Sunday, October 10, 2010

10/10/10 Reviews: #1 – Here Burns My Candle

In honor of it being 10/10/2010, I thought I’d catch up on my reviewing for books I’ve read recently and haven’t talked about yet. To make it more interesting, I’ll add a brief CD review to each post and a brief movie review, all from what I’ve bought or watched this year. They’ll be completely unrelated to the books, or to each other, and in several different genres, so hang on: it’s a potpourri of a plethora of reviewing! Any other blogger want to join in? I’ll add your links to my posts if you’ll let me know!

Review #1: Here Burns My Candle by Liz Curtis Higgs

The setting is Edinburgh 1745, just as the Jacobite Rebellion is taking siege of the city. Lady Elisabeth Kerr is directly in the middle, being a Highlander supportive of Bonny Prince Charlie and yet married to an Edinburgh Lord whose family is loyal to King George. That’s hardly her only swaying rope, as she is wife to Lord Donald Kerr and therefore next in line to become keeper of the family fortune along with him, with a mother-in-law who favors her younger son’s wife and barely speaks to Elisabeth. She loves her husband dearly and yet must deal with rumors of his infidelity. And, she follows the auld ways of Hielanders and puts her faith in the moon, thereby putting herself at risk of being accused of witchcraft when she goes out to honor it and ask for help.

I love historical novels, especially those from American history or from Celtic history. Liz Curtis Higgs was a new author to me when I was drawn to the cover at my local bookstore and picked it up to read the blurb. She is hardly a new author, however, with twenty-seven books (as of this one), a few of which are Scottish historicals.

Here Burns My Candle is a delightful read. It’s packed full of Scottish history, and not only the facts of the events, but small details about how the nobles lived, what they ate and wore, and how they interacted among themselves and their fellow Scots. The detail is weaved in so seamlessly, I at times forgot I wasn’t there in the house or on High Street with them watching their every move. It doesn’t take over so as to tell me, “Look, the author did her research,” as too often happens. It was flowing and graceful. The plot moved along steadily but not too fast, allowing full insight into the characters, much depth, and a pleasant ride.

There were two points that threw me just a bit. I wasn’t always sure the point of view needed to switch as often as it did in the beginning. It dwells on the Dowager Marjory Kerr, Elisabeth’s mother-in-law, heavily at first, and she’s a less interesting character than Elisabeth. There were also scenes from Donald’s perspective that were less enthralling and maybe not entirely necessary. In addition, the character of Rob McPherson was one of the highlights of the novel that continued to build, and then a sudden turn of his character left me thinking, “What? Wait? That’s not right.”

Overall, though, this was a fabulous read, a must for any Scottish historical buff: part literary, part romance, fully fleshed, and I missed it when it ended. I will be picking up more of this author’s Scottish series and possibly her other lines, as well.
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CD Review: Fearless Love, Melissa Etheridge

Melissa Etheridge is an auto buy for me. I have enough of her albums to know each one will be a treat even before I open it. Fearless Love is no exception. I’m not a musician, and therefore won’t go into craft detail, but what I love most about her work is the heart and openness of every song. Her music is her. It’s honest and strong and gentle … and fearless.

The title track lets us know right off what the CD is about. It’s personal and yet general at the same time. We can all relate to each song in some manner. They’re passionate, political, angry, accepting, and inspirational. I love her call to look within and start making our own impacts, our own changes in “We Are The Ones” instead of waiting for someone else to do what we think should be done. “Miss California” is a rip-it-wide-open statement protesting intolerance on a personal and societal level. In it, we see not only the issue, but the person behind it, the frustration and fear and hypocrisy. And yet, the CD ends with acceptance, forgiveness, and understanding that we’re all just trying to figure this thing out.

Give it a listen, an open-minded, hear-what-she’s-saying listen. I dare you not to be swept away to her world and come out of it with respect for the artist as not only an artist, but as a struggling, real person. This is rock music at its best.  I can’t wait for her next.
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Movie Review: Inkheart (2008)

I admit it: I rented this one largely because it’s Brendan Fraser. Although many of his early movies are … well, early movies meant for the young crowd who want just a few quick escapist laughs, I find his more current work more fascinating all the time. (I would never have watched the Mummy if he hadn’t starred, but have watched a few times if it comes on.) He’s a captivating actor.

However, as a writer, I couldn’t help being curious about the story line. Twelve year old Meggie has the ability to bring story characters to life. As she does, she pushes her dad (Fraser) right back into a story he’d tried for years to forget, and then she has to rescue him from this world of mixed reality and fiction.

It’s a charming story, fun and thoughtful, with plenty of action and humor. Beware that time passes quickly as you watch and that any of you avid readers (or writers) out there may be drawn to wonder what would happen if your favorite characters came to life.

It’s also a huge boon to the magic of reading, an inspiration to pick up a good book and get lost in it the way these characters get lost in the story. Is it truly just fiction? Or does the fiction shape their reality? Interesting to consider.
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-- If you happen to have read or listened to or watched any of the items I’m reviewing, I’d love to hear your thoughts about them!

Legal note: Here Burns My Candle & Fearless Love were purchased by the reviewer. Inkheart was rented by the reviewer. No review was solicited and nothing was provided in return.


Andra M. said...

The only book I have of Liz Curtis Higgs is "Bad Girls of the Bible," but I haven't read it yet. I did get to hear her speak at a writers conference a few years ago. She's a very funny, fascinating lady.

Thanks for the Inkheart review. I'll have to check it out. I'll give Etheridge's CD a gander as well.

LK Hunsaker said...

Hey Andra, this one was actually based loosely on Ruth and ... oh, I forget, but another Biblical woman.

I imagine you would enjoy Inkheart. :-)