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.