Tag Archive: Enola Holmes


   sdcc 2021 attendee

In-person cancellations have not kept every event this summer from canceling entirely.  One of those is typically one of the summer’s biggest events, San Diego Comic-Con.  As with last year’s Comic-Con At Home, events for SDCC 2021 are proceeding this week, once again providing a rare opportunity for fans of all things pop culture a chance to sit through the kinds of panels you might see were you to attend in person in any regular year–without standing overnight in lines.  You can even grab a lanyard off the rack, print your own badge (for you and your pets), cosplay with your family, and load the panels up on as big of a screen as you have.  Check out some suggestions for building your own fun convention week experience with SDCC 2021 below.

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When we created last year’s preview of 2020 movies we were pretty sure we were going to have some great movies this year, but we were surprised by what ended up being the best, mainly because what were to be the big box office hits were delayed to 2021 because of the covid pandemic.  All year we wondered what we’d get to see and what we wouldn’t–and thanks to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Vudu, and similar streaming services, an impressive array of movies kept us entertained, especially by way of genre content.  Ultimately we think the Best Movies of 2020 will stand up against any other year.

GenredomAs always, we’re after the best genre content of the year–with our top categories from the Best in Movies.  There are thousands of other places that cover plain vanilla dramas and the rest of the film world, but here we’re looking for movies we want to watch.  What do all of this year’s selections have in common?  In addition to those elements that define each part of genredom, each has a good story.  Special effects without a good story is not good entertainment, and we saw plenty of films this year that missed that crucial element.

Come back tomorrow for our best on television and later this week for our print media picks and our annual borg Hall of Fame inductees.  And if you missed it, check out our Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines of 2020 here.  Wait no further, here are the Best Movies of 2020:

Best Film, Best Sci-Fi Film, Best Drama, Best Director, Best Cinematographer, Best Writing, Best Suspense/Thriller, Best Retro Fix The Vast of Night (Amazon Prime).  The man of many hats, writer-director-producer-editor Andrew Patterson dazzled us this year with the sleeper sci-fi film The Vast of Night, from Amazon Prime.  Amazon hadn’t before stunned us with a feature film, but this one sure blew us away.  We knew this was the #1 science fiction offering of the year at first viewing, but when we went back and watched films again, it also stood out as the clear winner for top prize.  Part American Graffiti, part The Twilight Zone and The X-Files, and filmed as faithfully to the era as a Francis Ford Coppola masterpiece (with Orson Welles flair), this story sneaks up on the audience thanks in part to its two talented young lead actors.  The script is impeccable and rich, dotted with great jargon that dances artfully like music from the characters’ lips.  Expert Chilean cinematographer Miguel Menz adds just the right lighting and camera angles for a film we hope can get recognized by the Oscars, if only so we can see more of these filmmakers and actors in the future.   Honorable mention for Best Sci-Fi Film: Altered Carbon: Resleeved (Netflix).

Best Borg Movie, Best Superhero Movie, Best BorgBloodshot (Sony Pictures).  The story of slain soldier Ray Garrison provided the year’s best look at life as a borg.  What do you do with cybernetic enhancements, how do you use them, and what toll does take from your humanity?  Jeff Wadlow’s story really kicked in once the audience slides into the plot twist.  The Six Million Dollar Man didn’t get to decide to get his bionics, and neither does Ray.  Once you give up control of yourself to someone else, more and more of you vanishes.  Especially if the person in control is using you as a tool of evil.  The best superhero films tend to be about the B-level superheroes, and Bloodshot proved that true again this year.  Honorable mention for Best Superhero Movie: The New Mutants (20th Century Studios).

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Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

It’s no secret that here at borg, we’re big fans of Victorian mysteries—from Netflix’s Enola Holmes to Crimson Peak, to my own Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery series, we are always on the lookout for the next great historical whodunnit to share with you.  Thanks to our friends at Minotaur Books, we have a new series to recommend.  Erin Lindsey’s third “Rose Gallagher” novel, The Silver Shooter, is not only a cracking good Victorian mystery, it’s a paranormal mystery, and set in the Old West, to boot (ahem).  Readers are plunged straight into an adventure with Pinkerton Special Department agents Rose Gallagher and Thomas Wiltshire as they take on a case for ranch owner Theodore Roosevelt (yep, that TR!).

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Everyone needs some good news, right? In advance of Black Friday, this week Amazon announced its annual list of the Best Books of 2020. The list includes the Top 100 adult titles and the Top 120 children’s titles broken down by target audience (20 titles named for each of baby to age 2, ages 3-5, ages 6-8, ages 9-12, young adult, and a separate category for non-fiction). Amazon went on to select the Top 20 Children’s Books from this group. We’re happy to report that frequent borg contributor Elizabeth C. Bunce‘s mystery Premeditated Myrtle was named to Amazon’s Top 20 Children’s Book of 2020!

Premeditated Myrtle was previously named an Amazon Best of the Month Editor’s Pick and #1 Amazon New Release, and last month the second book in the series, How to Get Away with Myrtle, was a #1 Amazon New Release.   Online webzines Netflix Life and Fansided included the Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery Series on its list of “7 Books to Read if You Like Enola Holmes on Netflix.”  

Elizabeth’s first novel, A Curse Dark as Gold, won the American Library Association’s inaugural William C. Morris Award for a young adult debut novel and was named a Smithsonian Notable Book.  Her high fantasy Thief Errant series includes the novels StarCrossed, A Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Book for 2010, and Liar’s Moon, one of Kirkus Blog’s Favorite YA Novels of 2011.  StarCrossed and A Curse Dark as Gold have appeared on Oprah’s Kid’s Reading List.  Her novels have been named to the ALA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults list, and she is a three-time Kansas Notable Book winner.  Elizabeth completed her eighth novel and third novel in the Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery Series, Cold-Blooded Myrtle last month–it is slated for release next year. Learn more about the series and major industry reviews of Elizabeth’s books here.

In Premeditated Myrtle, readers will meet the quick-witted and fearless Myrtle Hardcastle, a twelve-year-old girl with an unseemly obsession with forensic science and criminology. When Myrtle’s wealthy neighbor dies under Mysterious Circumstances, Myrtle is the first to notice anything amiss. With the help of her unflappable governess and opinionated cat Peony, Myrtle takes it upon herself to follow the clues investigators overlooked. As more evidence emerges, she begins to believe that the town prosecutor, her own father, is pursuing the wrong man. Myrtle pores over toxicology textbooks, interrogates suspects, and does the one thing no Young Lady of Quality is ever supposed to do: she Goes Outside Alone After Dark. Myrtle Hardcastle may be just a twelve-year-old girl, but she is not the type to sit by while grown men botch a murder investigation. 

It’s no surprise that Myrtle can’t stay out of trouble for long, even when her father sends her off to the English seaside for some relaxation. In Book Two, How to Get Away with Myrtle, Myrtle, her governess, her insufferable Aunt Helena, and, of course, Peony the cat are loaded onto a private railway coach where Myrtle makes the acquaintance of Mrs. Bloom, a professional insurance investigator aboard to protect the priceless Northern Lights tiara. But before the train reaches its destination, the tiara vanishes and Myrtle discovers a body in the baggage car. The trip is derailed, the local police are inept, and Scotland Yard is in no rush to help. What’s a bored aspiring detective stranded in a washed-up carnival town to do but follow the evidence to discover which of her fellow travelers is a thief and a murderer?

Other titles selected by Amazon for its Top 20 Children’s Books of 2020 are Amy Timberlake and Jon Klassen’s Skunk and Badger, Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Bob, Rita Lorraine Hubbard and Oge Mora’s The Oldest Student, Jewell Parker Rhodes’ Black Brother, Black Brother, Tami Charles and Bryan Collier’s All Because You Matter, Tehlor Kay Mejia’s Paolo Santiago and the River of Tears, Derrick Barnes and Gordon James’ I Am Every Good Thing, Jacqueline Woodson’s Before the Ever After, Jonathan Auxier and Olga Demidova’s The Fabled Stables, Jerome and Jarrett Pumphrey’s The Old Truck, Terry Fan’s The Barnabus Project, Lev Grossman’s The Silver Arrow, Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohammed’s When Stars are Scattered, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s Every Night is Pizza Night, Peter H. Reynolds’ Be You, Chris Naylor-Ballesteros’ The Suitcase, Frances Stickley and Anuska Allepuz’s What Will You Dream of Tonight?, Ibram Kendi and Ashley Lukashevsky’s Antiracist Baby.

Elizabeth C. Bunce’s Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery Series is published by Algonquin Young Readers, a division of Workman Publishing Company.  Cover artwork for the series is created by Brett Helquist (A Series of Unfortunate Events) and Laura Williams. 

Congratulations, Elizabeth!

C.J. Bunce / Editor / borg

It’s not every day you get to be part of a project that is exciting and fun.  My wife, borg contributor, and author Elizabeth C. Bunce has been writing her Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery Series for a few years now.  Prompted by a quick utterance of “premeditated murder” and a cat that showed up one night in the rain, a character and an idea took hold and before we knew it she had created and sold the first four books in a new series of mystery novels.  But as Tom Petty said, “the waiting is the hardest part.”  Tomorrow, after the obligatory pandemic delay, not only does the first book, Premeditated Myrtle, arrive in bookstores, but the second installment, How to Get Away with Myrtle, too (available in hardcover, eBook, and audiobook).  How often do you begin a new series and can hardly wait that next year for the second installment?  Solved! 

It’s been exciting to watch Elizabeth build the story from the ground up, featuring 12-year-old Myrtle Hardcastle, an irrepressible and tenacious heroine living in England in 1893 as the sciences of criminology and forensics are taking off.  Her father is a local prosecutor, and with her governess Miss Judson she forms a sort of dynamic duo, solving crimes as she faces the pressures of Victorian society and growing up with other kids whose interests are less… morbid.  And the team is only complete with Peony, a truly opinionated neighbor cat, who joins her on her sleuthing.

“Bunce crafts a truly captivating murder mystery, throwing in a delicious mix of twists, red herrings, and relatives excluded from the family fortune…the book will make readers yearn for more of Myrtle’s (mis)adventures.”  —Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books 

Premeditated Myrtle is currently an Amazon Best of the Month Editor’s Pick and #1 Amazon New Release, and last month How to Get Away with Myrtle was a #1 Amazon New Release (and is currently a #3 New Release).  Last week Netflix Life and Fansided included the Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery Series on its list of “7 Books to Read if You Like Enola Holmes on Netflix.”  

“In the tradition of heroines like Flavia de Luce and Harriet the Spy, Myrtle is a fine example of the Victorian scientific female—smart, inquisitive and fearless,” says Rhys Bowen, the New York Times bestselling author of the Her Royal Spyness series. “Written with a terrific mixture of humor and suspense, Premeditated Myrtle is a perfect read for any budding detective.”

Elizabeth’s first novel, A Curse Dark as Gold, won the American Library Association’s inaugural William C. Morris Award for a young adult debut novel and was named a Smithsonian Notable Book. Her high fantasy Thief Errant series includes the novels StarCrossed, A Chicago Public Library Best of the Best book for 2010, and Liar’s Moon, one of Kirkus Blog’s Favorite YA Novels of 2011. StarCrossed and A Curse Dark as Gold have appeared on Oprah’s Kid’s Reading List. Her novels have been named to the ALA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults list, and she is a three-time Kansas Notable Book winner. 

Here is more industry praise for Premeditated Myrtle and How to Get Away with Myrtle, coming to online and brick and mortar bookstores next week in the Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery Series:

PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY

Channeling classic Victorian whodunits, Bunce’s detective series opener features a quirky, winning narrator and a lively secondary cast… A generous, well-wrought relationship between governess and charge complements tightly plotted twists… Myrtle is as clever as she is determined, and her expertise—seen in evidence collection and courtroom antics—is certain to delight genre stalwarts and mystery novices alike. 

BOOKLIST STARRED REVIEW

There is something afoot at Redgraves… Myrtle’s above-average intellect, passions for justice and science (an endearing blend of her parents’ professions), fondness for detective stories, and predilection for asking questions make her the perfect person to investigate what is obviously a crime most foul. Written very much in the style of Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce mysteries, Myrtle’s spirited investigation—aided by her governess, who champions the Socratic method of learning—is a joyful thing to behold. Well-crafted red herrings throw Myrtle and readers alike for a loop or two…Set in Victorian England, this mystery gleefully overturns sexist norms and celebrates independent women of intellect, with Myrtle Hardcastle leading the charge.

BOOKPAGE STARRED REVIEW

Premeditated Myrtle is a book young readers will love and adults may well sneak out of backpacks and off of nightstands for their own enjoyment… Myrtle has an investigator’s tool kit and access to her prosecutor father’s law library; she is curious to a fault, brave and persistent. Bunce keeps secondary characters grounded in reality as well—even a cat has an interesting character arc—and the quest to determine who killed Miss Wodehouse is as keenly plotted as the best adult cozy. Here’s hoping for more adventures with this delightful, heroic protagonist. 

BULLETIN OF THE CENTER FOR CHILDREN’S BOOKS

Bunce crafts a truly captivating murder mystery, throwing in a delicious mix of twists, red herrings, and relatives excluded from the family fortune. Miss Judson and Myrtle work as a power duo, with Myrtle offering up big ideas and Judson giving those ideas practical applications. Myrtle is an entertaining protagonist, not afraid to get her hands dirty, sneak into mansions after dark to find a clue, or call out sexism of men toward her scientific interests or the racism toward her governess… the book will make readers yearn for more of Myrtle’s (mis)adventures. 

HORN BOOK MAGAZINE 

This clever and lively Victorian English village murder mystery starring precocious twelve-year-old fledgling detective Myrtle Hardcastle has all the trappings: households with cooks and governesses and groundskeepers; church luncheons and afternoon teas; mysterious newcomers; missing wills. Also, poisoned elderly ladies… Bunce does an excellent job of making Myrtle the lead actor but gives her a strong set of (mostly female) supporters… Myrtle’s narration is Arch with a capital A (“Dear Reader, kindly permit me to pause to properly introduce one of the Key Players in this narrative”), but it suits the novel’s setting and subgenre to a T.

KIRKUS REVIEWS 

A saucy, likable heroine shines in a mystery marked by clever, unexpected twists. 

BOOKLIST

Bunce fully utilizes the story’s classic mystery settings (the train, a grand hotel full of unusual guests, and a small town of memorable characters) as she spiritedly chucks red herrings at readers and Myrtle alike. Humor and wit make the narrative sparkle, and, happily, Myrtle is as irrepressible as ever.

SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL

Readers who enjoyed Premeditated Myrtle will rejoice in this second installment featuring the plucky protagonist, her beautiful and multitalented governess Miss Judson, Peony the cat, and a whole new cast of strong female characters. References to Scotland Yard and investigative techniques will delight young Sherlock Holmes aficionados. The advanced vocabulary will send even the most sesquipedalian readers scurrying to the dictionary… VERDICT This deeply plotted sequel is an additional purchase for collections serving the most precocious readers who long for a fast-paced mystery where women shine.

Elizabeth will be appearing at several virtual events in the coming weeks beginning with a virtual book launch at Watermark Books, Tuesday, October 6, 2020.

Congratulations to Elizabeth on her book launch!

C.J. Bunce / Editor / borg

Review by C.J. Bunce

Stranger Things’s Millie Bobby Brown leads up a cast of Harry Potter alumni in Netflix’s fun new Victorian mystery, Enola Holmes, a sure-fire selection for streaming this weekend on Netflix.  Based on the novels by Nancy Springer, Enola Holmes puts a new face—and name—to the Sherlock Holmes legend.  Enola (“Which backward spells alone”) is the much younger sister of the disapproving elder Holmes brothers, and their unconventional mother (played by Harry Potter’s Bellatrix Lestrange, Helena Bonham Carter).  On the morning of her sixteenth birthday, Enola wakes to discover her mother has left without warning, leaving her only a hidden message in a book of flowers, and a hidden stash of cash.  Disappointed in her brothers’ lackadaisical approach to solving their mother’s disappearance, Enola determines to do it herself—finding herself tangled in another mystery along the way.  The runaway Marquess of Tewkesbury (Medici’s Louis Partridge) falls into Enola’s path, and she’s swiftly drawn into his case, which leads her from London, to his family estate, to a ghastly finishing school, and back again.

Brown turns in a strong performance as the headstrong Enola, the best moments of which come when she breaks the fourth wall to speak—or simply look—at the audience. She and Partridge have good chemistry, adding a hint of innocent young romance (but only a hint) to their partnership.  Brother Mycroft (Sam Claflin, My Cousin Rachel) steps into the role of film’s antagonist, while Sherlock (in a fun performance by Superman Henry Cavill) becomes an unexpected, if distant, ally.  Supporting cast includes Harry Potter film series alumni Frances de la Tour and Fiona Shaw, Doctor Who’s Claire Rushbrook, The Golden Compass’s Hattie Morahan, and one of England’s best villain performers, Burn Gorman.

Viewers looking for a faithful adaptation of the Springer books should prepare themselves for some changes.  Enola and Tewkesbury are older, and Enola’s search for her mother reveals a secret life behind her disappearance.  There’s more work for stuntmen and women, and less for the makeup artist, as the movie opts to showcase Enola’s physical prowess over her mastery of disguise and cryptography from the novels.  Looks for some young adult/adult violence in excess of the middle grade books, too (16-year-old Enola is drowned, beaten, choked, kicked).  It’s a bit difficult to pin down the time the movie takes place–a date of 1884 is given alongside the scene of Enola’s birth, which would put the date at 1900 for most of the action—but the plot centers around a suffrage reform bill before Parliament, the last of which was in 1884.  The clothing and technology likewise span the last quarter of the 19th century, including elaborate bustle-era dresses alongside early automobiles and film (both of which arrived in the mid 1890s).  So it’s a hodgepodge of Victoriana that sometimes works and sometimes confuses, but if you’re prepared not to take things too seriously, it all looks rather good (except for a gaffe with some obviously 21st century plastic shotgun shells).

Although it’d be fun to look forward to, unfortunately it doesn’t look like a series of movies lies ahead–marketing images for the film show Brown is not likely to be playing young teenagers much longer (which also doesn’t bode well for anyone wanting many more seasons of Stranger Things).

With attractive production design, lively performances, and a surprising mystery, Enola Holmes is a must-watch film for fans of Sherlock Holmes, detective stories, and Millie Bobby Brown.  Enola Holmes is streaming now on Netflix.  And be sure to check out Netflix Life’s recommendations for books to read if you enjoy the movie—including borg contributor Elizabeth C. Bunce’s new Myrtle Hardcastle Mysteries, coming to bookstores October 6.

As ardent fans of Stranger Things, Victorian mysteries, and all things Millie Bobby Brown (Intruders, Godzilla: King of Monsters), we were indeed excited to see the preview for Netflix’s new Enola Holmes, based on Nancy Springer’s novels for elementary (ahem) schoolers.  Teenager Enola Holmes is the much younger sister of two famous older brothers, Mycroft (Sam Claflin, My Cousin Rachel) and Sherlock (Henry Cavill, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.).  When their unconventional mother (Helena Bonham Carter, Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter series) disappears, Enola sets off to track her down, much to the chagrin of her siblings.  Proving she’s ever bit as clever as her brothers, Enola (naturally) stumbles into a mystery.

The direct-to-Netflix film looks to be chock full of delightful Victoriana, and the source material is a fun twist on the Sherlock story.  We love seeing Milly Bobby Brown with her natural English accent.

And if you think this trailer looks like fun, allow me to point out even more diverting Victorian mysteries featuring an irrepressible young sleuth you’ll surely also enjoy.  My own new novels, Premeditated Myrtle and How to Get Away with Myrtle (currently an Amazon #1 New Release!) are being published October 6, in a rare two-book launch event extravaganza (to quote a publisher of our acquaintance).  Twelve-year-old Myrtle Hardcastle has an unconventional obsession with criminology and a passion for justice… and a Highly Opinionated Feline Sidekick.  Netflix Life lists the Myrtle Hardcastle Mysteries as part of its “7 Books to Read if You Like Enola Holmes on Netflix.”

Here’s the trailer for Netflix’s Enola Holmes:

Begin by getting your first fix of Victorian sleuthing with Enola Holmes on Netflix September 23, and check out my new mystery series October 6, at Amazon and other fine booksellers.

Elizabeth C. Bunce / mystery novelist / borg contributor