Monthly Archives: June 2014

Downton Abbey Series 5 Teaser

Last week, ITV released a teaser for the 5th series of Downton Abbey.

It’s brief, only twenty seconds long. We hear Mr. Carson, the butler talking about how life is not static, but forever changing.

Is it me, does it sound a little cryptic, especially coming from conservative, old school, Mr. Carson?

We’ll all find out soon enough.

 

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While We Were Watching Downton Abbey Book Review

I think it’s pretty safe to say that Downton Abbey isn’t just any BPD (British Period Drama). While the British are known for a specific genre of dramatic story telling, Downton Abbey moves beyond the borders of the genre. In five short seasons, it has become cultural touchstone, enthralling fans from all over the world.

Wendy Wax’s 2013 novel, While We Were Watching Downton Abbey,  bring together four very distinct characters who otherwise might not have met.

Samantha Davis lost her parents a young age. For the past twenty five years, she has been married to her husband, the son of an old and very wealthy Atlanta family. She married for security, for herself and younger siblings. Her marriage has become happy and solid, but a shattering family betrayal could spell the end it. Claire Walker’s only daughter has just started her freshman year of college. Divorced for years, Claire is a writer who seeks an empty nest apartment to complete her novel, which is not coming to fruition as quickly as she hoped. Brooke Mackenzie’s marriage has just ended in divorce. She has two little girls to raise and her plastic surgeon ex-husband has quickly found a replacement for her. She is learning that life is not a fairy tale.

They are brought together by Edward, the concierge of the Alexander, the building they call home. Edward’s family has been in service for generations. Ahead of the Series 3 premiere of Downton Abbey, Edward brings the residents of the Alexander together on Sunday nights to watch series 1 and 2.

I liked this book. It was a little slow at first. Ms. Wax spend a little too much time introducing the reader to the characters in the first few chapters. I would have liked the book a little better had she just jumped into the story and let the characters back story unfold within the story, instead of being told before hand.  But other than that, I have no complaints.

I recommend this book.

 

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#BringBackOurBoys

Last week three young men, none of them older than twenty went missing in Israel. Naftali Frenkel, Eyal Yifrach and Gilad Shaar were kidnapped in the west bank.

They are not soldiers, nor are they employed by the Israeli government. They are simply three young men who were minding their own business. Like many civilians in this region, they have become part of a war that is not their own.

I cannot imagine their parent’s anguish and yet, this is not a new experience for the people that live in the Middle East.

These are boys, not professional soldiers and not adults who are employed by the Israeli government.  They deserve the enjoy the rest of the youth, before the reality of adulthood sets in.

#BringBackOurBoys #EyalGiladNaftali

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Agunah-Chained Women

Rivky Stein married when she was 18 years old.  She soon discovered that her prince charming was not so charming after the wedding vows were complete.

She is fighting for a get (divorce) from her husband. A get is a Jewish religious divorce, enabling the soon to be former couple to divorce and move on with their lives. Rivky’s situation is not uncommon. Many men will withhold the get from their wives to obtain money, property or gain custody of the children, if there are children. These women become agunah (chained women). While their husbands can date and potentially re-marry, these women are still considered married in the eyes of the Jewish law. They cannot remarry and if they should have a relationship with another man that results in a child, that child is considered to be illegitimate. The men, like men in many religious communities, have the power. Women are simply pawns to be used as needed.

Granted, we only know Rivky’s side of the story. Her husband may not be the person that is depicted in the interviews. If Rivky is telling the truth, then I pray for her.

No woman, regardless of any religious or cultural beliefs she holds, should be forced to stay in a relationship where her partner is abusive. Marriage is about two people making a mutual commitment to make their lives together. Marriage is not and should never be considered a transaction where one spouse takes the master/mistress role and the other is forced to into marital slavery.

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The Long Way Home: An American Journey from Ellis Island to the Great War Book Review

This coming Saturday is the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WWI. It was supposed to be the war that ends all wars and supposed to last only a few months. Instead it last 4 years, killed 9 million soldiers and forever changed the history of the world as we know it.

David Laskin’s 2011, memoir, The Long Way Home: An American Journey from Ellis Island to the Great War, chronicles a dozen men, all immigrants from the turn of the 20th century who fought for the Allies in WWI.  The men, whose stories were told represent a vast array of immigrants who sought freedom and shelter in America: Slovaks, Poles, Jews, Irish, Italians and Scandinavians.  These men were not seeking to join the military, they were often escaping required military conscription from the governments whose lands they had left. But they still joined the army, some gave the ultimate sacrifice for their new country.

I loved this book. David Laskin, as he did with The Family , tells the stories of these men as if they were fictional characters, not real human beings. Each man is brought back to life in full color. The details are vivid and rich.  The horrors of WWI are as graphic as any movie camera could reproduce.

I recommend this book.

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The Daring Ladies Of Lowell Book Review

The industrial revolution was a worldwide game changer.  The opportunities for social and financial advancement lured many away from the rural lives and jobs that their families had lived for centuries.

The Daring Ladies of Lowell: A Novel by Kate Alcott explores the lives of young women who left the rural life for the factories and the new lives they would lead due to the industrial revolution.

Alice Barrow is one of these young women. In 1832, she takes a job at a textile mill in Lowell, Massachusetts. The hours are long, the pay is poor and the safety standards are non-existent, but to Alice, this is an opportunity to earn her own income and escape a rural life. Her best friend at the mill is Lovey Cornell, a vivacious, outgoing young woman who is labelled a trouble maker by the foreman and owners. Alice is attracted to the owners son, Samuel Fiske and he is attracted to her. But when  Lovey is murdered, Alice’s budding romance with Samuel appears to be on thin ice.

I liked this book.  There are traces of Jane Eyre in this book, though not obvious at first.  Like Jane, Alice is intelligent and determined to succeed, despite the barriers that are in her way. Samuel, as the first born son and heir to the factory owner, is sympathetic to the workers needs and much more liberal than his father would like him to be.  The details about Alice’s life and work is authentic, I felt for her as a reader. This book has romantic elements, but thankfully, Samuel and Alice’s romance does not dominate the story.

I recommend this book.

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Still The King Of New York- My Thoughts On Newsies after 22 years

Imagine if you will, The Bell House, a non-nondescript bar in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn in the summer of 2011. It’s Friday night, the patrons are having a drink, unwinding after a long week. They are adults, mostly women in their 20’s and 30’s. They are educated, mature and grown up.

Then the movie starts. It’s Newsies, the 1992 Disney movie musical starring a very pre Batman Christian Bale as Jack Kelly. Newsies is the story of the newsboys strike in New York City in 1899. Jack Kelly is the unlikely leader of the boys who are fighting for their rights as employees.

Imagine, this group of educated and mature adults,  returning, if only for a few hours, to their childhoods, singing along to a soundtrack that has been part of their lives for nearly two decades. Premiering on April 10, 1992, Newsies was not well liked among critics at that time.   But the critics are not always right.

I’ve loved this movie for over 20 years. To be honest, it is bit flawed. While we all know that Christian Bale is an incredible actor, when it comes to the singing and dancing, Gene Kelly, he is not. But there is a heart to this movie, a genuineness. It speaks to everyone who sees themselves as the little person, who believes that change is impossible.

It is a little corny at times and a tad predictable, but it is a Disney movie.  Despite all of that, it is still Newsies and it is as good as it was back in 1992.

 

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Two Teen Movies That Transcend Their Genre (And I Happen To Love)

The best teen movies are the ones that transcend their genre and generations. Regardless of our age and how old we were when these movies were released, we can still relate to them.

Two of my favorites are based in classic literature, Taming Of The Shrew by William Shakespeare and Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw.  They were also rebooted into Broadway musicals, Taming Of The Shrew remade into Kiss Me, Kate and Pygmalion remade into My Fair Lady.

But I happen to love their modern teenage remakes, 10 Things I hate About You and She’s All That.

10 Things I Hate About You is the story of the Stratford Sisters. Biana (Larissa Oleynik) is extremely eager to be popular and date Joey Donner (Andrew Keegan). But her hilarious and cringe inducing overprotective father (Larry Miller) will not allow Bianca to date until her older sister Kat (Julia Stiles) is dating. Kat has no interest in dating anyone. Cameron James (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is new to the school and falls in love with Bianca instantly.  He uses Joey, who pays Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger), to date Kat, so he can go on a date with Bianca. The end result is very interesting and very entertaining.

I love this movie. The screenwriters kept the Beatrice and Benedict relationship between Kat and Patrick (as well as some of the Shakespearean language from the play)  while  dulling the sexist and misogynistic language of the original text. The late Health Ledger (pre Batman and pre Oscar for Brokeback Mountain) has a massive potential as an actor, that potential shines through in his later roles. Julia Stiles is another up and comer who proves that she has the talent to go very far.

She’s All That starts at the tail of senior year. Popular Zach (Freddie Prinze Jr) has just been dumped by his girlfriend (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe).  Zach’s friend Dean (the late Paul Walker), makes a bet that Zach can turn any of his female classmates into prom queen.  Zach’s choice is Laney (Rachael Leigh Cook), the artsy outsider.

I love this movie. It’s one of those movies that I can find on cable and brought back to that time in my life. The coup that makes this movie stand out from other teen movies of this era is that Zach and Laney are each dealing with their own internal pressures. As their relationship grows, they find a way to deal with those pressures. This is another movie full of then up and coming performers (Usher, Gabrielle Union (who also had a part in 10 Things I Hate About You), Anna Paquin, Dule Hill) who have had steady careers since then.

Both of these movies have quotable lines and soundtracks that fit in so perfectly with era that they premiered.

I recommend them both.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Unexpected, A Modern Pride And Prejudice Fanfiction

*-I adore Jane’s novels, but I cannot claim her characters as my own.

*-Please take a moment to review, I really appreciate them.

*-This fanfiction is a modern Pride and Prejudice fanfiction that was originally posted on fanfiction.net

 Unexpected

 She walked toward him, in between her parents, her white satin dress illuminating her beautiful body.

 He could feel his heart wanting to explode out of his chest; he didn’t think this day would ever come.

 Her dark eyes met his with a shy smile, his Elizabeth was never shy.

 The ceremony and the preceding party went by in a blink of an eye. Now he lay in their honeymoon suite, anticipating his first night as a married man.

 “Hello, Will” she entered the room, he felt as if his words had disappeared.

 “Are you going to just lay there or do you want to kiss me?”.

 Taking her face in his hands, he kissed her; she eagerly returned his kiss.

 Whatever was left of their clothes was quickly discarded.

 The next morning, he found her side of the bed empty and saw the light in the bathroom.

 “Lizzy” he called out.

 He was shocked when she finally left the bathroom.

 “Who were you referring to?” Standing in the doorway was not Elizabeth, but Caroline.

 “Did you honestly think she would ever return your love?”.

 Will woke up in a cold sweat, it was the third time this week he had the dream. He didn’t want to admit it in the beginning, but he was in love with Elizabeth Bennet.

He watched her play the piano with his cousin; she got on easily with Richard. The green eyed monster instantly found its way into his thoughts, what if she had found another man?

There was nothing else he could do, he had to propose.

He knocked on the door on the small house at Hunsford Parsonage where she was staying with her cousin, William Collins.

It was now or never, he told himself.

She opened the door and propriety be damned.

He kissed her.

Then he broke the kiss and burst out “Marry me!”.

Before she could respond, he continued “I am in love with you, from nearly the first moment we met. I have struggled against my feelings, but my struggles have only intensified my feelings. I beg of you, marry me and end my suffering”.

She looked at him for a moment, and he hoped that she would say yes.

“Uhm well, I am flattered, honestly I am and I am grateful. But to be honest, I never expected anything out of you and your opinion of me, as we both know, is not the greatest. I do apologize and I am flattered that you came all of this way, but I cannot marry you”.

“May I ask why?” his face became cold, angry and unyielding.

“Why, you ask?” she became as angry as his “You say you love me, you want to marry me and yet you insult me?”.

“I thought” he sneered “you would be grateful, after all a woman such as yourself, coming from the family that you come from, you might never have the opportunity again”.

“Speaking of family” she countered back “my sister is miserable because your friend broke her heart. He just left without saying anything and then the next time we hear from him, he’s in page six with his new supermodel girlfriend? Do you think I would honestly marry you, knowing that you took away Jane’s happiness? My sister means the world to me”.

“Your sister cared nothing for Charlie”.

“So you admit, you broke them up?”.

“It was what was best for him”.

“Speaking of his own best interests, in whose was it when you denied George the money your father promised him? Was it because he is the son of a servant or because you’re too cheap to give him what was promised”.

“What may I ask is your interest in him?”.

“He works two jobs; he spent a month on my couch before he could a find an apartment. He could have had a decent life; instead you deny him what should have been his. I am interested because he is my friend, I have seen what he has gone through, because of you!!!”.

“This is what you think of me?” there was no disguising the bitterness in his voice “I thank you for forcing the rose colored glasses from my eyes. What I have done might have been forgotten, had you be able to look beyond your pride and see that we might have had a decent future together. Do you think I would flatter you as other men would, with pretty words and pretty trinkets? I am not ashamed of my feelings, they were normal. Do you think, had we married, that I would enjoy your family?”.

Her anger had reached a breaking point, instead of punching him, as she long to do, she replied “You are wrong, William Darcy, if you think the pitiable excuse of a marriage proposal would have encouraged me to accept you. Maybe I would have, if you would have showed any concern or compassion for anyone beyond yourself”.

She saw the look in his eyes change, her remarks hit him hard.

“There is no way you could have proposed that could have made me accept”.

He was more than surprised; he was shocked that how violent her denial of his proposal was.

“From the moment we met, I knew you were the most arrogant, conceited selfish man I had ever laid eyes on. You look down on everyone you meet and refuse to consider even trying to get to know others before you judge them. I had only known you for a month when I knew you were the last man I would ever marry!!!”.

After a moment, his response was “I understand and I am sorry for the pain I have caused. Enjoy the rest of your day”

With that, he left Hunsford, determined to leave Rosings as soon as possible. Replaying what had just happened would do no good; his only hope was to move on with his life.

As he fingered the keys to his car, he found the box in his pocket that contained his mother’s engagement ring. It had been saved since her death, to be given to the woman who would become the next Mrs. Darcy.

Elizabeth Bennet would have been his first and only choice. But that was not meant to be. Hours later, he returned to his London townhouse. Pouring himself a glass of brandy and turning on the local news, he hoped that time and the brandy would heal his wounds and maybe if he was lucky, he would meet another woman who would say yes to his love and marriage proposal.

 

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Pillow Talk, A Movie That Deserves A Modern Reboot

Pillow Talk, is a classic. It is a perfect rom-com, with subtle sexual innuendo, wrapped in the blanket of the late 1950’s.

Jan Morrow (Doris Day) and Brad Allen (Rock Hudson) share a telephone line.  She is a single interior designer, he is playboy Broadway composer. Over the phone they don’t get along. Brad sees Jan at a club and attempts to romance her by pretending to be a shy country boy who in the big city for the first time.

This movie is perfect and funny and despite the era it was made in, it is full of sexual innuendo. Doris Day and Rock Hudson have a natural on screen chemistry. Pillow Talk is the first of three films they made together, they were the real life Will and Grace until Hudson passed away from AIDS in the early 1980’s.

I highly recommend this movie, both as a viewer and as a challenge to a screenwriter to remake it for today’s audiences.

 

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