Archive for character reviews

The reason why it always takes me forever to finish Jane Eyre.

His name is St. John Rivers.  Every. Darn. Time.

I admit, after having read this book four or five times, this shouldn’t surprise me.  The book is in stages.  The childhood stage.  The long and dreary Lowood School years.  Thornfield, Thornfield, wonderful Thornfield, and then…. St. John Rivers.  Sigh.

I understand that he’s a very important foil for Rochester.  He is everything good, and straight, and narrow, but also everything cold, hard and passionateless.  Actually, worse, he has passion, but denies it thoroughly.  St. John Rivers is exactly as unappealing as Charlotte Brontë ever could have wanted, and that’s a fact.  What’s also a fact is that it makes for slow reading.  Trudging, more like.

Don’t get me wrong, this is my favorite book in the history of books (or at least in the history of books I’ve read, which is a decent number for my four-and-score years) but St. John Rivers is a drag.  He just is.  He’s more cringe-worthy than Mr. Collins of Pride and Prejudice, because at least Eliza isn’t listening carefully to every word Mr. Collins says.

I suppose I could always skip over St. John… but I never do.  I just don’t roll that way.  And if I did I might miss his sisters who I do adore.  I honestly want to pluck him from the book sometimes, though.  He’s just so unenjoyable to read.  Though I suppose if he were gone, there’d be no one to save Jane from starving to death, would there?  And we can’t have that, so St. John will have to stay, no matter how much I whine and resist him.  Poor Rosamond Oliver.  He really must have been pretty for her to fall for him like that.

~Lisa, who has six more books to finish (this one included) before hitting her goal of 52 books in 52 weeks.  It may just happen this year!

Advertisements

Leave a comment »

Emily Windsnap and the Monster from the Deep

Book #7.  Yes, I realize I’m going slowly.  Emma is really boring me this time around for some reason, but more on that later.

This is the second of Liz Kessler’s Emily Windsnap trilogy, about a girl who learns at twelve years old that she’s half-mermaid.  The first book was all about her discovering her mermaid heritage and the reason she hadn’t known about it beforehand, which turns out being a bit more nefarious than expected.  She and her mother are then reunited with her mermaid father and sent to a secret island to live a happily ever after.

Which is where Monster from the Deep picks up.  I was fairly excited for this book, mainly because the idea of a secret, paradisical island where mermaids and humans live together in harmony reminded me a little of Peter Pan’s Neverland—well, that and the island at the end of the off-the-mark ’98 TV movie of Brave New World, with Peter Gallagher, but that’s probably just me.

My point is, I was looking forward to a lot of exploration of the island.  Despite the title of the book, I was basically assuming that it would be an end-of-the-book climactic thing, rather than what it was, pretty much the main focus all throughout.  I can’t complain, though.  It’s a middle-grade book, and while we don’t get to see as much of the island as I’d like, there’s some character development here that I didn’t expect.  Emily has looked forward to living on this island because here she would finally, finally fit in—except she’s so focused on fitting in that she works overly hard to try to prove herself, which is what ends up landing her in trouble in the first place.

That’s all good and well… but once she does get in trouble, the story goes a little bit off kilter.  Meanwhile, we’re flashing over to the point of view of Emily’s old school rival Mandy at the end of each chapter, which was an effect that I like, but I think could have been developed just a teensy bit more.  We get that Mandy’s parents are selfish and argue a lot, leaving Mandy feeling left out and not very important, but we don’t really understand a thing about her parents, except that they argue a lot.  Like in the last novel, the child-parent relationships just seem a little off.    The end of the novel felt very much like a repeat of the first one, also.  Both strongly imply that mermaids have been doing awful, awful things for hundreds and thousands of years, and then after Emily pleads her case, Neptune, despite being as megalomaniac-y as you could suppose, eventually sees her point and changes his ways.

I’m starting to wonder if the excuse “this is a middle grade book,” isn’t a little thin.  I don’t know that Emily learned anything from the mistakes she made in this book, except perhaps to not go trespassing on Neptune’s personal property—she abuses a friendship and instead of having to pay for it with anything more than her conscience, her friend turns around and praises her for being such a courageous person.  Instead of realizing that she would have fit in on the island just being herself, she just seems happy that she gets a party at the end of the book.  And on top of all that I’m having more and more trouble buying her as twelve years old.  The book is marked for ages six through eight, but personally I was reading stuff like The Secret Garden by then.  I can’t help but think that maybe Kessler is underestimating her readers…

That said, I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy the book.  I did, actually.  Despite her faults, Emily is an extremely likeable character, and any look we get at Mystic Millie is worth all the rest.  Though not how she’s described at all, I keep picturing Millie as an overdressed Zooey Deschanel, it just seems like the kooky kind of role she’d play, and if it ever gets made into a movie, she’d have my vote for the role in a heartbeat.

Comments (1) »

Au Revoir, Life?

NUP_105436_0212

I have to stop falling in love with TV shows.  Especially clever, funny TV shows with fantastic music teams, because these always seem to be  the first for the chopping block.

I learned a few days ago that NBC is very likely giving the axe to Life, a show about an L.A. cop who has his badge returned to him after being released from a life sentence for a crime he didn’t commit.  Sounds a little far-fetched?  Okay, sure, but who cares when you have classicly-trained (not to mention surprisingly, distractingly sexy) Damian Lewis trading quirky Zen wisdom tips with a no-nonsense (and c’mon, probably even sexier) Sarah Shahi?

The truth is, I’d gotten sick of crime shows.  I know I’m far, far from the average, but every Law and Order looks exactly the same to me, and the CSI’s tend to be just… well, icky.  I don’t care for gore, or grisly “plucked from the headlines” stuff.  After all, if I actually watch the news—which I do—why would I want to see some fictional copycat of the worst stories two weeks later?

The advertisements for Life caught my interest, though.  After all, I knew NBC could make a crime show that had something more to it than just being a crime show—I tune into Medium all the time, because besides giving the audience a good mystery to try to solve, we also get to see a nice, realistic family unit, with (mostly) everyday problems.  Joe Dubois is kind of my ideal husband.

Life has seen it’s share of some truly strange crimes.  Women left in boxes in the middle of highways, men buried to their necks and surrounded by flower petals.  But the main thing that works for it, really, is character.  It’s focused on a character, not just the newest twisted tale.  That’s what Life had going for it, too.  Charlie Crews is a man who has had everything taken away from him, so when he gets it back again he appreciates it that much more, but there’s still that knowledge that everything was taken away from him, and a darkness that’s just behind the ready smile.  And because of the time he’s spent in prison, the time he’s spent in solitary, stuck inside his own head, Charlie Crews knows people.  He sees things in people’s eyes that most people don’t look for, hears things in their voices that most wouldn’t listen for.

And…. I’ve used the word already, but the show is just full of quirk.  In the best way possible.  The humor is a little offbeat, a little silly, and very stick-in-your head, and the main cast, while fairly small, is fantastic all the way around.

I’m going to miss this one a lot.  It has easily been my favorite show on TV this season, and it’s hits like this that make me want to give up TV for good sometimes.

So, farewell, Life.  I will miss your always-perfect music and fascinating character depictions.  There are a scant four episodes left, most likely devoid of the pregnant Sarah Shahi, which is unfortunate.  If it has to die, at least you want it to die in tact, you know?

I’m hoping this is the only kick in the gut my inner TV-lover gets after this season is over, but I’m worried about The Sarah Conner Chronicles, too, another show that has really taken me by surprise in how much I enjoy it.  Trust me to fall for the underdog, always.

Comments (4) »

Readerly Updates

young-girl-reading-print-c100325251

Apologies for the lack of updates.  Things have been interesting.  I’ve had quite a few family commitments that have made internet time almost non-existent.  In fact, it’s taken an early night on a business trip for me to even get a chance to poke my head in here, but while I haven’t been online much, I’ve definitely been reading.

I’m really starting to wonder if I’m a little ADD when it comes to reading, because I haven’t been finishing books very quickly, and I’m on a trend of reading at least four books at a time – three novels and a book of poetry – that I don’t know when it will end.

The one thing I have finished is my reread of Stephenie Meyer’s The Host.  I really resisted reading this the first go around, and took every chance to scrutinize it vocally that I could, but by the time it was over I couldn’t deny that I loved the thing.  It’s still a very bizarre book the second time around – bits of it remind me of a Miyazaki film on acid – but rereading it and knowing those parts were going to come in, it was a little easier to swallow.  I still have issues with a few little points where someone along the line (and that of course starts with Ms. Meyer herself) didn’t fact-check things very thoroughly (ask me about the honey issue sometimes… that one really irks me), and I still hate the first ten chapters.  But.  Ian.  O’Shea.  I have to admit, that if it came down to a fight to the death in Meyer characters for my affection… well, Ian is the only one who could give Jacob Black a run for his money.  Well maybe that Garrett fellow from Breaking Dawn—he was pure beauty.

I still get frustrated with various aspects of Meyer’s hackneyed sense of literary justice.  In Twilight, Bella gets her little circle of weirdly immortal friends/family, with no change, ever, and here we get a very strong character made pointedly weak and all but helpless at the very end of the novel.  It’s for that reason, mainly, that I wouldn’t mind it terribly if there aren’t any sequels to this, despite the fact that the ending leaves it very open for continuation.  My one leaning for a sequel, would be so we could learn more about Burns, because I just happen to have a weakness for tall redheads in stories (and in real life, for that matter).

anneblog-717667

I’ve also been rereading some other things – I guess it’s a trend lately.  I’m indulging in a life-long crush and rereading Anne of Green Gables. I haven’t read this series in years, and never read all of it, actually, and I’d really like to.  Anne Shirley was one of my very first fictional friends, which I guess is true for millions of people.  The love story between Anne and Gilbert Blythe, which I’ve barely touched as of yet in the first novel, is one that’s influenced my taste for fictional pairings all my life—it’s something a half-step beyond “will they or won’t they,” there’s that spark that’s just as likely to explode in your face as it is to combust in a more positive way.  Anne is completely disdainful of Gilbert for years, on account of a percieved insult she recieved from him at their very first meeting, but Gilbert is struck, full victim to Anne’s overenthusiastic, romantic charms despite her temper.  That said, he never moons over his losses, and he doesn’t roll over and play dead, either.  While I wouldn’t say he fights back, really, Gilbert gets his digs in here and there, and his patience runs out at various times (very understandably), which is something I’ve always appreciated.  It makes the pair of them much more real than a saintly ever-lasting patience would.  (And along that line, how does Stephenie Meyer compare Edward and Bella to this?  Really?)

I’m reading Emma, also, to finish out my round of Austen novels, but it’s going surprisingly slowly.  I’ve always enjoyed this novel before, but it just seems to be dragging, which is strange because I know I’m comprehending more of it than I had the first two times I’d read it (Both for classes, and both rushed.  And both years ago).  Maybe I’m just distracted by the fact that the fourth Fablehaven novel comes out March 24th.  I am looking forward to that an awful lot.  Maybe not to Harry Potter proportions, but up there with Jasper Fforde, which is high in my book.

Comments (1) »

Form and face

I don’t really tend to think of myself as having a ‘type’ when it comes to men.  Sure I say tall, dark and handsome, but anything is tall next to my five feet.  Besides, blondes aren’t bad all the time, and it’s a matter of fact that I have a lifelong crush on redheads.

Still… there are some basic figures that stick in my head, and I don’t even fully realize it.

Take, for example, Eric Dane:

eric-dane-photoshoot-31

Mr. Dane is quite possibly the prettiest male speciman on television at the moment.  Ever since we first saw McSteamy on Grey’s, though, he reminded me of someone, and I just couldn’t figure out who.  And no, I don’t mean the other Dr. Mark Sloan, though I have always wondered if Shonda named him after the Dick Van Dyke character.

There was just something in those chiseled features, that sparkle in his eye—oh, the sparkle in his eye—his overall slim but very well taken care of physique.  It all reminded me very much of someone, but I could never put my finger on a name.newmarj1

Until tonight.  I happened to come across Turner Classic Movies‘ presentation of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers tonight, which was one of my absolute favorite films to watch as a kid, and not long after I settled in to watch—there he was.  Benjamin Pontipee.

Benjamin was the second oldest of the Pontipee brothers (of course, if you recall the alphabetic names) and here he is with the breathtakingly beautiful Julie Newmar.  Benjamin about ties with Russ Tamblyn’s Gideon as my favorite, so far as the younger brothers go—Howard Keel, of course, is in a category unto himself.

In reality, he was Jeff Richards, apparently a baseball player before his short-lived acting career.  I’ve never seen him as anything other than Benjamin Pontipee, but he and Julie Newmar certainly made an impression on me so far as physical beauty go.  Eric Dane might not quite look like him, but they have a very similar physique, and way of holding themselves, not to mention that quirk of a smile, and again, something in the eyes.

In any case, I’ve solved the puzzle for myself.  I can’t begin to describe how much I enjoyed watching that old musical.  Back when they hired people who could sing to sing, and people who could dance, to dance.  And what dancing!  The musical is coming back nowadays, albeit a little slowly, but I don’t think we’ll ever see the kind of choreography they used to have.  And that’s okay.  But I’ll never regret having seen the way musicals used to be.

Leave a comment »

The Alluring Henry Crawford

I’m starting the third volume of Mansfield Park at the moment, and we’re just getting to Henry Crawford’s most enchanting bits—and easily Fanny Price’s worst moments in the novel.

I’ve got Joseph Beattie from the 2007 Masterpiece Theater production to the left here, because that’s how I’ve been picturing him this reading, though truth be told, I like Alessandro Nivola’s ’99 portrayal of him better—but semantics aside, Henry Crawford is simply a delicious character. I’d be disgusted by him in real life, of course, but then that is an altogether different thing.

I know it’s a bit old hat to make a big deal about Jane Austen’s characters, but there’s a reason why there’s always a deal to be made. While Mansfield Park is not nearly my favorite Austen novel, Henry Crawford is almost decidedly becoming my favorite Austen blackguard. Wickham was never interesting to me, he is a well-played plot point and little more. William Elliot is warmer, but still there’s something left wanting. Willoughby is absolutely delightful by being so barefaced about his cowardice and shame—but those very things also make him fairly pathetic in the end. Henry Crawford, though, is unapologetic about anything and everything. He’s as consciousless as Wickham (whether or not that’s a word), but has all the spark and charm and warmth of Willoughby at his best—with something a little more intelligent, a little more detached and conniving, that just makes him that much more interesting.

The fantastic thing is that we know from the start that he’s a villain—or at least villainous. It’s made clear almost from his introduction that he means to win the attention of the one (already engaged) woman whom he absolutely shouldn’t mess around with, and we proceed to watch as he flatters her, tempts her, and then leaves her in the dust to go on with her life. Not that we can blame him entirely for that—’it takes two to tango,’ etc, etc.

But we see all this, and we know that Fanny, our heroine, is fully right to refuse his proposals, and yet… and yet we root for him anyhow. We want him to win over Fanny’s heart. Edmund certainly isn’t trying very hard for it, Edmund hardly seems to notice her unless he can sweep in to save her from lack of exercise or lack of writing paper or lack of something or other else. He’s busy being beguiled by Henry’s sister, because she’s just as sparkle-and-shine attractive as her brother, whatever her moral shortcomings are.

And even though I know what’s coming, even though I know Henry will prove himself—as he always does—to be completely incapable of the sort of love that Fanny wants and deserves… right at this moment, a part of me still wants him to win. Wants him to have the picturesque life with her that he describes to his sister, where he takes care of Fanny forever and never falls out of love with her and is everything she (this is Fanny Price here) anyone could ever want.

Comments (5) »