Book Review: High Noon by Nora Roberts

Duncan Swift found himself captivated by Lieutenant Phoebe MacNamara when she comes to talk a suicidal employee down.  Phoebe reluctantly finds himself equally attracted to him, but doesn't think it would be fair to saddle him with all the baggage she carries, from a fashionista seven year old daughter to an agoraphobic mother to a job that can call her out any time of the day or night.

I love when Roberts has a hero or heroine who is a cop.  She has an easy way with how the job is done and the ties between people who wear a badge.  Phoebe is strong, but willing to allow others to help when she needs it.  The mystery of the villain was well developed.  And the job of negotiator was well portrayed.  Duncan, a multi-millionaire due to a lottery win and smart business sense, is a charming and delightful hero.  He knows how to support Phoebe and stand back, allowing her to do her job.  5 out of 5.

Book Review: Jackdaw by K. J. Charles

Set in the Charm of Magpies universe.  The story of windwalker Jonah Pastern and his policeman lover Ben Spenser.  Jonah had left Ben to face punishment and disgrace after escaping custody.  Once released from gaol, Ben travels to London, seeking revenge.

Oh, oh, oh.  I just wanted to gather both men in a comforting hug.  I rather liked Jonah despite his villain status, but after hearing more of his backstory as well as his relationship with Ben, I loved him and desperately wanted these two men to make a go of it once again.  Spectacular from start to finish.  K.J. Charles is fast becoming one of my "Must Read" authors.  5 out of 5.

Movie Review: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

This reboot of the original NBC television series is brought to us by Guy Ritchie.  His Sherlock Holmes reboot was delightful, so I had to see this film.  I was a huge fan of the original series, desperately in love with Illya Kuryakin, so I was alternatively worried and excited.

I have to confess that I really didn't know Henry Cavill, so I went in without any expectations.  Sorry, I haven't watched any Superman films since Christopher Reeve.  I found Cavill to be more charming as Napoleon Solo than Robert Vaughn.  With all due respect to Vaughn, I never really took to him, but did enjoy the onscreen friendship between Solo and Kuryakin, as played by the wonderful David McCallum.  Cavill has the chiseled good looks similar to Vaughn, but reminds me more of Matt Bomer in the charm and likability department.

As to Armie Hammer, he does a very decent job as the delectable Illya.  He's an actor I like who sometimes gets the most awful roles (thinking of the Lone Ranger here).  Although American, born in California, Armie always gives me that Canadian vibe.  The Illya we're given in this film has some serious backstory and a severe anger management issue when pushed too far.

The series always had beautiful women and the movie doesn't falter in that aspect either.  I really liked the character of Gaby, played by Alicia Vikander.  Here's hoping that, if more films are done, she returns.  Baddie Victoria, acted by Elizabeth Debicki, keep me thinking of Jill Ireland.  She had that look to her and style.

Overall, I liked the film.  I found it fun and nostalgic for me as I was alive back in those bad old days of 1963.  Great interactions of all the stars.  I wasn't sure about Mr. Waverly being played by Hugh Grant, but it worked.  Mostly.  And it was nice to see an origin story, something we didn't get in the original series or even in the books and magazines based on the series.  Which, if you ever get a chance to pick up, do so.  Some of the best written based on TV paperbacks I ever read.  And there was a lot of them back in the 1960s.

Even if you're a fan of the original series, I think you'll enjoy this movie.  I'd give it 4.5 out of 5.  
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Book Review: Feast of Stephen by K. J. Charles

A Charm of Magpies 3.5

Crane brings Stephen, Merrick and Jenny Saint to his hunting lodge for a short getaway from London.  Not only do they get a vacation, but it gives Saint time to get to know the real Lucien and feel comfortable around him.

A sweet little interlude that morphed into some hot lovemaking thanks to Stephen's powers.  It is also the start of a new life for all four individuals.  And, finally, Saint can see that Crane is more than just his over-so-proper persona.  4.5 out of 5.

Book Review: Flight of Magpies by K. J. Charles

A Charm of Magpies 3

The stress of Stephen Day's work and personal loyalties are causing problems with his and Lord Crane's relationship.  Add the still missing Lady Bruton and the new actions of Crane's tattoos, well, anyone could understand why Lucien longs to leave England.  Except for one thing, he will never leave Stephen.

Wow.  Let me repeat myself.  WOW!!  There is just so much wonderfulness in this latest installment.  The power is developing beyond what Stephen could have imagined.  The scary Lady Bruton is slithering back around again, looking for revenge.  And we meet a new windwalker who, frankly, is sorta cute.  In a totally bad boy way, of course.  Charles gives us romance, danger, Jen and Frank, some pretty intense sex with a healthy dollop of D/s, and fantastic writing.  5 out of 5.

Book Review: Women of Mystery by Martha Hailey Dubose

Subtitled:  The Lives and Works of Notable Women Crime Novelists.

A collection of mysteries written by women, biographies of some of the top names, and a listing of the books in the order published and/or to be read.

Honestly, I've had this on my Sony ereader for years and years now.  It wasn't what I expected.  Not a bad book, but I can't say if I'd recommend unless the person I'm rec'ing to is interested more in the biography aspect.  3.5 out of 5.

Book Review: Know the Past, Find the Future by Caro Llewellyn

The centennial was in 2011.  In honor of that and Penguin Books' 65th Anniversary, we've been given a collection of 100 notable figures who talk about what items mean the most from the many collections at the library.  There is much more than just books at the New York Public Library.

This is a great glimpse into the many collections contained at the Library.  My own love affair with the MYPL started very early.  Between the guardian lions and the feeling when you step inside, it was a favorite place to visit whenever my New York relatives would take me to the City.  When I became old enough to go on my own, I always took time to visit what was my favorite place downtown.  3.5 out of 5.

Book Review: Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley

Young actress Celia Sands is offered the lead in a play written for her namesake by lover Galeazzo D'Ascanio.  His grandson, Alessandro D'Ascanio, is producing it in Italy.  The original Celia never got a chance to star in it, having disappeared shortly before.

This is a modern gothic.  Kearsley has taken all the best bits from classic and traditional gothics and twisted them up.  The author's use of character and location gives it that bit of commonsense that gothics need to shine again.  Celia isn't one of those stupid heroines who go where there is a strong possibility of danger, at least not without good reason.  We still have murder, mysterious disappearances, ghosts, and a strong undercurrent of pain.  This was a gut wrenching story, so you might want to grab a few tissues as you approach the end of the story.  4 out of 5. (It might've been 4.5 out of 5, but for the loss of one of my favorites in the story.)

Man from U.N.C.L.E. Review: The Vulcan Affair

In anticipation of Guy Ritchie's reboot of this beloved series, I've cracked open the U.N.C.L.E. briefcase to review the old series.  We start off with the first episode, aired September 22, 1964.  Back in those days it was aired in black & white, although there was a pilot episode done in color.  I am an original fan of the series, having watched it and the latter, and much weaker, spin-off The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. from the first time it aired.  Remarkable as it was opposited McHale's Navy when it first started.  My love for this series continued to the bitter end.  I read all the spin-off books and magazines, joined my friends in playacting scenes from the more intense hurt/comfort and angsty episodes, and that love has always simmered inside throughout the years.

Spoiler alert.  During this recaps and reviews, there may be spoilers, so if you haven't seen the original series, you might want to skip these.  I am not using the cuts since the series was aired and released in DVD format so long ago, so be aware.

The basic setup of the series was an organization, U.N.C.L.E. or United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, without boundaries of country or politics.  The aim of U.N.C.L.E. was to protect the world from baddies, particularly those from THRUSH.  There were U.N.C.L.E. offices all over the world, but Section 1 was New York City.  Number 1, or the head guy, at Section 1 was Mr. Waverley, wonderfully played by the aging Leo G. Carroll.  His top agents for all the tough jobs were Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum).  Solo was an American, but Illya was Russian.  The hook for the early years at least was the involvement of an innocent, either intentionally or by accident.

We start off strong with THRUSH agents busting into U.N.C.L.E. headquarters in an effort to assassinate Mr. Waverley before he can send Solo on a mission ot stop the murder of an emerging African nation's leader.  Napoleon quickly takes care of the situation before Waverley can be reached.  We meet Illya for a short time, but he won't be involved in this mission.  Early days for everyone's favorite special agent.  Genius businessman and engineer Andrew Vulcan (Fritz Weaver) is the man from THRUSH that must be stopped, but to get near him, Solo enlists, somewhat forcably, the assistance of Vulcan's high school steady, Elaine May Bender (Pat Crowley).  She has since married and has two children, but is convinced by her clueless husband to go.  A cover story has been carefully crafted for her, that of a rich widow.

Things go pearshaped when everyone knows who Solo is when he appears at Vulcan's party, not to mention the actual focus of the assassination attempt is actually NOT the man everyone thought.  There is action and daring escapes, witty dialog and unusual camera angles.  Oh, and we didn't have the pen communicator as yet.  Solo's was a box the size of a cigarette box for this episode, but we still communicated on Channel D.

Some of the more unusual aspects of the series was the use of POC in respectful ways, with such casualness.  An Asian woman who manned the door to headquarters, a black guard farther inside.  Our African nation leaders, who included Ivan Dixon & William Marshall, were well-spoken and educated, no tribal Tarzanesce crap.  Considering the time period, this was as extraordinary as a black co-lead in I SPY a year later in 1965.

A funny fact is that, after the original pilot was aired, the NBC network heads wanted to get rid of the foreign guy.  Will Kuluva, the pilot head of Section 1, was subsequently replaced by Leo G. Carroll.  Unfortunately, the executives had meant the Russian guy.  It reminds me of the executives at CBS who wanted the green guy with the pointy ears fired.  Both Illya and Spock became the most popular characters on their respective series.

Honestly, the episode holds up quite well.  Cheeky, but exciting, much in the mode of James Bond.  If I watched it today for the first time, I would still have put it on my Must Watch list.