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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! 😀

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Posted by on August 24, 2017 in Book Reviews

 

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Mid Year Reading Goals

Although it may seem like I’ve been getting into a blogging rut of recent months, I’m actually pretty proud of myself for keeping on and not quitting.  I don’t want to quit even if things have been busy and hectic sometimes.

And I still have new blogging goals.  Some I will not be making public yet for a while with them, and others I will start during now during the mid year.  This revamping is not so much a revamp of the blog, as it is of my reading routines, but the routines will be showing a little difference here on the blog.

So, without further ado, I unmask my newest reading goal, and that is to join The Classics Club.  This is where I make a list of 50+ classics I plan on reading at least within the next five years and blog about them, then link them to The Classics Club blog.  I have decided to do this because 1) the goal was doable; 2) I read classics anyway; 3) I’ve discovered some really lovely book blogs out there that I didn’t know existed through TCC; 4) I would love to meet and interact with some other like-minded book lovers out there!

Below I will be sharing my curated list of classics I plan on reading.  Let it be known that I am using the word ‘classic’ loosely to suit my own tastes, which tend to be a lot of vintage dime thrillers.  I still have no desire to jump into War and Peace.   But I believe that if a book is an oldie and has at least stood the test of time well enough for me to have an interest in reading it, it must be a classic, right?  I also have many children’s classics, but that was in no way meant to cheat.  I appreciate any good story!  And lest anyone shouts my list is ‘No fair!”, I will refer you to the several below that are more ‘serious’ works of literature.  I avoided repeating authors or books from the same series in order to keep the variety.

The list may be subject to change:

Main 50 Classics Club List:

The Blue Castle, by L. M. Montgomery

The Borrowers Afield, by Mary Norton

Miss Billy, by Eleanor H. Porter

The Seven Conundrums, by E. Phillips Oppenheim

Return to Gone-Away, by Elizabeth Enright

The Cloister and the Hearth, by Charles Reade

The Brass Bottle, by F. Anstey

The Shaving of Shagpat, by George Meredith

The Film Mystery, by Arthur B. Reeve

The Phoenix and the Carpet, by Edith Nesbit

The Flaming Forest, by James Oliver Curwood

Captain Blood Returns, by Rafael Sabatini

King Solomon’s Mines, by H. Rider Haggard

Dead Men’s Money, by J. S. Fletcher

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Doctor Thorne, by Anthony Trollope

John Jago’s Ghost, by Wilkie Collins

The Passenger from Calais, by Arthur Griffiths

The Rosary, by Florence L. Barclay

Arsene Lupin, Gentleman-Thief, by Maurice LeBlanc

The Amazing Interlude, by Mary Roberts Rinehart

Alice in Blunderland, by John Kendrick Bangs

At the Appointed Time, by Anna Maynard Barbour

Wired Love, by Ella Cheever Thayer

The Heart’s Kingdom, by Maria Thompson Davies

Basil Howe, by G. K. Chesterton

Gormenghast, by Mervyn Peake

The Fisherman’s Lady, by George MacDonald

The Maid of Sker, by R. D. Blackmore

Miss Cayley’s Adventures, by Grant Allen

Down the Garden Path, by Beverley Nichols

The Willows, by Algernon Blackwood

The Mystery of the Blue Train, by Agatha Christie

Mr. Harrison’s Confessions, by Elizabeth Gaskell

The Man Who Lost Himself, by H. de Vere Stacpoole

The Laughing Cavalier, by Baroness Emmuska Orczy

The Green Rust, by Edgar Wallace

A Fair Barbarian, by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Bronte

Villette, by Charlotte Bronte

The New Chronicles of Rebecca, by Kate Douglas Wiggin

The Blessing of Pan, by Lord Dunsany

The Palace in the Garden, by Mary Louisa Molesworth

A Spinner in the Sun, by Myrtle Reed

Trent’s Last Case, by E. C. Bentley

The Forsaken Inn, by Anna Katharine Green

Paradise Lost, by James Milton

Nothing So Strange, by James Hilton

Love Insurance, by Earl derr Biggers

The Book of the Dun Cow, by Walter Wangerin, Jr.

 

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2017 in Reading Habits

 

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Christian Fiction for the Summer!

Happy Summer!!

Need a beach read?  The CBD catalog of Christian and Inspirational fiction has been out for a few months and I have a new list of books I’m looking forward to reading.  I was a little disappointed that it seemed thinner than usual (I don’t know why), but at the same time I found more titles for my list than I usually do so it evened out.  🙂  Here they are if you’re looking for some TBR inspiration…

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Posted by on June 22, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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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!

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

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On Librivox: The Story of King Arthur and His Knights

I hope everyone had a great Easter!

Is anyone in the mood for great adventures full of mystical maidens and chivalrous knights?  Librivox just recently catalogued a new narrated project by the author Howard Pyle: The Story of King Arthur and His Knights. This is a story that never ceases to interest people because of it’s classic characters.  Along with some other great readers, I got to take part in reading these tales (Sections 22-24).  My sections particularly documented the downfall of Merlin.  I had originally hoped to narrate the whole story of Merlin but the commitment became a little daunting and I passed it on to reader dominictreas.  However, it was fun to have flexibility in reading different character voices which is something I feel I’m good at.

I am currently in the process of narrating and editing my first solo!  Title to be revealed in due time…

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2017 in LibriVox

 

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Book Review: “Matorni’s Vineyard,” by E. Phillips Oppenheim

serveimageGenre: futuristic; suspense; intrigue

Plot Summary: Mervyn Amory is a British tennis player on his way to Monte Carlo for a holiday.  He takes a train trip that turns out to be anything but leisurely.  When an Italian spy passes on vital information to him just before he is assassinated, who will Mervyn trust?  Can we trust him?  And who is the beautiful Italian diva who has close ties to the Princess?

My Book Review: It’s been a few years since I’ve dipped into Oppenheim, but I have to say this was much more interesting to me than the last two I’ve read.  It had a flavor of The Great Impersonation, as far as the intrigue and atmosphere go.  It wasn’t hard to read, and provided some fun entertainment.

The best part was that it kept you guessing about who you could trust. I can’t say there were any huge plot twists that maybe the average reader wouldn’t see coming, but yet it keeps one suspecting everyone– even the main character.

I felt disappointed in how the Dictator was treated in the end. SPOILER ALERT: I felt the winners dealt him too soft a hand and they dared to trust someone to continue leading a large European country who had just threatened to pitch the continent into another world war.  Who’s to say he wouldn’t ever try something like that again?  On the other hand, I suppose this type of international dealing is realistic, considering how the world treated Hitler and Germany before WWII. END OF SPOILER. Oppenheim set his book in the 1940’s, which would have made the tale futuristic for readers at the time it was published in 1928.  Of course, the dictator-character Matorni represents Mussolini himself.  Oppenheim also had some of this type of foresight in my favorite of his (The Great Impersonation).

I loved the exotic location set in Monaco. Although the story is not historical, the details feel accurate, as if they were.  There is a romance as a side plot included, but I can’t say it was very believable because of how fast it occurred in such a short amount of time.  But if you want a bit of ‘alternate history’ type genre, this might interest you.

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2017 in Book Reviews

 

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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!

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

 

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