Category Archives: Books

The Real Jane Austen Book Review

When Jane Austen died in 1817, she ascended to the status of legend. While we talk about her in terms of her as a giant of literature, she was also a human being.

Published in 2013, The Real Jane Austen, by Paula Byrne, extend’s Austen’s legend while at the same time speaking of ordinary things that made her human. Ms. Byrne writes about the ordinary aspects of Austen’s life: a gold chain, a hat, a notebook, etc. Interweaving aspect of her life with her novels and her characters, the book speaks to Austen fans whom have cravings to learn about the minutiae of her life and only come to appreciate her more once they have read the book.

I’ve read a lot about Jane Austen (as anyone who knows me and/or follows this blog). She is one of my writing heroes and never fails to inspire me. What I truly appreciated about this book is that not only is the mostly non-linear narrative, but there is a life to this biography. By writing not just about the large accomplishments, but about the tiny details of Austen’s life, Ms. Byrne has only increased my appreciation for Jane Austen.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Character Review: Catherine Earnshaw

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about Emily Bronte’s classic novel, Wuthering Heights. Read at your own risk if you are unfamiliar with the either book or the various 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 Wuthering Heights to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

The best love stories always have an obstacle to the potential happiness of the couple. The best stories sometimes have a character who is standing in the way of their own happiness. This, in a nutshell is Catherine Earnshaw, the heroine of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.

Catherine is the daughter of the local gentry. We first meet Catherine when her father brings home Heathcliff, her adopted brother/soulmate. Catherine and Heathcliff grow up together, joined at the hip until they reach early adulthood. Then reality sets in. Mr. Earnshaw dies and Catherine’s older brother, Hindley becomes master of Wuthering Heights. Hindley was never fond of Heathcliff when they were boys. Without anyone to stand in his way, Hindley openly and maliciously abuses Heathcliff.

While this is happening, the audience and Catherine are introduced to the brother and sister duo of Edgar and Isabella Linton. While it is obvious that there is a strong connection between Catherine and Heathcliff, there is also the pressure of the world of Victorian era England. It would be a disgrace for Catherine to marry Heathcliff, despite their deep love. Heathcliff has no money, no social standing and his origins are unknown. In short, it would cause quite the scandal if the lovers were to marry.

“I cannot express it; but surely you and everybody have a notion that there is or should be an existence of yours beyond you. What were the use of my creation, if I were entirely contained here? My great miseries in this world have been Heathcliff’s miseries, and I watched and felt each from the beginning: my great thought in living is himself. If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger: I should not seem a part of it. My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being.”

After Catherine marries Edgar and Heathcliff disappears, she appears for a time, to have put aside the wild child sensibility and become a proper lady. But when Heathcliff returns as a wealthy man and starts to not court Isabella, Catherine becomes jealous. Pitting her husband and her soulmate against one another, she becomes ill and dies just moments after her daughter in born.

To sum it up: There are always obstacles, whether on the page or in life. We have two choices, we can find a way to overcome the obstacles or we can take the easy way out.  Catherine unfortunately, takes the easy way out and pays for her choices. As writers, we don’t always have to lead our characters down the right path. Sometimes, we lead our characters go down the wrong path and let them pay for their choices.

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Filed under Books, Character Review, Emily Bronte, Writing, Wuthering Heights

Throwback Thursday-The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)

When a film is adapted from a comic book, it must two serve purposes and two masters. It must please the comic’s core fanbase while appealing to new fans. It must also, as best as the creative team can, full transplant the narrative and characters from the page to the screen.

In 2003, the film adaptation of the comic book The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen hit the big screen. In an AU (alternate universe) Victorian era, a group of heroes from famous novels must come together to save the world. The group includes Tom Sawyer (Shane West), from the classic Mark Twain novel, The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer, and Mina Harker (Peta Wilson) from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Led by Allan Quatermain (Sean Connery) from H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines, this band of adventurers and heroes must save the world from a villain known as the Fantom.

Bear in mind that I have never read the comic book and when I saw the movie, I was unaware that the source material comes from a comic book. As a standalone movie, it’s ok. It’s just the run of the mill film adaptation of a comic book that is top-heavy on special effects and light on both character and narrative.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World Book Review

While the basic definition of feminism is equality for women, it is much more than that. It represents an ideal that all human beings, regardless of sex, are judged for who they are and not for their sexual organs.

Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World, edited by Kelly Jensen, is an anthology comprised of essays, stories, lists, letters and art about the topic of feminism. Contributors include writers Roxane Gay, Malinda Lo, actor/activist Amandla Stenberg and actor/comedian/writer Mindy Kaling. They write about everything from finding self-love, navigating relationships and body image.

What I loved and appreciated about the book was that it was based on the real life and the real experiences of the contributors. I also liked that instead of just including essays and stories, the book also included art, letters and lists. The book could have read like a boring academic text, there was a life to the book. I don’t know about any other readers, but this book has certainly re-light the fire under my behind to continue to fight for my rights.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Belle: The Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief Justice Book Review

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the BDP (British Period Drama) genre, like most genres is mostly bereft of characters of color.

In 2013, the movie Belle finally broke the color barrier for the BPD genre.

Paula Byrne’s 2014 book, Belle: The Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief Justice, is not just about Belle, but the events that led her uncle, Lord Mansfield’s ruling on the Zong massacre.

I adore the movie Belle. It is much more than the standard BPD. It speaks to a modern audience about race issues, women’s issue and other human rights issues that are just as relevant today as they were in the 19th century. That is reason I read the book. The book and the movie, however are vastly different. The book reads like a college textbook and not like the entertaining movie that subtly speaks to the audience about issues that 300 years later are still being discussed.

Do I recommend it? No.

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We Should All Be Feminists Book Review

Feminism is not just a cause to be embraced by Western women. It is a cause to be embraced by women from every corner of the world.

Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie published her book, We Should All Be Feminists in 2012. She addresses feminism as it must be addressed in our modern era. Writing directly from her own personal experience, she shines a light on the topics that this generation of feminists must address to allow our daughters and granddaughters to make even greater leaps and bounds.

I really enjoyed reading this book. Though it is super small, Ms. Adichie speaks directly to what is a universal experience of being a woman and what battles we still need to fight to achieve true equality.

I recommend it.

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The Mother Of All Questions Book Review

Feminism, like any social justice movement is never static. It must be dynamic not only to meet the goals, both large and small of the movement, but also to adapt to the changing society.

Writer Rebecca Solnit published her 2nd book, The Mother Of All Questions, earlier this year. In this slim volume, Ms. Solnit writes about women who have stood up to the outdated and double standard rules of the patriarchy, the rise of rape jokes and other topics.

I appreciated this book because Ms. Solnit is unafraid to breach certain subjects in a very raw and real manner that hits the reader straight in the face. It it is a reminder that despite the enormous leaps and bounds that women have made, we still have a long way to go.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Character Review: Finn

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the television show, The Lost World (which is loosely based the book of the same name). Read at your own risk if you are unfamiliar with the either the book or the television series.

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 The Lost World to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

Sometimes a new character is introduced in the middle of a story. They may not have been intrinsic to the narrative initially, but they become as important as the characters who were introduced in the beginning of the story.

Finn (Lara Cox) was introduced to the audience about halfway through the third season. When the Challenger Expedition travels (minus Malone, Veronica and Summerlee) through time, they land in on the plateau that they don’t recognize. Finn is living on a post-apocalyptic plateau where she is one of the few survivors. Smart, sarcastic, a little blunt and independent, Finn is a 21st century woman who returns to the 19th century plateau with the Challenger Expedition. Unfortunately, The Lost World was cancelled at the end of the 3rd season, leaving Finn as a character whose development and narrative was stopped before she could grow beyond the audience’s initial impression.

To sum it up: A character’s development and narrative is not strictly based upon when we meet them. Even if a character is introduced to the audience halfway through the story, the writer can still fully develop them to catch the audience’s attention and draw them in.

 

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Filed under Books, Character Review, Television, The Lost World, Writing

Why I Re-Read Wide Sargasso Sea

Today I re-read Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.

A prequel to Jane Eyre, it was published in the 1930’s. Taking place years before Jane Eyre meets Edward Rochester, the focus of the book is Antoinette Cosway, who is known to readers of Jane Eyre as Bertha Rochester, Mr. Rochester’s mad first wife. Antoinette Cosway and Edward Rochester are equally sold in the name of marriage. She is an heiress and he is a younger son in need of a wealthy wife.

What starts out as a story of young love turns into a story of vengeance, hate, mental illness and male power. If Bertha Rochester was Charlotte Bronte’s inner scream against the constraints that women were kept in during the 19th century, then Antoinette Cosway enlarges and opens up that inner scream.

I re-read Wide Sargasso Sea not only because today is National Book Lovers Day, but because the book publicly exposes the double standard that women have become the norm for women over the centuries.

Today I re-read Wide Sargasso Sea.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Charlotte Bronte, Feminism, Jane Eyre, Why I Re-Read

National Book Lovers Day

Today is National Book Lovers Day.

I could state the multiple reasons why books are special and important, but I think Jane Austen via Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice and Catherine Or-The-Bower says it best.

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”
― Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”
― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

“but for my own part, if a book is well written, I always find it too short.”
― Jane Austen

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Filed under Books, Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice