Tuesday, January 29, 2013

THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARIES

Last April saw the commencement of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, an online adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.  I’ve heard of it, of course, but never bothered to watch because I’m generally not a big fan of modernising a classic.  Anyhow, with yesterday’s celebration of P&P’s 200th anniversary I came across the home page and finally gave in – just one episode.  I watched ten.  In quick succession.  I am now hooked!

Ashley Clements as Lizzie Bennet

I really love this modern-day Lizzie Bennet video blog.  The cast is amazing, and I especially love Ashley Clements who plays Elizabeth, and Mary Kate Wiles who plays Lydia.  Elizabeth's impersonations of Mrs Bennet are hilarious.  If, like me, you have not given this web series a shot yet – do yourself a favour!  I’m sure any fan of P&P would enjoy this.

Mary Kate Wiles as Lydia Bennet

Here are the first few episodes to get you started:

Episode 1:
Episode 2:
Episode 3:
Episode 4:
Episode 5:
Episode 6:
Episode 7:

(Lizzie's reaction to Darcy's comments is fabulous!)

Episode 8:
Episode 9:
Episode 10:

The remainder of the episodes are available on the website.

Monday, January 28, 2013

200 years of Pride and Prejudice


28 January 2013 marks the 200th anniversary of one of my all-time favourite books; Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, which was first published in three volumes on 28 January 1813.  

First Edition

A special website has been launched to commemorate this special occasion, and events are being held, especially across the UK, in celebration. 


Anne Hathaway as Jane Austen writing Pride and Prejudice in Becoming Jane

In celebration, here are some of my favourite quotes from the book. 


 “From all that I can collect by your manner of talking, you must be two of the silliest girls in the country. I have suspected it some time, but I am now convinced.” – Mr Bennet to his daughters, Kitty and Lydia


Kitty and Lydia with Mrs Bennet (Pride and Prejudice - 2005)

“An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.” - Mr Bennet

Mr & Mrs Bennet (Pride and Prejudice - 2005)

“I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.” - Elizabeth about Mr. Darcy

Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice - 2005)
   
"Occupied in observing Mr. Bingley's attentions to her sister, Elizabeth was far from suspecting that she was herself becoming an object of some interest in the eyes of his friend. Mr. Darcy had at first scarcely allowed her to be pretty; he had looked at her without admiration at the ball; and when they next met, he looked at her only to criticise. But no sooner had he made it clear to himself and his friends that she hardly had a good feature in her face, than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes. To this discovery succeeded some others equally mortifying. Though he had detected with a critical eye more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her form, he was forced to acknowledge her figure to be light and pleasing; and in spite of his asserting that her manners were not those of the fashionable world, he was caught by their easy playfulness. Of this she was perfectly unaware; to her he was only the man who made himself agreeable nowhere, and who had not thought her handsome enough to dance with" - of Elizabeth & Darcy


“Your conjecture is totally wrong, I assure you. My mind was more agreeably engaged. I have been meditating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow.”  - Mr. Darcy to Miss Bingley


Mr Darcy (Pride and Prejudice - 2005)

"Darcy had never been so bewitched by any woman as he was by her. He really believed, that were it not for the inferiority of her connections, he should be in some danger." - Mr Darcy regarding Elizabeth


“There is, I believe, in every disposition a tendency to some particular evil— a natural defect, which not even the best education can overcome.” - Darcy

“And your defect is a propensity to hate everybody." - Elizabeth
“And yours,” he replied with a smile, “is willfully to misunderstand them.” - Darcy 


Elizabeth & Darcy (Pride and Prejudice - 2005)
   
"I certainly have not the talent which some people possess,” said Darcy, “of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done.” - Darcy

 “My fingers,” said Elizabeth, “do not move over this instrument in the masterly manner which I see so many women’s do. They have not the same force or rapidity, and do not produce the same expression. But then I have always supposed it to be my own fault- because I would not take the trouble of practising…” - Elizabeth

Elizabeth & Jane (Pride and Prejudice - 2005)
  
“I am the happiest creature in the world. Perhaps other people have said so before, but not one with such justice. I am happier even than Jane; she only smiles, I laugh.” - Elizabeth


Thank you Ms Austen for this timeless literary masterpiece - Happy 200th anniversary Pride and Prejudice!

Monday, January 21, 2013

REVIEW: THE HOST ~ STEPHENIE MEYER


Stephenie Meyer’s The Host has been in my unread pile for quite a while now.  For no specific reason I just never picked this one up.  Two weeks ago I saw the movie trailer for the first time, and I finally had the desire to dig in and read this book.  It’s quite different from the Twilight saga, so if you’re not a fan, don’t let that deter you from giving The Host a shot.  It’s much more mature, aimed at the adult science fiction crowd as opposed to the Young Adult fanbase.


The Earth has been taken over by aliens who occupy the bodies of humans, taking over their minds but leaving the bodies in tact. Humans are all but extinct. Despite the odds Melanie Stryder manages to evade capture and lives on the run.  Then she meets Jared Howe, another human, and they become a family.  A few years later Melanie has reason to believe that her cousin, Sharon, is still human as well, and she decides to temporarily separate herself from Jared in order to find her cousin. Melanie is strong, brave and incredibly fast; conceding that all remaining humans must unite, Jared agrees to let her go.

Saoirse Ronan as Melanie & Max Irons as Jared

Then their worst nightmare becomes a reality: Melanie gets caught.  Unwilling to become host to a parasite and endanger Jared (as the aliens have access to the humans’ memories and can locate fugitives), Melanie tries to commit suicide; her fall does not kill her, however, and even subconsciously her love for Jared and her will to live are too strong to be denied.

Enter Wanderer, the invading “soul” who has been given Melanie's body.  Wanderer has lived nine different lives in nine different hosts on nine different planets - unheard of among her kind.  She is considered the strongest of the strong and if any soul can overcome the horror of Melanie’s memories of her final moments, Wanderer can; but she knows something is very wrong the moment she comes to.  Melanie has not left the body!  Stronger than the Seekers gave her credit for, driven by emotion stronger than Wanderer has ever had to endure, Melanie refuses to completely relinquish her body and her memories to a parasite.  She will fight with every ounce of her being to protect Jared and to keep his possible location hidden from the Seekers; she blocks Wanderer from accessing her most valuable memories - this leaves the Seekers unable to track, capture and embody Jared.

Saoirse Ronan as Wanderer

Wanderer and Melanie are bitter enemies, each resenting the other's presence in their body. As they are stuck together for many months they get to know each other, and while resentment still runs rampant, they come to understand one another.  Over time Melanie allows Wanderer to witness her memories of Jared, and unable to separate herself from her body's desires, Wanderer yearns for a man she's never met. 

Melanie and Wanderer finally become unwilling allies when they find themselves in the crosshairs of a common enemy; the Seeker who caught Melanie – the Seeker hell-bent on accessing Melanie's memories in order to track down Jared.  Wanderer must choose; she must either remain faithful to her kind and agree to a transfer into another host to allow the Seeker a turn in Melanie's body, or she must give in to Melanie's passionate desire to find Jared. Realizing she has become protective of her host despite their rivalry, unable to separate herself from her body’s desires and driven by a love so strong Melanie could not be banished from her body by the strongest of “souls”, Wanderer realizes there was never any choice at all.  Together they set off to search for the man they both love.

Diane Kruger as The Seeker

It is actually quite hard for me to decide where I stand on this book.  I quite enjoyed it, but I never had the yearning to pick it up and continue reading.  I read whenever I felt like it, but it never bugged me that the book was lying there, waiting to be finished.  Would I read it again?  No.  would I recommend others to read it?  Possibly.  The writing was good, the tension was believable and the characters were well developed.  The plot and the occurring events were interesting, but I really think Meyer could have told this exact story in much less than 619 pages – a lot of the content felt unnecessary to me; I might have even enjoyed the book more if there was a little less descriptive content.  I can describe the layout of the vast desert and the “confusing” canyons perfectly.  In my sleep.  Backwards. 

Jared, Wanderer and Jake Abel as Ian 

My main issue with The Host, however, is that it is written from the perspective of Wanderer; and I was fascinated by Melanie. She is strong and brave, and I wish there was much more of her in the book. I would have loved some chapters from her perspective or even just some more memories of her and Jared's relationship.  Wanderer quite annoyed me at first, and I found myself very resentful of Wanderer's love for Jared. This may have been a tool used by Meyer allowing the reader to associate with Melanie (as she is the secondary character), through sharing her despair, resentment and jealousy.  Having said that, Wanderer does grow on you.  It’s just that the book as a whole places so much emphasis on Wanderer and Melanie being a unit, a package deal, that I think Melanie deserved much more; more time, more presence, more power. 


I thoroughly enjoyed the book as a whole, but I cannot deny that I was disappointed in the conclusion.  It was pretty predictable.  The ending was a little up in the air and had a few uncertainties I did not appreciate.  Meyer suggested in the end that Jared may have been just a little bit in love with Wanderer, and this annoyed me more than I can say.  It especially dimmed the power of Melanie and Jared’s love for me, and the hope for their reunion and unbreakable, unshakable love was the reason I kept reading the book (There’s that problem again, I was invested in Melanie and Jared – not Wanderer).  Meyer may have gone as far as suggesting everybody was just a little bit in love with everybody else - As far as endings go I was hoping for something much more solid.  I hope the film will portray the ending differently.  I think this one fell a little flat.


Product information:
Title: The Host
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Pages: 619
Publisher: Sphere
Year: 2008
ISBN: 978-0-7515-4064-2

Friday, January 18, 2013

FAIRY-TALES FOR MY NIECE

I’ve been thinking about fairy-tales a lot lately.  While shopping I noticed a selection of classic fairy-tales on sale, and in the spur of the moment I grabbed a handful for my lovely niece.  She’s only thirteen months old, but she already loves books and I know she’s going to be a huge bookworm just like her mom and me.  After I bought it, though, I started to wonder: is this really the kind of books a little girl should read?

Let’s take a look at our main contenders, shall we?

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
A young girl must flee to escape the life-threatening jealousy of her step-mother.  She moves into a house with seven strange men, and whiles away her time cooking and cleaning for them (Of course! What else could a woman possibly do with her free time?).  

Excuse me while I clean up after these strangers.  I'll feel better 

She is also stupid enough to, not only talk to strangers, but accept food from an obviously quite creepy old lady.  She chokes on a poisonous apple, and it is the kiss of a prince that finally wakes her.

Kissed by a stranger. While unconscious 

Sleeping Beauty
Aurora is cursed by a vengeful woman who was upset that she hadn’t been invited to a party.  Petty much?  Years later Aurora wanders the castle and comes across a spinning wheel.  She cannot help but prick her finger on the spindle (because, let’s face it – what woman can possibly resist needlework?).  

Oooh! A spinning wheel! Must. Touch. It

Aurora collapses, remains lifeless for a number of years, and is ultimately woken by a prince’s kiss.  I see a disturbing recurring theme here.  Never mind romantic, in what universe is it ever okay to kiss an unconscious woman?

Kissed by a stranger. While unconscious 

Cinderella
Okay, Cinderella is not that bad.  She is repressed and emotionally abused by her jealous evil stepmother (another recurring theme seems to be suffering at the hands of jealous women), but she doesn’t let it affect her personality.  She seems to remain happy and cheerful (why wouldn’t you, getting to do all the cooking and cleaning all by yourself?), and ultimately wins the heart of a prince.  Whom she marries after one date dance.  

Let me sing while I clean up after my evil step-family... it's so much fun 

The Little Mermaid
Granted, Ariel is adventurous, brave and headstrong – but she disobeys her father every chance she gets, and places her life in danger in order to collect shiny objects.  Then she goes and makes what is possibly the worst deal in history, and trades the voice her prince fell in love with for a pair of legs.  She can now be close to the prince she has fallen in love with because he’s pretty, but she can’t communicate with him.  She is forced to watch him fall in love with the evil Ursula who now possesses her voice.  Why would she do this to herself?  It kind of reminds me of the girls on The Bachelor.

Hiding amidst the collection my father forbid me to have 

Beauty and the Beast
Granted, Belle is quite a bad-ass as far as fairy-tale princesses go.  She is loyal, honest, trustworthy, smart and brave.  But then she goes and ruins it all by developing Stockholm Syndrome.

Excuse me while I stare lovingly into the eyes of my captor 

And this is just the watered down versions we have come to know - Don’t even get me started on the disturbing original versions of fairy-tales! 

Snow White
In the original 1812 Grimm version, the evil Queen who wants to eat Snow White’s liver and lungs for dinner (literally) is her biological mother, not her stepmother.  Nice.  When the prince finds Snow White after she has collapsed from eating the poisonous apple she is for all intents and purposes, quite dead.  The apple is dislodged from Snow White’s throat when she is jostled by the prince’s horse as he carries her back to his castle – what the prince wanted to do with a dead girl’s body I will leave to your imagination.  When the Queen shows up at Snow White’s wedding (heavens please tell me she's not marrying the necrophiliac!), she’s forced to step into iron shoes that had been cooking in the fire, and dance until she falls down dead.


Sleeping Beauty
In Giambattista Basile’s Sun, Moon, and Talia, one of the earliest versions of this story (published in 1634), the princess gets a sliver of flax stuck under her fingernail and falls down, apparently dead.  Her father, who cannot face the idea of losing her, lays her body on a bed in one of his estates where a king hunting in the woods finds her.  Since he cannot wake her up, he rapes her while she’s unconscious(!) and then goes on his merry way. A few months later, still unconscious, she gives birth to two children.  One of them accidentally sucks the splinter out of her finger and she wakes up.  Imagine waking up, finding yourself violated, now the mother of two children – the products of rape.  The “fun” does not end here - The king who raped her is already married, but he burns his wife alive so that he can be with Talia – but not before the discarded wife tries to kill and eat their babies.  Yes, you read that right.


Cinderella:
In the Grimm version the stepsisters cut off parts of their feet in order to fit into the glass slippers, hoping to fool the prince, but he is alerted to the trickery by two pigeons who peck out the step sisters' eyes (did the blood pooling in the shoes not give them away?).


The little mermaid
in Hans Christian Andersen’s very first version the little mermaid trades tongue for legs, and part of the deal is that every step she takes will be agony.  Hoping to win the prince’s heart she dances for him, even though it means excruciating pain. Despite her best efforts, she sees the prince marry someone else and she despairs. Her sisters bring her a knife with which to kill the prince, figuring his blood falling on her feet will turn her into a mermaid again.  She can’t bring herself to go through with it, dies and turns into sea foam.  Andersen later modified the ending slightly, having her become a “daughter of the air” waiting to go to heaven – after she has performed good deeds for 300 years.


The version of Beauty and the Beast which we have come to know today does not differ much from the original.  Instead, let’s take a look at the original Red Riding Hood – much more interesting.

Red Riding Hood
In Charles Perrault’s 1697 version, there is no intrepid huntsman to save the day.  Little Red Riding Hood simply strips naked(!), gets in bed, and is eaten up by the big bad wolf.  The sexual undertones are not lost on us; after all, the contemporary French idiom for a girl having lost her virginity is elle avoit vĂ» le loup — she has seen the wolf.




But I digress.  My point is, am I making too much of this?  Am I overthinking it?  Because while these are clearly not the best role-models for girls, I myself read these fairy-tales as a little girl (not the original versions, obviously), and I don’t think it made any lasting negative impressions on me.  I don't know... but we've got a few more years to think about it.  

Monday, January 14, 2013

REVIEW: WHEN THE SMOKE CLEARS ~ LYNETTE EASON


Over the holidays I came across When The Smoke Clears in my bookstore – it looked pretty interesting, so I decided to give Lynette Eason another shot.  Good thing I did!

Growing up in a home with an abusive father caused Alexia Allen to have trouble believing that a Heavenly Father can be loving.  Kicked out of her childhood home right after completing High-School, she has just as much trouble believing her mother ever loved her at all.  Abandoned by her older brother as soon as he was old enough to leave, and losing her beloved sister through suicide, Alexia finds herself truly alone in the world; except for her best friend Serena Hopkins.

Having been accused and believed to be guilty of the arson that left her father and sister disfigured, Alexia aims to heal from the horror of the fire that lead to her sister’s eventual suicide by becoming a smokejumper.  Knowing better than most that fire can ruin a life in an instant, Alexia always takes excellent care of the equipment that keeps her safe; so when she nearly dies in a fire due to equipment failure, she knows that something sinister is going on. When Alexia learns through Serena that her mother is seriously ill, and she finds herself suspended pending an investigation, she decides to face all of her demons by going home for her High-School Reunion, and recuperating in her mother's home.  Yet trouble seems to be following her, and within hours of arriving back in town Alexia finds herself in the centre of a murder investigation. 

When Alexia also realises her mother’s friends and neighbours deeply resent her unforgiving nature, for not staying in contact with her mother, she must furthermore face the possibility that her mother is indeed the changed woman Serena claims she is, and that Alexia may carry some blame herself.  Suddenly surrounded by people who encourage Alexia to turn to God, Alexia further embarks on a tentative relationship with a God she doesn’t understand; a God she truly believes is punishing her through the events wreaking havoc with her life.  Could she be wrong about this too?  More than anything Alexia has always yearned for a loving father; could God possibly be the answer? 

Attempts on Alexia’s life complicate matters even further as it seems current events are linked to the mysterious disappearance of her and Serena’s friend, Jillian Carter, and Alexia furthermore becomes the centre of attention of two brothers each intent on protecting her life and vying for her heart.  But the conflicts ahead are nothing compared to the ghosts of the past.  As Alexia strives to finally accept and forgive her family history, she must also decide if the secret she's been guarding for the last ten years must finally come to light.



Lynette Eason totally redeems herself with this one!  Truthfully, comparing it to A Killer Among Us and Too Close To Home, it doesn’t even feel like the same author wrote these books.  The detail this time around is accurate and consistent, and the characters are strong and interesting.  Eason has a talent for convincingly portraying troubled relationships with God, and its eventual healing.  I thoroughly enjoyed every single page. When The Smoke Clears is the first book in the Deadly Reunions series, and I sincerely look forward to reading the next two books, When A Heart Stops and When A Secret Kills.

I am very pleased I tried a new Lynette Eason book.  Practice makes perfect, and her writing is becoming stronger and more gripping. 



Product Information:
Title: When The Smoke Clears
Author: Lynette Eason
Number of pages: 352
Publisher: Revell
Year: 2012
ISBN-10: 0800720075

Thursday, January 10, 2013

FIRST OFFICIAL CATCHING FIRE STILLS RELEASED

Following its November release of on-set photosEW has  now published the first official Catching Fire movie stills on their Facebook page.  These will also be featured in the January 18 edition of the magazine.

Katniss and Finnick Odair on the cover of EW

Katniss and Peeta on their victory tour of Panem

President Snow

Haymitch Abernathy and new head gamemaker, Plutarch Heavensbee, in the Capitol

Gale in custody of the peacekeepers


Finnick hits on Katniss. Sugar cubes anyone?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

REVIEW: BY MIDNIGHT ~ MIA JAMES


Moving to Highgate, London, April Dunne must start a new life and a new school, stuck in a creepy old dump of a house which doesn't even have proper mobile phone reception. Ravenwood, her new school,  is a prestigious academy for gifted students (financially and academically) - and for reasons unbeknownst to April, her father insists on enrolling her here even though they are struggling financially.  April grows suspicious of her father's motives when she suspects there is more going on at Ravenwood than meets the eye.  Nobody ever says what they mean, or means what they say.  April soon discovers that her father is working on a secret investigation surrounding Highgate, and when she encounters a dead body in the cemetery (and is saved from an unidentified attacker by the mysterious Gabriel Swift) her suspicions that Highgate is more than it seems is confirmed.  Gabriel seems aloof and avoids April as best he can, but when April’s incessant snooping places her life in danger he finally entrusts her with the truth: Highgate, especially Ravenwood, is a playground for vampires; and he is one of them.


By Midnight by Mia James is not the worst book I’ve ever read, but it contains way too many similarities to Twilight:  Girl moves to gloomy, rainy town infested by vampires.  She’s drawn to a moody boy who’s initially rude to her.  He’s all “it would be better for you if we weren’t together”.  Surprise, surprise, he’s a vampire, and soon he must protect her from another vampire intent on killing her for fun; there is even mention of Robert Pattinson!

The story builds very slowly, and while the slow-burner pace of the book might work for some, I personally prefer a fast-paced plot.  The major problem while reading this book, though, was that I didn’t particularly like April.  I found her to be immature, unreasonable, selfish and whiny.  She’s so obsessed with “hot boys”, she might be a bigger blow to feminism than Bella Swan!  I also worry about April’s intelligence.  She realises her town is infested with vampires, mysterious murders occur around her, she suspects she’s being followed… does she carry any kind of weapon with her?  No.  Does she learn how to protect herself from vampires?  No.  Does she attempt to identify all the vampires in her midst?  No.  She’s too obsessed with why Gabriel hasn’t called.  And then the author tries to convince me that *spoiler alert* April is destined to become a vampire slayer?  I don’t believe she has what it takes – when you have no faith in the protagonist, a book becomes very dull very fast.

Gabriel is a strong character, but as the protagonist’s love interest his page time is ridiculously limited.  He is probably the least featured character in the whole book.  As he is supposed to be the romantic lead, this was a huge mistake by the author.  There’s a fine line between mysterious and absent, and Gabriel verges on being a non-character.  

As for April and Gabriel’s “relationship”, I didn’t find their chemistry very believable.  They have a moment, April ruins it by being unreasonable and rude, they don’t see each other for days – this becomes a very annoying pattern.  They don’t spend enough time together to convincingly fall in love; by the time Gabriel tells April he loves her, my first thought was “really?!”  They hardly spend any time together throughout the course of the novel; when did he have time to fall in love with her?  When they are together, April is being a brat - the fact that she’s not very likable also comes into play here; how on earth did he fall in love with her?  It must be destiny again.  It comes across as a very superficial relationship – they make no effort to create a meaningful connection.

The sad thing is, this book isn’t all bad.  In fact, it has a lot of potential!  The vampire lore is excellent, and the mysteries of Highgate as a whole are gripping.  The author strengthens the book by using actual London landmarks and drawing on historical London happenings such as Jack the Ripper, the plague and the legend of the Highgate Vampire.  Building fiction on a foundation of reality always makes it stronger and more believable.  If this story had a stronger protagonist or even a better developed romantic element, it would have been amazing.  As it is, when the reader doesn’t like the protagonist, and doesn’t believe the chemistry of the central romance, there’s something really wrong.  By Midnight concludes on a a cliff-hanger, and is followed by two more books in the Ravenwood Mysteries series.  However much I like Gabriel and wonder about his fate, I am so annoyed by April I doubt that I will continue following this series.  



Product information:
Title: By Midnight
Author: Mia James
Number of pages: 448
Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
Year: 2011
ISBN: 9781780620459
ISBN-13: 9781780620459

Follow by Email

Followers

Twitter

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...