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Snapshots - #22: The Hollow Crown, Season 2

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The War of the Roses Henry VI, Part I (♦♦♦♦♦)

Henry V has died. His body is not yet cold but three provinces of France have fallen for lack of men and resources. Henry's son, nine months old Henry, is named King Henry VI of England and France. His uncle, Humphrey Duke of Gloucester, is named the King's Lord Protector.
Seventeen years later, Edmund Mortimer (Michael Gambon), a Plantagenet in direct line of succession to Richard II, dies and leaves his nephew Richard as heir. The king recognizes Richard's claim and makes him Duke of York. Moreover, France is in turmoil again. Henry VI (Tom Sturridge) sends Lord Talbot Earl of Shrewsbury and his son, the Earl of Warwick, and Richard Duke of York to fight the French. William Earl of Somerset must provide them support and fails intentionally to do so, thus Lord Talbot and his son are killed at Rouen.
Joan of Arc, on behalf of France's Dauphin, leads the French army at Rouen and Anjou, where she is captured and burned at the sta…

Snapshots - #21: The Hollow Crown, Season 1

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Richard II (♦♦♦♦)

Henry Bolingbroke (Rory Kinnear), Duke of Hereford, cousin of King Richard II (Ben Whishaw), accuses Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, of treason. Brought in front of the king, neither wants to go back on their word, thus, to prevent the spilling of blood, the king banishes to foreign lands his cousin for six years, and Mowbray for life.
Meanwhile, Ireland is in turmoil, and the king is surrounded by vain flatterers. Upon the death of his uncle Old John of Gaunt (Patrick Stewart), Duke of Lancaster, the king pilfers his uncle's possessions to fund an offensive in Ireland. Deprived of inheritance, Bolingbroke, now Duke of Lancaster (in title only), returns to England from exile, raising his men against the king and setting in motion the king's abdication.
The soft pastels of the king's attire are perhaps a metaphor for King Richard II being a monarch that values style above substance. He is surrounded by boy-men that, with honeyed words, have garnered coveted …

House of Spies by Daniel Silva (♦♦♦♦)

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Gabriel Allon Series Book 17
It's been a few months since Israeli art restorer and master spy Gabriel Allon has assumed the directorship of the Office. Not far from his mind are the events unfolded in Washington, DC months ago— at the center of the previous installment, The Black Widow— by master terrorist Saladin, and now new attacks have occurred in London and Paris with his signature all over. It will be up to Gabriel to plan, organize, and carry out an expensive operation, encompassing the world's preeminent intelligence agencies, to tease out Saladin’s whereabouts from prominent criminals in France's and Morocco's underbelly.
At the center of his plot is a couple— Mikhail posing as Dmitri Antonov (a Russian millionaire who has, presumably, amassed his enormous fortune dealing in arms) and Natalie Mizrahi posing as Sophie, his dazzling French wife— recruiting as an asset French businessman Jean-Luc Martel, who is rumored to be a world-class drug trafficker on the sid…

Snapshots - #20: Westworld, The Young Pope, and more…

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TV shows...
Westworld (Season 1), (♦♦♦♦♦): Welcome to Westworld, a theme park, populated by A.I. called hosts, which caters to every person's desire. In Westworld the system is rigged, for the hosts always lose, but out of the blue, some irregularities are discovered in some of the hosts' programming... Are the hosts alive and have reached a level of consciousness, or is it internal sabotage?
This HBO production, an adaptation of a movie script by author Michael Crichton, is wonderfully written, directed, and acted by the whole ensemble led by Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright, and Anthony Hopkins.
Westworld is a series unlike any I have seen—Ex-Machina comes to mind when one is trying to define it. The script is smart and cutting edge, the plot unfolds slowly, though one is trapped in this world from the very beginning. Westworld is whimsical, dark, intriguing, addictive, and uniquely imaginative. It imagines a future where A.I. pass for humans with deeply unsettling results.
The …

To Love and Be Wise by Josephine Tey (♦♦♦♦½)

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Inspector Alan Grant Mystery Book 4
Scotland Yard Inspector Alan Grant is invited to a party to celebrate the launch of the latest book by writer Lavinia Fitch. At the door, Grant meets a dashing young man looking to be introduced to Miss Fitch's nephew. Grant handles the introduction. The man name is Leslie Searle, a renowned American photographer to movie stars. Lavinia is so taken with Searle, that she invites him to spend the weekend in her company, her sister's, her nephew's, and her nephew's fiancée's at her country home in Salcott Saint Mary, a community of artists by the river Rushmere. Within days, nobody knows of Searle's whereabouts for he has vanished without a trace. Is Searle's disappearance the result of accidental drowning, murder, or something entirely altogether?
When I read The Daughter of Time earlier this year, I forgot to thank Dorothy @ The Nature of Things for introducing me to Josephine Tey. I found that novel short and so endearing t…

Snapshots - #19: Outlander, Fences, Silence

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TV shows...
Outlander, Season 2 (♦♦♦♦): After Jamie is tortured in Wentworth Prison at the end of Season 1, Murtaugh, Jamie, and Claire embark on a trip to France to heal, and, if possible, to thwart Prince Charles Stuart's rebellion from the start. A lot of political maneuvers and counter-maneuvers will be necessary, however, because Charles Stuart, while in need of funds to raise an army, will keep his trump cards close to his chest. Eventually, the action moves back to Scotland, where the Jacobite uprising will face outside challenges as well as some from within, such as lack of food, and a divided hierarchy.
Lavish houses, manicured lawns, the excess and glamour of King Louis XV court, together with sumptuous costume designs and jewels, and new supporting characters that compare in depth to the ones we already know, make the first seven episodes of Season 2 a feast for the eyes. Even the cover soundtrack has gotten a makeover, with one portion of the Skye Boat song sung in Frenc…

Snapshots - #18

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TV shows...
The Night Manager (♦♦♦♦♦): British army vet Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston) is recruited by Angela Burr, a secret British enforcement agency's lead, to infiltrate the inner circle of Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie), the world's greatest arms dealer, and bring him down.
This AMC/BBC co-production blew my mind away for several reasons. First, it is an adaptation of the John Le Carré novel of the same name, which is an oddity as Le Carré's novels go because, unlike most of his novels, this one actually had a high stakes, satisfying conclusion. Second, the exotic locales, from its initial North Africa setting, to Mallorca and Madrid, Spain, Turkey, London, and the Middle East, the story moved along smoothly between all these settings without losing its cool. Third, the quality of the production was high, with excellent adapted script, and great direction. Fourth, the marvelous ensemble cast led by the amazing Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie had me, from the first episode, …