Category Archives: Books

Sense And Sensibility Character Review: Mrs. Jennings

*Warning: This post contains spoilers in regards to the narrative and characters from the novel Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or seen any of the adaptations.

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 Sense and Sensibility to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

Every author, regardless of genre, relies on a stable of character tropes when creating the characters that inhabit the world of their stories. One of the familiar character tropes that readers of Jane Austen will recognize is the character that induces eye rolling and internal groaning. This character for the most part, is female, older and though she has good intentions, sometimes runs her mouth off without thinking.

In Sense And Sensibility, this character is Mrs. Jennings. Mrs. Jennings is a wealthy widow who is distantly related via marriage to the novel’s heroines, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. With both of her daughters married, Mrs. Jennings is more than happy to play matchmaker for Elinor and Marianne. The problem is that her advice/attention is unwanted by the girls. Mrs. Jennings also lacks the self awareness that she sometimes has, well, foot in mouth disease.

To sum it up: While Mrs. Jennings is peripheral character, she in her own way, contributes to the narrative. As writers, we have to remember that every character plays a role in the narrative, whether they are central to the plot or they come and go as needed. The peripheral characters may not be front and center, but they still as important as the main characters. We cannot forget them or marginalize them, for if we do that, the story loses some it’s humanity and it’s color. That humanity and color is vital to the narrative, otherwise it will be just another story with another set of characters.

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Filed under Books, Character Review, Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

What Works for Women at Work: Four Patterns Working Women Need to Know Book Review

It’s not exactly a secret that women are given the short end of the stick when it comes to work. Despite our accomplishments, we are still seen as second class employees.

Mother and daughter team Joan C. Williams and Rachel Dempsey understand the hurdles that women face in today’s workplace. So much so, they wrote a book about the subject, entitled What Works for Women at Work: Four Patterns Working Women Need to Know. Interviewing 127 women, they examine everything from pay discrepancies, the prejudice that women who have children (and who do not have children) face and what it takes to succeed in the business world as a woman.

I really appreciated this book. I appreciated it because it speaks to the reader on both a cultural level and on a personal level. I also appreciate because the writers also devote a chapter the double discrimination that women of color face because they are women and they are not Caucasian.

I recommend it.

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Brave Book Review

One of my favorite quotes, famously spoken by Gloria Steinem is as follows:

“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”

Actress Rose McGowan is beyond pissed. She is furious at the way women are treated, especially women in Hollywood.

She recently released her new memoir, Brave. The book is a balls to the wall, complete reveal of her life up to this point and her anger at those (especially men) who abused her and took advantage of her. In the book, she describes two cults: the one was born into and the Hollywood cult that assaulted her and sold her as a marketable product.

This is one of the most mind-blowing books I’ve read in a very long time. Both a memoir and a manifesto, Ms. McGowan is not only pissed for everything she has been through, she is pissed for every woman who has been shoved aside or thought as a sex object because she is a woman.

I absolutely recommend it. I would also go as far to say that it is one of the best books of 2018 so far.

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Sense And Sensibility Character Review: John And Fanny Dashwood

*Warning: This post contains spoilers in regards to the narrative and characters from the novel Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or seen any of the adaptations.

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 Sense and Sensibility to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

We need money to survive, that is a fact of life. Money buys us a roof over our heads, fresh food and clean clothing. But money also has a corrupting influence. It can blind us to the suffering of others and can make us forget that the person next to us is a human being.

If nothing can be said about Jane Austen, one can say that she used her characters to make statements about the world she lived in (as every writer does). John and Fanny Dashwood are the half-brother and sister-in-law to Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, the heroines of Sense And Sensibility. John has the luck of the draw, he is the first-born son and automatically inherits Norland, the Dashwood family estate upon the death of his father. That means that his stepmother and half sisters will have to find another place to call home.

Fanny is a corrupting influence on her husband. While John is more than ready to give his sisters and stepmother the income promised to them in his father’s will, Fanny convinces him to reduce the amount drastically. She is also an out-and-out snob, making it clear to Mrs. Dashwood early in the novel that the budding romance between Elinor and her brother Edward will have to be squashed. If Sense And Sensibility has a villain, these two are it.

To sum it up: When a writer wishes to make a statement, they have one of two choices. They can hit the reader over the head, which might be effective, but it also might not be. Or, the writer could find a way to weave their statement into the narrative and characters,  making the statement not only more effective and memorable in the minds of the readers.

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Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hollywood and America Book Review

In the 1930’s, Leon Lewis appeared to be just another unassuming lawyer from Los Angeles. But in reality, he was the head of a spy ring whose goal was to stop the secret Nazi invasion of America and protect the lives of the city’s Jewish population.

His story unfolds in the non fiction book, Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hollywood and America, written by Steven J. Ross. Los Angeles was a target not only because it was home base of the entertainment industry, but also for the military sites that were close by. While the law enforcement chose to focus their attention elsewhere, Mr. Lewis and his ring of spies understood how important it was to uncover the truth before it was too late.

 

While the book is a little slow, it is worth reading until the end. Though the book is non fiction, Mr. Ross found a way to imbue the narrative with tension and danger. It reads like a fictional spy thriller, even with the documented historical facts.

I recommend it.

 

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Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House Book Review

It’s no secret that the Trump Presidency has been one of the divisive and controversial in modern American history.

Michael Wolff‘s new expose, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, takes the average voter behind the scenes into the chaos of the administration.

With unprecedented access, Mr. Wolff makes some startling and scary revelations. Some of the revelations include how volatile Trump is, what his staff thinks of him and the real reason why James Comey was fired.

I was completely floored by this book. I was floored because if the allegations of what is happening behind closed doors is true, then this country is in the crapper. We elected a man who not only has no experience in politics, but is unwilling/unable to learn from those around him who have the experience and has the temperament/maturity of a ten-year old.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

We never forget our first love, especially when we are young. No matter how old we get or who we fall in love with later in life, our first love always stays with us.

In the new film Call Me By Your Name, (based upon the book by Andre Aciman of the same name), 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) is spending the summer of 1983 at his family’s Italian chalet. His father, Mr. Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg) is a professor of Greco-Roman history and takes on a graduate student as a research assistant every summer. The graduate student who will be living with them and studying with Elio’s father that particular summer is a young man named Oliver (Armie Hammer).  Elio thinks he knows about love, but the summer and his relationship with Oliver will forever change his view of love.

What I absolutely loved about this movie was that it was about first love and how one is forever changed by that first love. While some might object to the film because the two romantic leads are men, I think that is exactly why this film must be seen. We live in a political and social climate where judgments are made about us based upon the labels we give ourselves and the labels others give us. If anything, this film teaches the audience that love is love is love. It doesn’t matter if the partners are heterosexual or homosexual.

I absolutely recommend it.

Call Me By Your Name is presently in theaters. 

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Flashback Friday-The Da Vinci Code (2006)

Dan Brown’s 2006 novel, The Da Vinci Code was nothing short of a bombshell when it hit book stories 12 years ago. Depending on the perspective of the reader, it was either a thriller that kept you reading, or it was blasphemous/utter nonsense.

Either way, it’s no great mystery as to why a film adaptation of the book quickly reached theaters that same year. Starring Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon and Audrey Tautou as Sophie Neveu, the characters are trying to unravel a murder mystery, while discovering clues about the murderer in the works of Leonardo da Vinci. In doing so, they are outing a secret society that has lasted for centuries and could change how Christianity is viewed should the secrets be brought into the light.

I really enjoyed this movie. I enjoyed it not only because I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, but also the religious element adds to the tension that is part of discovering who the killer is.

I recommend it.

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Flashback Friday-Gulliver’s Travels (2010)

The stranger in a strange land is a common trope. Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift is one of the  most well-known stories that use this trope as the skeleton for the narrative.

In 2010, the book was made into a movie starring Jack Black, Jason Segel and Emily Blunt. Jack Black plays with title role with Jason Segel and Emily Blunt playing Horatio and Princess Mary, a pair of lovers whose fate it seems is to be separated forever.

I’m just going to say it. This movie horrible and not worth any amount of money one would spend at the movie theaters. Jack Black tries to include a sense of humor into the movie, but the jokes, like the movie, falls flat.

Do I recommend it? No.

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Sense And Sensibility Character Review: John Willoughby

*Warning: This post contains spoilers in regards to the narrative and characters from the novel Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or seen any of the adaptations.

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 Sense and Sensibility to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

For romantic love to last what will hopefully be a lifetime, it requires three key ingredients: commitment, compromise and the willingness to stand by your significant other through good times and bad. Unfortunately, some people are unwilling or unable to do what is stated above to make love last. John Willoughby is one of these people.

The reader is introduced to Mr. Willoughby in the most romantic way possible: he rescues one of the novel’s heroines, Marianne Dashwood. Marianne falls and twists her ankle during a rainstorm. He sweeps her off her feet, both literally and figuratively. The heir to a local estate, he is handsome, charming and outgoing. It look like Mr. Willoughby and Marianne are headed for wedded bliss, if only he would propose. Then he disappears without much of an explanation and it all goes south from there.

Like all of Austen’s male baddies, Mr. Willoughby is all charm with nothing beneath the charm. His smooth manners and easy conversations conceal a man whose motives are cold and selfish. He only cares for his own desires and does not care for the feelings of someone else.

To sum it up: Willoughby is a jerk, to say the least. However, the reader/audience member does not know that initially. That is the fun of reading and where the writer’s work truly begins. It’s like a magic act where the magician is telling the audience to look at their left hand, but the real trick is in their right hand.

A complete 180 switch for a character is never easy, especially when the audience/reader thinks that they have an idea of who this person is. The writer must create such a convincing character, that when this 180 switch occurs, it creates a ripple effect that completely changes the rest of the narrative and how this character is viewed. Without that complete convincing of knowing who this character is, the reveal will lose its power and the reader will not be compelled to continue with the story.

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Filed under Books, Character Review, Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility