Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold

SUMMARY (from Goodreads): In Alfred Gibson the fierce energy and brilliance of the most famous of the Victorian novelists is recreated, in a heart-warming story of first love – of a cocky young writer smitten by a pretty girl in a blue dress.

Alfred Gibson's funeral has taken place at Westminster Abbey, and his wife of twenty years, Dorothea, has not been invited. Her younger daughter Kitty comforts her, until an invitation for a private audience with Queen Victoria arrives, and she begins to examine her own life more closely. Uncovering the true deviousness and hypnotic power of her celebrity author husband, she'll now need to face her grown-up children – and worse – her redoubtable younger sister, Sissy and the charming actress, Miss Ricketts.


I’m not a Dickens fan as it is – I find him too depressing in a frustrating way, not in a relatable, making-me-sympathise-and-cry way – but Girl in a Blue Dress was recommended by a friend who also lent it to me, so I gave it a shot.

It didn’t make me like Dickens any more, but there were things I liked about it, as well as those I didn’t.

What I liked:

  • sort of Victorian-novel-like writing style,
  • the presentation of living situations of the middle and the upper-middle classes in the Victorian era,
  • Dorothea shaking off her bonds and embracing life again at the end,
  • Dorothea becoming more confident and aware of an unequal situation of women in the society and even advocating women’s rights, even though only in the familiar circle, but stating her opinion at last was a big step for her.

What I didn’t like:

  • Alfred and the way he treated Dorothea and other women or, actually, all people
  • Alfred being such a horrible self-centred man, always managing to spin the story the way it made him look good and everyone else at fault for whatever happened
  • Dorothea being so passive and submissive, actually spineless, and worshipping Alfred despite the way he treated her
  • and Dorothea blaming solely Miss Ricketts for stealing her man (whereas Miss Ricketts was actually Alfred’s victim herself, which at the end Dorothea recognised)

A little spoiler, perhaps, though not really:

So, among other things Alfred blamed Dorothea for was for how she was pregnant all the time and how they had too many children and that was finally his last excuse to distance himself from her. It filled me with such rage. Like it was all Dorothea’s fault (props to her that she did try to tell him he is just as responsible for that; of curse he didn’t listen to her).

The fact is that Dorothea was mostly ignorant, as it was usual for girls at that time, about how to prevent pregnancy (with whatever means and methods existing at the time), but she did try to inquire about a solution. She even learned about a few possible ways of contraception but couldn’t acquire them on her own, which really represents the powerlessness of women at the time.

However, what angered me greatly, was the sanctimonious attitude of Alfred’s, who, as a worldly man he was, surely had more knowledge about it and ways to ensure them taking precautions, but he chose to not pay any attention to the matter and just simply ascribe it to Dorothea as one more of her shortcomings.

(End of the little spoiler.)

All in all, Girl in a Blue Dress is not an outstanding book, but it has some enjoyable elements and some thought-provoking themes.

RECOMMENDATION: Victorian literature and Dickens lovers would probably like Girl in a Blue Dress.

3 stars

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Trials of Cate McCall (2013)

the trials of cate mccallDIRECTOR: Karen Moncrieff; CAST: Kate Beckinsale, Oliver Cromwell, David Lyons, Mark Pellegrino, Nick Nolte, Kathy Baker, Anna Anissimova…

SUMMARY (from IMDB): In order to be reinstated to the bar and recover custody of her daughter, a hotshot lawyer, now in recovery and on probation, must take on the appeal of a woman wrongfully convicted of murder.


What prompted me to watch this film was the cast and a compelling story, and I was not disappointed by either of the two.

The Trials of Cate McCall is one of these films which are hard to review; for saying anything concrete about it could spoil the enjoyment of a future viewer as its best elements are those which come as a surprise.

Even though the themes of The Trials of Cate McCall have been explored in films numerous times, the film is still unique in its own way. Plot-wise, both Cate’s professional and personal struggles are absolutely intriguing and take some unexpected turns. The characters are well-developed and multi-dimensional, not only the main ones, but also the supporting ones.

I have already mentioned the amazing cast, who do justice to their names with good performances. Each and everyone deserves praise, but I would like to point out only one by name: Anna Anissimova deserves major props for her Lacey.

Overall, The Trials of Cate McCall was definitely worth my time – it it is only just under an hour and a half long – and left a lasting positive impression on me.

4 stars

RECOMMENDATION: If you like crime/drama The Trials of Cate McCall is certainly a film to be taken into consideration the next time you wonder what to watch.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Game of Thrones, Seasons 1–3

GoT title cardCREATOR: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss; CAST: Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Maisie Williams…

SUMMARY (from IMDB): Seven noble families fight for control of the mythical land of Westeros.


Obviously, A Song of Ice and Fire by G. R. R. Martin has been on my TBR list for ages. However, even though I have heard a lot of praise for it, I have been reluctant to start it, because those books look scarily thick.

Nevertheless, I started watching the TV-series based on it on a whim, and sped through it in about three weeks, because it is so good.

As I learned from a friend who read the books and watched the show, Game of Thrones is to a great extent faithful to the book series as far as the basics are concerned, but it omits details, which is understandable.
It has a lot of great characters, played by excellent actors: the good, the evil, and those in between; and you will both love and hate them. And let me reiterate the warning my friend gave me: do not get attached to any character to strongly because nobody is safe.

The plot is full of action, suspense, intrigues and drama both on personal and general scales, with many unexpected surprises along the way and twists one never sees coming.

The scenery and settings are absolutely stunning, worth watching all on their own. And I enjoyed the music on the show quite a bit.

Game of Thrones is not for people with weak stomachs, since there is quite some graphic violence present. This show is on HBO for a reason, so be warned. The same goes for sexually explicit scenes.

Overall, I fell in love with this show, and I can’t wait for season 4, starting in April. And one of these days I will certainly venture to my library and borrow the first book of A Song of Ice on Fire, since I want to learn the details the show may have left out and get perhaps a clearer, deeper look into this amazing world.

5 stars
RECOMMENDATION: If you are a fantasy and history (since the world of ASoIaF resembles a medieval world) fan, this show is a must-see (provided you are a mature adult and can handle violence, of course), as is the book series a must-read (the advice I have to follow some day soon).