The Jane Austen Project Book Review

History records that Jane Austen died in 1817, at the age of 41. She left behind six published novels and numerous unfinished manuscripts. What if there was a way to go back in time, to prevent her from dying young so she could write for years to come?

That is the premise of the new novel, The Jane Austen Project, by Kathleen A. Flynn. Rachel Katzman and Liam Finucane live in an alternate universe where time travel is not just science fiction, but real life.  Rachel and Liam are sent back in time to 1815 to steal what they believe is an unpublished Jane Austen novel. Posing as a West Indies doctor and his unmarried sister, their plan is simple: infiltrate the Austen family, get close to their target and find the novel. They are supposed to not change history and play their part, but the task is not as easy as it seems.

I was very intrigued by the concept of the book. While the concept drew me in, I have to sadly admit that I felt at times that I was forcing myself to finish the book. The first third of the novel is rather slow and by the time the narrative began to quicken at the half way point, I still felt like I was not completely hooked.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, History, Jane Austen

My Heart Broke In Manchester

This morning, the world woke up to the horrific news from Manchester, England. A bomb went off at the close of an Ariana Grande concert. 22 are dead and numerous more are injured. Many of those killed were young fans who spent their last moments on earth having the time of their lives.

My heart broke when I heard the news. These kids were only beginning to live when their lives were needlessly snatched away. The youngest victim, Saffie-Rose Roussos was only eight years old.

I would go on, but I think James Corden is much better than I am in expressing our collective grief and outrage.

I’ve come to the realization that as we go about our lives, we forget that not only can our lives end in an instant, but that we often forget to tell our loved ones how we feel until it is too late.

May G-d have mercy on the innocent souls murdered, but also punish those responsible. No parent should go through what the parents of these kids are going through.

Wherever you are in this world of ours, take a moment to enjoy life and tell your loved ones how you feel. You never know when you the chance for both will be gone forever.

Z”l

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Filed under Music, Television, World News

Movies With Birthdays-Forbidden Romance Edition- Titanic (1997) & Dirty Dancing (1987)

There nothing as exciting as a forbidden romance, especially on the big screen. For a film where the basic narrative is a forbidden romance to not only initially succeed at the box office, but to last long after it has left theaters, well, it has to be pretty special.

While some films within this narrowly defined narrative have failed and have been forgotten, both Titanic (1997) and Dirty Dancing (1987) have gone on to not only become classics, but also generational markers. In honor of the 20th anniversary of Titanic and the 30th anniversary of Dirty Dancing, I’d thought it was time to celebrate these remarkable films that have stood the test of time.

Titanic

Loosely based on the sinking of the actual Titanic, the film combines real events with real people who were on the ship with the fictional romance of upper class girl Rose Dewitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) and lower class boy Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio). Told in past tense by Rose in her twilight years (Gloria Stuart), Rose is traveling on the Titanic back to America with her mother, Ruth Dewitt Bukater (Frances Fisher) and her unwanted fiance, Cal Hockley (Billy Zane).

Rose and Jack have a near immediate connection, but the difference in their class nearly keeps them apart. Then Titanic hits the iceberg and everything changes.

I think many writers (including myself) will agree that James Cameron is not the best at writing dialogue and the plot is predictable, but that is the fun of this movie. It is also to progenitor of the fictional story within a real historical event genre. And who could forget the film’s theme song, which no one could get away from in the late 1990’s.

Dirty Dancing

Set in the early 1960’s, Frances “Baby” Houseman (Jennifer Grey) is a young woman going up to the Catskills with her family for summer vacation. Lacking in confidence, Baby is young, idealistic and naive. She falls for Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze), the hotel’s lead male dance instructor who is technically off limits to her. When Penny Johnson (Cynthia Rhodes) is no longer able to join Johnny on the dance floor, Baby steps up the plate. But she is not a dancer and is aware that both she and Johnny are breaking the rules by not only dancing together, but falling in love.

What can one say about Dirty Dancing? The music is danceable (and singeable), Baby is an every woman and Patrick Swayze was not too bad on the eyes either. It’s basically a coming of age story combined with a forbidden romance, which elevates the movie to a higher plane of character and story development.

And course, Dirty Dancing has it’s own iconic theme song.

The fact that both of these films have lasted as long as they have is a testament to the power of love, the dangerous excitement of forbidden romance and the fact that both films are incredible.

P.S. The inspiration for this post came from the reboot of Dirty Dancing, which will be airing on ABC on Wednesday. Look for my review later in the week.

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Filed under History, Movies, Music, Uncategorized

Dark Angel Review

Mary Ann Cotton has the notoriety of England’s first female serial killer. She is known to have killed at least two of her husbands, several of her children and a number of others. To this day, the exact number of the people she killed is a mystery.

The television movie Dark Angel told the story of Mary Ann as she begins to slide down the ladder toward murder and depravity. Airing last night on PBS, it starred Downton Abbey’s Joanne Froggatt as the main character. The audience meets Mary Ann when she is an ordinary wife and mother. Life has not been easy for her, but she has found a way to survive the hardships that have been thrown at her. But as she begins to lose her loved ones, something breaks in her, sending down a path that once tread upon, cannot be un-tread upon.

After watching Ms. Froggatt play Anna Bates for six seasons on Downton Abbey, it was refreshing to see her step into an entirely different role. Mary Ann is very much the underdog, both as a woman and a member of the lower class in Victorian era England. While on one hand, the audience can feel disgusted and horrified by her actions, in a certain light, we can almost sympathize with her. She lived in era when women, especially women from the lower classes were denied the right to an education and a career. Mary Ann did what she thought was right to survive, if a modern audience may not agree with her actions.

While my only criticism is that it went a little fast for me narrative wise (even for a 2 hour television movie), it was still enjoyable.

I recommend it.

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Filed under Downton Abbey, Feminism, History, Television, TV Review

Star Wars Rap Battle

There is no greater indication of a loyal and loving fandom than the creativity of the fans. Whether it is art, music or fanfiction, it is amazing how we express our love of our favorite movie, book or television show.

Regular readers of this blog know that I can easily fangirl over Star Wars. My recent discovery of Star Wars Rap Battle has made me very happy. The best among the series is Han V. Leia and Han and Leia V. Finn and Rey.

I hope you enjoy the video and the series overall as much as I have. It has certain put a smile on my face.

Enjoy!

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May 20, 2017 · 11:20 pm

Flashback Friday-Father Of The Bride (1991)

The two most important days in a man’s life is the day his daughter is born and the day he walks her up the aisle.

In the 1991 movie, Father Of The Bride, George Banks (Steve Martin) has just found out that his daughter, Annie (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) is getting married. His reaction is not unexpected, but what is unexpected is the cost of the wedding.

A reboot of the 1950 movie starring Elizabeth Taylor and Spencer Tracy, what I like about this movie is that George is an every man. He wants his daughter to be happy, but at the same time, he cannot wrap his head around the fact that his little girl is no longer a little girl. And of course, with comedy done as only Steve Martin can, it is one funny movie.

I recommend it.

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Filed under Flashback Friday, Movie Review, Movies

Pride and Prejudice Character Review: Mr. Bennet

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about Pride and Prejudice. Read at your own risk if you are unfamiliar with the book.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Pride and Prejudice to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

The first man in any woman’s life is her father, or lack thereof.  He will forever cast a shadow over her life and is the yardstick for how she will judge the men she meets throughout her lifetime. When it comes to dating and relationships, a woman’s father will play a part, even if he is in the background of her life.

In Pride and Prejudice, when compared to his wife, Mr. Bennet can be looked at as an absentee parent. The first description of Mr. Bennet is found very early in the novel:

Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three-and-twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his character.

Mr. Bennet largely spends his time in his library, sequestered away from his wife and daughters. He openly favors Elizabeth (the second of his five daughters), mercilessly teases his wife (who gets sucked in every time) and does not step in as a father should, except when he is forced to (i.e. Lydia running away with Wickham). Unable to divorce his wife (divorce in that era was not only scandalous, but difficult), Mr. Bennet is content to sit in his library and largely ignore his family.

Compared to his wife (and her hysterics), Mr. Bennet is the emotionally absent parent. Unhappily married to a woman whom he is not compatible with, he has dealt with the hand of cards life has given him the best way he knows how to. Every time I read Pride and Prejudice I marvel that Jane and Elizabeth have not only come through to adulthood without major emotional trauma, but also that their marriages are much happier than their parent’s marriage.

To sum it up: Not all marriages are happy. In a time when divorce was nearly impossible and scandalous, those trapped in unhappy marriages found ways to cope. Mr. Bennet’s way of coping was locking himself in his library. We all have coping mechanisms to deal with the difficult areas of our lives, in giving characters coping mechanisms, we make them human and despite their flaws, we understand them. The main task of a writer to create characters that the audience can relate to. Without that connection between the characters and the audience, it is highly likely that the audience will walk away and never return.

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Filed under Books, Character Review, Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Writing

Throwback Thursday- Love Affair

There is something wonderful and satisfying about a love story done right. The anticipation, the wonder and finally, the happy ending. Even those of us who are skeptical about love can’t help but shed a tear and smile.

The film Love Affair (1994), is not the first time this familiar narrative has been seen on the big screen. Audiences were first introduced to the story in 1939’s Love Affair, starring Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer and then in 1957’s An Affair To Remember starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr.

In 1994, the narrative was revived a third time with IRL couple Annette Bening and Warren Beatty. Simply by pure luck, Mike Gambril (Beatty) and Terry McKay (Bening) purchased a plane ticket for the same flight. When the plane is forced to land midway through the flight, the passengers are ferried back to safety on a ship. Despite the fact that both Mike and Terry have significant others waiting for them, there is an obvious spark between them. To test if the attraction is real (and potentially long term) or a momentary twist of fate, they agree to meet up in New York City three months later. When one of them does not show up for their previously agreed upon appointment, doubts begin to form. Are Mike and Terry meant to be or just two ships in the night, just passing by each other?

What I appreciate about this movie is that despite the fact that it has two predecessors, it stands on its own two feet. It’s the kind of love story that I can appreciate. It has all of the highs and lows of the genre, without being too over the top or mushy.

I recommend it.

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Filed under Movie Review, Movies, New York City, Throwback Thursday

Mr. Rochester Book Review

Readers of Charlotte Bronte’s immortal book, Jane Eyre have been in love with her leading man, Edward Rochester for more a century. One moment he is brooding, Byronic and mysterious. The next moment he is vulnerable and open in his feelings about Jane. But Jane Eyre is told through Jane’s perspective and we only see Mr. Rochester through her eyes.

Sarah Shoemaker’s new novel, Mr. Rochester, is a first person account of the events in Jane Eyre as told from the perspective of Edward Rochester. The readers first meets Edward Rochester as an eight year old boy. His mother died in childbirth, his father is emotionally distant and his elder brother, Rowland is not above hitting or verbally abusing Edward. Sent to school and then to work in the office of a factory, he grows up, slowly becomes the man who Jane meets on that cold wintry night on the road to Thornfield.

I really liked this book. What I liked about it was that Ms. Shoemaker rose to the very daunting task of re-creating the world of Jane Eyre while putting her own spin on the cannon narrative of the novel. The challenge for any writer re-writing a beloved novel is to write the story that not only feels right to them, but also easily exists within the world of the original novel. While some writers try and unfortunately fail in this quest, Ms. Shoemaker succeeds.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

Will And Grace Trailer

There are some television shows, that once they go off the air, are better left to the past. Then there are other shows who live on and continue to speak to the audience.

After a 11 year hiatus, Will and Grace is returning to the small screen in the fall.

What can I say about this show? Not only was it incredibly funny and well written, but it changed the world without anyone noticing. While we were laughing and suspending our disbelief that the people we were watching were fictional characters and not real, our minds were slowly opening. Before Will and Grace, gay characters were either an extreme stereotype, a background character or just all together invisible. Will and Grace paved the way, not for fictional gay characters, for those in real life who were either in the closet or out of the closet.

The cultural impact is immeasurable, as were the belly laughs.

Welcome back Will and Grace. You’ve come at the perfect time.

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May 15, 2017 · 10:45 pm