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Arthurian Romances by Chretien de Troyes

Title: Arthurian Romances

Author: Chretien de Troyes

Genre: Classics

Pages: 526

Rating:  4 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Classics – Translated; Mount TBR; Fall into Reading

How I Got It: I own it

Chrétien de Troyes was a French poet and trouvère who flourished in the late 12th century. His work on Arthurian subjects represents some of the best regarded of medieval literature. His use of structure, particular in Yvain, the Knight of the Lion, has been seen as a step towards the modern novel. Chrétien’s five romances together form the most complete expression from a single author of the ideals of French chivalry.
I have read various retellings of the stories of ancient Britain, but I never read the definitive source.  All that changed today.  Reading the introduction, I learned that de Troyes seems to have had ties to the Marie, the Countess of Champagne (daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine) and King Philip.  Of course he had such royal patronage.  It explains his writings’ survival to this day.  I finally dug in and completed de Troyes work of five tales of romance and chivalry.
  • Erec and Enide — This story of bravery and romance felt very flat to me.  I just couldn’t get behind Erec and Enide’s love story.  To me, he didn’t sacrifice anything for his love.  Hmmm… on to the next.
  • Cliges — A tale of adultery that ends well.  Not the most romantic story of all time.  I did enjoy the discussions of the adventures by both Cliges and his father, Alexander.
  • Lancelot — Ah Lancelot.  The beloved of Guinevere and best friend of King Arthur.  According to Wikipedia, this is the first story that mentions Camelot and the affair between Guinevere and Lancelot.  Growing up I always thought these two were idiots for sneaking around the betraying Arthur who did nothing but support and love them.  Reading the “original” story, I still have issues with the “love” depicted.  It just doesn’t sit well with me.
  • Yvain — After stupidity forgetting his wife, Laudine, Yvain must prove himself and his love to her.  I do like the motif of redemption in this story.  Worth a read.
  • Perceval — This one was left unfinished by de Troyes.  Supposedly he died before finishing the poem.  At any rate, the first story of the quest for the Holy Grail was a great start.  Unfortunately we don’t get de Troyes version of an ending, although there are many out there.

Overall, I am really glad that I finally picked up this volume of stories.  It renewed my interest in myths and fairy tales after some disastrous previous reads.  I might even have to read Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur next year.  We’ll see…

  
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Posted by on December 3, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Title: A Wrinkle in Time

Author: Madeleine L’Engle

Publisher: Bantam Doubleday 1962

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 198

Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Classics — Award Winner; Mount TBR; Fall into Reading

How I Got It: I own it

Fifty years ago, Madeleine L’Engle introduced the world to A Wrinkle in Time and the wonderful and unforgettable characters Meg and Charles Wallace Murry, and their friend Calvin O’Keefe. When the children learn that Mr. Murry has been captured by the Dark Thing, they time travel to Camazotz, where they must face the leader IT in the ultimate battle between good and evil—a journey that threatens their lives and our universe.

This is technically a re-read but it’s been a while since I read it.  This is one of those books from childhood that I enjoyed, but didn’t love completely.  I thought it was a bit fantasy adventure fun.  Reading it now, I see the whole story as a more interesting discussion about destiny, good and evil, science, and philosophy.  What do we make of Mrs. Which, Whatsit, and Who?  Are they good beings or just self-interested beings?  What about It?  Is It completely evil or having the potential for good?  I think this brings in a ton of questions.  I’ve never read the rest of the series.  J tells me that the next two are decent reads, but the last two are throw aways.  Reading this volume again, I am interested in reading the rest of the series.  Maybe next year…

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

Title: Kidnapped

Author: Robert Louis Stevenson

Genre: Classics

Pages: 218

Rating:   2 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Classics — International; Mount TBR; Fall into Reading

How I Got It: I own it

The young orphan David Balfour is sent to live with his Uncle Ebenezer. When he discovers that he may be the rightful heir to his uncle’s estate, he finds himself kidnapped and cast away on a desert isle. A historical adventure novel originally intended for a young-adult audience, Kidnapped deals with true historical events relating to the Jacobite Rising, and has won the admiration of an adult audience.

This may be considered a classic, but I just didn’t love it.  I couldn’t really get into the adventures.  I didn’t feel anything for David.  I thought he was naive and silly at many times in the books.  Not that I wanted Uncle Ebenezer to win, but David just wasn’t the easiest hero to like.  Overall I thought the writing was stilted and pretty dry.  Maybe it’s the time period.  I just am not a fan of Stevenson’s writing at all.  Not my cup of tea.

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Title: Jane Eyre

Author: Charlotte Bronte

Genre: Classics

Pages: 533

Rating:  4 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Mixing It Up — Classics; Mount TBR; Books2Movies; Fall into Reading

This is one of those classics that I just never got around to reading, and it’s all because of Wuthering Heights.  I read Wuthering Heights back in high school and absolutely hated it.  It was dull. the characters were stupid, the story wasn’t anything exciting.  That experience turned me off to all the Bronte sisters’ work.  And so I never actually read Jane Eyre.  Of course I knew the story and saw the movies, but I never read the book.  That all changed today.

I read it and actually liked it.  It doesn’t beat Jane Austen, but I did grow to love Jane Eyre.  She’s an odd character, meek yet strong, naive yet worldly.  Mrs. Fairfax is a bright spot in the gloom of Thornfield Hall.  Adele is a bit annoying, but thankfully she’s only occasionally mentioned.  And Mr. Rochester is very dreamy.  I didn’t care for the autobiographical style of the novel.  It seemed very silly to me throughout.  I would have rather had third person storytelling.  At times Bronte rambles, but overall I enjoyed the novel.

Movie version (2006 mini-series):
This was the first one that I saw.  I loved this adaptation so much.  Jane is just plain enough, but has that spirit.  I loved the moody atmosphere of the mini series.  Toby Stephens has a great ability to switch from moody to light-hearted in an instant.  Plus, that painting in the corridor… creepy creepy creepy.  Out of the two adaptations  I like this one more.

Movie version (2011 film):
I was excited to see this one as it starred Michael Fassbender, but I wasn’t completely sold on the movie.  I did not really like the changes in timeline in telling the story.  Starting with Jane’s running away seemed like an odd choice.  Mia Waskowska just didn’t sit right with me as Jane.  She as too withdrawn.  I wanted someone a bit more feisty.  Just not the best.  But I must say that Judi Dench as Mrs. Fairfax is just awesome.

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

Title: The Importance of Being Earnest

Author: Oscar Wilde

Genre: Classic play (1895 play / 2002 movie)

Pages: 92

Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Classics — Play; Mount TBR; Books2Movie

How I Got It: Own it

Play:

I absolutely adore this play.  The back and forth between Algy and Jack keeps me going.  I love their battles of wits.  And the mistaken identity aspect adds way too much fun.  Plus, Wilde is the best at turning a phrase.  This play is full of great lines and comebacks.

Some choice quotes:

“When one is in town one amuses oneself. When one is in the country one amuses other people.” – Act 1

“All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.” – Act 1

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very tedious if it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility!” – Act 1

“Relations are simply a tedious pack of people, who haven’t got the remotest knowledge of how to live, nor the smallest instinct about when to die.” – Act 1

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.” – Act 2

“I could deny it if I liked. I could deny anything if I liked.” – Act 2

“Oh! I killed Bunbury this afternoon. I mean poor Bunbury died this afternoon.” – Act 3

“The chin a little higher, dear. Style largely depends on the way the chin is worn. They are worn very high, just at present.” – Act 3

“Gwendolen, it is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth. Can you forgive me?” – Act 3

“I’ve now realised for the first time in my life the vital Importance of Being Earnest.” – Act 3

2002 Movie:
The movie adds things here and there, but overall keeps the spirit of the play.  I love all the actors.  Rupert Everett plays he best scheming Algy.  Colin Firth is divine as Jack/Ernest.  Dame Judi Dench always plays the stiff Brit.  And Reese Witherspoon plays the perfect innocent,  but not really innocent, Cecily.  The addition of Cecily’s governess/tutor.  Does anyone else think that Archer’s manservant is modeled after Algy’s manservant Lane?  I think so.
 
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Posted by on August 29, 2012 in Book Reviews, Movies

 

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The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Title: The Wizard of Oz

Author: L. Frank Baum

Published: 1900

Genre: Classics; Satire

Pages: 198

Rating:  3/5 stars   1939 movie: 4/5   Tin Man: 5/5

Reading Challenges: Mount TBR; Classics — 19th Century ; Book2Movies

How I Got It: I own it!

Dorothy thinks she is lost forever when a terrifying tornado crashes through Kansas and whisks her and her dog, Toto, far away to the magical land of Oz. To get home Dorothy must follow the yellow brick road to Emerald City and find the wonderfully mysterious Wizard of Oz. Together with her companions the Tin Woodman, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion whom she meets on the way, Dorothy embarks on a strange and enchanting adventure.

I read this slim novel way back in elementary school and loved it.  So this is a reread for me.  And I have to say that I’m disappointed.  I still love the storyline.  I love the different lands that Dorothy and her friends travel to.  I especially love the Emerald City.  It’s a fun interesting little story.  But then I look at the writing and I am sorely disappointed.  It’s just a badly written book.  Every paragraph feels stilted.  I’d rather pick up some Chopin or Dreiser or Lewis or Tolkien.  Oh well…

1939 Movie Version:

I loved this movie as a child.  I loved the glittering colors, the fanciful characters, and the singing.  Rewatching this as an adult, I still love this movie.  Although it is a far cry from the book.  My favorite scene has to be the tornado.  It’s amazing to think that in 1939 they could pull off something that gorgeous.  It boggles my mind.  My favorite character is the Wicked Witch of the West.  I’m glad they decided to expand her character from the book.  She has some of the best lines.

Scifi Version Tin Man:

An interesting updated version of Wizard of Oz.  Zooey Deschanel is just amazing, but then again I allows love her.  And the sets are just gorgeous.  Can we talk about the costumes?  The sorceress Azkadellia’s fantastic costumes are a treat to behold.  I love that DG wears Dorothy’s 1939 dress as a waitress uniform.  The idea of a Dorothy or DG lost outside her world is an interesting one.  The monkeys are a real treat.  And Zero is just awesome as the head of Azkadellia’s guards.  But the best characters is definitely the Tin Man.  He’s a great foil to DG.  Overall, I love how the movie gives nods here and there to the original story, but puts its own spin.

Oz:

  1. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
  2. The Marvelous Land of Oz
  3. Ozma of Oz
  4. Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz
  5. The Road to Oz
  6. The Emerald City of Oz
  7. The Patchwork Girl of Oz
  8. Tik-Tok of Oz
  9. The Scarecrow of Oz
  10. Rinkitink in Oz
  11. The Lost Princess of Oz
  12. The Tin Woodman of Oz
  13. The Magic of Oz
  14. Glinda of Oz

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Title: The Picture of Dorian Gray

Author: Oscar Wilde

Genre: Classic Horror

Pages: 248

Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Classics – Horror; Movies; Mount TBR

Oscar Wilde brings his enormous gifts for astute social observation and sparkling prose to The Picture of Dorian Gray, his dreamlike story of a young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty. This dandy, who remains forever unchanged—petulant, hedonistic, vain, and amoral—while a painting of him ages and grows increasingly hideous with the years, has been horrifying, enchanting, obsessing, even corrupting readers for more than a hundred years.

Dorian Gray… so full of promise, so wasted in the end.  I have forgotten how truly terrifying this novel is.  To watch a man degrade himself to be nothing more than a hideous reflection of his former self is true horror.  Wilde shows the psychological horror well.  In the novel, we are served a cautionary tale.  And yet I wonder if Wilde saw himself as Gray or Lord Henry.  Was he the tempter or the tempted?  These questions intrigue me more after reading about Wilde’s own life and subsequent court cases.  I am leaning toward the idea that Wilde is Gray who finally had to face his own portrait in the end.

On the writing of the book, I have one big issue…  Chapter 11 just kills me.  The first half of the book follows Gray’s introduction to Lord Henry and the pleasures of the world.  We view his tragic relationship with Sibyl Vane.  We note his continual detachment from morality.  The second half of the book chronicles his downfall.  Yet in the middle we are “treated” to one ridiculously long list of the things he collected in the in between years.  If I had to read one more paragraph about embroidery, I was going to throw the book down in disgust.  The transition just isn’t there.  And it blemishes an otherwise amazing horror novel.

Movie Version — 2009 Starring Ben Barnes and Colin Firth

I watched this movie a few months back and my initial reaction was: that was really bad.  I wanted to try and rewatch it to pinpoint exactly why I felt it was horrid.  So I attempted a rewatch.

I think my main problem with this movie is that it tries to sensationalize the story.    It turns a psychological thriller in the view of Poe into a supernatural thriller complete with romance.  I just don’t agree.  The story itself is a much more interesting psychological descent into corruption and madness.  I could have done without all the sex scenes.  I’m no prude, but those just seemed so out of place.  And the romance with Harry’s daughter just felt forced.  Overall, I just couldn’t connect with the movie at all.

Side Note: I love Alan Moore’s version of Dorian Gray in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.  I feel that if Dorian hadn’t of faced his portrait when he did but continue to live, he would have become the Dorian of Moore’s universe.  And the movie version: just bad.  Anyone who has read LXG would agree that the movie could have been great, but it should have been rated R.  Only way for it be good.

Side Side Note: I did love Stuart Townsend as Dorian Gray in the movie.  Delicious!

 

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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