Thursday, July 31, 2014

TV Review: The Musketeers

BBC America's The Musketeers. Sundays, 9 pm.

Such pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty boys.



I cannot understate just how pretty these men are. For those of you who don't care about watching four very attractive men dressed in leather, don't worry, there's more!

There is BANTER. Delicious one liners. And ACTION. Because, you know, swords.

And there is just the right updating. Oh, the series is set in Paris in 1630 and the basic characters from the book are the same -- D'Artagnan, Athos, Porthos, and Artemis; Milady; Cardinal Richelieu; Constance. Confession, I haven't read the book (I know! Tried once and it didn't take), but I adore the 1973 film so, so much. So, between that and wikipedia I know the basics of the source material.

What The Musketeers has done is updated certain aspects for modern viewers (and I don't just mean the leather.) Yes, Athos's tortured backstory is all about Milady, but some of specifics of her crimes and how he discovered it have changed. (Her husband never saw a brand on her? How did that work, exactly?) D'Artagnan meeting the Musketeers has been altered. Porthos's mother was a freed slave, a bit of a nod to Alexander Dumas's own heritage. (Yes, Europe wasn't all white in the seventeenth century).

But my favorite part so far is what The Musketeers have done about the central female characters. Now, so far, they haven't really interacted with each other so I'm not getting into the Bechdel test here. Rather, on their own Milady, Constance, and Queen Anne are fully created characters, independent of the men in their lives. They exist for reasons other than being supporting characters in the Musketeers lives.

Milady is still a villain, deliciously so, and is often the smartest person in the room, but her path towards being this is still unclear. She is probably closest to the original Milady, in that Milady was always the scheming bad guy. What I hope to see more of, thought, is her backstory of who she was before and after her marriage to Athos. While I don't want or expect redemption on the level of Regina from Once Upon a Time, I still hope for more than "oh, evil woman."

Constance, though -- Constance! My memory from the film is that Constance is primarily the love object of D'Artagnan, and is more of a prop in the lives of the Musketeers. The BBC version delightfully makes Constance her own person, with her own desires and wants. She's also given funny lines, and isn't just the foil for the Musketeers. She and D'Artagnan don't have insta-love based on mutual good looks, but instead a developing affection.

And Queen Anne! What that actress can do with a look. It's clear that she sees her husband as immature and spoiled, but heis still the King, and so she has to put up with him and do her best. I'm only four episodes in and often I think there's a permanent thought bubbly over her head going "I should have been king. Really, Louis?" And man, those looks she gives him.

And if The Musketeers follow the book in terms of what happens to Constance, I will be PISSED beyond the telling.

What else? Did I mention banter, action, and some pretty, pretty men?





All images from BBC America.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Review: Second Star

Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel. Farrar Straus Giroux. 2014. Review copy from publishers.

The Plot: Six months ago, Wendy's younger brothers disappeared. Everyone is convinced they are dead. Not Wendy. She doesn't care what the police, her parents, or her best friends think.

John and Michael loved surfing; and when Wendy meets Pete, a surfer, her instinct tells her following Pete may lead her to her missing brothers. She'll do whatever it takes to find John and Michael, including leaving home to join Pete and his band of carefree surfers.

The Good: Of course it's a retelling of Peter Pan!

I love the story of Peter Pan and what it has to say about embracing and rejecting adulthood and growing up. Sheinmel doesn't shy away from her source material: Wendy Darling is looking for her missing brothers. She has a dog named Nana. Pete's name, is, well -- Pete. Pete's girlfriend is Belle. And Pete's nemesis is Jas.

Surfing is the stand in for flying away to Neverland. Michael and John, like Pete and his friends, believe that the only thing that matters is the next wave. Wendy, the good daughter and good student -- she's on her way to Stanford after graduation -- didn't share her brothers' obsession and passion. In trying to find out what happened to her brothers, she enters their world -- and Pete's world.

Jas is the local drug dealer, dealing in "fairy dust", and Wendy's journey, her following in her brothers' path, brings her into Jas's world. Pete and Jas used to be friends, but the friendship ended when Jas started selling drugs.

As I said, I love the story of Peter Pan. I adore the 2003 film. I also love what Once Upon a Time did with their Peter Pan retelling: making Peter the villain, full stop. For the most part, thought, I've stayed away from sequels and retellings because of some of the elements of the original story, particularly Tiger Lily. Sheinmel's version avoids those problems by using Peter Pan as an inspiration, not a blueprint, and omits those parts of the story.

The essential part of the story is about growing up, yes -- and Second Star explores what it means to grow up, to embrace adulthood. Pete and Jas and the others have decided that there is only one particular way of moving forward, and that is to build their world around surfing. For Pete, that's living in abandoned homes and stealing to eat; for Jas, it's dealing drugs to buy surfboards and get money to travel.

Wendy is in search of her missing brothers, but she's also in search of herself. There is the pathway she has always been on, the one leading to Stanford. She jumps into Pete's world, into the world of her brothers -- and finds she loves surfing. Later, she finds herself with Jas, and finds herself falling for him, as she fell for Pete, and is confused by her emotions and desires. She's seeing two different pathways for her future, and has to figure out what is right for her, not her parents, not her brothers, not Pete and Jas. Those struggles are complicated, of course, and not simple -- and it's not as simple as "be a boring grown up" or "be self indulgent."

What else? There is a lot about surfing in this book. It's not just a device; it's a critical part of the story. I love that the "pirates" are drug dealers. Addiction and mental health issues are also touched on, especially as it becomes unclear how much of Wendy's search is real and how much is wish fulfillment.

Other reviews: Book Swoon; Beauty and the Bookshelf.






Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Saturday, July 26, 2014

KidLitCon 2014

KidLitCon 2014!

It's time for KidLitCon! Believe it or not, it's the 8th. Yes, the 8th!



It will be held in Sacramento on October 10th and October 11th. I'm afraid that this year, I will be missing it, but I wanted to remind you all that it was happening and what you need to know.

More information is at the Kidlitosphere website, at the KidLitCon webpage.

KidLitCon is an independent event, volunteer run and organized. It floats around the country, which changes who, each year, are the volunteers putting it together. That means each KidLitCon is a unique experience. It also makes it that much more excellent that it's been going on for eight years.

What is KidLitCon? From the website: "KidLitCon is a gathering of people who blog about children’s and young adult books, including librarians, authors, teachers, parents, booksellers, publishers, and readers. Attendees share a love of children’s books, as well as a determination to get the right books into young readers’ hands. People attend KidLitCon to talk about issues like the publisher/blogger relationship, the benefits and pitfalls of writing critical reviews, and overcoming blogger burnout. People also attend KidLitCon for the chance to spend time face to face with kindred spirits, other adults who care passionately for children’s and YA literature."

What I love about KidLitCon is it's about the bloggers. Full stop. That is the primary purpose and mission of KidLitCon. It's about what the bloggers care about. Oh, there may be authors and publishers there, presenting, and that can be great and amazing. But it's not about them. They are there to support the blogging community: they are not there saying, what can the blogging community do for us.

This year’s theme for KidLitCon is: Blogging Diversity in Young Adult and Children’s Lit: What’s Next?

Here is the link to Registration. It includes the tentative schedule, registration costs, what is and isn't included in costs, information about lodging. When you look at the price, remember: this is about volunteers. It all goes into making the con happen. The deadline for registration is September 19.

The link to the form to submit a proposal to present is also at the Registration page. That deadline is August 1. At this point, there are no discounts offered to people presenting.

One of the reasons that the KidLitCon floats around the country is that gives more people the opportunity to attend, present, and network.

Two of the reasons I love attending KidLitCon are presenting and networking.

KidLitCon offers a great opportunity for people to present. Have an idea? Submit it. You're the expert. You know your stuff. You just haven't had the time or money to travel to BEA or ALA or NCTE -- but because of KidLitCon now being closer to you, here's your chance. And honestly, KidLitCon needs you to make it wonderful.

KidLitCon is also the time to put faces to the people you've always known. My best memories of KidLitCon is getting to meet people in real life, and have conversations, and hang out talking and talking and talking. It deepens friendships and relationships. As great as the Internet is, allowing us to have a common space online to talk and connect, it's so terrific to be able to meet in person.

And sigh as I'm typing this I so wish I could go!!

Other posts about KidLitCon:

Tanita Davis talks about KidLitCon, and this year's them of Diversity, at what it means when we talk about Diversity

At Nerdy Book Club, Jen Robinson talks about why she loves attending KidLitCon










Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Review: If I Stay

If I Stay by Gayle Forman. Dutton, a member of Penguin 2009; SPEAK, imprint of Penguin 2010. Review copy from publisher. Edited to add a link to my review of the companion book, Where She Went.

The Plot: Mia is in a coma.

There was a car accident.

She can see what is happening around her, but she cannot interact. She is not dead but she is not alive.

Her family is dead.

It's all her choice, whether to stay with the living. But what will her life be like, if her family is gone?

The Good: Confession: I did not read this when it first came out, in 2009. I skipped to the end of the book to find out her choice, then read other things.

Then I saw the trailer. And Chloe Grace Moretz's performance as Mia. And just from the trailer, I cried more than I cried in The Fault in Our Stars. Even though I have a pretty firm rule to not read books before movies, I broke the rule. In part because the trailer already seduced me into wanting to see the film version, and in part because even though that "read the end" moment had told me the ending, I wanted to know more about Mia and how how she got to that moment.

Looking for a book to make you cry buckets? Then this is the book for you. Yes, from the start you know there's been a car accident and her family is dead. You'd think that would mean, no tears because you already know the worst. So, why cry? Because If I Stay proceeds to flashback to Mia's family and OHMYGOD I love her parents. I want them to be MY parents. Mia is a teen who had a great, supportive family. Page after page just shows you the depth of what she has lost.

Page after page of If I Stay is also showing the depth of what Mia has to keep going: her best friend, her boyfriend, her music, her other family members. Her boyfriend! Adam, like Mia, is a musician, but entirely different music so that music isn't necessarily something they share. What they do share is respect and love and fun, and wow, Adam. I just loved him.

Seriously, Mia before the accident had a great life.

Reinvention and starting over is often the subject of novels, and there is something curiously appealing about suddenly having a clean slate. Typically, though, this is a fairly positive process in that it's a character's choice and what they are leaving is a place and people that they can return to. Vacations, holidays, changes in mind, all that means that what is left isn't really gone.

Mia is faced with a choice: does go back to a world where her life and the people in it will always be "behind" her? She was worried about the impact and changes leaving for college was going to be, and suddenly she has to face a life where those she thought she was leaving have left her.

Mia's going to be facing a life where no one shares her childhood memories. Or family jokes. Without the love and support of her parents.

Is that a life she wants? Is what she has left enough reason to stay?

I LOVED this book. Love, love, love. Who cares if its a 2009 title? It's a Favorite Book Read in 2014. Also -- I can't wait for the movie.



Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

TV Review: MTV's Finding Carter

New teen show alert! MTV's Finding Carter! MTV, Tuesday, 10 p.m.

Carter is out one day, having fun with her friends, as one will. Which includes breaking into a carousel, as one will. The police come and bring everyone to jail. Carter is the cool one, shrugging it off as no big deal. Except, when her friends are released into their parents' custody, her mother is no where to be seen.

Instead, Carter is taken aside by the police and it's patiently explained to her how her photo and fingerprints were entered into the system. Carter isn't fazed, since she has no priors.

What the police tell her does faze her: her parents, her mother and father, are on their way.

Her real parents.

Over a decade earlier, three year old Linden Wilson was kidnapped.

Carter is Linden.

Carter's going home, to people she doesn't remember.


Finding Carter is about teenage Carter, adjusting to this new knowledge and new family. The added complication? In Carter's view, she had a pretty great life, including a wonderful mother. The opening scene between mother and daughter was very Gilmore Girls, in how the two interacted. So now? Now, she views the Wilsons as people who have removed her from the life she loved.

So far, it's just been a handful of episodes. Carter, and Finding Carter, is very much a young adult novel, with Carter and her wants and needs at the focus. I love Carter: she's fun and confident and self-assured. I also am frustrated with her: she has absolutely no sympathy for the loss that the Wilsons suffered and sees this entire thing only through her own point of view. I both admire that the show is willing to be so dedicated to Carter's truth, while wanting to throw things because would it really hurt Carter that much to realize that this family lost a child?

And, well, the answer to that question is yes. I can see that yes, it would hurt Carter -- it would destroy Carter -- to acknowledge that the woman she adores and calls "mom" could have done something so terrible to someone else. So, instead, Carter is focused on one narrative, her narrative, where she has been kidnapped -- but from the mother she knows and loves.

Part of Carter's intense rejection of her mother's crime is to focus her anger on her birth mother. Again, while this pisses me off tremendously I love how real and true it is. The other members of her blood family are people who didn't have counterparts in her life, so she can let them in and let herself like them: father, sister, brother, grandparents. Mother, thought? That role is taken, so Carter pushes back. Sometimes brutally. I am really, really looking forward to Carter both coming to terms with her "mom's" actions and letting her blood mother in -- even if it takes a season or two.

Carter, Carter, Carter. Because Carter insists her name is Carter, and they all must call her that, not Linden.

The Wilsons have been scarred by the loss of their daughter. Linden's twin sister, Taylor, is a "good" girl but it's also clear that it's a reaction to not just her over protective parents but also her fears. She knows the worst that can happen. It did, to her family. Then there is Grant, a sibling born after Taylor's disappearance. The father wrote a book about Linden's disappearance -- and, unknown to anyone, is writing a sequel about finding Linden. Right now, Carter sees her father as the "good" parent -- a role he embraces -- and I can't wait to see her find out about this betrayal.

Which brings us to poor Mom. Who may be one of my favorite characters, probably because Carter dislikes her so much. Her main crimes: she's not Carter's "real" mother. She's a police officer. And she's not "real" in the way Carter insists a person should be "real": she doesn't show her emotions in the way Carter thinks "real" people do.

Yes, I do want to rant at Carter for judging this poor woman who lost a child. I want to rant at how Carter has such a narrow view on what a good, real person is, and realizing there are many ways of loving. That being a mother is not about baking cookies and someone has to pay the bills. And I want to rant at Carter, about how can she judge a woman so critically when that woman was shaped by the loss of her three year old? A kidnapping that Carter so easily forgives?

One last thing about Carter: she is the "cool" girl. She has the eyeliner and black clothes, the friend with benefits, the casual drug use and drinking and that breaking into the carousel thing. But the thing is? It's also clear that she's a good person. She's not a "bad" girl, just the cool girl. And I really, really wonder about her relationship with her "mom." Some of Carter's actions with the Wilsons are clearly oppositional, done to piss them off and establish her own identity. So, then, what about her "mom"? Is it that she had a "cool" mom who also did this stuff? Will we at some point see something other than Carter's loving memories?

And yet. And yet. Carter is still a teen. A teen who has lost her mother, her home, her life, even her identity. She has some pretty good reasons to be bratty and self-centered and self-destructive.

So, yes, I'm loving this show and am frustrated and can't wait to see where they are going to be go with this.

Anyone else watching?


Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Flashback June 2012

A look back at what I reviewed in June 2012



The Silence of Our Friends by Mark Long and Jim Demonakos. From my review: "Houston, 1968. Two stories are intertwined; the story of a white family and a black family. Jack Long is the race reporter for the evening news. Larry Thompson is a local activist and college professor. They reach out and develop a friendship, based in part because both realize that “men of conscience have got to get together . . . , or nothing is going to change."

Gilt by Katherine Longshore. From my review: "England, 1539. Kitty Tylney and Cat Howard are two teenage girls, living at the home of Cat’s grandmother, the Duchess of Norfolk. The Duchess may be rich and powerful, but she is also old and absorbed in her own affairs. Kitty, Cat, and the other girls who live crowded together in the maiden’s chamber are there because they have no where else to go. No one is really interested in them. . . . . Young, pretty, bored. Dreaming of life at court, with dances and pretty clothes and handsome men. In the meanwhile, making their own fun, in ways not quite proper. Late night festivities that include dancing and drinking and boys. Kitty, abandoned by her family, values Cat and her friendship more than anything, because it’s the only thing Kitty has. She’ll do anything for Cat, follow her anywhere, help her with anything. All of Cat’s dreams come true when she captures the eye of the King, and she brings her friends along for the good fortune. Dreams sometimes turn to nightmares; how far will Kitty go to help her friend?"

My Sister's Stalker by Nancy Springer.From my review: "When sixteen-year-old Rig’s parent’s divorced, he went to live with his mother while his sister, Karma, stayed with their father. The two haven’t really kept in touch in the four years since, especially since she left for college. One day, Rig, missing her, searches the Internet for her rather distinct name. What he finds chills him: a website by someone obsessed with his sister. Photographs that could only be taken by someone watching his sister. Will Rig be able to convince his parents that his sister is in danger? Will he be able to save his sister?"

New Girl by Paige Harbison. From my review: "A re-imagining of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. When a space opens up in the prestigious Manderley Academy, the “new girl” from Florida finds herself in a complex situation. The reason for the opening? The disappearance of Rebecca Normandy the previous spring. Becca had herself been the “new girl” the year before; despite being at school just one year, Becca made an impact and impression on all she met: her grieving roommate, Dana, who resents being given a new roommate; Max Holloway, Becca’s boyfriend; Johnny, Max’s former best friend."

Grave Mercy: His Fair Assassin, Book I (His Fair Assassin Trilogy) by Robin LaFevers. From my review: "You know, “nun assassins” is enough, isn’t it? (Or is it assassin nuns?)"

Summer and the City: A Carrie Diaries Novel by Candace Bushnell. From my review: "Seventeen year old Carrie Bradshaw is in New York City for a summer writing program. She’s just been mugged and has called the only number she has, a cousin of a semi-friend. Carrie goes with Samantha Jones to a party, and thus begins Carrie’s introduction to New York City in the 1980s."


Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Review: And We Stay

And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard. Delacorte Press, Random House. 2014. Review copy from publisher.

The Plot: January, 1995, and Emily Beam has just started at the Amherst School for Girls to finish her junior year. Before this she went to her local high school, and she isn't going to talk about why she is now in this boarding school in Massachusetts.

It was because of a boy. Not just any boy, her boyfriend. And the gun he took to school. And what happened. And why.

The Good: "Before Boston, before ASG, Emily had wanted nothing more than to be loved by a boy. When she was fourteen, sixteen, she had watched girls on the cheerleading squad sprout wings with each boyfriend. They became more beautiful, the beauty of confidence. For four months, Emily had it, too."

Emily had it with Paul, a senior. Paul, who took his grandmother's gun to school one day and killed himself.

And now Emily is at boarding school.

Why the setting of 1995? Because what happened with Paul, with Emily, at the school is Emily's secret. Or, not so much secret, as thing she cannot talk about. In today's world of social media and easy Internet access, the "why" of Paul would remain hers but the facts of it would be known.

And why Amherst? Because Emily becomes fascinated with another Emily who lived in Amherst, Emily Dickinson. Emily writes poetry, and it's in these poems that she gradually comes to terms with the boy she loved and what happened.

OK, Spoilers. Sorry, but this is one of the times when I want to talk about those secrets and yes.... for an original read of the book, it is best to discover it on your own.

Paul and Emily's relationship is what the Emily at 14, at 16, had wanted. And at first, Paul is what she wants and she loves him. But as time goes by -- and yes, it's only a handful of months but it's still time -- Emily realizes she wants more. When she gets pregnant, she tells him she's getting an abortion. The scene, later in the book, is heart breaking. At first she tells him it's because her parents say she has to, even though they haven't, until she owns that she doesn't want a baby. And she breaks up with him.

Maybe today Paul's reactions, wanting to marry Emily, being against her having an abortion, would be different than in 1995. Or, given some recent news stories, maybe not.

But And We Stay is about Emily living with, and surviving, what happened: Paul, being in love, not being in love, and how quickly it all happened: the break up, his suicide, her abortion. She is sent to boarding school in part so she doesn't have to go back to the whispers and bad memories of her old high school, but also about giving her a blank slate against which to come to terms with what happened. It is only her memories, her emotions, she has to think about.

It's told in the here and now of Emily at ASG, and so it's not just about Emily coming to terms with her past. It's also about her connecting, despite herself, with those around her. It's about finding her voice through her poetry.

My favorite line in the book is practically the last one: "It does not have to define who Emily is, was, or will be." And this is the heart of the book -- deciding what does, or does not, define us.

Other things that I like: Emily's parents. They do their best for her; she is not "sent away" to boarding school but sent to, for herself, not as punishment. That while the story is told in present tense, it still creates a distance between the reader and Emily, reflecting the distance Emily keeps between herself and the world. The friends she meets at ASG. And that there is no new boy or new romance.



Other reviews: Wondrous Reads; Kirkus; Finding Bliss in Books; Stacked.




Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Echo Company

Great news!

The Echo Company books by Ellen Emerson White are available to buy!

White wrote these books back in the early 1990s, under the name Zach Emerson.



The Echo Company books are set during the Vietnam War, told from the point of view of a young soldier, Michael Jennings. A follow up book, The Road Home, is about a young nurse Michael meets and is about both Rebecca's time in Vietnam and her homecoming. I wrote a pretty in-depth look at these four books, as well as a couple others that refer to the characters in these books, in my 2007 post, Ellen Emerson White: Vietnam.

At the moment they are only available as ebooks from Amazon.

The titles, in order:

Welcome to Vietnam (Echo Company Book 1)

Hill 568 (Echo Company Book 2)

'Tis the Season (Echo Company Book 3)

Stand Down (Echo Company Book 4)

The Road Home (Echo Company)

As I said back in 2007, "It's real. It's death and dying and blood. And Ellen Emerson White doesn't shy away from any of it. And what she has done is take you into the experience; just as Michael (and the reader) has the lull of "ok, this isn't so bad after all, I can make it" BAM. No. It's not OK. It is that bad. This is one of the few war novels I have read that respects the soldiers and their experiences; that doesn't play politics about the issue of war. And is brutally honest about the soldier's experiences."

And about The Road Home, "By exploring the Vietnam War thru the POV of a female, and of a nurse, there is the horrors of war combined with the healing of medicine; the mixed emotions of saving the lives of soldiers, only to have the soldiers go out, risk their lives again, or to kill. And the details, of triage, of deciding who lives and dies, who gets morphine and who doesn't, who dies alone or dies with lies of "it's going to be OK. Rebecca goes from naive and hopeful to scared, afraid, bitter."

Trust me: you will love this series. And since it is historical fiction, you won't have to worry about anything seeming "dated."

If you haven't read any Ellen Emerson White before? Go, read.

And if you have read Ellen Emerson White, what's your favorite book?

Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Friday, July 04, 2014

TV Review: AMC's Turn

This past week's viewing obsession has been AMC's historical drama, Turn, about the spies of the American Revolution.


I am so happy to find out that this has been picked up for a second season, because while a lot happens in the first season, the upcoming seasons are the ones that will be about John Andre and Benedict Arnold. (Let's be clear: historical fact doesn't count as spoilers, OK?)

What the first season does spectacularly is examine the formation of the spy ring. Oh, yes, it's fictionalized and adjustments have been made for making this a visual story. (For more on the real history versus the television history, check out J.L. Bell's posts at Den of Geek.)

Abraham Woodhull is a young farmer living on Long Island during the British Occupation. He appears to be, like his father and brother before him, a Loyalist. Instead, for various reasons, he becomes a spy for the Continental Army. Season One is primarily about Abe's motivations and in a way, Season One is a slow burn of character growth: why will Abe end up risking everything to spy for a cause? If his sympathies are not with the British, why didn't he join up at the beginning, like his two friends, Benjamin Tallmadge and Caleb Brewster?

Without giving too much away, there are reasons! And feelings! So. Many. Feelings. Abe's older brother, Thomas, died, and Abe did the "right" thing by breaking off his engagement with Anna and married his brother's fiance Mary. While he appears to be happily living with his wife and baby son, the truth is he still wants Anna, even though Anna is now married herself.

Abe's own choices are second to what he thinks he should be doing as a loyal son to his father. And yet, what he wants bubbles to the surface: he refuses to live off his father's money, in his father's house, instead doing a (rather poor) job farming. He cannot help his continued love for Anna. And there is more to it, but that's not until about episode 8 or so. (See the metaphor there? Abe's conflicted feelings towards his father, love and resentment, wanting to make his own choices instead of following his father's wishes, mirrors what is happening in his country: loyalty to England, or independence?)

And so it's about Abe, going from unwilling to willing spy. But it's also about the others in his circle, Ben and Caleb and Anna, who while all are stronger (and more vocal) in their political stance, there is still the mechanics of just how a spy ring is put together.It's watching not just a puzzle be put together, but a puzzle be made. And just because I'm talking about the character growth over episodes, and how the building of a spy ring isn't something done in five minutes, there is plenty of action. This is 1776, after all, and there are battles and skirmishes and betrayals.

Slavery factors in: Abe's own slaves are shown so matter of factly that at first I didn't realize that was what was happening. Two of Anna's former slaves factor into the story, also: Abigail and Jordan. Abigail has a son who has been taught to read, and one of the reasons I want another season is to find out more about her and her son. Jordan was born in Africa, and was trained as a Maasai warrior -- and his chance at freedom is offered him not from the Continental Army, but from the British.

The British Officers are interesting, yes -- but here the person who really intrigues and captures me is Major John Andre. He's handsome and cultured and smart. I admire smart in a character. Major Hewlett is a bit of the stereotypical by the rule soldier; and Captain Simcoe is scary-crazy-ruthless; but Andre  . . . Andre is one major reason I want to see more seasons. Because I cannot believe that Andre would ever do something as stupid as get captured; yet history tells us that happens.

What else?


Jamie Bell grew up mighty fine. Even though it's like impossible to find a photo of him from Turn of him smiling, because he always has so many feelings. So, many, feelings. Also, hats.












Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
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