Archive for July, 2009

Everything Austen Challenge Task 3

Task 3 completed – finished reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and review at http://torchundertheblanketbooks.com/2009/07/28/pride-and-prejudice-and-zombies/


Posted on 29 July '09 by , under Jane Austen & Austen Inspired. No Comments.

Pride and Prejudice – Book Review

austen

by Jane Austen

First Published: 1813

Pride and Prejudice is one of my more ‘well read’ books.  The dilapidated state of it is evidence of my love for it!  A book falling apart is sad for the reader but must be wonderful for the author, don’t you think?

Jane Austen creates such wonderful, believable characters, you never feel a moment of unease.  Without that distraction, you are free to immerse yourself in the storytelling.

Pride and Prejudice introduces us to the Bennett family of Longbourn, Hertfordshire and focuses mainly on Elizabeth Bennett, the 2nd eldest daughter.  As she and her family maneuver through the politics of an oppressive society, we are entertained by the absurdities of  ‘class’ and perception of respectability. The Bennett daughters are ‘out’ in society but none of them are married yet.  Their mother’s primary goal is to rectify this situation, and her efforts are a source of great embarrassment to the eldest two daughters Jane and Elizabeth.  Society changes dramatically for the girls when a single gentleman of great fortune moves into the shire manor, Netherfield.  After meeting at a public dance, Mr Bingley is enchanted by Jane and his attentions are welcomed by her and her family.  Mr Bingley brings with him into the country, his two sisters, brother in law and his closest friend Mr Darcy.  First Impressions of Mr Darcy leave the Hertfordshire residents very unimpressed and he insults Elizabeth, wounding her pride.  Mr Bingley’s arrival is also timed with the militia encamping in the shire, much to the ecstasy of the two youngest Bennett girls. Forming attachments with or correct opinions of  those gentlemen that now surround them, proves to be difficult when complicated by meddling family, devious intentions, misunderstanding and of course, pride and prejudice.

The adventures of the Bennett daughters explore the deficiency of first impressions and the art of getting to know someone in a society where manners and etiquette make intimacy a challenge. In fact, the book was originally named First Impressions but was rejected for publication in 1797.  Austen revised the text in 1812, renamed it Pride and Prejudice and had it accepted for publication in 1813.

In my opinion, Elizabeth is Austen’s best heroine and should be essential reading for any young woman.  Austen heroines have faults but don’t compromise themselves to achieve everything their heart’s desire.  Neither do they achieve their goals by thinking or acting like men. Despite the era , Elizabeth is a determined character.  She has a strong sense of social justice and believes women are capable and entitled to free thought, love, family and occupation.

I am an avid Austen fan but I feel confident in recommending Pride and Prejudice to anyone with an interest in historical societal structures and human behaviour.

Posted on 28 July '09 by , under Classic Lit, Historical Fiction, Jane Austen & Austen Inspired, Reviews. 1 Comment.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – Book Review

PrideandPrejandZombies

by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

ISBN: 9781594743344
No. of Pages: 320
Published Date: 06.01.2009

What word comes to mind after reading Pride an Prejudice and Zombies?

‘Hoot’ will suffice.

What a concept!  Due to my devotion to the classic,  I was a little concerned about reading this but am very glad I did.  More than once, I laughed out loud at the ridiculous notion of the prim and proper Bennett women vanquishing undead beasties.

Life for the Bennett family is plagued by the same challenges as any other family in the Hertfordshire district.  Maintaining a good standing in society, seeking out fair prospects for children of marriageable age and ridding the country of  zombies.  The unmentionable scourge of Satan are running rampant all over England.

Mr Bennett, to keep his family safe, has had his daughters trained in the Orient by a master of the deadly arts.    In the course of their lives, they encounter eligible but not always deserving young men.   Forming attachments, however, is not a simple thing when deceived by meddling family, men with malicious intent and constant attacks from the undead.

Despite their considerable skills in the deadly arts, the Bennett women are just the same as in Austen’s classic. Elizabeth, reasonable, Jane, resigned, Mary, zealotical, Kitty, easily lead, Lydia, unruly.  The characters were so familiar in fact, that I often imagined I was reading the classic only to be shocked when “…Elizabeth lifted her skirt, disregarding modesty, and delivered a swift kick to the creature’s head…” (Austen, Grahame-Smith, 2009, p.28).

I loved this book and I am certain I will be reading it again and again like the true fanatical Austen fan I am.

Here is a link to a great Pride and Prejudice and Zombie Giveaway

Posted on 28 July '09 by , under Historical Fiction, Jane Austen & Austen Inspired, Paranormal Fantasy, Reviews, SciFi/Fantasy. 3 Comments.

Everything Austen Challenge Task 2

Completed 2 of 6 – Watched Mansfield Park (1999) with Frances O’Connor playing Fanny Price. Love this version. Love this character. Out of all the Austen women this one I can relate to the most. Probably want to BE more like Elizabeth Bennet but definately AM more like Fanny Price. All the actors in this version are just as I see them in the book. This version takes me straight into the story especially the scenes back in her childhood home. You can almost smell it. Wish her brother had been included though.. an unfortunate character to drop. Mansfield Park, the book, wraps up too quicky for my comfort and this movie version is no different. Wish we had more time with Fanny and Edmund.

Note – Still reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Posted on 25 July '09 by , under Jane Austen & Austen Inspired. 2 Comments.

Everything Austen Challenge Task 1

Completed 1 of 6 tasks – watched 1981 mini series Sense and Sensibility. It was a bit clunky in parts (like they’d forgotten their lines) and I really didn’t like Tracey Childs playing Marianne (too haughty) but the story is still wonderful. This version unlike the movie with Emma Thompson (which I love) ends a little more like the novel. Jane Austen’s endings can be a bit abrupt but Sense and Sensibility wraps up nicely. I loved the idea of Colonel Brandon and Edward being at the cottage at the same time at the end – the women surrounded by men that love them was satisfying. This version ends a little more like that.

Now on to task 2 – Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – should be a hoot.

Posted on 25 July '09 by , under Jane Austen & Austen Inspired. 2 Comments.

House of Sand and Fog – Book Review

houseofsandandfog

by Andre Dubus III

ISBN 0733618634(978-073-361863-5)
Pub:  September 2008, First Pub: 1999

I couldn’t put this book down and read it in one sitting.   The story was penetrating.  So much so, that I read the book several years ago and am able now to recall most it.  Unusual for me.  I put off reading this because I knew it was going to be heavy going…. it was.  Stories featuring self-destructive behaviour are my least favourite because I’m  an emotional sponge and find it difficult to shake off the melancholies after.  I’m glad I read House of Sand and Fog but Iwon’t read it again.

The story is a tragic one, tracing the misfortune of Kathy Nicolo.  Kathy has dug herself into a deep ditch with addiction and is abandoned by her husband.  This offers up an excuse to fall into a deep depression and she separates herself from the world.  Blocking out the world includes not opening any mail from the tax office.  Soon she is issued an eviction notice  and will loose the house she inheriated from her father.

The house is put up for auction and is purchased by an Iranian former colonel Massoud Amir Behrani and he moves his family into the home.

Kathy feels she has lost the house unfairly and with the help of a deputy who befriends her, she hires a lawyer to try to reclaim her home.

I won’t spoil the rest of the story for you but suffice to say things get desperate for all involved.

The book is well worth reading and was selected by the Oprah Book Club in 2000.

Posted on 25 July '09 by , under Reviews. No Comments.

Twilight – Book Review

Twilight

by Stephenie Meyer

ISBN:9781904233657

No. of pages: 434

Published: 22/3/2007, First Published: 2006

Did I like it?… Yes, loved it.

Do I know why?… Not really sure.  Could be the romantic in me or maybe the cover is laced with something addictive.

The story of Bella Swan, a freakishly rational teenager who moves from hot sunny Phoenix to a little rain soaked town called Forks, to live with her dad.   That, in itself, should be fodder enough for a great teen angst story but throw in some sexy mythical beasties and you’ve got something special.

Bella’s first day at school introduces her to the Cullens.  An unnaturally attractive family with a secret and Bella finds herself fascinated by the youngest Cullen, Edward.  However, her compulsion to be with him puts her in mortal peril.  Edward also is drawn to the new girl in school but for two very different reasons.  One, being an intense curiosity and infatuation; the other would drain her of her blood and expose him as a vampire.  The Cullens battle their true nature and do not hunt humans but Bella’s scent is so delicious to Edward it threatens to unravel the peaceful life they have made for themselves.   How can they love each other and manage to keep Bella alive.  We’ve all dreamt about being in a fairytale but what if  the myths turned out to be true, the good and the evil?

Stephenie Meyer has created a beautiful compelling tale about teenage love and sexual discovery.  Each book isn’t action packed throughout but holds you in suspense for something to come.  The action does pick up dramatically toward the end and leaves you hungry for the next book. After finishing Twilight I madly scrambled to the book store to buy the 2nd book before closing time – made it as the grates were being pulled down and left with New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn. I just had to know more about the strange couple and their families and friends.

Twilight deals with teenage sexual discovery in a lovely simple and moral manner.  It certainly isn’t prudish but it is refreshing to not have too much rubbed in your face.  In fact the series is quite sensual.  Despite her frustrating and I’m sure deliberate technique of leaving all the action till the end, Stephenie Meyer converted me from reader to fan with one book.

I have to admit to struggling with the characters at first.  Being a 40+yo mum makes being in a drama filled teenage mind a hard place to be. So I found Bella and Edward really annoying.  Before all you twilighters crucify me, let me explain further.  They were supposed to be mature for their ages but there was still lots of teenage drama and it was wearing on me.  I had trouble accepting a teenage character who is happy to cook, clean and do the laundry.   Who has one of those teens? The obsessive nature of the relationship also set off alarms for me and Edward watching her at night was so uncomfortable.  So after checking my 40yo response, I decided that a vampire would sneek around stalking beautiful damsels.  I also decided that a book aimed at a young adult audience would contain ‘all consuming’ romance.  That’s when I got past my discomfort and started to enjoy myself.

I now like Bella very much and after reading the part outlining her reading tastes, Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, I realise why I like her.  She very much reminds me of some of Jane Austen’s women but with a little more drama thrown in.  I’m not sure if Stephenie Meyer wrote her with them in mind but I definately see similar qualities.   I’ve always thought that every young woman needs to be introduced to Jane Austen.  She created the most glorious women, smart, strong but not without faults.   They wouldn’t accept that they had to compromise themselves to achieve everything their hearts desired.  These women lived in a time that oppressed them but Austen wrote characters that could achieve free thought, occupation, family and love without needing to think or act like men to achieve it.  This is how I see Bella.  Stephenie Meyer has created a lovely smart young woman, with a strong sense of right and wrong, frightened by her failings but unable to be anything other than who she is.  She finds the strength to withstand the social barriers and dangers presented by her intense relationship with Edward.

Edward, what can I say about Edward.  His strength to resist both her blood and her body just makes him all that more sexy.  I’m sure Stephenie Meyer must have developed a crush on Edward while she was writing him – I’m sure I would have.  What a wonderful character to create.  Sorry to keep harping back to Jane Austen but Edward could easily be a wonderful Austen man.  Mr Darcy with immortal life is almost too delicious to bear.   Despite being a century old, Edward has to confront his 17 year old teen self for the first time.  Delightfully, his journey into love and sexual discovery is just as new as Bella’s.  Twilight is a love story, all be it complicated by marauding mythical creatures .

I discovered Twilight at a time when I was recovering from extended illness and I was quite out of touch with myself.  I couldn’t trust my feelings or instincts and was really quite frightened about how long it was taking to recover.  Twilight did something for me that I can’t quite put my finger on.  This simple, innocent love story  somehow helped me to feel human again.  My copy of the series is now well on it’s way to becoming the most well read on our shelves.

Falling in love ages us all.  You cannot feel intense love without exposing ourselves to intense pain but what a wonderful gift for growing up.

Thank you Stephenie Meyer for giving us…. Twilight.

Posted on 24 July '09 by , under Paranormal Fantasy, Reviews, SciFi/Fantasy, Young Adult. 1 Comment.

What is a torch under the blanket book?

It’s a book you simply can’t put down at bedtime.

When I was a kid, I smuggled a torch into my bedroom so I could keep reading after my parents switched off the lights.  I’m not sure if it was an original idea of my own or if I picked it up from a book or TV program but I certainly wasn’t the only one doing it.   A survey of my adult aquaintances revealed many did the same thing as a child – sneaky lot aren’t we.

The discipline of being able to put down a good book still escapes me.  I could easily start a good book and finish it in one sitting in my childless years.   It was always a mistake to start a book on a school or work night. Now the responsibilities of family stop me from doing that and it drives me to distraction to have to put an enjoyable book down but hey I love my boys.

Book Reviews

I have created this site to share with you my opinion on books I have read.  Don’t expect comments on the quality of writing, as I don’t feel I am qualified to comment on that.  What I write might be more like a discussion than a traditional book review – you be the judge.   The reason we like a book or how we relate to it is dependent on who we are now, who we were and who we want to be.  We each take away something different  from a book.  Don’t be discouraged from reading a book just because you have read a bad review of it.  Spending time in a book club will show you just how varied opinion can be.  Keep in mind that we each have our preferred genres and reviews will reflect that.   If the story interests you, then read it. What may send one person off to sleep, may be golden inspiration to another.

Keep reading folks and always be brave enough to try books from different genres…. treasures to be found!

Michelle

Posted on 24 July '09 by , under News About Me. No Comments.