderino has heard a million times before: a woman is murdered because her very existence is deemed an inconvenience to a man. A Place In The Son is based off of a novel called An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser. The novel is a fictional account of a real murder that took place in July of 1906. Chester Gillette killed his pregnant girlfriend Grace Brown as he was not interested  owning up to his responsibilities like she was asking him to. He certainly wasn't interested in marrying her. He, it was said, had higher ambitions of marrying a wealthy woman. There was even another woman, Harriet Benedict, that he was involved with. One summer day, he took Grace out on a lake in the Adirondack mountains area, hit her over the head with a tennis racket, and let her drown in the water. He was quickly arrested after her body was found and found guilty and sentenced to death by electric chair.

The real events are only loosely accounted for in both the book, and the movie made from it. We do have the main participants in Montgomery Clift's George Eastman (Gillette), Elizabeth Taylor's Angela Vickers (Benedict) and Shelley Winters' Alice Tripp (Brown). The events that unfold are showcased as not quite as sinister and malicious as the ones in real life, but it still offers a harrowing look at what someone will do for love, and their own selfish desires.

All three actors, Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift, and Shelley Winters, turn in mesmerizing performances. Clift's George oozes enough charisma and charm to have the audience conflicted about the events that unfold. He's ambitious in a lot of ways, but there is a vulnerability that comes through because of the way Clift plays this character. Taylor is luminous and beguiling as Angela. The chemistry between the two is undeniable, and it paints the story in a much more romantic light that it perhaps should be. Shelley Winter's Alice is shown as a woman who is broken, betrayed and discarded by a man who only seems to think about himself.

The romance really is the central part of the story. The events that happen later can only work if you believe in the romance that is being spun. The audience has to believe that George would do anything to keep not only Angela, but the world she represented to him. She's a wealthy, high class lady versus the working woman Alice offers. It's this fact, and their connection, that spurs his motivations.

The movie makes the choice to not paint George as an outright villain. The death is one that paints George as a coward, selfish, and opportunistic. His hands may not directly murder her, but he is still responsible for her death. What starts out as an accident turns into a choice, and that is what ultimately makes the audience no longer root for the man who had previously presented as our romantic hero. He's definitely not a saint, but he isn't quite the monster you want him to be either.

The movie's back half is tense and well constructed. The ramping up of the tension and pressure on George is felt through the score, and ringing telephones that sound like alarms. That tension continues right through to the end. It's a fantastic directing choice, and makes the movie compelling from start to finish.

A Place In The Sun is a tragic story, and one that feels all too familiar. It is a story that could easily be set in modern times with little change. It's filled with haunting performances that I certainly will be thinking about for quite a long time.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Waiting On Wednesday ... The Ravens

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pick is The Ravens by Kass Morgan and Danielle Paige

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Kappa Rho Nu isn’t your average sorority. Their parties are notorious. Their fundraisers are known for being Westerly College’s most elaborate affairs. But beneath the veil of Greek life and prestige, the sisters of Kappu Rho Nu share a secret: they’re a coven of witches. For Vivi Deveraux, being one of Kappa Rho Nu’s Ravens means getting a chance to redefine herself. For Scarlett Winters, a bonafide Raven and daughter of a legacy Raven, pledge this year means living up to her mother’s impossible expectations of becoming Kappa Rho Nu’s next president. Scarlett knows she’d be the perfect candidate — that is, if she didn’t have one human-sized skeleton in her closet…. When Vivi and Scarlett are paired as big and little for initiation, they find themselves sinking into the sinister world of blood oaths and betrayals.
Witches are definitely having a moment in young adult literature right now. There are so many amazing sounding witchy reads coming out within the next year.

The Ravens is witches in a sorority which I am very much here for. It doesn't come out for al.ost an entire year but I am already eagerly awaiting its release.

Expected release date - January 5, 2021

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Tweet Cute Blog Tour - Q and A with Emma Lord

I was thrilled to be invited to take part in the blog tour for Emma Lord's Tweet Cute. A modern twist on the classic rom-com You've Got Mail that mixes in delicious baked goods was immediately something I needed to read. I am even more excited to help celebrate the book's release date as you can officially pick up Tweet Cute in stores as of today.

Here is the book's official jacket copy which will immediately make you melt.
Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming — mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account.

Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time.

All’s fair in love and cheese — that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life — on an anonymous chat app Jack built.

As their relationship deepens and their online shenanigans escalate — people on the internet are shipping them?? — their battle gets more and more personal, until even these two rivals can’t ignore they were destined for the most unexpected, awkward, all-the-feels romance that neither of them expected.
Adorable, right? Even the names are punny. It is seriously as cute as it sounds and perfect for young adult romance fans.

Emma kindly agreed to answer a few questions about her book. I got her to spill on what an ice cream based off her book might taste like, and what her own must watch rom-coms are.

What gif do you feel best describes Tweet Cute? 
I don’t know if this is a meme or a GIF, really, but the Elmo fire one comes to mind. I think it’s sort of come to represent a weird intersection of joy/pain/chaos/hilarity, and I think Tweet Cute’s got all of that in the mix. 

If a signature ice cream were to be made for Tweet Cute what might be included?
OOOOH. I think the base would be a classic vanilla, but it would be stuffed to the gills with Rolos, Reese’s, Oreos, and rainbow sprinkles like Monster Cake from the book, and have ribbons of caramel and a healthy pinch of salt and oh my god I am so hungry now, BYE. 

Tweet Cute is inspired by You've Got Mail. What are some of your other favourite rom-coms?
I love About Time above all, I think, but I’m also a fan of Crazy Rich Asians, The Proposal,  27 Dresses, Bride Wars, Love, Rosie, and the woefully underrated period rom-com, Mrs. Pettigrew Lives For A Day. I’m sure I am missing about a gazillion that I also love.

Be sure to go grab your copy of Tweet Cute today. It's available at all major book retailers today and stop by Twitter to wish her a Happy Book Birthday!

Emma Lord is a digital media editor and writer living in New York City, where she spends whatever time she isn’t writing either running or belting show tunes in community theater. She graduated from the University of Virginia with a major in psychology and a minor in how to tilt your computer screen so nobody will notice you updating your fan fiction from the back row. She was raised on glitter, grilled cheese, and a whole lot of love. Her sun sign is Hufflepuff, but she is a Gryffindor rising. TWEET CUTE is her debut novel. You can find her geeking out online at @dilemmalord on Twitter.

"Sweet and fun! An adorable debut that updates a classic romantic trope with a buzzy twist." - Jenn Bennett, author of Alex, Approximately and Serious Moonlight

“A witty rom-com reinvention for the Twitter age, Tweet Cute pairs delicious online rivalry with deeply relatable insights on family pressure and growing up. This fresh, funny read had us hitting ‘favorite’ from page one.” - Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka, authors of Always Never Yours and If I’m Being Honest 

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Infinity Son by Adam Silvera

Infinity Son by Adam Silvera
Release Date - January 14, 2020
Publisher Website - Harper Collins Canada
Publisher Social Media - Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/Frenzy
Pages -  368 pages
My Rating - 3.5/5
**received from the publisher for an honest review**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Balancing epic and intensely personal stakes, bestselling author Adam Silvera’s Infinity Son is a gritty, fast-paced adventure about two brothers caught up in a magical war generations in the making.

Growing up in New York, brothers Emil and Brighton always idolized the Spell Walkers—a vigilante group sworn to rid the world of specters. While the Spell Walkers and other celestials are born with powers, specters take them, violently stealing the essence of endangered magical creatures.

Brighton wishes he had a power so he could join the fray. Emil just wants the fighting to stop. The cycle of violence has taken a toll, making it harder for anyone with a power to live peacefully and openly. In this climate of fear, a gang of specters has been growing bolder by the day.

Then, in a brawl after a protest, Emil manifests a power of his own—one that puts him right at the heart of the conflict and sets him up to be the heroic Spell Walker Brighton always wanted to be.

Brotherhood, love, and loyalty will be put to the test, and no one will escape the fight unscathed
They Both Die At The End teased how Adam Silvera might create a fantasy world. I expected a familiar urban setting with the magical world built around it. That is exactly what you get in Infinity Son. It also feels a touch familiar which, for me, added a level of comfort to reading this story.

The world building is pivotal to any fantasy story and the foundation is being built here. I just don't feel like it was fully fleshed out. Silvera has taken a world we know and overlaid a world of magic, mythical creatures, and fate. The way modern technology is woven in with all of the fantasy elements worked for me. It felt natural that the online world would capitalize on knowing people with magical abilities exist and use it as a means to gain clout and followers. The various ways power can be obtained and the consequences of that are each so unique and yet tied together by other elements in the story and the various factions who want that power. I, however, do hope that the actual fantasy elements are further fleshed out and explored in the sequels. It has a lot of potential and I hope it expands and answers some of the questions I am left with as it is the aspect I most wanted more from.

The sibling connection between Emil and Brighton reads as entirely authentic. They love each other but also have moments of conflict. There is a hint of sibling rivalry and competition as well. They don't always agree or see things the same way and that is part of what motivates both of them. You never doubt their love for each other but also recognize there is underlying friction there.

The brothers are basically polar opposites which often causes any friction they do have. Emil is the more serious, more reserved brother. He doesn't want to be part of this war that seems determined to pull him in. Brighton on the other hand is outgoing, impulsive, reckless, and would love nothing more than to jump into the fight. One wants the worries of the world on their shoulders while the other just wants to be left in peace. It makes for an interesting butting of heads when they clash because both of them have a point if you view it from their perspective.

One of my favourite elements is a ship that develops during the course of the novel. The way it is built and teased as the story progressed ensured a delightful tension. It is one of my favourite tropes (the telling of which would spoil the experience of seeing this relationship unfold) and I ended up becoming very invested in what happens to these two characters.

This book boasts a large cast of characters and not all of them get enough page time to flesh them out as fully as I would have liked. The emotional beats did not always land as deeply as they should have because I didn't feel as attached to certain characters. The characters are there for a reason and do serve a purpose, I just don't know if they will resonate with readers as much as the story hopes they do.

The ending is tailor made to make you immediately want to go grab book two. It is the kind of ending that leaves a reader in awe and desperate to return to the world they were just pulled out of. It sets the stage for an even more complex and tense sequel and promises lots of action.

Fans of Silvera's previous work will find plenty of the elements he is known for within these pages. It has the writing, pacing, and emotional core that you have come to expect. It may have more magic than you are used to but I predict even those not used to reading fantasy will fall under this book's spell.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Waiting On Wednesday .... The Comeback

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pick is The Comback by Ella Berman

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
A deep dive into the psyche of a young actress raised in the spotlight under the influence of a charming, manipulative film director and the moment when she decides his time for winning is over.

At the height of her career and on the eve of her first Golden Globe nomination, teen star Grace Turner disappeared.

Now, tentatively sober and surprisingly numb, Grace is back in Los Angeles after her year of self-imposed exile. She knows the new private life she wants isn't going to be easy as she tries to be a better person and reconnect with the people she left behind.

But when Grace is asked to present a lifetime achievement award to director Able Yorke--the man who controlled her every move for eight years--she realizes that she can't run from the secret behind her spectacular crash and burn for much longer. And she's the only one with nothing left to lose.

Alternating between past and present, The Comeback tackles power dynamics and the uncertainty of young adulthood, the types of secrets that become part of our sense of self, and the moments when we learn that though there are many ways to get hurt, we can still choose to fight back.
My choice this week seems very timely as it fits into the current #metoo conversation. I am drawn to Hollywood set stories so this one naturally caught my attention.

With how currently relevant this book's premise is, and how incredible the synopsis sounds, I could easily see this being one of the big books of the summer.

It sounds like a perfect choice for book clubs, beach bags, and summer vacations.

Expected release date - August 18, 2020

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

American Predator by Maureen Callahan

American Predator by Maureen Callahan
Release Date - July 2, 2019
Publisher Website - Penguin Random House Canada
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages -  285 pages
My Rating - 4/5
**borrowed from library**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
A gripping tour de force of investigative journalism that takes us  deep into the investigation behind one of the most frightening and enigmatic serial killers in modern American history, and into the ranks of a singular American police force: the Alaska PD.

Most of us have never heard of Israel Keyes. But he is one of the most ambitious, meticulous serial killers of modern time. The FBI considered his behavior unprecedented. Described by a prosecutor as "a force of pure evil", he was a predator who struck all over the United States. He buried 'kill kits' - cash, weapons, and body-disposal tools - in remote locations across the country, and over the course of fourteen years, would fly to a city, rent a car, and drive thousands of miles in order to use his kits. He would break into a stranger's house, abduct his victims in broad daylight, and kill and dispose of them in mere hours. And then he would return home, resuming life as a quiet, reliable construction worker devoted to his only daughter.

When journalist Maureen Callahan first heard about Israel Keyes in 2012, she was captivated by how a killer of this magnitude could go undetected by law enforcement for over a decade. And so began a project that consumed her for the next several years - uncovering the true story behind how the FBI ultimately caught Israel Keyes, and trying to understand what it means for a killer like Keyes to exist. A killer who left a path of monstrous, randomly committed crimes in his wake - many of which remain unsolved to this day.

American Predator is the ambitious culmination of years of on-the-ground interviews with key figures in law enforcement, and in Keyes' life, and research uncovered from classified FBI files. Callahan takes us on a journey into the chilling, nightmarish mind of a relentless killer, and the limitations of traditional law enforcement, in one of America's most isolated environments - Alaska - when faced with a killer who defies all expectation and categorization.
The first thing I feel you should know before diving into American Predator is that it will enrage you. It both tells you everything and nothing about serial killer Israel Keyes while providing a quick and well researched read.

The frustrating part about anything written about Israel Keyes is that so much about him and his crimes remains unknown. He was arrogant, smug, and felt he was smarter than the people investigating his crimes. He refused to answer questions and was often vague when he did answer anything. His suicide ensured that many lingering questions will be that much harder to answer and that some may never have answers at all. The amount of unknown details in this case, as someone whose interest in true crime stems from the whys, only made me more infuriated at an already exasperating Keyes.

The investigation into this case is, at times, mishandled. The interrogation being the main aspect that fell apart. Other elements showcase brilliant police work that ended up catching an evasive killer. Certain things allowed for Israel to make the investigators look ridiculous which only served to add to his arrogance. He, not them, had control of the interrogation. He gave only what he was willing to provide, and those asking the questions made it easy for him to do so. To be fair, Keyes really had no interest in negotiating with those tasked with finding out what happened. He wasn't looking for fame and saw no reason to make their jobs easier. This fact, combined with some political jockeying by certain investigators, made for a unsuccessful interrogation. There was great police work here, but it was often hindered by others and left those who were competent with their hands tied and scrambling to do the best they could.

Maureen Callahan's writing and pacing makes you feel like you are following the investigation in real time. You're learning about the various crimes committed by Keyes at the same as law enforcement. By the time that Keyes is apprehended the reader feels a tight tension that really doesn't get any relief from the tense, and rage inducing, interrogation. She also makes the most out of what is known about the case. She does her best to provide a detailed accounting of events but you can sense her frustration as times that so much still remains unanswered.

Much is often made about the perpetrator rather than the victims. The killer gets the book written about them, or a Netflix documentary. Even the way Keyes is talked about feeds into this narrative of spotlighting the killer. There are only a few known victims in this particular case but the author is careful to provide details about who they were and made it so they were not just a footnote of a name in the book. The focus is on Keyes, but not just on him.

American Predator is a bone-chilling account of a serial killer who not only was a  meticulous planner, but one capable of flying under the radar for years. The lingering question, thanks to his extensive travel, of how many victims remain unknown is what I found most haunting. I highly recommend this for those with an interest in true crime. Just expect to be both horrified, and angry when you finish.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Weekly Obsessions

The awesome Kelly at KellyVision started posting a weekly post highlighting whatever she happened to be obsessed with that week. I LOVE this idea, so much in fact that I will be doing it myself every Saturday.


Cover for The Ravens by Kass Morgan and Danielle Paige (goodreads)

Paranormal, particularly in young adult, is back and I could not be happier. Witches seem to be part of the upcoming trend and I am here for all of it. I am especially looking forward to this modern take on witches set in a sorority.

The colour scheme of this novel is what immediately caught my eye. The splashes of pink on the black fit the witches in a sorority vibe perfectly in my opinion. This one doesn't come out until January of 2021 so we have a bit of a wait but the cover certainly got my attention.


Trailer for Locke and Key

I recently devoured the Locke and Key series and fell in love. It's a story of grief and childhood that plays against a sort of horror backdrop. I was hesitant about the television series after reading it, but the trailer has brought me fully on board.

Bode's casting is PERFECTION and so much of the tone of the story seems to have been captured here. I am cautiously optimistic.

Promising Young Woman Trailer

I have not been able to stop thinking about this trailer since I first saw it. It's smart, biting, and already causing a lot of discussion.

Carey Mulligan looks to be giving a goosebumps giving performance in this and the subject matter could not be more timely.

What are you obsessed with this week? Let me know in the comments.

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