We have been crazy busy already at the start of this Summer and look to being busy right up into Autumn too!
I (Jo) have been doing lots of creative writing which is published from time to time on Yorkshire Writers Lunch Blog and from where you can read lots of other interesting stories and poems from other member of the Yorkshire Writers Lunch Group.
I have also received a very large reading list for the holidays! This is comprised of a combination of virtual and paper publications which are currently and will keep her very busy in the near future! Season 3 of Poldark is on now, Marvel’s The Defendants begins in August on Netflix and Season 3 of Outlander starts in September! So there’s also lots of TV to be catching up with also!
As for the others at CLC towers; Kyle is currently on a Summer work placement, Ross has been busy at work and college and Grace has many concerts and workshops right up to when school finishes and beyond! Phew! So as you can see, it’s been pretty hard to get posts done as well but I wanted to talk briefly about a book that I recently read called Broken River.
Broken River: The most suspense-filled, inventive thriller you’ll read this year by J. Robert Lennon is a fascinating book. It is part gothic thriller, part detective fiction, reminiscent in places of Johnathan Franzen’s epic family based stories. It tells the story of an deserted house in the small town of ‘Broken River’ in upstate New York.
A tragedy occurred there twelve years ago where a man and his wife were murdered and their bodies never discovered. They had a young daughter who escaped the atrocity and mysteriously disappeared.
Twelve years later Karl (a sculptor), his novelist wife Eleanor and their twelve year old daughter Irina move into the property. Ostensibly the move was to get Karl away from the temptation of New York City as he had been serially unfaithful to Eleanor, but Karl is not a likeable character and problems seem to follow the family wherever they go. Eleanor also has secrets of her own as does their daughter Irina. When Eleanor and Irina become obsessed with the past events that occurred on their property then they open up a whole Pandora’s box of trouble!
The story is told from multiple viewpoints (Karl, Eleanor and Irina’s) but also new characters in Broken River itself such as Louis a man who may have been involved in the past murders and most intriguingly a omnipresent observer who can follow different characters around and appears to be incorporeal, without body like a ghost. This is not an easy read but it pushes the boundaries of fiction and is definitely one to try as it makes you think.
North America, with a diverse range of environments and climate zones it makes a wonderful place to see and discover all manner of different plants. One plant family in particular, the Cactaceae (Cacti) family is endemic to the Americas.
For many years exotic gardening enthusiasts in temperate climates have long searched for hardy cacti and succulents. One highly recommended cacti for temperate gardens is the Opuntia Polyacantha, known commonly as the plains prickly pear, it is found naturally on the great plains and prairies of the US and Canada. Given the harsh continental climate with ragingly hot summers and bitterly cold winters it fares well in a temperate climate winter.
Another gem from North America is the Echinacea Purpurea, with its bold flowerheads it has become a firm favourite in the cottage garden. It is fairly easy to grow and prefers a freely draining site. It has been given recognition from the RHS as being perfect for pollinating insects
Californian Lilac (Ceanothus) is a much loved and commonly used garden shrub in the UK. It has lovely clusters of electric blue, honey scented flowers in the spring time. It is an evergreen and has small dark green leaves and stems the year round. It attracts lots of bees and is generally a fast growing but relatively short lived shrub.
Ceanothus in Bloom
Obviously this is merely a minute selection of all the wonderful plants that originate from North America but they are certainly gems and highly recommended for temperate gardens.
To continue with our theme of the US, something that the US has gifted us is comics and comic book characters such as superheroes. I wanted to take a little bit of time to explore some of these and their recent representation on film and TV. Most of these series (apart from Wonder Woman) are available on Netflix and some are available on DVD if you don’t have a Netflix subscription. Currently the Iron Fist and Luke Cage are not available on DVD so I’ve included the original comic book version.
The recent film phenomenon Wonder Woman [4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital Download]  by DC has got me thinking. It has earned rave reviews for its feminist take on the superhero genre and for the fact that the lead Gal Gadot was pregnant when it was filmed. I haven’t watched it myself yet but hope that the premise lives up to the hype generated. It has been extremely successful financially also which kind of blows the predominant theory that films have to be extremely macho to make a return.
I’ve recently been catching up with some of the Marvel series on Netflix and have been pleasantly surprised with the strength of the female characters included.
The most obvious Marvel series is Marvel’s Jessica Jones Season 1 [DVD]  which I have already raved about in a previous post. The titular character a private detective and reluctant superhero is strong but damaged and relies on other strong females in her life to help her at time such as her best friend Trish Walker and lawyer Jeri Hogarth. She does have like most superheroes and private eyes, flaws. She is an alcoholic plagued by demons from her past, but ultimately she is good and usually does the right thing.
Colleen Wing in Iron Fist
I love the Immortal Iron Fist: The Complete Collection Volume 1 series. It was slower to start than the other Marvel series but a few episodes in it gets great. The titular character Iron Fist / Danny Rand is male but he frequently relies on and seeks help from Collen Wing (a kick ass martial arts instructor) and Claire Temple (a nurse who is also good at martial arts and features in all of the Netflix Marvel series so far). Colleen is determined, capable and at times stubborn character who has to learn to trust others more and [Spoiler alert!] grows close to Danny. Collen fights men just as easily as women which is a nice contrast from older representations of female fighters in the action genre who usually had girl fights only. Colleen, like Jessica Jones is ultimately a survivor. Joy Meachum, another female character is a strong businesswoman and Danny Rand’s childhood friend though she has questionable motives at times on an ethical level.
Claire Temple in Daredevil
Marvel’s Daredevil [DVD] was the original Marvel series on Netflix and now has two season on which to binge. I have just started Season 1 so can’t comment much on it but I can already see that it features strong female characters. I was glad to see the actress Pamela Ann Woll (who played Jessica the vampire in True Blood) featuring in a lead role and also nurse Claire Temple played by Rosario Dawson who stars for the first time in this role. Although Daredevil / Matt Murdock is a male role, I can see him leaning on these female characters for support. A strong adversary Madame Gao (leader of The Hand – a villainous organisation) also stars for the first time and then appears menacingly later on in Iron Fist.
Misty Knight in Luke Cage
I’ve not watched many of the episodes of Luke Cage: Avenger yet so have to catch up. For me, so far this series has more of a masculine presence probably because Mike Colter seems to inhabit the titular character so well so the focus is naturally on him more. It is good however to see female cop Misty Knight featuring who has a strong sense of political justice and believes in the system, we also see nurse Claire Temple featuring once again.
All in all, it is great to see that there are many strong female characters appearing in these superhero dramas and that the female role is not just reduced to a helpless character waiting to be rescued a la Fay Wray! Long may the strong female role in these dramas continue to be created and performed for many years to come.
Our new topic in our Countries and Continents theme is the USA and will run across a few months partly because there is so much to cover and partly because we are all so busy at the moment! To start this new theme, I want to highlight a really important read that recently blew my mind!
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
This new and unbelievable read by David Grann is breath-taking and deserves to win awards! Killers of the Flower Moon: Oil, Money, Murder and the Birth of the FBI is a book about a wide scale genocide of the Native American Osage tribe in Oklahoma in the early decades of the twentieth century. It will be made into a film just as Grann’s previous book the The Lost City of Z: A Legendary British Explorer’s Deadly Quest to Uncover the Secrets of the Amazon has been. Grann writes the book as if it is a crime fiction thriller making you rush through to see what happens. At times it is hard to comprehend exactly what you are reading as the acts committed are so astonishingly outrageous, you are dumbfounded as to how these actions could be real but real they are.
What is so intriguing about this book is that I had never heard of the Osage tribe who were extremely wealthy in the first part of the 1900s due to them living on oil rich lands. Though similar to the Australian aborigines, they were treated like children by many of the white population and not trusted to look after their own affairs and finances, hence a system of white guardianship was introduced. This meant that white senior men in the community were entrusted to look after the dividends and financial wealth of the Osage population. This system of guardianship was open to abuse and more sinisterly led to murder. This book follows the investigation of the murders of the Burbank family, a prominent Osage family in the area.
The system was so corrupt that when numerous numbers of Osage either went missing and turned up dead or were poisoned, no one was held accountable. This turn of extraordinary events coincided with the formation of J Edgar Hoover’s FBI which ultimately was sent to solve the murders. This task was so dangerous that previous investigators had been murdered during their investigations. This meant that most of the new detectives (apart from the lead Tom White and partner John Burger) had to go undercover. One posed as an insurance salesman, another a cattle rancher and one was native American himself. The story of how the case was solved is ingenious as they had no real forensic knowledge compared to now. It was old fashioned and dangerous hard detective work. Although the outcome of the case is startling, the story doesn’t end there as David Grann travels to Oklahoma to find out about more about many of the other Osage murders that were unsolved. What he finds is horrific and for this discovery alone and for making these atrocities more widely known, Grann should be applauded.
This is such an important book to read, I highly recommend that you do so.
France, a country known widely for its cuisine and fantastic history. I am currently learning French at school. Today I will be letting you know about some of my favourite films that are set in France.
Beauty and the Beast 2017 Film
Firstly, I would like to talk about the new remake of the Disney Classic: Beauty & The Beast [DVD]  Emma Watson, (who also starred as Hermione Granger in The Harry Potter Series) took on the role of Belle in the new Disney film. This is a live CGI animated and live action version of the now classic 1991 animated Disney cartoon. It was very popular and millions of tickets were sold! The film is based in a small, yet beautiful village called Villeneuve in France and it is about treating people equally like the old phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover!” Belle is very keen on reading in the film and perhaps serves as a metaphor for this phrase. Belle is clever and spirited and kind and is less concerned with vanity even though she is naturally pretty herself. She is not interested in the most handsome man in the village; ‘Gaston’ who is vain and arrogant. Belle is also extremely loyal to her father making several sacrifices for him. Even though it seems that she is a prisoner in the Beast’s castle she makes the best of the situation and looks for things to occupy her mind whilst she is there.
Les Miserables 2012 Film
Another of my favourite films set in France is Les Misérables [DVD]  adapted from the Victor Hugo novel of the same name. Although many people think that this story is set in the time of The French Revolution it is actually not! It is set in Paris in between 1815 and 1832 (the time of the June Rebellion). This was a time of great social and economic difficulty; there were poor harvests, food shortages and outbreaks of diseases such as cholera. These difficult conditions exacerbated the revolutionary feeling of the poor in France who then fought the rich for equality. This may be why some people think it is set during the French Revolution. In Les Miserables you see scenes where the rich feast on expensive food, whereas the poor struggle to even buy a loaf of bread! Although originally a book, this was adapted for the stage into a musical in 1985 and has been running ever since (it is the longest running musical in the West End and the second longest running musical in the world!) The film is adapted from the musical keeping most of the songs. I like the way that this story uses music and acting to highlight the difficulties of this turbulent time in French history.
These are two of my favourite films set in France that I have watched so far. I look forward to watching many more in the future!