Tuesday, September 30, 2008

September Reads

I didn't read too many books in September, but I did write 13,000 words on a short story, so hopefully that counts for something!

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen - 09/14/08
Excellent - Romance
Fanny Price is sent to live with her aunt, uncle, and cousins at Mansfield Park, but she is never quite part of the family.
Took me a long time to get through this, but not because I didn't enjoy it. I really did! I think I'm getting the hang of reading Austen, actually. The love story is not the important theme in Mansfield Park, though.

The Keepsake by Tess Gerrittsen - 09/20/08
Good - Suspense
A murderer preserves his victims according to a number of grotesque ancient customs.
I enjoy reading Gerritsen's novels. She's a doctor turned novelist and she writes crisply morbid novels. What does that say about me? lol

Seducing Mr. Darcy by Gwyn Cready - 09/23/08
Good - Romance
Funny but bawdy story of Flip Allison, who travels back in time and inadvertently ruins the love story of Pride and Prejudice.
I needed a light read after the previous two, and this was it. My friend Marla told me about this book and I read the author's other romance novel when I couldn't get this one. Be forewarned - it's raunchy enough that I almost didn't post it on my reading list. But the humor of the story is winning and seeing the Pride and Prejudice universe turned on its ear was worth the smut, in my humble opinion.

I was hoping to have finished at least one other book. I'm about halfway through A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and I am reading a book of educational essays called I Saw the Angel in the Marble, but both will have to wait for next month.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Rollicking Readers - Mansfield Park

Doesn't every woman long for a group of girlfriends she can laugh and cry and indulge with? These women are the ones you can be silly with, the ones who you can confide in, these are the ones who will even make you a cake on your birthday and sing to you!

Well, I am blessed to be part of just such a fabulous group of ladies - it's our Rollicking Readers book club. For the past four months now, we've been meeting every few weeks to eat and discuss one of Jane Austen's books. This month, our selection was Mansfield Park. Those in attendance vary from session to session, but we usually have eight or nine women on any given date.

I enjoyed Mansfield Park more than any of the other Austen works I have read thus far, save Pride and Prejudice. However, I am beginning to think that it's because I am learning to read Austen and becoming more comfortable with her language and style, rather than the plot and characters of Mansfield Park itself.

Fanny Price, the insipid and morally upright heroine, isn't truly very likable, although she is virtuous and loyal. Edmund, our clergyman hero, is even less likable; although he is high-minded and principled, he is too easily swayed by a beautiful face and a crafty attitude. Not Fanny's, mind you! The story isn't as much a romance as it is Fanny's coming-of-age story. Despite all of this, I did find it entertaining and enjoyable.

Our book discussion is always lively - many forthright opinions are given, not always in agreement, but always put forth for consideration with respect. We usually consider six or seven questions of varying degrees of seriousness regarding character, plot, motivation, style, and comparisons to Austen's other works. (Does it all sound very scholarly? It's not particularly. We are not very academic, but we all love books!)

Once we finish the literary conversation, we move on to viewing a film of the novel under discussion that evening. We sometimes forget to warn our newest members that we are not quiet movie watchers. In fact, we are downright cheeky at times! We talk to the movie, make silly comments, discuss the book further in comparison to the movie, and generally have a rollicking time. (Thus our club name!)

Two versions of Mansfield Park have been released in recent years and neither is especially true to the novel. We viewed the 2007 version and enjoying commenting on the historical inaccuracies, the bushiness of Fanny's eyebrows, and the absence or modification of many integral characters and scenes. I have seen the other (1995? 97?) film as well and it seems to perhaps follow the plot a little more closely, but diverges even more in the portrayal of the main characters.

So, we are soon done for this novel, and it's on to the next - Northanger Abbey. Care to join us?

Twilight trailer spoof

A truly hilarious spoof of the Twilight trailer. (If you haven't seen the trailer, this will really not make any sense to you, so go watch it first! Click on videos and watch all of the trailers.)

Thanks, Jen, for (FINALLY) telling me about it! lol

Friday, September 19, 2008

Speed Racer (2008)

I FINALLY got to watch Speed Racer tonight. If you've been reading here for any length of time, you'll probably remember that for some odd reason, the Speed Racer trailer really caught my eye. I watched it repeatedly and had every intention of viewing the film in the theatres.

Why? Do I remember the Speed Racer cartoon? Only a little. Am I a racing fan? Not in the least. Am I a preteen boy? Um, never have been.

Then why would this movie entice me? I never have been quite sure. Maybe it has something to do with the directors - the Wachowski brothers, who also directed The Matrix, which you may know to be one of my favorite movies of all time. But now I know. It definitely has its faults, but there is plenty positive about Speed Racer and I really wish I had been brave enough to ignore the bad reviews and go see it when it came out - on the big screen, as it was intended.

First, what is there to pick on? Well, if you wanted to, you could pick it all apart. But couldn't you with any film? Sure, the garish colors are, well, garish. But it's meant to be a cartoon. The editing is strange, although some would say edgy and trend-setting, I am certain. It's long -135 minutes, longer than my kids can usually handle. There is some swearing which seems out of place in a film like this, and there is definitely violence, again some of which seems a little over-the-top for a cartoon-based film. (Example - A tank of piranhas is used as a threat and is demonstrated with a large meaty bone - my girls were grossed out.) Those are the detriments.

One can't really gripe about characters - they are, from what I understand, straight from the old cartoon. So if they seem one-dimensional or contrived, well, that would be why. However, I found there to be a good deal of character development. It's a coming-of-age film for the title character (yes! That's really his name.). The father also shows a lot of character development. The mother is nurturing. The girlfriend is a strong female character who loves Speed for who he is, but also stands on her own two feet. Ok, I'll admit the monkey doesn't have much character development.

The editing is very strange - lots of montage type shots and flashbacks intercut with the current story. The technique of using a full-screen profile or other image to move across the screen and introduce another scene would have been more effective with less usage. (Hard to explain, if you haven't seen it. You can see examples of this editing in the trailer.)

What did I like then? I LOVED the strong family emphasis. This family stands together. The dad can admit he is wrong and apologizes. The mother encourages her adult son by telling him that watching him drive is like watching someone create art. Love is portrayed between all members of the family and they make decisions based on how things will affect the other people in their lives instead of being swayed by a selfish desire for fame and fortune.

The racing was pretty cool too, as I am sure my eight- and thirteen-year-old sons will tell you! Lots of CGI gives the races a video-game-like feel. The cars can do all kinds of novel tricks - flips and jumps, etc....

The ninja-stye violence is something that is obviously a favorite of the Wachowski brothers. You see this same type of fighting in the Matrix films, although here it is less serious-seeming. How can it be serious when there is a chimp on the scene?

I should also mention the cast, since it is full of big names. Susan Sarandon didn't have much to do as Mrs. Racer, but she was great anyway. Christina Ricci played a very perky Trixie; I think she's always great and she does tend to pick those indie-type roles. (Go rent Penelope! I should review that!) Emile Hirsch, who I loved in Into the Wild, seems to really "get" his character here. He plays Speed with an earnestness that really makes the role believable. John Goodman could have made his character very cartoonish, but instead he gave Pops Racer a sincerity that saved that role and showed the growth of his character.

Do I recommend it? Yes, I would, with the caveat that it is rated PG for language and some violence. All my kids liked it although I did cover my six-year-old's eyes during the piranha scene. Check screenit.com for the particulars if you would like to know those.

Go Speed Racer, Go Speed Racer, Go Speed Racer, go!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Short Story

I've been writing. I found out about a short story opportunity for publication and I decided to jump on it. I have to have a completed story with 10,000-15,000 words.

My count so far? 7351!

I am really pleased with my story as far as it goes. About half done, is what I'd guess.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

No Reads Finished Yet

Ooh, the month is almost half OVER and I haven't finished a book yet. Yikes, I'd better get reading!!!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Echo in the Bone & Outlander graphic novel

Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series rocks! When I was pregnant with my last baby in 2001, I overheard a librarian recommending Outlander to another patron. I sidled over, feeling like an eavesdropper, and discovered what they were talking about. I devoured the first four books in the series within just a few weeks, and that's all that existed then!

Fiery Cross
came out the following spring, if I recall correctly and I actually went out and bought that big heavy hardcover book brand new - first time I can recall doing that ever! Since then, I've re-read Outlander several times and re-read Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, and Drums of Autumn. I'm saving the re-reads of Fiery Cross and A Breath of Snow and Ashes for this upcoming year, in preparation for An Echo in the Bone, which is set to release in the fall of 2009.

If you like historical novels, especially really long ones, and even more especially romantic ones, this series should please you as much as it does me! I've recently had the pleasure of witnessing my friend Darlene becoming enamoured with the series. We whisper back and forth about Jamie and Claire, whenever we get together, often drawing eyerolls from our unindoctrinated friends.

If you're already a fan, you may already be aware of this tip, but maybe not? There is a new excerpt from An Echo in the Bone (Outlander #7, but NOT the last according to her!) up on Diana's blog! (By the way, Diana blogs like she writes - long and detailed. LOVE IT!)

Also, if you go to her site: http://www.dianagabaldon.com/ and click
on excerpts, there are 4 other excerpts there.

Diana is also writing a graphic novel covering the same Outlander story, but from the perspective of the character Murtaugh. Graphic Novel Info:

Go and enjoy!