Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Catch Up Reviews (Rahab, Ruth, Phantom, and Dickens)

Tons of reading....a lot of reviews.... most recent read...and my first completely on Kindle....because it was free and immediate access...

A classic....

I thought I had read this in school, but I think it must have been just an excerpt because I had no clue what was going to happen the entire time. Yes, I know, how can a 29 year old not know the story of Pip and Estella and Miss Havisham??? Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens, was a much easier read than I anticipated! There are so many timeless lessons in this book. The story of someone rising above their means, then the corruption of wealth, and the curse of debt. True friendship, plot twists, and a satisfying ending. I loved it!

Several weeks ago our book club discussed the second book in the Lineage of Grace series by Francine Rivers...
Unashamed is the story of Rahab. With an added twist that Salmon, the Israelite husband of Rahab, as one of the spies that she sheltered. I know, a little embellishment, but it definitely made the story a little more interesting. It is amazing how God planted faith in the heart of people who were never taught about Him. And how that faith was grafted into His family tree. Great writing again!

Then, last week we discussed story three...

Unshaken is the story of Ruth. The most fascinating fact I learned from this series, is that Rahab is Ruth's mother in law. I never thought about it, but right there in the lineage it states....Boaz, the son of Rahab and Salmon....and Ruth married Boaz...soo......there ya go! Fascinating, truly! This is another awesome telling of the story of Ruth. Not as much added to this one since it does happen to be an entire book of the Bible. This is such a quick and easy to read series, but so enlightening and faith building!

I finished our beach read! ha ha! SOOO sorry it took so long. I really enjoyed reading this book! It is supposed to be a children's book, but I can't imagine a very young child actually "getting" all the plays on words.
A boy, Milo, gets a package delivered to him that happens to be a tollbooth. A car appears near the tollbooth and he is whisked away on a journey through the land of Expectation, the island of Conclusions (you get there by jumping!) and meets many interesting people along the way. The moral of the story is that one should never be bored, there are many interesting things to do and see, if you just have the mind to do it, and nothing is impossible to you if you never know that those things are in fact impossible. That's what I got from it anyway.
I LOVE all the interesting characters and plays on words. One of my very favorites was near the end, when he is trying to bring "Rhyme and Reason" (the princesses/queens of the land) back to rule...
"Jumping clumsily from boulder to boulder and catching hold with his cruel, curving claws, was the Horrible Hopping Hindsight, a most unpleasant fellow whose eyes were in the rear and whose rear was out in front. He invariably leaped before he looked and never cared where he was going as long as he knew why he shouldn't have gone to where he'd been."

WHAT?! ha ha. As you can took me a while to get through because many of the interesting phrasings had me reading and rereading to get the full effect.

A good read.... I recommend it! There is a cartoon movie that I hope to be able to find and watch.

Now I am all caught up on my book reviews. Next on the list is Bathsheba and Mary, the last two in the lineage of grace series, and maybe something new from the library, since we just went back today after not going since before the beach. I picked up "A Cricket in Times Square" to read to the kids.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Lineage of Grace: Unveiled

Book club is back in session for the summer. We are reading the Lineage of Grace Series by Francine Rivers. We discussed the first book two weeks ago, Unveiled, the story of Tamar. We are meeting tonight to discuss the second book in the series, so I thought I would write up this one first! ha ha.
This is the copy of the book most of us are reading...a five in one paperback. These books are all short, less than 100 pages each. The books follow five women who were in the lineage of Jesus. It begins with Tamar, and ends with Mary.

In Unveiled, the story is about Tamar. I was not very familiar with the story of Tamar until I read this novella. Tamar is chosen by Judah to marry is oldest son, Er. He is abusive and God strikes him dead, then Tamar (by tradition) is given to the second son, Onan. He is mean and spiteful and hates his older brother and refuses to give him an heir by Tamar, so God also strikes him dead. Judah doesn't want his last son to die as well, so he sends Tamar back home until the last son is "old enough" to wed, which is a total lie. Tamar is disgraced. She goes back home to the embarrassment of her family and many years later goes to extreme measures to ensure her rightful place in the house of Judah.

I love the way Francine Rivers tells a Bible story! She has such a way describing a woman's feelings. I know that she does extensive research into history and traditions/practices, so the things that she "adds" to the story are very likely to have happened according to that research. This was a heartbreaking story, but one with a great ending. Tamar is a great example of endurance and dedication, even when she, in her own self, probably didn't fully understand the importance of maintaining and continuing the house of Judah.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Secret Life of Bees

One of my beach reads was "The Secret Life of Bees" by Sue Monk Kidd. I read it indoors and also worked on "The Phantom Tollbooth." I didn't finish either one at the beach...couldn't believe how busy we were! But, this book was in my "indoor" bag when I got home so I finished it first.

I really enjoyed this book. It is one of those "coming of age" stories. Lily, the main character, runs away from her abusive father on a journey to find out the truth about her mother, who died when Lily was very young. Another big theme of the book is racial tension in the midst of the civil rights movement, so there is tension there as Lily finds a temporary home with a family of black sisters who are beekeepers. The metaphor of the different roles of types of bees in a hive plays into the story as little excerpts at the beginning of each chapter from a "beekeeping" book.

Lily is a real and believable character. Not too "good" or "bad" to believe, but just true. The characters are are developed well and the ending is satisfying...I was kind of worried for a while.

Can't wait to see the movie now!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Beach Books: CHECK!

I made it to McKay's yesterday to look for some copies of The Phantom Tollbooth. They had two so I got them both. I am guessing Corey will get a digital copy, or we can pass them around or something. I am pretty sure I will be able to read in about a day or two, ha ha. I also got some other things to read as well... I hope these will be good. I've heard something about all of them, but I can't remember what it was, so I hope that it was good stuff! I better go ahead and put all these in the suitcase though, so I won't be tempted to read them all now!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Two Reviews

I haven't been doing much reading for my book challenges lately. I have mainly been reading my book club selection, and picking up random titles from the library. I read these two books over the past week and a half or so...

Cold Sassy Tree, by Olive Ann Burns
I am surprised that this one wasn't listed on the 451 Challenge...its a classic American novel of sorts. I remember reading it in the 11th grade as part of our American Literature class. It was one of the few things we read in that class that I enjoyed..not big on classic American we focused a lot on very early American authors. Anyway... Cold Sassy Tree is a "Georgia/southern life" novel. It was written in 1984 but is set in 1906, in Cold Sassy Tree, Georgia. Cold Sassy Tree, Georgia is apparently located near Commerce, for those familiar with the area. I guess our teacher chose it to give us something "local" to read. The description on the back of the book reads:

"Cold Sassy Tree, Georgia had never been a whirlpool of excitement. If the preacher's wife's petticoat showed, the ladies would make the talk last a week. But on July 5, 1906, things took a scandalous turn. that was the day E. Rucker Blakeslee, proprietor of the general store and barely three weeks a widower, eloped with Miss Love Simpson--a woman half his age, and worse yet, a Yankee! On that day, fourteen year old Will Tweedy's adventures began and an unimpeachably pious, deliciously irreverent town came to life."

I enjoyed reading this again! It has some really funny parts, and is also very real parts from the narrator's (Will Tweedy's) personal perspective. I noticed that there is was a sequel printed after the author's death...I will have to see if I can find it! You definitely leave this book wanting to know more about Will Tweedy and where he will eventually end up.

"A Woman's Place," by Lynn Austin

Lynn Austin is a christian fiction author that I always enjoy reading. She isn't quite as heavy as Francine Rivers, but is miles ahead of Beverly Lewis and Lori Wick on the "depth" scale. I like historical fiction like this... mostly story using history to enhance the plot. I don't enjoy historical fiction that reads like a textbook for pages at a time. ugh.
This is the story of four women who all take jobs at the local navy shipyard to help build ships for World War 2. They come from very different backgrounds and each chapter is titled by one of their names and tells a little about their life and perspective. Virginia: a bored and neglected housewife, Rosa: a girl who had a very rough childhood now living with her new in-laws during her husband's deployment in the war, Helen: a rich heiress, middle aged never married former school teacher, and Jean: an independent, spirited 19 year old girl who doesn't just want to settle down and have kids.
They all work together in the shipyard and the book tells about their friendships developing and their lives during the war.
I greatly enjoyed it. It isn't one of those "one big event" type books, but tells several years worth of events and trials in their lives.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Beach Read Chosen!

Okay...for lack of extreme opinions among the beach goers, I am going to go ahead and pick the winner: The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster. I will try to get up to McKay's to find some copies, but I think Corey will probably buy a digital version (though I think taking a Kindle on the beach is a bad idea....he won't be convinced). If anyone wants me to find you a copy let me know. I am hoping and guessing I will be able to find this book easily at the used book store. Looking forward to should be a quick read. I may pick up some of the other titles as well for myself since I want to read several of them anyway. Don't start early!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Beach Read "Semi-Finals"

I decided to share more info on the books that were mentioned more than once in the beach read poll. I included a description and the approximate number of pages from the amazon ad, as well as how many mentions it got in the original poll. For comparison: Gone With the Wind has 1,024 pages. I started taking out all the blue linked words but it got to be too much trouble, so I left them. Also, I didn't include any books that any of us have read before. I also included if there is a movie version.

2 mentions
approximately 255 pages
animated film

from Wikipedia: "The Phantom Tollbooth is a children's adventure novel and a modern fairy tale published in 1961, written by Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer. It tells the story of a bored young boy named Milo who unexpectedly receives a magic tollbooth one afternoon and, having nothing better to do, drives through. He finds himself in the Kingdom of Wisdom. There he accepts a quest to rescue the princesses of the kingdom, acquires two faithful companions, and has many adventures. The book is full of puns, and many events, like Milo's sudden jump to the Island of Conclusions, are the consequences of taking English Language Idioms literally.

2 mentions
approximately 560 pages
no film
from Wikipedia: "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values is the first of Robert M. Pirsig's texts in which he explores his Metaphysics of Quality. The 1974 book describes, in first person, a 17-day motorcycle journey across the United States by the author (though he is not identified in the book) and his son Chris, joined for the first nine days by close friends John and Sylvia Sutherland. The trip is punctuated by numerous philosophical discussions, referred to as Chautauquas by the author, on topics including epistemology, ethical emotivism and the philosophy of science."

3 mentions
approximately 400 pages
1962 film

from enotes: "Published in 1934 by New York-based publisher Charles Scribner’s Sons, Tender Is the Night is one of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s last works. Although the novel was generally well received and has come to be regarded as one of Fitzgerald’s most important works, it was less popular at its publication than his previous novels and was considered a commercial failure. More autobiographical than his other works, Tender Is the Night tells the story of American psychologist Dick Diver and his wife, the wealthy but psychologically unstable Nicole. Set largely in the small French coastal town of Tarmes between the years 1925 and 1935, the book portrays a cast of characters typical of Fitzgerald’s fictional universe: wealthy, idle, sophisticated, and, in many ways, “troubled.”

3 mentions
180 pages
film in production

from Wikipedia: "The Giver is a 1993 soft science fiction novel by Lois Lowry. It is set in a future society which is at first presented as a utopian society and gradually appears more and more dystopian; therefore, it could be considered anti-utopian. The novel follows a boy named Jonas through the twelfth year of his life. The society has eliminated pain and strife by converting to "Sameness", a plan which has also eradicated emotional" depth from their lives. Jonas is selected to inherit the position of "Receiver of Memory," the person who stores all the memories of the time before Sameness, in case they are ever needed to aid in decisions that others lack the experience to make. When Jonas meets the Giver, he is confused in many ways. The Giver is also able to break some rules, such as turning off the speaker and locking his door. As Jonas receives the memories from the previous receiver—the "Giver"—he discovers how shallow his community's life has become.

2 mentions
453 pages

from Wikipedia: "Catch-22 is a satirical, historical novel by the American author Joseph Heller, first published in 1961. The novel, set during the later stages of World War II from 1943 onwards, is frequently cited as one of the great literary works of the twentieth century. It has a distinctive non-chronological style where events are described from different characters' points of view and out of sequence so that the time line develops along with the plot. The novel follows Yossarian, a U.S. Army Air Forces B-25 bombardier, and a number of other characters. Most events occur while the airmen of the fictional Fighting 256th (or "two to the fighting eighth power") Squadron are based on the island of Pianosa, in the Mediterranean Sea west of Italy."

2 mentions
560 pages
film in production

from Wikipedia: "The Book Thief is set in Germany before and during World War II. The story is told from the point of view of Death, who narrates the story and gives a whole new image to the "death" image we the people see. "Death" finds the story of the book thief, Liesel Meminger. Liesel's story begins when she and her brother are sent to a foster home by their Communist mother when she is interned in Dachau Concentration Camp. She later arrives at the home of foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann, near Munich"
(this summary told the entire story, so I had to just cut it off randomly, lol)

A couple of these (I won't mention any names) seem a little depressing and heavy for the beach, so if they are chosen I will most definitely be bringing something else to read as well so I can sleep! ha ha! Make your voice heard again, and then we'll set up a final poll between the top two or three! :)

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Corey and I had a date night tonight to go see the new Alice in Wonderland movie. We did see it in 3D. Alice is 19 years old and has dreams about the happenings of the original movies....

My thoughts are....... that it was just okay. We will not be taking the kids to see it at the theater. First and foremost, I think they would be bored. The beginning is very slow to get going and the plot would kind of be over their heads I think with her being rebellious about corsets and stockings, and then attending a party that turns out to be her engagement party. That doesn't ruin the plot I don't think. She eventually chases after the white rabbit and falls in the rabbit hole...etc., etc.

It was very much like the movies I have seen before..just different looking. The plot is a little different but several of the same things happen, but with less "childishness" about them.

My conclusion is wasn't serious and deep enough to make it interesting enough for adults, but it wasn't childish and silly enough to make it fully appropriate for children either. The gruesome aspects (stepping on human heads to cross a moat, monster eyes being plucked out by straight pins) make it just too much for little kids, so then the lack of more makes it slightly too simple for adults. I think it should have gone one more step one way or the other.

It does look very interesting and beautiful. The 3D affects are great. There are some really funny parts with the Red Queen when she goes on her tirades, but I don't think kids would "get it." The March Hare is pretty funny. The Mad Hatter is typical of what you would expect with Johnny Depp playing that part. The White Queen is whimsical. There is a good message of good conquering evil and the Red Queen's demise. I even picked up on some easy to make comparisons between the overall story/characters/storyline and Christianity.

Overall...if I were rating on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being Mystery Science Theater level and 10 being like Epic Life Changing Films...I would give it a ....... 6. I would watch it again maybe, the story is good because the story was already good, but it will be hard to find the just right age for our kids so we can watch it together as a family. Better versions of this movie have already been made, in my opinion the Disney one is the best because it makes me laugh a lot! Even though they said it is not supposed to be "the original movie" it kind of is. A good version, but disappointed because it could have been so much better. I think the fault lies with whoever wrote the screenplay.

My take on the PluggedInOnline review:
I agree with most everything written in this review, although I think their take on the "sexual content" wasn't as bad as it sounded. The wardrobe issues weren't issues at all for me nor would it be for my kids. Any innuendo was extremely disguised and rare. The only really odd thing was with the people who all had exaggerated features to fit in with the queen's big head...there is the lady like it says in the review....which was just kind of trashy looking, for older boys it could be more inappropriate though the glimpses of that particular lady are just two very fast glances. The main part that strikes it out for me is the "Violent Content" it reviews in detail. It is definitely all as described if not more.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Cast Your Vote Please!

I just had a fun idea! I think that since my brother and I are both doing the 451 Challenge, and we are going to the beach at the same time in May, that it would be fun to read the same book and discuss it! Like a "beach reading challenge." ha ha. My husband and my brother's girlfriend also enjoy reading....

So..I am taking a vote/suggestions. Then I will create a poll for the suggestions...

Click on the 451 Challenge box at the top left, and read over the list (in the right column of that blog). Leave a comment listing the one you think would be the best read for a group consisting of a 21 yr old girl (girlfriend), 27 yr old guy (brother), 28 year old girl (sister), and TURNING 30 while we are there guy (my husband).

I will post my own choices soon...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tess of the d'Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy

I feel almost positive that we read this book when I was in high school at some point. The plot seemed slightly familiar to me but at no point in time did I really know what was going to happen, so I guess if I did read it, I did not comprehend or remember it very well at all!

This novel, by Thomas Hardy, is a tragedy. Not as much of a depressing and chaotic tragedy as Wuthering Heights, but just sad. The difference is that this book has many more happy parts than Wuthering Heights, so it isn't just one crazy thing after another, but one unfortunate thing after another, if that makes any sense.

Tess is the oldest daughter of the "Durbeyfield" family, who find out that they are actually descendants of an old knighted family by the name of "d'Uberville." The family reminds me a little of the family in Pride and Prejudice in that they have all these ideals after they find out what they used to be and try to get what they can out of it. Not that they are the same, but it just made me think of them a little but with the dad in this novel being like the mom in that novel in some ways.

Tess is sent to see if she can claim relations with some of their better off distant relatives and ask for help because their finances are in ruins. She is embarrassed but does it anyway because she is a very dutiful and obedient daughter. This begins the (for lack of a better word) Series of Unfortunate Events in the life of poor Tess. The novel follows her through many circumstances, acquaintances, and places.
Her job for most of the book is that of a milkmaid. I found that interesting to hear all about the culture and the lives of milkmaids. It was a refreshing change after so many governesses in the Bronte books, ha ha. She is a very interesting girl and we watch her grow in many ways, but stay immature in some. I can't say much without giving away the plot, but I very highly recommend this book. I found it to be a little easier to stay interested in for myself than it was to stay interested in Bronte's Wuthering Heights or many other novels of the time that I have read. I think it is because of the shocking and extreme plot involved and to see how she handles it and how it plays out throughout her entire life. Thomas Hardy writes about sin and religion, including very unheard of views of marriage and divorce (for the time). It is frustrating to see the way Tess is treated and how unfair it is for her. If the Bronte sisters were shocking, then Thomas Hardy is appalling! I guess maybe it has to do with the fact that he lived all the way into the 1920s, so he lived to see the ushering in of an entire new generation of thoughts concerning what exactly should be tolerated and accepted concerning women and marriage.

I do wish that I had been able to get a copy of one with footnotes because there were expressions and some dialect that I didn't completely understand, but it didn't ruin the story or anything.

This is definitely a sad story with a tragic ending, but it wasn't depressing to me. I can't explain why it wasn't depressing without giving away the plot, but I would love to be able to discuss it with someone who has read it. It is just a good sad ending. I found the spark notes page helpful in enjoying some of the themes and symbols used in the novel. I linked to the spark notes page from the photo of the book above.

I was thinking of adding another Thomas Hardy to my list, but after reading about a few of his other novels, I think I will not. (they are all very tragic) I think I will go for more variety.

Overall: Read it. It's a good one.

My favorite quote from the book:

"When sorrow ceases to be speculative sleep sees her opportunity."
Ch. 35

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Other Reading.....

I thought I would post my other reading on here also.... just to keep up with what I've read for the year.

I don't know if this would count for 09 or 10, because I started it before Christmas and just finished it in January....

Same Kind of Different As Me, by Ron Hall and Denver Moore.

This is the description from Amazon:

"A dangerous, homeless drifter who grew up picking cotton in virtual slavery. An upscale art dealer accustomed to the world of Armani and Chanel. A gutsy woman with a stubborn dream. A story so incredible no novelist would dare dream it. It begins outside a burning plantation hut in Louisiana . . . and an East Texas honky-tonk . . . and, without a doubt, in the heart of God. It unfolds in a Hollywood hacienda . . . an upscale New York gallery . . . a downtown dumpster . . . a Texas ranch. Gritty with pain and betrayal and brutality, this true story also shines with an unexpected, life-changing love."

This is a true story. My pastor's wife passed it along to me to read as a possible book club selection, so I gave it a try. It is not a book I would have read if it had not been suggested for that purpose, but I am glad I did read it. I decided that it wasn't the right book for our book club right now, but maybe in the future. It does have some pretty rough imagery and ends up being a pretty sad story, but ultimately "good." If the description intrigues you, you should definitely give it a try. For me, it was slow reading. I couldn't just read through it in a night like I do with many books. It is a very good read though, and truly eye-opening.

Monday Morning Faith, by Lori Copeland

From Amazon:
"The New Guinea jungle holds many fascinations, but not for librarian Johanna Holland. Johanna is simply aghast at the lack of hot showers and … well … clothing! She is positive the mission field is most certainly not God’s plan for her life, but will that mean letting go of the man she loves?"

This is the book I ended up picking for our next book club selection. We wanted something light and romantic for February, and this got great reviews everywhere. It was a pretty easy read, but again, I did not finish it in one night or anything. It is funny, and revealing of the true nature of the mission field (well, I've never been, but it seemed pretty real to me and people who reviewed it said it was! ha!). One thing about it that was unique from most "romantic Christian fiction" was that I did not know how it was going to end! A very cute book and sweet story. (and the ending is perfect!)

"Readers everywhere have discovered Mitford is good for the soul. Peopled with a lovable cast of characters and filled with mysteries and miracles, Mitford has become one of the most memorable small towns in recent literature."

A Common Life, by Jan Karon

Now, on to some classic Jan Karon! My pastor's wife introduced me to the Mitford Series, by Jan Karon, a couple of years ago. It is the story of an older Presbyterian priest and his town, church family, and personal life. This is the novel that tells all about "The Wedding Story" between him and his love. If you have never read the Mitford Series and enjoy Christian fiction, I highly recommend it. I don't even think it is truly geared toward the main character is a man. It can be slow reading to begin with (I had to call Bethany to convince me to finish the first book!) but after that you are hooked. It is rich in character development. In the middle of the series I decided that it was a little like the Anne of Green Gables series... where the books take their time,but it means a richer cast of characters and ones that you really feel like you know. A Common Life fits perfectly in the series, with laughs from the favorite funny characters and sweet tender moments with the priest. Don't read it if you haven't read the rest of the series because it would be a huge spoiler, but if you do love the series, give it a go! (btw, I did finish this in one night! It is one of the shorter, lighter books in the series!)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, 1992

This time the photo does not link to a trailer, but to the entire opening credits and scene.
(The only thing available on IMDb.)

I am even more convinced that I am not going to tackle reading Wuthering Heights. At least, not anytime soon! This movie version was so extremely depressing!!! And, I know that the story itself is very depressing..I get that. But, I guess I appreciated the changing of the story in the one version I saw to make Heathcliff a little more loving and exciting and less.... psychopathic.

I was pleased to find this short plot summary from IMDb:

Heathcliff is Cathy Earnshaw's foster brother; more than that, he is her other half. When forces within and without tear them apart, Heathcliff wreaks vengeance on those he holds responsible, even into a second generation. Written by Cleo {}

I noticed on that site that many people love this version and it is their favorite. Well..I understand why they say that. This one does seem to keep most of the original dialogue and wording from the book. I could tell that even from not reading the book for some reason. Ralph Feinnes does a perfect job of playing a mean, abusive, and crazy Heathcliff...not so much of the "wild" version shown in the other one I watched.

Juliette Binoche plays Cathy. She does a good job, though I really didn't like her hair in this one. It almost seemed like they tried to make her hair more from the time the movie was made instead of the time period it was set. That constantly bothered me throughout the movie. I couldn't find a good photo of it to share, but if you watch it you will see what I mean. Juliette Binoche also plays young Catherine, the daughter of Cathy and Edgar. While it made sense to use her because she would, of course, be identical, I thought it was a little too easy and actually kind of creepy. While she looked the same, they didn't age Heathcliff very much, so it was like they were the same couple, which I guess could have been the point since the story is so tragic and all, but I haven't read it, so that's just my opinion from watching this movie version.

One thing that was very different about this version, was the opening. It opens with Bronte herself walking the lands and sort of setting up the story as one from her imagination and telling viewers to "be sure to not smile at any part of it." or something similar. *shudder* Yeah, that set me up for the entire depressing 1hr 46 minutes of film. ha ha.

If you like a true to story, depressing and sad film version of this book, then go for this one! If you want to kind of put a wild and romantic spin on it, then go to the Masterpiece Theater 2009 version.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Vanity Fair (2004)

(click photo to watch trailer)
The movie Vanity Fair (2004) is based on one of the most beloved of all 19th century novels, by the same name, written by William Makepiece Thackeray, a contemporary and friend of Charles Dickens.

From IMDb:

"The British Empire flowers; exotic India colors English imaginations. Becky Sharp, the orphaned daughter of a painter and a singer, leaves a home for girls to be a governess, armed with pluck, a keen wit, good looks, fluent French, and an eye for social advancement. Society tries its best to keep her from climbing. An episodic narrative follows her for 20 years, through marriage, Napoleonic wars, a child, loyalty to a school friend, the vicissitudes of the family whose daughters she instructed, and attention from a bored marquess who collected her father's paintings. Honesty tempers her schemes. No aristocrat she, nor bourgeois, just spirited, intelligent, and irrepressible.
Written by {}"

This is another film based on a book I have not read.
The book was written as a satirical commentary on English society.
It starts out with Becky leaving her boarding school and heading out on her first assignment as a governess. I won't repeat what the plot summary above says, but I will say that I was very interested in this story and in the character of Becky. She is very smart and I enjoyed watching her manipulate the people around her in society and proving them wrong. Reese Witherspoon is great at this role and I enjoyed watching her.
One thing I also really enjoyed about this movie was the costuming. It is AMAZING! I loved the dresses and different colors and outfits that were shown during everyday scenes and in the scenes where they showcased different cultures, especially India. It makes me very curious to read the book and find out how it is described by the author.
This has a great, but very tragic love story, so be prepared. It has happy parts but does not have an overly happy ending (for the "main" characters), so I am guessing the book does the same.
I would easily recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys historic romance. I don't believe I have ever read any of William Makepeace Thackery's work. I actually just confirmed that fact by looking him up. He was actually born in Calcutta, India, so that would explain all the vivid images of India in the movie! I think I will put this one on my "Victorian Reading Challenge" to do list!

update: I just found an alternate ending to the movie that was filmed. It actually includes the guy who plays Edward in the Twilight movies, but it was completely cut out of the final film. I actually really like the alternate ending. I thought it was sweeter than the actual ending. You can search for it if you end up watching the movie. Now I am even more intrigued to read the book and see what the "real" ending includes!

Persuasion (1995)

I decided to link the photo to a trailer for the movie! Isn't that fun? Now you can watch the promo for the movie and really see if you would want to see it yourself!

From IMDb:

"Eight years earlier, Anne Elliot, the daughter of a financially troubled aristocratic family, was persuaded to break off her engagement to Frederick Wentworth, a young seaman, who, though promising, had poor family connections. When her father rents out the family estate to Admiral Croft, Anne is thrown into company with Frederick, because his sister is Mrs. Croft. Frederick is now a rich and successful Captain, and a highly eligible bachelor. Whom will he marry? One of Anne's sister's husband's sisters? Or will he and Anne rekindle the old flame? Written by John Oswalt {}"

I watched this movie last night (Netflix instant play!). Emilee had reviewed the movie here a few days ago, so I recognized the picture and gave it a shot. I have to say that when I found the link to the trailer a few minutes ago I thought the movie sounded much more dramatic than it actually was. The story was very good, but the romance between the two main characters was not developed as deeply as they make it out to be on that preview. What I did find in this movie was that the class system is so completely divided and it clearly shows in this one more than others I have seen. I thought the lady main character did a great job of showing how she identified with both classes shown and how her desires tore her between her personal desire and that of her family. Although, the relationship between her and her family is not very deep at all and it shows.

I agree with Emilee that the actors and actresses in this movie are not very pleasant to "look upon." ha ha. Anne is so very plain and her sisters are really ugly!!! Maybe that is what they wanted?! (esp for the sisters) In fact, they look like they have not even one speck of makeup on, which I guess would have been realistic, but then they way overdo on those who do wear makeup, to the point of it looking horrible so I guess that is making a statement as well?

I have never read Persuasion, but now I may put it on my read list. The plot was interesting and of course a bit confusing as there are always interesting plot twists in these types of stories. I don't know if it was my computer or what, but I had a difficult time hearing the speaking in the movie. It was so low I could barely make it out sometimes at all!

Overall, if you are in the mood for type of movie you will probably enjoy watching it, but only if you are home and have it on hand. I would not have wanted to spend theater money to see it.... :)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Wuthering Heights...the book version

Is absolutely entirely and completely difficult to read! SO confusing! I went to tonight and read through the summary and commentary so that when I try to pick it up again, maybe it will make more sense. It is crazy that I have read two complete Bronte books in the past ten days or so, one of them being Jane Eyre (500+pages!) and this one has me stumped. Has anyone else who has read this had as hard a time with it as me?!

Wuthering Heights (2009, Masterpiece Theater)

WHOA! ...all I gotta say is...if you haven't seen this version of Wuthering Heights, you should! I was browsing through the instant play features on Netflix and found this one. It is two parts, each one a little over an hour and it is incredible! The acting is great, the clothes are great, the setting is beautiful! Awesome version!
It has been years since I have read the book and from what I have read so far (not much) it is a little bit different in the way it is told, but I think it probably is just easier the way they do it in this movie since the book to me is pretty confusing.
Anyway, I can't say too much so I won't say much more at all: DEFINITELY worth seeing!

451 Challenge

One more challenge so I had to create this blog for keeping up with my now THREE reading challenges for 2010! I am very excited about this one because it will be a sort of break between my other two since they are so similar. You can read more about the 451 Challenge (and see the master list of books) by clicking on the button in the sidebar, but here are the basics:

Here is how it will work: between January 1, 2010 and November 30, 2010, participants are challenged to read books on the 451 master list. There will be several levels of participation:

Spark - read 1-2 books from the master list
Ember - read 3-4 books from the master list
Flame - read 5-6 books from the master list
Blaze - read 7 or more books from the master list

Re-reading is acceptable, as are crossovers with other challenges. Audio, print, and e-books are all acceptable. Each month, participants will be encouraged to post their reviews on the challenge blog, and each review posted will be an entry into a grand prize drawing for a $25 gift card to the online bookseller of the winner's choice.

Jane Eyre is on this list, so I already have one book down! I am jumping in on the Blaze level! Bring it on!

Yay for reading!

An Ideal Husband (1999)

I completed the first movie in the movie mini challenge portion of the Victorian Reading Challenge, hosted by Our Mutual Read. You can read the review I posted on that blog HERE or just continue reading below...

I watched the 1999 film version of An Ideal Husband, starring Rupert Everett, Minnie Driver, Cate Blanchett, Jeremy Northam, and Juliane Moore. This film is an adaptation of the 1895 Oscar Wilde Play.

Since I am terrible at describing the plots of period films (I am easily confused!) I will copy from IMDb:

"Sir Robert Chiltern is a successful Government minister, well-off and with a loving wife. All this is threatened when Mrs Cheveley appears in London with evidence of a past misdeed. Sir Robert turns for help to his friend Lord Goring, an apparently idle philanderer and the despair of his father. Goring knows the lady of old, and, for him, takes the whole thing pretty seriously. Written by Jeremy Perkins {}"

I especially loved Juliane Moore's character as the "villianess" Mrs. Cheveley. She is beautiful and does a great job as the wicked blackmailer! Also, though she plays a minor role, Minnie Driver (as Chiltern's sister) was cute and sweet as the quirky sister. I wished they had done more development of the relationship between her and Lord Goring (Rupert Everett).

This was a cute film and had beautiful costumes and buildings that truly showcased the time period!

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte

I finally have read Jane Eyre! I think I probably attempted to read it at some point in my life before, but never finished or got into the story.
I truly don't know why I have never read this novel because it immediately drew me in this time. Perhaps it is because I skimmed the synopsis on Cliff's Notes (.com) before starting! ha ha! No, I did not ruin any surprises, because that is impossible to do for me. I do NOT enjoy plot twists that take me totally off guard, it actually ruins a book (or movie) for me because I get so freaked out by them that I end up hating the book.... so to me, to know the "surprising twist" is to make it more enjoyable for me...I know..I am weird!

So...on to Jane Eyre. I actually read this book over three days. It is a slow time for me because we haven't started back homeschooling for 2010 and I am not currently leading a book for my other book club, so I have plenty of time to devote to it. Also, my husband just went out of town for business, so the evening last night was totally mine till 2am when I finished the novel!

For anyone who happens to have not read the book, here is a snippet from the back:

"Jane Eyre begins life as a lonely orphan in the household of her hateful aunt. Despite the oppression she endures at home, and the later torture of boarding school, Jane manages to emerge with her spirit and integrity unbroken. She becomes a governess at Thornfield Hall, where she finds herself falling in love with her employer-the dark, impassioned Mr. Rochester. But an explosive secret tears apart their relationship, forcing Jane to face poverty and isolation once again."

I enjoyed the fact that this novel began when Jane was ten years old and did not skip any time periods in her life, telling the complete story with no jumps. I mean, of course it doesn't tell day by day, but many novels attempting to tell a life story will skip and only tell one major period, either childhood, adolescence, or teen/adulthood. Going through each stage, I could see how Jane's character changed yet stayed the same in many ways. How her thoughts, though similar, were more matured throughout her life. I have to say that the circumstances that arose in the last part of the book were pretty far-fetched in the way it all worked out, but that is what is so great about these types of books as well...all the twists coming together like a soap opera. The more I think about it, the more I see similarities between this novel and plots I have seen played out on soaps. Maybe they use old Victorian novels for their inspiration sometimes!

My favorite era was when Jane was homeless and poor and begging for food, then taken in by the Rivers' family. I liked that Jane was able to completely be herself and finally have "girlfriends" who were honest and loving.

Overall, I really enjoyed the story and think that the plot, though "soapy" was interesting and well thought out. Even the names chosen for each character, I thought, were well planned and suited to their roles in the book. Though it had twists, the ending easy in coming and did not wrap up too quickly like many novels do at the end.

Oh, one more thing I meant to say about Agnes Grey as well. I got the versions of the Bronte books I am reading from Barnes and Noble. They were having a "buy two get one free" sale on their Barnes and Noble Classics editions, so I got all three Bronte books for $11. I am really enjoying these versions of the books because they include footnotes on every page that explain any out of date terms or words. For example, Jane Eyre uses the term "surtout*" and the footnote explains that it means "overcoat." Also, it gives notes when a word that is used that has changed meaning over time, like when she writes, "What, in short, is his character*" The footnote explains: "Here meaning moral qualities or reputation, rather than personality in the modern sense."
These notes make the reading so much more enjoyable because there would be so many terms that I would have no clue what they mean without research (especially with household objects and vernacular terms) and some things I would misunderstand because the meaning would have been different when the novel was written.

When I finished the book, I found an instant play version that I could watch on netflix. It was a very long BBC episodic version, so I just chose a few episodes to see some of the key parts played out. It was okay, but I thought the girl who played Jane overacted. Her hair also annoyed seemed like it wasn't put together well, but I guess that may have been realistic? It did stick very closely to the book, word for word in fact, but I just didn't love it because the scenery wasn't very elaborate and the acting just not as good as it should have been for such a rich story. Her clothes were awful too! I know she was supposed to be plain, but they could have at least tried to make her a little attractive since she is the heroine of a romance novel! ha!
I have another version in my queue to watch, but I have to wait on it to be mailed, so maybe that one will be better!

Agnes Grey, by Anne Bronte

Prior to reading Agnes Grey, I had not read any of Anne Bronte's writing. Truthfully, I have only ever ready one Bronte novel at all: Wuthering Heights.

This is the description from the publisher of the copy I purchased this weekend at Barnes and Noble:

Written when women—and workers generally—had few rights in England, Agnes Grey exposes the brutal inequities of the rigid class system in mid-nineteenth century Britain. Agnes comes from a respectable middle-class family, but their financial reverses have forced her to seek work as a governess. Pampered and protected at home, she is unprepared for the harsh reality of a governess’s life. At the Bloomfields and later the Murrays, she suffers under the snobbery and sadism of the selfish, self-indulgent upper-class adults and the shrieking insolence of their spoiled children. Worse, the unique social and economic position of a governess—“beneath” her employers but “above” their servants—condemns her to a life of loneliness.

I was prepared for a long and slow read before I started the book. I took on this reading challenge because I did truly want the challenge of reading something that I might not just read on my own and that I also thought would be good to round out my exposure to some different styles of writing. I really have always enjoyed the plots of Victorian novels and I usually enjoy the movie adaptations as well, but the wordy writing style always ends up boring me and I put it down.

This novel did not have that affect on me at all. I found the plot very interesting from the beginning as it tells about poor Agnes and her horrible experiences as a governess. Maybe I sympathized with her with it taking me back to my own horrible two years as a first grade public school teacher! ugh! I loved how Anne Bronte developed the personalities of all the characters...and how uncomfortable and sorry I felt for Agnes Grey in all her troubles!

Then, there is the love story plot. Developed so slowly and therefore so much more believable! It was beautiful and interesting and I finished it in three evenings of reading time...the first one being just the first two chapters. This was a great way to break into the Bronte and Victorian reading challenges. It was only a couple hundred pages and easy to finish, so I feel inspired to keep going now since I already have one under my belt!

A Welcome Diversion

I have never participated in a blog challenge before, but I read about two that Emily is doing and they sound like fun and a great diversion from the sad week we have had. I think it will be so much fun, so I am participating in the All About the Brontes Challenge 2010 AND the Our Mutual Read Victorian Reading Challenge. The Victorian Reading Challenge lasts all year and includes several levels of challenges. I am going to start with level 1 and maybe go up to level 2 if I want to later. I also want to do the period film mini challenge.

~ Level 1: 4 books, at least 2 written during 1837 - 1901. The other books may be Neo-Victorian or non-fiction.
~ Level 2: 8 books, at least 4 written during 1837 - 1901. The other books may be Neo-Victorian or non-fiction.

Period Film Mini-Challenge -- watch at least 6 films that take place between 1837 - 1901 (they don't necessarily have to be based on a book) and post a review.

The All About Brontes Challenge is from Jan 1-June 30th and you are challenged to read/watch 6 Bronte books or films based on the books.

Here is my planned list:

1. Read Wuthering Heights by Charlotte Bronte
2. Read Jane Eyre by Emily Bronte
3. Read Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte
4-6: Watch various versions of films based on any of the Bronte sisters books.

If you are interested in either of those challenges, just click on the buttons on my sidebar!

A New Blog!

I just love to create blogs...I bet you didn't know!

Well..I had to create one here, because I have now signed up for THREE reading challenges for 2010 and thought I needed a new place to keep all the reviews and info about them, separately from my other blog since I was already "covering up" posts with reviews. it is..creatively titled: "Carrie's Book Blog."

You can see links for all the challenges listed to the side and I will be linking here from my challenge websites.