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Friday, February 27, 2009

Rethinking 2005 Pride and Prejudice

I know I have harped and harangued the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice since it came out. I think I may have had a conversion today. I needed a distraction today and the DVD was there and so was I. It was fate. I really loved it. Not as much as I love the 1995 version. Nothing can replace that version but the 2005 movie comes close. This time around I found Keira Knightley charming and effective as Elizabeth whereas the first time around I found her obnoxious. Perhaps I watched it too soon after watching Pirates of the Caribbean. I also loved Matthew MacFadyen as Mr. Darcy. He was more sensitive in his portrayal than Colin Firth but I think he did a great job of it. I also thought Rosamund Pike was the perfect Jane. She was so pretty and soft-spoken. Exactly as I pictured Jane in my mind when I read the novel.

The only aspect of this film that remained firmly in the dislike category was the ending. Why add the horrific scene at the end? It was unnecessary and seemed like an afterthought. Almost like the producers were thinking "Those poor Americans won't catch on that Lizzy and Darcy are happily married. Might as well add a scene at the end to clarify." If a clarification was needed wouldn't a wedding scene have been more appropriate?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mr and Mrs Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One by Sharon Lathan

imagePublisher:Sourcebooks Landmark
ISBN: 1402215231
Pages: 320 pgs
Genre: Jane Austen Sequel

Synopsis from Publisher
The first in a series that follows Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy from their wedding day into married life, Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy is inspired by the Keira Knightley/Matthew MacFayden movie. The author vividly imagines this young and energetic couple as they immerse themselves in their profound love and face the challenges of their era.

Elizabeth and Darcy are positively goo-goo eyes for each other and the burgeoning love and closeness between them drives the plot. As the narrative unfolds through the honeymoon and then the challenges of Elizabeth assuming the role of Mistress of Pemberley, Darcy and Elizabeth thoroughly reveal their differing points of view of how their relationship blossomed from misunderstanding to perfect understanding. As the couple grows in maturity and understanding, as they accustom themselves to each other and to married life, Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy emerges as a fascinating portrait of a deep and passionate marriage.

My Review:

I love Jane Austen sequels. I live for them. I devour sequel after sequel. It is a small wonder I do not get confused. I had read about this sequel while perusing Amazon on a Jane Austen sequel buying spree. I initially passed it over because it was based on the 2005 movie not the 1995 series. I couldn't seem to get away from that. The 2005 movie almost seemed to be a more dramatized, high school version of Pride and Prejudice. This was definitely something I had to force myself to look beyond while reading Lathan's book. I also had to essentially forget everything that happened in the 1995 series and force myself to sit and watch the 2005 version again to refresh my memory. I found that I felt better about the book if I imagined Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth instead of Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. Once I began reading, I liked it.

Lathan injects drama into the continuing story of Darcy and Elizabeth. Their life is not quiet in Lathan's world as you would assume it to be in Austen's world. I loved that she injected the bad influence of a town scoundrel into the novel and that the conflict between the scoundrel and Darcy resulted in a duel. I have always wanted to see Darcy in a duel. It gives Darcy a bit of an edge.

The relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy is portrayed well. Their relationship is clearly passionate in the early days of their marriage. Maybe a bit too much. The love between them is tangible and Lathan portrays it well. I also love how Elizabeth calls Darcy "William". I found that so sweet.

There were, however, some aspects of Lathan's novel that didn't quite work for me. The language was simply too flowery especially in the love scenes. They are constantly jabbering on about how wonderful the other is. That is great the first few times but if it is repeated a million times, it gets annoying. I did find that the prose was good outside of love scenes. Also there is no remnant of Jane Austen to be found in this novel. Her language, her voice is absent. This could be a creative choice of the author but I found that I missed the essence of Austen that I can usually find in Austen sequels.

The flaws in Lathan's sequel did not detract from my enjoyment of the novel. I even bought the two sequels which I am going to read when I am through with the mountain of reading I still have to do.

*A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for review. My opinion is my own and has not been influenced in any way and any monies made from associate or affiliate accounts are recycled back into the blog.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Houston, We Have A Problema By Gwendolyn Zepeda

Houston, We Have a ProblemaPublisher: Grand Central Publishing
Pages: 392 pgs
Genre: Chick Lit/Women's Fiction
Challenges-Read’n’Review Challenge, 100+ Reading Challenge, 20 in 2009

Synopsis from Publisher
Jessica Luna is your typical 26 year old: she has man trouble, mom trouble, and not a clue what to do with her life (though everyone else in her family seems to have plenty of suggestions!) After a lifetime of being babied by her family, Jess is incapable of trusting herself to make the right choices. So instead, she bases all of her life decisions on signs. She looks to everything for guidance, from the direction her rearview-mirror-Virgin-de-Guadalupe sways to whatever Madame Hortensia, her psychic, sees in the cards.

When her sort-of boyfriend Guillermo, a gifted unmotivated artist, disappoints her again, Jessica thinks it's time to call it quits. Just to be sure, she checks in with Madame Hortensia who confirms that yes, it is time for a change. (Who knew $20 could buy so much security!) Right on cue, Jess meets Jonathan; he's the complete opposite of Guillermo--of all Jess's boyfriends, in fact. He's successful, has a stable job....and is white. Jess isn't sure if Jonathan is really the change Madame Hortensia saw. Sure he gives great career advice, but is he advising her on a career she actually wants? And yes he's all about commitment, but is it Jess or her mother who really wants marriage?

Jess runs back to Madame Hortensia for advice, but even she is out of answers. Now there's only one thing that's certain: no one--not her mother, her sister, her boyfriend or her psychic--can tell her what to do. For better or for worse, Jess will have to take the plunge and make her own decisions if she wants to have any future at all.

My Review:
Houston, We Have A Problema is the story of Jessica Luna and her various life trials. She is trying to come to terms with her own racial identity, the racial identity of others, familial expectation and career aspirations. The story follows her through destructive relationships, conflicts with her family, and failed (and successful) career aspirations.

Needless to say I loved this book. I was so entertained by this book. I had trouble putting it down. I fell in love with Jessica on page one and was sad to leave her at the end of the book. Jessica was such a compelling character even though there was nothing really extraordinary about her. She is a normal girl in her early 20’s trying to find her way. I can really identify with that. I found myself laughing sometimes because something in Jessica’s life reminded me so much of my own life. Jessica is a character you will cheer for. She never becomes boring or annoying as some characters can become. Zepeda portrays Jessica’s faults as well as her virtues equally. Another particular draw to Houston, We Have A Problema is Zepeda’s writing style. It is so vibrant, so engaging. The author really draws you into the story from the beginning.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a really, really good book to distract them. It is wonderful. I can’t wait to see what Gwendolyn Zepeda does next.

*A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for review. My opinion is my own and has not been influenced in any way and any monies made from associate or affiliate accounts are recycled back into the blog.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A Fortunate Age by Joanna Smith Rakoff

A Fortunate Age: A Novel
ISBN: 1416590773
Pages: 399 pgs
Genre: Drama
Challenges-Read’n’Review Challenge, 100+ Reading Challenge, 20 in 2009

 Summary from Publisher
 Like The Group, Mary McCarthy's classic tale about coming of age in New York, Joanna Smith Rakoff 's richly drawn and immensely satisfying first novel details the lives of a group of Oberlin graduates whose ambitions and friendships threaten to unravel as they chase their dreams, shed their youth, and build their lives in Brooklyn during the late 1990s and the turn of the twenty-first century.

There's Lil, a would-be scholar whose marriage to an egotistical writer initially brings the group back together (and ultimately drives it apart); Beth, who struggles to let go of her old beau Dave, a onetime piano prodigy trapped by his own insecurity; Emily, an actor perpetually on the verge of success -- and starvation -- who grapples with her jealousy of Tal, whose acting career has taken off. At the center of their orbit is wry, charismatic Sadie Peregrine, who coolly observes her friends' mistakes but can't quite manage to avoid making her own. As they begin their careers, marry, and have children, they must navigate the shifting dynamics of their friendships and of the world around them.

Set against the backdrop of the vast economic and political changes of the era -- from the decadent age of dot-com millionaires to the sobering post-September 2001 landscape -- Smith Rakoff's deeply affecting characters and incisive social commentary are reminiscent of the great Victorian novels. This brilliant and ambitious debut captures a generation and heralds the arrival of a bold and important new writer.

My Review:
A Fortunate Age by Joanna Smith Rakoff has so much potential to be an amazing read but misses the mark. The story centers around a group of Oberlin College graduates who are trying to acclimate to life after college in the face of relationship and professional trials . The novel begins with Lil’s wedding and steam rolls from there. It is a story about pseudo-adults becoming full grown adults and the results of the transformation.

A Fortunate Age had such potential to be a really great read but there were some faults that could not be overlooked. The story had a complete lack of compelling characters. The women seemed to be whiney and self-absorbed. There is nothing remotely sympathetic about any of the characters. The characters lacked depth. It was often difficult to follow their stories or become attached to any one of the characters because of the episodic format of the book. You never really got to know a character. They were there one minute and gone the next with no follow-up. Anytime there was a character with an interesting back-story pops up (like Will) there is no follow-up. You never know how they got over their issues and how their story progresses. A character is meeting a man in one chapter and married to them in the next. It is impossible to become attached to a character or truly interested in a character’s story with a format like this. It resembles a collection of short stories rather than a novel. It is like the author wanted to squeeze as much story as she possibly could into this novel.

I found A Fortunate Age to be difficult to get engaged in and easy to forget. If Rakoff had expanded on some of the more interesting storylines the story would have been greatly improved. The one glaring instance is Beth’s relationship with Will. I would have loved to see how that developed especially after the rather auspicious start. This is definitely not my cup of tea but perhaps another reader would have a more favorable opinion.

*A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for review. My opinion is my own and has not been influenced in any way and any monies made from associate or affiliate accounts are recycled back into the blog.

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