RSS

Tag Archives: 1800’s

Book Review: “The Prisoner of Zenda,” by Anthony Hope

2636473Genre: classic; adventure

Plot Summary: [from goodreads:] “Anthony Hope’s swashbuckling romance transports his English gentleman hero, Rudolf Rassendyll, from a comfortable life in London to fast-moving adventures in Ruritania, a mythical land steeped in political intrigue. Rassendyll bears a striking resemblance to Rudolf Elphberg who is about to be crowned King of Ruritania. When the rival to the throne, Black Michael of Strelsau, attempts to seize power by imprisoning Elphberg in the Castle of Zenda, Rassendyll is obliged to impersonate the King to uphold the rightful sovereignty and ensure political stability.”

My Book Review: This story became an immediate favorite years ago when I first saw the old 1952 film version (starring Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr) when I was 15 years old.  I was staying at my grandpa’s and watched it over and over.  There was something about the swashbuckling adventure full of danger, intrigue, cloak and dagger, and romance that really had me at hello.  In fact, I believe it was one of the first titles I ever entered into my To-Read notebook that I wanted to make sure I read the novel of someday.  It’s been years for me to get around to it, and I was a little bit afraid that the book would let me down in comparison.

This book is not terribly long or hard to get through. I found that the movie version I loved from the first followed the plot pretty well, except for maybe some scenes removed to make for better film-length comprehension.  The book was exciting and fun to read, though I probably would have enjoyed it a little more had I read it first before the movie.  Some parts, such as the Granger-Kerr chemistry is better than the book.  But it’s a great adventure in a vintagey, old-fashioned sort of way.  I’m always in the mood for impersonation stories, intrigue, and suspense.  And I think the tale’s a bit of a classic in that a hard, bittersweet decision is made at the end that leaves you sighing and wishing…  Sort of like Casablanca.

If this sounds like a story you would enjoy diving into, just know that it is actually the second in the Ruritania Trilogy.  I’ve read the first book The Heart of Princess Osra (see book review here), but the two novels are more standalone than anything.  In fact, The Prisoner… is much more of an interesting read than the first.  I will be reading the third in the series, Rupert of Hentzau at some point in time, and I understand that particular one is a better connected sequel to PoZ.

So grab this book if you want an escape to the mountains of the fictional country of Ruritania, where old castle walls, heraldry, and swordfights await you!

“This is movie magic at its mightiest!…” Ha, ha! 😀

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 24, 2017 in Book Reviews

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Movie Review: Les Miserables

928283ab6e774bf98c29d851f4efc1ddBased on the book by Victor Hugo.

Version: 2012; starring Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Eddie Redmayne

Genre:  drama, musical

Plot Summary: In the times between post-Revolutionary France and the Paris Rebellion of 1832, an inconsequential criminal -Prisoner 24601- is set free from penal servitude.  Can a thief receive grace and have another chance in life?  Some would think not, particularly a strict, tow-the-line, “black & white” law enforcement officer like Inspector Javert.  But others, –like the trusting little girl Cosette and the idealistic activist Marius,– choose to open their hearts to the man remade into the new Jean Valjean.

My Review: Disclaimer*: I have not read the original book, so this review will not by comparing it to that novel.  Only as a story in and of itself, totally unrelated to the book.  

Yeah, I’m a little late to the party on this one, but a good story is a good story in a book or on film no matter when one happens to experience it. I’ve never read the book (somehow never could convince myself to begin a 2,783 page opus [see recent post]), but I have seen the earlier 1998 version with Liam Neeson as Jean Valjean.  I’m not sure I enjoyed that one.  But I’ve also listened to the Focus on the Family Radio Theatre’s excellent audio production of the story and highly recommend that.

Les Miserables is a classic tale that contains so many human elements that speak deeply to us—love, hatred, forgiveness, compassion, revenge. That’s why it’s a classic.  The drama, the pathos, emotion pull us in and won’t let us go.  I found myself being deeply engrossed in this newest film version of Victor Hugo’s epic story.  Believe it or not, I’d never seen or listened to the musical, although a few songs sounded familiar because of how they’ve infiltrated our pop culture (I Dreamed a Dream, Bring Him Home).  At first I wasn’t so sure this story could be presented seriously as a musical, but I was proved wrong in one of the earliest scenes (when Jean receives the gift of forgiveness from the priest).  And by the end of the movie, I was blubbering away into a soggy Kleenex.

I had avoided watching it when it first came out because of watching the trailer and hearing others’ reviews. I’d heard that so and so shouldn’t have been cast in this role because somebody else would have done so much better…  Another person was snubbed for not being cast…  This actress completely ‘ruined’ the movie… That person couldn’t sing… etc. etc. etc.  I’d heard the film was too ‘gritty’, too ‘gorey’, too ‘indecent’.  I watched the trailer and saw too much skin.

untitledI’m not a musical aficionado. Maybe so and so could have sang the part better.  All I know is Fantine sang as though her life was at the bottom of a sludge pit and Valjean sang through weary tears.  Cosette sang like a bird in love, and Marius like he’d found the treasure of his life.  If I could be so thoroughly convinced this story was real, I think somebody was doing their job supremely well.   Probably the only one who didn’t have me convinced of his role was Russell Crowe as Javert.  He felt uncomfortable and limited in the part.

Gritty? Yes.  Gorey?  It was a reflection of the time and era in which real people lived.  Not all of humanity has lived in pristine Downton Abbey.  Indecent?  Yes. Humanity is messed up.  But we live in a  place where true love shines like a jewel amidst the dirt and grime of a perverted world.

Yet, there are some indecencies I would prefer not to expose myself to, and there were some content issues I’d warn about. I have better things to do than count swear words and describe raunchy scenes, so you can read a more detailed review here if you are in need of one.  But I will say that there were at least two places I wanted to be careful about: 1)  Fantine gradually falls deeper and deeper into the backalley ways of the underworld, not out of any desire on her part but out of pure desperation.  As she sings her song, she is led into a dark room where one gets the idea of what will happen next without having to see it.  I didn’t watch, but continued to listen to her heart-rending song.  I wouldn’t fast forward through it if it can be helped because the music is some of the best of the musical and it’s well acted.  2)  The Thenardiers are the picture of the world taking delight in degradation.  The rowdy song that takes place in their inn, where they celebrate the pleasures of sin is one that can be skipped (IMO).  It is definitely NOT a family scene!  I got half way through and decided I was too sick to watch the rest and clicked through to the next scene.

Only one thing I wish could have been improved upon and that is I would have liked to have seen more of the beginning developing relationship between Jean Valjean and the little girl Cosette.  This is a weakness in the original story itself I think, and that is that Cosette’s character is too trusting.  This could have been strengthened in the movie, and their getting to know one another was rather missing.  It would have helped to cement my emotional attachment further.

But for all of that, I wish I had not waited so long to watch this wonderful story illustrated with so much emotion, music, color and drama. The sets and the details blew my mind.  I don’t often like to rewatch movies, but this is one I will want to have in my collection to go back to every so often.  I truly thought it was a good piece of art, though I know there are enough who debate me there.

What are your thoughts on this film version of Les Miserables?  I’d like to know what you think!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 20, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Movie Review: Arthur & George

a132774421c11e3ae8cb67a56f895dcdBased on the book by Julian Barnes.

Version: 2015; starring Martin Clunes; Hattie Morahan; Michael Gregson

Genre:  mystery; period drama; biographical

Plot Summary: George Edalji is the son of a respectable vicar from India, under suspicion of murder.  Sir Arthur is a famous mystery writer grieving the death of his wife.  The two are fatefully connected and the latter takes it upon himself to clear Edalji’s name so he and his family can live in peace.  But things are not so clear cut and simple as they seemed at the beginning.  The details of the case get weirder and weirder, and the body count rises.  Can Arthur Doyle solve the mystery in time, or is George really guilty of the crimes?

My Review: Disclaimer*: I have not read the original book, so this review will not be comparing it to that novel.  Only as a story in and of itself, totally unrelated to the book.  

I’d been seeing the book at the library lately, and was itching to watch something other than Downton Abbey on PBS, so I gave this movie a shot. I’m so glad I did!

Atmosphere, suspense, historical period setting—all the ingredients for the perfect mystery are present in this Masterpiece film! Everything from creepy music, tweed suits, Clunes’ Scottish accent, the glow of candles, and the crunch of autumn leaves contributed to the mysterious atmosphere that pervaded throughout all three episodes of the story.  It kept my attention well, and although I had to rewind to catch certain details and may not have followed the plot/motives entirely, I still highly enjoyed watching it. I’m not sure how much was based on actual truth or if it was pure fiction, but I found the actors believable, and Martin Clunes especially so in the role of Dr. Doyle.

During the course of the story, we discover that Sir Arthur is filled with remorse over the fact that he had an admiration for another woman while his wife was still living. I appreciated this element.  Later, Doyle pursues a relationship with the woman he loves, and when accusations are thrown against it, he insists he had never used her as his mistress.  The rest of the film is pretty clean, except for perhaps mild swearing, some unsightly animal killings and a rather gruesome death at the end.  Probably the most unsettling is the pervading sense of unease throughout, which I found to be quite fun!

If you’re in the mood for a spooky-strange mystery, I’m sure you will enjoy this Victorian-era flick!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 17, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Librivox: Birds & All Nature

birdsandallnature_nov1899If you’re a bird watcher and/or nature lover, you may enjoy one of Librivox’s recently catalogued audiobooks in the public domain– “Birds & All Nature.” This particular project is Vol. 4 from 1899, of which I narrated a small section (#21).  Since I narrated the kids’ version of The Kalevala in an earlier project, I knew how to pronounce the mythological names of in “Bird Lore of the Ancient Finns.”  I don’t often narrate non-fiction, but I thought I’d try something new here.  Other sections are on various topics such as ‘The Why and Wherefore of the Color of Birds’ Eggs’; ‘Tea’; and ‘When Animals are Seasick’.  Hope you enjoy it!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 25, 2017 in LibriVox

 

Tags: , , , ,

The Return of thestorygirl!

little_book_profitable_tales_1701That’s right!  After a two year hiatus I, booklearner (aka thestorygirl on Librivox) am back in the ‘recording studio.’  This time, I have plans to stretch my recordings beyond anything I’ve done before.  There are many short projects currently in the works, but I plan to begin my first solo shortly.  Stay tuned!

In the meantime, here is a collaborative project I helped work on featuring many Librivox volunteers lending their reading voices to ‘profitable tales’ for children from the 1800’s.  I participated in two short stories in the project: The Mouse and the Moonbeam (loads of fun!), and The Robin and the Violet.  I hope you enjoy!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 7, 2017 in LibriVox

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey audio drama

1268e0d4b08f5af0307f286504a02e51I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas!  I enjoyed the entire season, but yesterday was also a blast spent with cousins playing games and interesting conversation all afternoon.

If you’re a Jane Austen-phile, you’ll enjoy the BBC’s audio drama version of Northanger Abbey which is playing now for a limited time on their Radio 4 website.  You can click to listen to it free here.  Lots of drama for the imagination- both ours and our heroine Catherine’s!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 27, 2016 in Audio/Radio Dramas

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Book Review: “Wildwood Creek,” by Lisa Wingate

18059811Genre: mystery; suspense; 1800’s; romance; contemporary fiction

Plot Summary: Allie Kirkland is an aspiring film student working on the set of a reality tv show.  The series, documenting the historical mining town of Wildwood Creek, stars contemporary people living as the pioneers would have in 1800’s Texas.  But there’s a mystery surrounding the place:  All of the people of the town disappeared over a hundred years ago, and historians have never been able to solve the eerie puzzle since.  What happened so long ago?  Will the same thing happen again?  And what is the mystery concerning the historical character of Bonnie Rose?

My Book Review:  Wildwood Creek is the fourth in the “Moses Lake” Series by Lisa Wingate, but the first I’ve read by this author.  I am under the impression that these books do stand alone, but some of the characters reappear in some of the same books.

I thoroughly enjoyed this read.  It was one good piece of storytelling!  The story skips back and forth between the present day (from Allie’s POV) to 1800’s Texas (Bonnie Rose’s viewpoint).  This kept the suspense throughout the book and consequently kept my interest.  I love books that slowly divulge secrets throughout, while somehow still spinning more mysteries.  The suspense also gave me some anxiety, and having my emotions invested in a story is a good thing!

The writing felt solid, the chapters weren’t too long, and I enjoyed the character of Allie.  Although there is some romance included, the novel really wasn’t about that aspect of it and I’m not really sure I would qualify it under the romance genre.  I could identify with her in that she has lived her life for a long time expecting things to always be hard, difficult, and miserable.  But something changes her perspective throughout the course of the book and she begins to realize that she can embrace all of life, both good and bad.  She opens herself up to life as a whole as a result.

bb0116d38b9c0cfbee13ed3966a14d64There were a few nitpicky things I felt didn’t benefit the story.  In some ways I felt that things dragged on too long in the present day setting.  The character of Bonnie Rose, though I sympathized with her, started to become redundant with her narrative.  Some extra characters didn’t really feel like they had anything to do with the plot and probably weren’t necessary.  I still had unanswered questions after finishing the book, such as SPOILER ALERT: Why did Allie look like Bonnie Rose?  Why did the mysterious director want her to play the schoolteacher?  Did he have inside information that no one else did, and if so, what?  END OF SPOILER.

A couple of surprising plot twists keep things even more interesting near the end so I never got bored.  I really liked how the author didn’t end things exactly how one would expect in a typical romance, SPOILER with Bonnie marrying another man for a number of years, instead of the handsome captain.  But that she was happy and learned to love him despite him never being her first love.  END OF SPOILER.  Another aspect I really enjoyed was the epilogue, in which Allie listens to an early historical recording of one of the characters who survived Wildwood Creek.  It somehow added a feeling of history to an entirely pure work of fiction.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone, and I hope I’ve peaked your interest.  Those who loathe preachy novels will appreciate that this isn’t one of them.  I’m planning on reading other stuff from Lisa Wingate in the future!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 27, 2016 in Book Reviews

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,