Monday, June 30, 2014

Murder Mystery Monday #6

It's that time again dear readers. The time where I dissect yet another book from the murder mystery genre for your reading pleasure. It won't come as much of a shock to you that I decided to frame this entire post around a recent Agatha Christie book that I've read. These past couple of days I've been on a bit of a murder mystery kick and broke out all of the unread Agatha Christie books I've accumulated this past year. The first book to garner my attention and the one that I'll be discussing is called A Pocket Full of Rye by Agatha Christie.

For those that haven't read the book, let me whip up a quick summary. An old businessman and multimillionaire, Rex Fortescue, is found dead in his office from poisoning and upon examining the dead man, one of the investigators finds that Fortescue's pockets have some rye grain in them. Peculiar, indeed! The investigator goes to Yewtree Lodge, the man's home, to figure out why the old man was poisoned and who could have possibly committed the murder. Suspects include Fortescue's young wife and his sons, Percival and Lancelot. While the investigator struggles to find the truth of the matter, a few more people are murdered in the process. It seems that only Miss Marple and her knowledge of human psychology and nursery rhymes can help solve this crime.

Exciting right? Well I had a pretty great afternoon read with this book, with only a few minor complaints of course. A Pocket Full of Rye is one of the many books that Agatha Christie frames around nurses rhymes, which gives a sense of familiarity to those of us like myself that were raised with those cheery rhymes while also twisting and darkening the experience by associating them with carefully planned murders.

I do have to point out that this particular Miss Marple novel, while enjoyable, felt a bit watered down compared to the rest. Unlike Christie's other books, the titular nursery rhyme here doesn't seem to be as significant compared to something like And Then There Were None aka Ten Little Indians. Without saying too much just yet, it felt like a giant red herring rather than an integral part of the plot. That being said I was also disappointed that even though this is technically another Miss Marple novel, she barely factors into the story. Her character doesn't make an appearance until about halfway though. Even then she only pops up in a couple more scenes to keep the investigator on the right track.

I'm excited to admit that here is one of the few times that I actually managed to guess the murderer correctly.

I do want to talk about the ending for a bit because it was a discussion worthy ending. So...this goes without saying, but if you don't want to be spoiled please skip over the following paragraph. After it I will resume my non spoiler filled discussion about the book.

Everybody here that has read the book or doesn't give a crap about spoilers? Good. Not that I'm trying to insult my own intelligence here, but figuring out the ending was really simple, a little too simple in my opinion. I really didn't think there were enough red herrings or twists and turns to throw me off my game. As a rule of thumb I usually first suspect the most unlikely person and that combined with an assumption based on my knowledge of Arthurian literature lead me perfectly to the actual culprit: Lancelot. Throughout the entire book there were numerous suggestions that Percival had to have killed his father and that the black sheep of the family, but beloved by all, was innocent. I didn't buy into that for a second. For those that missed it, the book did mention at one point that Rex's first wife loved Idylls of the King and that's why she gave her sons those names. While I'm currently reading that particular Tennyson work, I do know my Thomas Malory and that character's names can be significant. Good old Launcelot, the world's greatest knight and beloved by many is still an adulterer and a traitor to his king, while Percival is the worthy grail knight. Not hard to see who is considered to be the morally superior one in this situation.

End of the spoilery bits.

For those looking for a film adaption of A Pocket Full of Rye you're in luck. This book has been made into a movie twice. The first stars Joan Hickson and the second, more recent adaption, features the ever wonderful Julia McKenzie as Miss Marple. Here are the links to their IMDb pages for those interested.

I might have to go back and watch those versions myself now that I've actually finished reading the book. I faintly remember enjoying the McKenzie adaption and I haven't had the time to see the Hickson one, which can conveniently be found in parts on YouTube.

That wraps up another post in my Murder Mystery Monday series. I hope this beginning to another week is going as well as possible for you and that you'll consider joining me again next Monday. Best Wishes!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Thoughts On: The Ring and the Crown by Melissa de la Cruz

As promised here is the first installment in a new blog feature called "Thoughts On." For those who missed my explanation regarding what these posts entail during my Summer Read-a-thon, I'll briefly mention it again. These "Thoughts On" posts are a lot like my book reviews in that I'll be providing you with some information about the book and then I'll be discussing my opinions related to the book. These posts differ from my regular reviews because they are my immediate thoughts and reactions after finishing the book. I don't spend hours taking notes and drafting the post like my normal reviews, so my thoughts are a little less organized and intensely developed. This is just another way that I can talk to you about all of the amazing and not so amazing books that I've read without all of the hassle. So without further ado...

Title: The Ring and the Crown
Author: Melissa de la Cruz
Page #: 384
Book Blurb: Princess Marie-Victoria, heir to the Lily Throne, and Aelwyn Myrddn, bastard daughter of the Mage of England, grew up together. But who will rule, and who will serve? 

Quiet and gentle, Marie has never lived up to the ambitions of her mother, Queen Eleanor the Second, Supreme Ruler of the Franco-British Empire. With the help of her Head Merlin, Emrys, Eleanor has maintained her stranglehold on the world's only source of magic. She rules the most powerful empire the world has ever seen. 

But even with the aid of Emrys' magic, Eleanor's extended lifespan is nearing its end. The princess must marry and produce an heir or the Empire will be vulnerable to its greatest enemy, Prussia. The two kingdoms must unite to end the war, and the only solution is a match between Marie and Prince Leopold VII, heir to the Prussian throne. But Marie has always loved Gill, her childhood friend and soldier of the Queen's Guard. 

Together, Marie and Aelwyn, a powerful magician in her own right, come up with a plan. Aelwyn will take on Marie's face, allowing the princess to escape with Gill and live the quiet life she's always wanted. And Aelwyn will get what she's always dreamed of--the chance to rule. But the court intrigue and hunger for power in Lenoran England run deeper than anyone could imagine. In the end, there is only rule that matters in Eleanor's court: trust no one.


So when I saw this book in the bookstore, I'm going to be honest and say that the book cover was what immediately caught my attention. I do have to admit that is one fabulous book cover. Aside from that I was a little bit apprehensive about reading anything new written by Melissa de la Cruz. I was a fan of her Blue Bloods series, but it dragged on for so long and came to an incredibly disappointing ending. I decided to give Cruz another chance and as much as I really really wanted to like The Ring and the Crown I ended up with an overwhelming feeling of disappointment and reading whiplash (I'll explain later).

In general there is just so much going on in this book and none of it worked that well. The book doesn't focus on one or two characters, but rather has an ensemble cast. This type of narrative structure is tricky because the author has to juggle a number of characters' perspectives while managing to create fully developed, actualized characters. Sadly so many of the characters in this book were flat. Additionally, The Ring and the Crown is essentially a court intrigue novel that has gone a bit awry. Throughout my entire reading experience I kept thinking about the Luxe Series which is a fabulous set of YA books written by Anna Godberson that successfully deals with court intrigue. When compared to those books, this novel just comes across as a weird watered down version.

I also really didn't like the setting of this book either. I know a ton of other reviewers thought that it was so innovative, but I thought again that there was too much going on. First, it's like some alternate universe where the British won the Revolutionary War, yet strangely face the threat of Prussia. If that isn't strange enough, magic is thrown into the mix as well as some thinly veiled Arthurian references. I

I could spend some time talking about the annoying presence of love triangles, but if I'm being honest the relationships in this book weren't triangles so much as a giant confusing web. You almost have to write out a diagram to keep all of the relationships straight in your head. I can say, insta-love everywhere, just everywhere!

This isn't directly related to the actual content of the book, but you know those quotes stuck in the beginning and middle of the book? Those have got to be the dumbest quotes possible, with the exception of the Emily Dickinson one of course. I don't know if Cruz was trying to pander to a younger audience, but the Beyonce quote cheapened the beginning of the book and the Lorde one was so inappropriate if you consider what just happened at the end of the previous chapter. 

My last gripe with this book has to be that all of the action takes place in the last 40 pages, which is annoying considering the majority of the book is just conversations between characters, with long descriptions of dresses thrown in. The plot is pretty tame and then surprise, so many plot twists that you'll swear you have a case of reading whiplash. Plenty of characters die and you get treated to a huge info dump. None of the events are built up to and the revelations about certain characters aren't even hinted at in the preceding pages.   
Then strangely Cruz engineers an ending that neatly wraps up each characters' story like a standalone novel would do, yet this book appears to be the first in an entire series? I just think The Ring and the Crown could have been so much better, but the inconsistent plot and the underdeveloped characters just dragged it down.

Well readers I hate posting so many negative reviews, so I can promise that my next blog post will be more positive in tone. That's all for this "Thoughts on" and all I have left to say is, of course, Best Wishes!!  

Review: The Quick by Lauren Owen

Title: The Quick
Author: Lauren Owen
Page #: 544
Book Blurb: London, 1892: James Norbury, a shy would-be poet newly down from Oxford, finds lodging with a charming young aristocrat. Through this new friendship, he is introduced to the drawing-rooms of high society, and finds love in an unexpected quarter. Then, suddenly, he vanishes without a trace. Unnerved, his sister, Charlotte, sets out from their crumbling country estate determined to find him. In the sinister, labyrinthine city that greets her, she uncovers a secret world at the margins populated by unforgettable characters: a female rope walker turned vigilante, a street urchin with a deadly secret, and the chilling “Doctor Knife.” But the answer to her brother’s disappearance ultimately lies within the doors of one of the country’s preeminent and mysterious institutions: The Aegolius Club, whose members include the most ambitious, and most dangerous, men in England.
In her first novel, Lauren Owen has created a fantastical world that is both beguiling and terrifying. The Quick will establish her as one of fiction’s most dazzling talents.


That book blurb sounds fantastic doesn't it. I mean it promises brilliantly crafted prose with a detailed 1800s London setting and a host of characters so unique that it would be difficult to forget them. Too bad this beautifully crafted synopsis has very little to do with the actual 544 page story. In other words, it's a load of crap. The "secret world" referenced  in the book blurb has also been referred to as "the twist" in a number of reviews about The Quick, but it's not so much a twist, as it is an integral part of the majority of the story that should not in any way be kept a secret from prospective readers. In fact this so called twist actually defines the genre of the entire story and I have a hunch that many people like myself will be unpleasantly surprised to find out that the book they were sold in the blurb is not the reality of the text. For all those who don't want to know about the "twist" (even though you really should) just stop reading now. For those that actually want to know what they are getting into before starting this book continue reading.

So without further ado I'll tell you what this book is actually about: vampires. Yep, I said it, vampires. The Quick is yet another book to add to the already inundated vampire genre, which brings nothing original to the plate. The slightly gothic tone, the period setting, and even James Norbury's "friendship" all combine to create something I'll deem the poor man's Anne Rice. I know that might be rather harsh, but that's all I could think about while reading this book. Now that I got that out of the way, time for a discussion about more than just the premise.

In general the book suffered from a complete lack of focus. There were so many diverging story-lines and point of views that it just didn't feel like a cohesive novel. Readers start out with James and Charlotte's childhood and then quickly shift to James trying to become a writer in London. From there readers are introduced to The Aegolius Club and its vampires. Then the story shifts to Charlotte's point of view, where she sets out to find her brother. (There were plenty more shifts in the story, but in order to save space and my valuable time, I've decided to leave them out). As a result, I felt like there wasn't any identifiable plot to the book. The story just sort of meanders around without any sense of direction, which makes it difficult to stay interested. In short, there are a ton of pages, but no central story or conflict to push you on to the end. This book could have easily benefited from some substantial cuts to pair down the story and give it a narrative center.

As far as the points of view in The Quick are concerned, there are too many and they aren't successfully integrated with the rest of the novel. The blurb mentions a number of "unforgettable characters" that I'm sad to say are highly forgettable because their stories are buried under the weight of the rest of the prose. In particular I really disliked the diary entries from a number of characters interspersed throughout the book. Why you ask? Well, none of the characters are previously introduced before their diary entries, which renders the entire entry meaningless until you learn who they actually are and how they fit in with the rest of the story. Once I learned about the identity of the character, I ended up rereading the entry just so that I could get a grasp on the information revealed in that section. Another annoying aspect to the multiple points of view is that a scene is provided from one character's specific perspective, but instead of continuing on with the story from their pov, the book backtracks to the same scene presented from a different character's perspective. With the varying points of view and the large amount of characters, I found it difficult to emotionally connect with any of them, which is disappointing.    

After slogging through the various subplots and underdeveloped characters, I managed to make it to the unsatisfying end of the book. The finale of The Quick can easily be described using part of a T.S. Eliot quote and that is "not with a bang but a whimper." The last line in what I hesitate to call a cliffhanger seems to indicate that there will be a sequel, which I can honestly say I won't be reading. I'm sad to say that this is another over-hyped book that turned out to be a disappointment. I'm not sure I would recommend this book to anyone, but if you like the actual premise maybe you should see what Anne Rice has to offer first.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Murder Mystery Monday #5

As promised, I've decided to resume my Murder Mystery Monday posts this summer. Ideally, every Monday for the rest of the season, I'll talk about a murder mystery book that I've recently read. While I'll try and aim for some variety in my book choices, I do have to say that the majority of these posts will deal with Agatha Christie novels. She is one of my favorite writers and with my numerous trips to used book sellers, I've stockpiled a lot of unread Agatha Christie novels.

Instead of starting this reboot with a Christie mystery, I've decided to switch things up and deal with a different murder mystery, one that many people are familiar with and one that you'll recognize if you followed my Summer Read-a-thon. The book that I've chosen to do some light discussion on is of course The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)

I'm going to be honest right off of the bat and say that the only reason that I even bothered to pick this book up from the bookstore was because it was written by none other than J.K. Rowling. Having loved the Harry Potter series so much, it's really difficult to ignore the rest of her literary endeavors. That being said I found this book to be a rather lackluster read and I would hazard to say that if it didn't have her name attached to it, it probably wouldn't have done as well as it has. Nothing about this book is groundbreaking within the context of the murder mystery genre and actually has a pretty tame story.

In a nutshell this story follows Private Detective Cormoran Strike, who has been hired to investigate the death of supermodel Lula Landry. Her brother John Bristow insists that her death was not a suicide and wants Cormoran to find her murderer. 

Instead of an action packed, plot driven story readers are treated to a primarily uneventful sequence of conversations. This book is what I'd imagine following around an actual PI would feel like. From what I could tell there were no red herrings, no moments crafted to mislead the reader, and there were no weighted conversations intended to encourage the reader to create a list of suspects. Since this book focuses on a number of dialogues between the secondary characters and Cormoran, there was no real action in between to propel the novel forward. The Cuckoo's Calling just sort of stagnates and it's mostly up to the willpower of the reader to reach the final reveal.

As far as the main protagonist, Cormoran Strike, I'm of the opinion that his character might not be able to carry an entire series. As I've mentioned before it's hard to get a real conception of his identity. Sure the book gives us a neat list of facts: he lost a part of a leg in Afghanistan, he broke up with his girlfriend, his mother is dead, and his father is a famous rockstar that doesn't really acknowledge Cormoran's existence. I can't pin down exactly why I feel like I don't know enough about his character, but that's just how I felt while reading the book. I also have no concrete conception of his appearance. Some parts of the story inform us that he is a heavy set man, whose fat hangs over his pants. His "pubey" like hair is brought up numerous times, so naturally I picture him as unattractive, yet he proceeds to get hit on by a gay man, a receptionist, and has a one night stand with a supermodel. I'm not saying that type of behavior should be unusual, but those moments felt forced like the author was intentionally trying to affirm Cormoran's masculinity. 

Despite the primarily uneventful plotline, I stuck it out until the end of the novel hoping for a fantastic resolution that never really happened. Like the Agatha Christie books that I know and love, the author waits until the end to reveal everything in what I call "the info dump." The murderer, the motive, the actual process of the murder, and the aftermath are all revealed in the end by Cormoran, but if I'm being honest none of it made any sense. I do want to talk a bit about the details of the end, so if you don't want to be spoiled please skip the next paragraph entirely. You have been warned...

Just us knowing readers now? Okay. That ending was so illogical and I'm still not satisfied with how it wrapped up. I'm sorry, but in no way should John Bristow be the murder. I'll admit that the motive kind of made sense as the jealous brother out for his sister's money. The part that made me want to tear out the last 20 pages or so was the fact that even though he committed the murder and got away with it completely, he still engaged Cormoran to investigate the murder. No...No. The excuse given that he was a twisted man who wanted to make sure Lula's half brother wouldn't get her money just didn't fly with me. In fact, I actually ruled out his character as a suspect near the beginning of the novel because it didn't make any sense at all. 

End of Spoilers.

This book is the beginning of a whole series and right now I'm not entirely sure whether I'll continue the series. On one hand I'm interested to see if Rowling will develop Cormoran and Robin's character more, but on the other hand I'm not up for another 400 pages of pure conversation. I guess it will depend on my mood when I happen to walk by the next book in Barnes and Nobles. 

That ends the fifth installment of my Murder Mystery Monday Series. Did you enjoy this latest literary endeavor by J.K Rowling? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or on twitter. Don't forget to check back next Monday for the next post in the series and as always, Best Wishes!!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Jane Eyre Watch-a-thon: Jane Eyre (1970)

Welcome back to another Jane Eyre Watch-a-thon post where I endeavor to watch and review as many Jane Eyre adaptions as possible. After my week long Summer Read-a-thon project, I decided to take a few days for myself and enjoy all of the freedoms of summer and of course do some more reading without keeping track of pages or brainstorming talking points. I couldn't stay away for too long, so time to reveal which adaption I'll be covering in this post.

Jane Eyre (1970)
George C. Scott as Mr. Rochester
Susannah York as Jane Eyre
This particular version has a run-time of 1hr and 50mins (give or take some minutes depending on whether or not you get a decent dvd copy that hasn't been botched)
Here is a link to the IMDb page:

When I started this particular incarnation of the Watch-a-thon series, I had no idea that this adaption existed. It was only after searching up a list of the Jane Eyre versions that I discovered filmmakers attempted to adapt this book in the 70s. As some of you may remember, I made a couple of disparaging comments in relation to this movie before my summer reading challenge and now is the time to reveal why I hated it so much...but before I get into all of the negative details (because there aren't any positives to this adaption) I would like to angrily comment on something. 

The whole point of releasing a new adaption of a classic book or even a remake of an older movie is to improve upon it and to introduce the newer and improved story to a brand new audience, yet so far in this watch-a-thon I've noticed a consistent trend where the new remakes/adaptions of Jane Eyre don't consistently improve upon the efforts of the adaptions before them. Instead, it seems that every decade we get a new adaption of Jane Eyre without too much thought put into the production. I'm saying this because after the train wreaks of the 1934 and 1943 adaptions, this 1970's version is so lifeless that it's a pain to even watch. So before I proceed to list out everything terrible about this adaption, I would like to say that I probably put more thought in this post than they did in the entire making of the 1970s adaption.  

  • In case you were wondering whether or not this adaption starts off on the right foot, I'm here to say that it in fact does not. The first of many plot cuts includes the majority of Jane's childhood where audiences aren't introduced to the feisty young Jane Eyre who endures the abuses of John and Mrs. Reed. This particular adaption starts with Jane heading off to Lowood School where upon arrival Mr. Brocklehurst informs everyone that Jane is a vain and deceitful child. Funny enough, since the audience isn't privy to any information previously regarding young Jane's behavior or upbringing, there is nothing to contradict his claims. For the audience member unfamiliar with the book, young Jane must be as ill behaved as Brocklehurst claims her to be. 
  • Next, the film introduces a teacher who I can only assume must be Miss Scatcherd, but the movie of course doesn't tell the audience. Yet again I find myself filling in the huge plot gaps left by the narrative. This incarnation of Miss Scatcherd is without a doubt the worst out of all of the adaptions. You'll marvel and feel a number of moments of disbelieve as she purposely singles out Helen again and again, punishing her for doing nothing wrong. It's like she feels that slowly killing Helen is her personal mission. I honestly was waiting for her to say "Burns, you breathed in a fashion I find detestable. Bring me the switch!"
  • Speaking of Helen, she is the only girl in the entirety of Lowood that's sick. This adaption completely omits the typhus outbreak and you're left to wonder what exactly she died from. Helen's singular role in this film seems to be to stand around and cough incessantly. There is no attempt made to build a believable and tender relationship between Jane and Helen. The two only have a few conversations together that is rife with wooden, emotionless dialogue. The cherry on top of this crappy childhood sundae has to be the representation of Helen's death, or should I say lack of representation. The audience doesn't get to see Jane's morning reaction to the realization that Helen is dead. Rather the movie chooses to jump forward in time to show us the now older Jane by Helen's gravestone.
  • In a moment that I'm still confused about, Brocklehurst talks about how Jane has been given the honor of being offered a teaching position at Lowood, which Jane rather forcefully refuses. If I heard correctly this means that Jane never taught at Lowood and as such she was given the governess position at Thornfield without any prior teaching experience? I call Bulls***.   
  • After magically getting her position at Thornfield, there are no scenes actually depicting Jane teaching Adele anything of consequence. It appears she is a governess in name only.

I imagine this is Jane's teaching style until Rochester makes his presence known

  • I can't have a serious discussion about this movie without talking about the ages of both Jane and Mr. Rochester. Rather than making Rochester younger and having a slightly older Jane like the previous and subsequent adaptions, this version decides to throw caution to the wind and chooses two actors that are way too old for their parts. I'm tempted to refer to this version's incarnation of Mr. Rochester as Granddad Rochester and he in no way fits the part of the romantic lead. The actress playing Jane looks to be in her thirties and of course the dialogue of the movie doesn't seem to acknowledge this visibly apparent fact. Jane outright tells Granddad Rochester that she spent 10 years at Lowood and if the audience makes the assumption that she couldn't have been older than 10 yrs old when she arrived at Lowood, it stands to reason that this adult Jane should be around 20 years old. 
  • Additionally there is no chemistry between Jane and Granddad Rochester and because their relationship is the focal point of the movie, that makes the majority of the film emotionless.
  • Speaking of emotions, this seems like the perfect moment to transition to the topic of music before I return to critiquing plot elements. Many people feel that the saving grace of this movie is the soundtrack, which was done by none other than John Williams. Well I'm here to tell you that regardless of his name, his score still sucked horribly. *gasp* I don't know if it's because I've been spoiled by the amazing soundtracks produced by Hans Zimmer and Alexandre Desplat or if it's just the style of music in the 70s, but the soundtrack to this movie was garishly overwrought. I think its excess tried to create moods and emotions to make up for the poor acting, but that of course didn't succeed.
  • The production of this movie was also pretty terrible with shoddy or even non existent transitions between scenes. There were also a few scenes where the lighting was off, in particular the moment after Jane prevents Granddad Rochester from burning in his bed. When one of them walks away with a candle, it looks like someone just shined a bright spotlight on the character and the person operating it just couldn't keep up with the actor's walking. 
  • Also during this moment in the movie Jane accuses Grace Poole of setting fire to Granddad Rochester's bed, even though Rochester hasn't mentioned her up until this point in the film and her character hasn't made an appearance in the narrative. 
  • I do have to say though that my favorite moment in this film has to be the Mason incident and the events that follow it (and by favorite, I mean the most ridiculous). When going to care for the injured Mr. Mason, Jane distinctly sees Rochester push a screaming woman back into a room and lock the door. She never questions this moment and because of the extreme plot cuts to the film, Jane agrees to marry Rochester directly after Mason leaves. She sees Rochester hide an unknown woman and still agrees to marry him no questions asked!!

  • With the arrival of the botched proposal scene comes the realization that this movie cut out Mrs. Reed's death and the revelation that Jane has an uncle. As a result, there is no fortune for Jane to inherit, so the audience is deprived of any and all character development in Jane.
  • After the lack of discussion about Jane's torn veil, the failed wedding ceremony, and her subsequent wandering on the moors, the movie quickly transitions to Jane magically finding her way to the Rivers. How you ask? No idea because the movie doesn't tell you. Then we are presented with St. John's character who has the look and moodiness of an appropriately aged Rochester with just a dash of religious fanaticism thrown in to spice things up. I would say more about her time spent there, but it was incredibly short and not much happened. After the requisite St. John proposal scene, Jane makes her way back to Granddad Rochester where the movie ends at the lowest point possible.
  • This movie apparently didn't have any makeup artists or a special effects dept. because rather than making Granddad Rochester look blind or telling him to act like he was blind, he just kept his eyes closed for the entire reunion scene. Like the rest of the movie, this moment was completely emotionless and Rochester has no reaction to Jane's return. No joke, he asks: "Jane, are you here for a visit?" as if she decided to drop by for some coffee. What follows is some stiff dialogue, an awkward half hug, and then the movie end with an air of disappointment.

That about sums up my feelings regarding the 1970 adaption of Jane Eyre. For those wondering how many adaptions I have left to review, since it seems like this watch-a-thon has lasted forever, I have three more versions left to watch (or rewatch) and review. Now normally I don't reveal which adaptions I'm planning on covering in the near future, but I do want to call your attention to one of them. As a general rule these reviews have a lot of spoilers and I don't want to rob you of the chance to uniquely experience this adaption or to have you watch it later with my biases in mind. What I am referring to is a YouTube series called The Autobiography of Jane Eyre, which similar to the style of The Lizzie Bennett Diaries, is a modernization of Jane Eyre where Jane vlogs parts of her life. In the hopes that you'll actually watch it, here's the first video in the series:

I probably won't even consider reviewing this series for at least a week, maybe even more. That means you have plenty of time to watch all of the videos. In the meantime, I have some book reviews already planned that you should check back for. That's all I have left to say, so as always Best Wishes!!
Previous Post: Jane Eyre (2011)                                                    Next Post: Jane Eyre (1973)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Summer Read-a-thon 2014 Part 1: Day 7 & Wrap Up

Well dear readers, a week full of reading has finally passed and I can definitely say that it was time well spent. While I only managed to completely read 4 books from my TBR pile, I'm still pretty happy with the results of my challenge because the books that I read had quite a number of pages.

First things first, I should let you know what I accomplished on the seventh and final day of the Summer Read-a-thon challenge. As you all should know by now, at the end of Day 6 I was in the middle of reading The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith and today I finally got around to finishing the book. That started my Day 7 total with 173 pages. Since I've already given some of my thoughts about The Cuckoo's Calling in my two previous posts, I'll refrain from doing so here except to say that the ending left me entirely confused and I'm not quite sure I liked how it played out. I know that statement is incredibly vague, but I hope to expand upon all of the opinions I've given about it in the near future. I'm planning on discussing this book in either a "Thoughts on..." post or in a Murder Mystery Monday post. I haven't decided quite yet, but I'm in no way finished with The Cuckoo's Calling.

The next book that I decided to pick up, which was purely motivated by my desire to find a lighter read, was Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore.

While I didn't manage to finish this book today, I did read 74 pages and that addition makes my Day 7 total 247 pages. Since I can't really give any opinions about Bitterblue so far because I'm not far enough along into it, I do want to express a little of my frustration about the timing of this book and the whole Graceling Realm series in general. While this book is technically the third in the series, its actual content makes it seem like this should have been the companion book released after Graceling. The problem is that this book was published four years after Graceling and for me personally it has been six years since I finished the first book. Needless to say I remembered nothing that occurred in Graceling or Fire. Another problem that I encountered, which I'm sure other readers did as well, is that these companion books are formatted differently from other companion series that I've read. Usually companion books branch off by utilizing an event or characters from the original series. The Graceling Realm series does do that, but also heavily relies on the minute politics of realm, which I only faintly remembered after reading the Wikipedia summaries for the first two books. All of my complaining aside, I'm excited to see how Bitterblue's story plays out.

Now time to wrap up this week long reading adventure. After adding up the page counts for all seven days, I'm excited to announce that my overall page total for the Summer Read-a-thon 2014 Part 1 is...1,911 pages!!! I consider that to be one successful week of reading.

Even though this week is over I will obviously continue to read as many books as I possibly can, which includes finishing Bitterblue. In the coming days you can expect to see plenty more posts on this blog. I already have a Jane Eyre Watch-a-thon post in the works and I'll be posting my full review of The Quick by Lauren Owen. You can also look forward to my new "Thoughts on..." posts and I'll be resuming my Murder Mystery Mondays. (Shameless moment of self promotion) Don't forget to follow me on Twitter for more amazing updates and random book related thoughts @Penny_Landon. I hope that you enjoyed this week long series and if so, don't forget that I'll be doing it again near the end of August. Happy Reading and as always, Best Wishes!!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Summer Read-a-thon 2014 Part 1: Day 6 (and updates about my book reviews)

Hello again all of my book savvy readers! Day 6 of my Summer Read-a-thon challenge has come to an end and as always I'm here to update you about my progress. While I initially planned on having another uneventful day where I would have plenty of time to read, my plans completely changed. Instead I had a fabulous day with my family and had a cookout full of hilarious conversation and good food. As much as I encourage myself and even you to spend time reading a great book, sometimes real life experiences are far better than anything you can find within the pages of a book.

That being said, the moment that I got home I picked up The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith and started reading, so the day wasn't a complete wash. 
In the time that I had left before midnight I managed to read 76 pages, which brings my overall challenge total up to 1,664 pages. Since I really didn't read that much more today, I don't have a whole lot to say as far as new opinions related to the book. I do have to admit though that I'm starting to think some of my previous opinions might change by the conclusion of the book. Slowly, I mean very slowly details are revealed about Cormoran's life and he is gradually becoming a more fleshed out character. The plot is also picking up a bit more now, but the majority of the action is still grounded in numerous conversations between characters. 

Like last time I don't want to leave you with an incredibly short post, so I decided that now would be the opportune moment to talk to you about some changes regarding my book reviews. As I've said before and will probably say again the core of any book blog is the quality and quantity of book reviews. I personally don't feel like I post enough book reviews and often I read a number of great books that I never get around to posting about. As much as I would like to post full and in depth reviews about every book that I read, often I really just don't feel like reviewing a book. Sometimes a book is so terrible that thinking about it for another second puts me in a terrible mood and sometimes I love a book so much that I have a huge problem coming up with concrete points that explain why I liked it. Needless to say a lot of books with plenty of potential go undiscussed. I've come up with a genius plan to remedy this problem.

For those wondering I'll still be posting plenty of in-depth book reviews, but those books that I don't want to do a formal review for will be featured in a new blog post series called "Thoughts on..." Similar to my full reviews, I'll be providing all of the information related to the book (title, author, pg #, and the book blurb), but the difference will be that the review section won't be as meticulously structured or as detailed. It will essentially just be the thoughts that I had about the book right after I finished reading it. The posts will be shorter, but you'll know exactly what I thought about the book and you won't have to wait around for a couple of weeks while I try and find the time to organize a detailed book review. Recently I read The Ring and the Crown by Melissa de la Cruz and Cress by Marissa Meyer and at the time I really didn't feel like posting in depth reviews of either of them for various reasons. I still think that those two books deserve to be talked about, so I'm planning on using them to start my "Thoughts on..." series after I wrap up the Summer Read-a-thon.

Now back to the topic at hand. Tomorrow will be the final day of the Summer Read-a-thon 2014 Part 1 challenge and I've set aside the entire day to get as much reading done as I possibly can. At this point I'm obviously no longer concerned with meeting my page goal (because I already have), but I really want to read as many books as I possibly can from my TBR pile. I hope you'll join me on this final stretch of reading and as always Best Wishes!!   

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Summer Read-a-thon 2014 Part 1: Day 5

Day 5 updates are upon us dear reader! As many of you know, I'm in the midst of my Summer Read-a-thon 2014 challenge and today marks the beginning of the final stretch to meet my page goal. Luckily, at the end of yesterday I only had to read 3 more pages to reach my 1,500 page goal.  Obviously I managed to reach my overall goal today with a little bit extra. As a result, I did less reading today than any of the previous days during this challenge. The book that I spent a little bit of time perusing was The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling).

In the few hours that I did devote to this challenge I managed to read a total of 141 pages. After adding the Day 5 total to my overall page count, I've now read a total of 1,588 pages. With 88 pages and two days to spare I've met my challenge goal!!

Since I don't want to leave you with such a short post, I've decided to talk about my experiences with the book so far. None of these opinions are set in stone as of yet because I'm not even halfway through the book and as with life, things change. 

As you could probably tell from the low amount of pages that I read today, this book was really difficult to get into. Nothing particularly suspenseful happens in the first 200 pages, which is kind of a problem. I'm decently interested in Cormoran's investigation into Lulu's death, but the entirety of this book so far has been composed of conversation after conversation. Yes, the foundation of every crime/mystery novel is interrogating suspects, but unlike...let's say Agatha Christie novels...this novel has dry, stilted dialogue and the conversations Cormoran has with people affiliated with Lulu don't really encourage readers to try to figure out the solution to the suspected murder on their own. I want some red herrings or a couple lines of dialogue that sound suspicious. 

Additionally, even though Cormoran is the center of The Cuckoo's Calling, I don't feel a real connection to his character. The main problem is the reader is told about events that have happened to Cormoran, but there is no encouragement to sympathize with him or an effort to really get to know what essentially makes him tick. If someone asked me to briefly summarize what I've learned about him so far in the narrative, I'd have to say: "He lost part of his leg in a war and complains about his prosthesis incessantly to the point of real annoyance." I'm also having a huge problem connecting with the secondary character, Robin, who is Cormoran's secretary. She's a pretty flat character and even with a 3rd person, omniscient narration, nothing significant about her is presented to readers. All we know is that she's engaged, she's an organized person, and she likes working for Cormoran (at least so far in the book anyway).

I'm desperately hoping that this story picks up the pace soon because I might just be tempted to stop reading it and grab one of the many Agatha Christie books in my TBR pile to get a better experience in the mystery genre. Since I would like to finish at least one more book after The Cuckoo's Calling to round out the challenge, I'm slightly determined to finish this book by tomorrow. You should stick around to find out if I do so on this auspicious beginning to Day 6 (since it is after midnight already). Instead of cheerfully telling you to do some reading again, please enjoy this fantastic gif of Helen Mirren in the movie Inkheart (which is adapted from an incredible book/series that I would highly recommend). Best Wishes!!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Summer Read-a-thon 2014 Part 1: Day 4

Greetings fellow earthlings who enjoy reading a good book now and then! (I don't know, just trying to keep the intros interesting) Anyway, today marks the end of the fourth day in my Summer Read-a-thon 2014 challenge where I, of course, continued to read as many pages as possible in a one week period. Even after sleeping in rather late, I managed to finish a large quantity of pages. As you may recall from yesterday's post I started reading The Diviners by Libba Bray.

Well, today I sat down for a huge chunk of time and managed to completely finish the book. As a result, the page total for the day so far is at an astonishing 320 pages. I found that I really enjoyed this book, but sadly I have to rescind one of the comments/praises I made about the plot yesterday. Right near the end of the novel a love triangle does develop and there is the suggestion that it will grow to be a more central part of the story in the sequel. Needless to say I'm really disappointed because this book has such a strong female protagonist that I sincerely hope doesn't get stuck ping ponging between two different men. I guess I'll have to find out in the sequel. Aside from that I stick true to all of the opinions I had yesterday. The 1920s setting did outweigh the plot through most of the story, but in a surprising turn of events I really enjoyed the multiple points of view. The narrative voices were differentiated enough that I didn't end up confused and those chapters helped to develop the numerous secondary characters. I think this book has all of the great foundational elements to make an enjoyable series.

My reading exploits for the day didn't end there. After I finished The Diviners, I had about an hour and a half left before midnight and I decided to pick up The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling).

Some of you may remember that I started reading this book forever ago. I think it was sometime around Christmas. The problem was that I started the book about a day or two before I went back to college and I never had the time to pick it back up again. Since it's been so long, I decided to just start the book from the beginning. In the time that I had left I managed to finish 65 pages, which makes the complete total for Day 4 an astounding 385 pages! For those curious about my overall total for the entire challenge with the addition of these pages, you'll be excited to find that I'm now up to 1,447 pages. That's only 3 pages away from my 1,500 goal, which shouldn't be hard to manage.

As always I don't want to really say anything about The Cuckoo's Calling for now because I'm not far enough along into it to have any fully formed opinions. That being said I'm really interested to see what Rowling can do in the Mystery genre. If it's any good I might just have to pick up the sequel in a month or so.

Well, that's all I have to say about Day 4 and in lieu of an incredibly cheesy ending sentence, I'll leave you with this awesome ending gif. Best Wishes!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Summer Read-a-thon 2014 Part 1: Day 3

Hello readers! It's that time again where I ramble on about the awesome reading I accomplished during Day 3 of the Summer Read-a-thon 2014 challenge. To be honest I was actually surprised that I managed to read as much as I did, which is probably a testament to the quality of what I was reading. Today was just one of those days where I had the immense urge to veg out on the couch and watch a huge quantity of terrible tv. Instead of fully giving into that desire, I successfully alternated between reading and watching the food network and Antiques Roadshow (the British version, not the American one).

As promised in my last post I started reading The Diviners by Libba Bray. Here is a picture of the cover of the edition I'm currently reading from:
   Not as cool as the cover on the hardback edition, but I guess it's the text inside that counts

During the day I managed to read 258 pages, which is a pretty huge chunk, but sadly not even halfway through this almost 600 page book. If I add those pages to my overall total thus far I've now read 1,062 pages. I'm convinced that for Part 2 of this read-a-thon in August I'm really going to have to make my goal pretty high.

Since I don't want to leave you with such a short post for today, I'll talk a little bit about my general feelings about the novel even though I'm nowhere near finishing it. First, I was a little disappointed to find out I'd got myself into another series. It's nothing against this book in particular, but I'm really a little bit tired of series books. They drag on forever and I have to keep track of release dates, plus it's a commitment that I feel bad about not following through with even if the series turns into complete crap (cough cough Mortal Instruments cough cough). Just give me some amazing standalones and I'll be a content reader.

Now some comments actually related to the book. So far I'm pretty satisfied with the format of this book and the way that the story is unfolding. There is this nice mixture of supernatural elements, drama, and some comedic moments all framed with the 1920s New York setting. At least so far, there aren't any love triangles and romance doesn't dominate the story, which is a gigantic breath of fresh air! Aside from her incredibly stupid catchphrase "pos-i-tute-ly", I like the protagonist, Evie O'Neill. She's so hilarious and spunky that I wish I could go out and party with her. The only major complaint that I have with the book, which could change, is that I strangely find that the setting dominates the actual plot. I personally feel like there is way too much time devoted to the atmosphere of the 1920s and of course the new found freedom of the flappers that it detracts from the interesting parts about the Diviners and how they play a part in some recent murders involving cultist imagery. There are only so many nightclub scenes that I can read before I start to get bored. I'm hoping the story will pick up in the next 50 pages or so.

Aside from those brief observations I have nothing more to say about the book. Tomorrow I'll continue to read The Diviners while resisting the temptation to watch more mind numbing tv. So without further ado, be adventurous, finish that book gathering dust on your shelf, and as always Best Wishes!! 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Summer Read-a-thon 2014 Part 1: Day 2

Greetings fellow readers! Day 2 of the Summer Read-a-thon challenge 2014 has officially ended and I'm here to provide you with some updates on my progress thus far in my quest to read as much as possible this summer. Today for me was the definition of a lazy day, so I spent the majority of it reading and consuming multiple cups of tea and coffee. As many of you may remember I still had plenty of The Quick by Lauren Owen left to read at the closing of Day 1, so that's the book I spent most of the day reading. Here is a picture of the cover in case you missed it in the last two posts.

With all the determination I could muster, I managed to finish this book about a half an hour before midnight which made my total for the entire day a whopping 350 pages. I'm quite surprised I managed to pull that off. After adding those pages to my overall total for the entire challenge, my page count is now up to 804 pages!! I'm starting to think that my 1,500 goal was quite a bit low.

Now normally I spend a couple of paragraphs discussing my opinions about the book, but in the case of The Quick I've already planned to do a complete review, probably sometime after the challenge ends because I don't want to interrupt my reading streak. Although I will say that lately in my reviews I'm starting to notice a pattern where the book blurbs don't authentically match up with the actual story and that seems to be the case with this book as well. In fact the blurb almost sensationalizes the story and leads you to believe so many amazing events will unfold. Sadly, the best part of the book is its blurb and even with a massive 523 pages nothing captivating or significant happens. That's all I really want to say about the book at this moment, but if you stick around for a couple of days I can promise that I will talk about why I didn't like The Quick that much in detail in my full review. Moving on...

I didn't get a chance to start another book before midnight, but I did glance through my TBR pile and picked out the book I will be starting Day 3 with. The next lucky book I'll be reading is The Diviners by Libba Bray.
Libba Bray is another amazing author that I discovered in high school and I particularly loved her Great and Terrible Beauty Series. A couple of years ago I also read and enjoyed her book Beauty Queens, so I'm hoping that I will like The Diviners just as much as her other books.

That's all the updates I have for you in this rather short post, but you should stick around for more Summer Read-a-thon adventures. Stay awesome, do some reading, and as always Best Wishes!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Summer Read-a-thon 2014 Part 1: Day 1

Greetings my wonderful readers! I hope your Tuesday went well and you spent just a few moments reading. I know I did:) It's time for me to update you on the progress of the first day in my Summer Read-a-thon challenge.

In a surprising turn of events I decided not to start my reading challenge with The Quick like I mentioned in my previous post. For the entire day yesterday until about 3 hours before midnight I fully planned on reading that book, but something forced to change my mind. That something happened to be a rather dreadful movie. In the few hours before midnight came around I wanted to make use of the free time I had before this marathon of reading, so I figured what better way than to watch another Jane Eyre adaption on my list. I only had one feature length film left on my watch list, so I wanted to get it out of the way and have the foundation for a future blog post. While I won't divulge what movie I watched until the actual Watch-a-thon post, I can say here and now that it may very well be the worst adaption yet. Within 30 minutes I was ready to give up and turn the movie off. At the hour mark I felt miserable and then 15 minutes later I felt even worse. By the end of the movie I was in a terrible mood and felt repulsed by the mere thought of reading a dark and slightly mysterious book. I desperately wanted to read something light and cheerful that would make me laugh. Luckily, on my recent trip to present one of my academic papers at a conference, I stopped in at a quaint used bookstore and found a copy of a book that I absolutely LOVED as child. The book that started my challenge was none other than Island of the Aunts by Eva Ibbotson.

This particular book has always held a special place in my heart because it started my love for all things written by Eva Ibbotson. Now before I start my praise about Island of the Aunts I do want to give you the details pertinent to the challenge. I completed the entire book in this first 24 hour period, which places my page count total so far up to 281 pages. Not a bad start if I do say so myself. Now on to the book. It's a wildly imaginative and fabulous tale about three older women (the titular aunts) and their very elderly father who live on a remote island caring for diseased and injured mythical beings. The three women realize they won't live forever, so they decide to kidnap some children who they deem worthy enough to take over the island for them. I won't reveal any more about the plot because I desperately want you to pick the book up for yourself.

I do want to point out that the most wonderful aspect about this book is how even though it's designated as a children's book, it's just as hilarious and captivating to an older audience. In fact I noticed and appreciated some details in this book more than I did in elementary school. While a little (or a lot) off topic I do want to make a quick comment in regards to some recent buzz about books and at what age you should read them. As some of you are aware there has been some discussion over whether or not adults should be reading books in the YA genre, a topic I could probably go on for days about. Suffice it to say my experience with this particular book and just my experience with age and reading level limits in general motivates me to say adults should be free to read whatever they want to. I think a lot of the negative opinions surrounding the topic seem to stem from an assumption that YA books aren't thought provoking, captivating, or highly intelligent enough for an older audience...which is totally wrong.

Additionally, I feel like so many of us have been raised in an educational system that emphasizes the growth of reading comprehension skills, which is so important, but for many of us who love to read it sends the message that once your reading comprehension improves you should never read those lower level books. While I have the sneaking suspicion that I've already talked about my reading experiences in elementary and middle school, I would again like to say that I was one of the students who was routinely denied the right to read certain books because they were below my current reading level. Even now I still feel the pressure to stick to books designated to my current age. Recently, I found out that Obert Skye, an author whose Leven Thumps Series I read around the end of middle school/beginning of high school, wrote a spin off series. Naturally, I wanted to check it out, so on my last trip to Barnes and Nobles I made up my mind to look for it. The problem with my decision is of course the fact that in this store all children's and middle grade books are placed in the back in a slightly walled off area specifically decorated to appeal to young children. This area is brightly lit, has tiny shelves, and is usually populated by adults and their young children. Let's just say if you are over the age of 17, you are pretty conspicuous. As I made my way to the "S" section of the shelves I met the eyes of a girl who couldn't have been more than 12 years old. To say I felt awkward would be a bit of an understatement. I unsuccessfully and rather quickly scanned the shelves and walked back to the Young Adult and Adult section of the store with an immense feeling of relief. I shudder to think of the future day when I'll no longer feel welcome in the YA section. While I might be a little over dramatic here, I can't be the only one who has consciously felt the push to leave behind books designated for a younger age group. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is once in a while you should revisit the books from your childhood like I did today.

Now, back to the challenge at hand. After finishing Island of the Aunts, I still had plenty of time left to read and actually started The Quick by Lauren Owen.

By the time that midnight rolled around I managed to read 173 pages. This makes the overall total of Day 1 an astonishing 454 pages!! What a great total to start off the Summer Read-a-thon. Since I still have plenty left to read in this rather large book, I'll be withholding my overall impressions until the time that I finish the entire book (which will hopefully be tomorrow). That's all the news and random tangents I have for today so until tomorrow...Happy Reading and as always, Best Wishes!!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Announcing the Summer Read-a-thon 2014 Part 1

Hello again dear readers! Today appears to be another fabulous day for announcements and this one is particularly exciting. A couple of posts back I talked about the idea of doing two Summer Read-a-thons to celebrate the beginning and the end of summer in true book lover fashion. Truth be told this is also another way that I can decrease the size of my rather large TBR pile. If you haven't already guessed by now I'm going through with that plan and I'm here to announce the beginning of a week long challenge to read as many pages (and of course as many books) as I possibly can within a short period of time.

Those familiar with my blog will remember I created this challenge late last summer when I desperately wanted to read a few more fun books before starting my college assignments. The same can definitely be said for this summer where I'm currently endeavoring to avoid all of the books I need to read to prepare for my independent study this coming fall. If you're curious about those adventures and what books I managed to finish, you can find those posts listed on the sidebar under August, 2013.

Now onto the details of the first part in my two part Summer Read-a-thon Challenge 2014!! Like I previously stated, the challenge will last a week and officially starts at midnight tonight and will continue until Monday, June 16th at midnight. I will of course be providing you with updates every day which will detail what books I've chosen to read and how many pages I finished in that particular 24 hour period. I apologize for all of those early birds out there, but the posts detailing the day's events will go live sometime after midnight each day. I don't want to spend precious reading time drafting my rather amazing blog posts. Depending on the content of the books and whether or not I feel inspired, I might write full reviews on some of the books I've finished. Additionally, I know for a long time I've felt rather disappointed that my Murder Mystery Monday posts have died out, so I'm hoping to bring those back this summer too.

I can't forget the most important part of this challenge and that is my overall page goal for this week long event. Last summer I underestimated the number of pages I could actually read, so this year I really want to make it challenging for me. I've decided that my personal goal for the Summer Read-a-thon 2014 Part 1 will be 1,500 pages!!          

For those of the curious sort, the first book that I decided to kick off my challenge with is The Quick by Lauren Owen.

This book currently won't be released to the public until June 17th, but I was lucky enough to win a copy of it from the wonderful people over at Random House through the Goodreads First Reads Giveaway program. I can guarantee that this will be one of the books that will merit a full review during the week long challenge. I'm excited to get started on this book, which has been listed under my currently reading tab when in reality I've actually been avoiding it to read other books. I will be biding my time until midnight tonight and then in true night owl fashion I hope to get about 100 pages read in the early hours of the morning. 

So, does any of this sound intriguing? Have you been experiencing a reading slump? Well, I encourage you to participate with me! Give yourself a personal page goal as small or as large as you feel comfortable with. Then, get to reading. Feel free to share your progress here or on Twitter:) I'll be back tomorrow at midnight to share my Day 1 progress, but until then...Best Wishes!!  

Donating Books and Making Room For More

Well hello readers! I've decided to mix things up and post something other than a review or a Watch-a-thon discussion. As many of you might know from my earlier posts my rather substantial book collection is currently in boxes because of the complete lack of space where I live and recently I managed to fill up the remaining space I had in those six boxes. As a book lover, when I'm not reading books, I'm buying large piles of them from Barnes and Nobles or used bookstores. Let's just say I have a lot of book clutter in my life.

While I'm highly protective of my book collection, I've had the urge for the past three weeks to go through those boxes and get rid of any books that I really have no desire to keep anymore. Today was the day I finally put aside my laziness and set out to cull those unnecessary books from my precious collection. 

At first I was a bit worried about how I would feel during this process because in the past whether I liked a book or not I always kept it. Shockingly, the whole experience was a bit exhilarating and there is something sort of fulfilling about getting rid of a book you really really hated.  

The smallest box out the six in total now with plenty more room for new books

Just knowing that books like The DUFF, The Alchemist, and The Friday Night Knitting Club would be finally out of my life made me feel about as great as I would buying a whole new stack of books. 

In addition to picking apart the books that I've already read in my collection, I spent some time considering the books in my TBR pile. While I bought a number of them with the best of intentions, I came to the realization that I would never get around to reading them. Some of the plots just didn't sound as exciting as when I first bought them or my reading tastes have changed. When all was said and done I managed to almost fill a large canvas bag with all the books I no longer wanted in my life.

This bag of books will soon be donated to my local Salvation Army store where hopefully they will find a new home with somebody who will actually appreciate them. If you currently own any books you didn't like or know you won't ever get around to reading I encourage you to donate or sell them. Make some room for your next favorite book or series. Until my next post, Best Wishes!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Jane Eyre Watch-a-thon: Jane Eyre (2011)

Hello Readers! While a few days later than I promised, here is my next installment in the Jane Eyre Watch-a-thon. I decided to watch another feature length version rather than set aside a solid five hours of my life for a more comprehensive version. In fact this movie is Hollywood's most recent Jane Eyre adaption.

Jane Eyre (2011)
Michael Fassbender as Mr. Rochester
Mia Wasikowska as Jane Eyre
This version has a runtime of 2 hours
Here is the link to the IMDb webpage:

I'm going to be honest. When this version first came out I was very excited and the minute that it was released on DVD I watched it. Subsequently I was so disappointed and even angry that the mere mention of this movie sent me on like a ten minute tirade. At that moment in my life I was so desperate to find a faithful adaption of my favorite book and I still hadn't discovered the more comprehensive versions. It's now been three years since my one and only viewing of Jane Eyre 2011 and I decided to give the movie another chance with an open mind. I think it also helped that the 1934 and 1943 versions set the bar really really low. Just to mix it up a little I've decided to start with the cons and end the post on a more uplifting note with the pros.

  • Those who have seen this adaption probably can guess my first complaint, which is of course the decision to start the film essentially in medias res with Jane running away from Thornfield and then finding her way to St. John. The decision as a result posits the majority of the plot as flashbacks, which is really a rather awful choice. Why you ask...well part of what I do when watching these adaptions is to make an effort to place myself in the shoes of someone who hasn't been previously exposed to anything related to Jane Eyre. I found that the constant time shifts made the narrative choppy and confusing. In my mind I found myself instinctively filling in the gaps in the story to make sense of it all, something just your average movie watcher would have a hard time accomplishing. The audience is also introduced to a visibly upset woman and they don't find out why she is upset until an hour or so later and by that point the audience gets the incredibly boring pleasure of re-watching the same beginning footage. I have to wonder if the creators of the movie were attempting to mirror the pain Jane feels after leaving Rochester with her childhood experiences, but then I'm pretty sure I'm reading too much into the movie and it was done only to provide an adaption different from all the others. I just have one more gripe about this narrative choice to talk about, but I think it's one of the more dire consequences. What makes Jane Eyre so endearing to so many people is the fact that it provides the narrative of a woman born in the worst of circumstances with a harsh and treacherous childhood who undergoes a strengthening process. She develops her own sense of morality, spirituality, and independence that is really very admirable. The end of novel isn't just Jane finally getting the man she loves, it's her own character's triumph. This film doesn't give us this captivating process. Instead at the very beginning of the movie and for the majority of the plot Jane Eyre is portrayed as inherently vulnerable with one or two moments that showcase a vaguely independent spirit.
Well that was an insanely long bullet-point. Time to move on!!!

  • While understandable considering the time limit of this film, I did find that the movie felt very rushed. Events just sort of happened without any explanation and major plot points just ran into each other. For example, the audience is never shown any scenes that indicate Jane has grown up and become a teacher at Lowood school. Instead, the movie has a confusing scene with a bunch of girls saying goodbye to Ms. Eyre. Are those girls her students? Why is Jane leaving? Where is she headed? Well unless you've read the book or seen a different adaption you'll have absolutely no idea. Another scene to illustrate my second point is when Rochester goes to confront Jane about why she left the party so early. Rather than have the complete scene, which would continue to paint Rochester is a positive light, the dialogue is interrupted by Mrs. Fairfax who informs Rochester that Mr. Mason is here. It's like a car crash of major plot points.
  • Additionally, aside from a whispered mention by Mrs. Fairfax and her brief mention after the botched wedding ceremony Grace Poole does not play any sort of role in this movie. In fact if you were just a slight bit distracted while watching the film you could manage to miss her presence completely. Out of all the secondary characters this movie chooses to include (both Reed daughters and both of St. John's sisters) Grace really should have been incorporated. 
  • Speaking of missing or underrepresented characters there is no Rosamund Oliver, St. John and his sisters are not revealed to be Jane's cousins, and Blanche is not given enough screen-time to even make it believable that she is Rochester's potential wife and Jane's romantic rival of sorts. 
  • Another huge problem that I had with this film adaption is the fact that as much as I really wanted there to be, there was zero chemistry between Jane and Rochester. Rather than romantic tension viewers were treated to a number of awkward stares and moments of stiff dialogue. What a shame really.
  • My final critique of this 2011 adaption is the ending all together. Rochester's injuries have of course been lessened to blindness and an unfortunate beard. 

Good luck kissing with that awful beard

What is supposed to be the triumphant reunion of the two main characters is reduced to a 3 minute scene with a few lines of dialogue, some awkward kissing, and a hug. What an unsatisfying ending.

Before I get to the surprising number of positive aspects of this adaption, there were some parts of the film that I couldn't decide whether or not I liked them. 
  • Jane's childhood had a ton of potential, but was sadly hampered by the time limit, particularly since it seems they had a great set of actors. The small amount of time actually devoted to her childhood did feature quality scenes where audiences are shown the cruelty of John and his mother, Mrs. Reed. One particularly great line that stood out for me was when Mrs. Reed informs Brocklehurst that "As for its vacations, it must spend them all at Lowood." This adaption's version of Brocklehurst is a lot tamer than the others, but that isn't necessarily bad considering he isn't meant to be a villain. Even this version's Helen is really great, but she dies before audiences get a chance to emotionally connect with her and her friendship with Jane
  • This adaption also manages to craft an almost perfect gothic atmosphere, with one or two obnoxious slip-ups. Unlike the 1943 version which had shrieking background music and a dark and oppressive tone, this adaption relies heavily on natural light, which provided the perfect authentic balance between lights and shadows. Although there were a number of moments that I'm pretty sure were crafted to make the audience jump or flinch which detracted from the mood. This is a gothic romance, not a slasher flick.   
  • The last aspect of the film that inhabits the space between pro and con is actually in relation to the deleted scenes. After finishing the complete movie I went over to YouTube to watch some of the scenes not included just out of curiosity and was completely perplexed as to why these integral scenes were cut. Excluding the horrifying clip of Adele screaming, the rest of the scenes dealt with important background information and plot points. In particular they cut out Rochester talking about Adele's parentage and the scene where Bertha rips Jane's veil. Honestly they could have cut out all of those annoying scenes where Jane spends forever looking out windows and it would have left plenty of room for these deleted scenes.
"Oh look another window!! Time to act all pensive and emotional for a solid 3 minutes."

Now it's time to leave behind all of the negativity and talk about the successes of Jane Eyre 2011.

  • One of the most outstanding features of this movie has to be the soundtrack. Rather than obnoxious oboes, this version has some beautiful crafted music that sets the right mood for every scene. The music playing right after Jane finds out about Bertha was so perfect that I almost got emotional. Honestly everyone should give Dario Marianelli a huge round of applause for his excellent work.

  • Another positive aspect of this film is the decision to cast lead actors that accurately represent the age difference between Jane and Rochester Many versions have a Jane that looks somewhere in her late twenties, which makes it easy to forget that Jane is young and inexperienced as far as romantic relationships are concerned. 
  • The movie also manages to accurately portray Adele and her relationship with Jane rather well. I appreciate that they had a child actor that spoke mostly French throughout the entirety of the film and that there were plenty of scenes showing Jane teaching Adele. What I find really annoying in other adaptions is the fact that Jane's sole purpose at Thornfield is to be Adele's governess and yet audiences maybe get one scene where appears to be teaching Adele something. 
  • I can't talk about the best parts of this film without including Judi Dench's portrayal of Mrs. Fairfax. She actually gave life to a character that often fades into the background, but of course I would expect nothing less than excellence from her. In this adaption I did get the sense that Jane and Fairfax developed a friendship over the course of their time spent at Thornfield and I loved the scene where Fairfax tells Jane she would have helped her if only she had asked.
  • There is one scene in particular that I just have to draw attention to before I wrap up this rather lengthy post and that is the dialogue between Jane and Mrs. Fairfax before Jane leaves to post a few letters. The difficulty with adapting Jane Eyre is that a large portion of the book deals with Jane's inner thoughts and her own personal growth, which is hard to capture in a movie format. This particular scene where Jane talks about her desire to travel and to live a life full of freedom like men do provides a brief reflection of the kind of thoughts Jane has while at Thornfield, something all of the adaptions should do.
Well, that completes another installment in my Jane Eyre Watch-a-thon series. Have you seen this most recent adaption of Jane Eyre? Do you agree or disagree with anything I've said? Don't forget to stick around for my next post in the series and a couple of book reviews I've already started planning. Best Wishes!!
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