This Burns My Heart: A Novel Book Review

Marriage is sometimes more than a matter of choice, it is a matter of compromise. The problem with that is that if we compromise too much, we give our power away.

The 2012 romantic drama, This Burns My Heart: A Novel, by Samuel Park, was published in 2011. Soo-Ja Choi is a young lady coming of age in the 1960s. The Korean war is in the not too distant past. Though she wants more than to be someone’s wife and mother, she caves to the traditional culture that she has been raised in. Instead of marrying the boy she loves, Soo-Ja agrees to say “I do” to marry another young man whom her parents approve of. She believes that he will give her the freedom she desires.

Within a few years, her marriage becomes hollow and empty. Soo-Ja’s focus turns to her daughter, whom she hopes will have the freedom she never had. Though she is loyal to her husband, she has not stopped thinking about the one that got away. As they keep bumping into one another, she starts to question if she has a future with him after all.

I enjoyed reading this book. Park’s characters and narrative are fully formed. It was also a learning experience as I know next to nothing about Korea, or what was occurring at that time. It’s almost Persuasion like in the depths that the story goes.

Though it is not the best novel that I have ever read, it is engaging, well written, and a reminder of women cannot and should not be contained in what is considered to be an “appropriate” role in life.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

This Burns My Heart: A Novel is available wherever books are sold.

Can You Learn to Write Via Fanfiction?

Learning to write can only be described as a process of trial and error. For every polished piece or story that is published, there are others that are still in messy draft form.

Many writers (myself included) started writing via fanfiction. Fanfiction is fiction that is based on previously released work. The beauty of this genre is that there are so many opportunities to take the narrative in a new direction. The story can be a prequel, a sequel, go inside a character’s head, take place in an alternative universe, etc.

The one caveat is that the publishing date determines whether or not the writer is breaking copyright laws. Anything that was published more than 100 years ago (i.e. the novels of Jane Austen or Charles Dickens) is public domain and obviously fair game. The same cannot be said if the tale being crafted is based on a work that is less than a century old. Anyone writing, for example, Harry Potter or Star Wars fanfiction is wading into legally murky waters.

The answer is yes, you can learn to write via fanfiction. Some of my early works are in need of a major rewrite. Even with that cringe factor, there is no doubt that I was learning along the way. The basics of creating fiction in terms of narrative, characters, setting, etc, can be mastered via this genre. E.L. James, the creator of the Fifty Shades of Grey series, has become one of the preeminent authors of our era started out by creating Twilight fanfiction. Regardless of one’s opinion of James’s writing, there is no doubt that she has turned a hobby into a successful career.

Not everyone takes the same route when they start out writing. That does mean, however, that one path is better or worse than another. We all learn how to craft stories in our own way and own time. One of these routes is fanfiction.

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Persuasion Movie Review

Life doesn’t always give us second chances. There are some opportunities that are firmly in the past. Then there are others that do come again. We can either let it slip through our fingers or go for it.

The new adaptation of the Jane Austen novel of Persuasion was released last week on Netflix.

Anne Elliot (Dakota Johnson) gave up the love of her life eight years ago. The daughter of a minor aristocratic family, she was convinced that Frederick Wentworth (Cosmo Jarvis), a poor sailor was not good enough for her. Now in her late twenties, Anne is still single and pining for what could have been. Frederick has returned to her circle. He is now wealthy, a respected war hero, and a catch, according to the eligible young ladies.

Will they be able to make peace with the past and have the life they were meant to have, or will they once more go their separate ways?

This version is not all bad (well, it’s mostly bad). I loved the color-blind casting. The best performances in the film came by way of Richard E. Grant as Sir Walter Elliot and Henry Golding as Mr. Elliot. Johnson’s accent was not bad and she had decent chemistry with Jarvis.

The main problem is the lack of tension. What makes the narrative is the emotional wall between Anne and Frederick that slowly crumbles over the course of the narrative. That wall came down a little too quickly for my taste. The other problem is that it was turned into a rom-com (which it is not) and the use of modern slang. By the time we get to the letter, the buildup that would normally be there is a pittance of what it should be.

While I understand that the filmmakers wanted to make it palatable to non-Austen fans, they stripped away too much of the original text. This Anne Elliot is closer to Elizabeth Bennet and Emma Woodhouse. Personality-wise, Anne is a complete 180 from both Elizabeth and Emma. I admire Elizabeth and I get a chuckle from Emma, but Anne I get.

If I were to rank the various adaptations and Austen-adjacent filmed IPs, this Persuasion would be second to the bottom of the list. The only one that is worse is Austenland.

Do I recommend it? Not really. Just stick to either the 95 or 07 version. Trust me, you are not missing much. I would even go as far as to say that this is one of the worst films I have seen this year.

Persuasion is available for streaming on Netflix.

P.S. The anniversary of Austen’s passing was yesterday. She would be spinning in her grave if she saw this movie.

Mr. Malcolm’s List Movie Review

Warning: minor spoilers.

Jane Austen, is if nothing else the Queen of the modern romantic comedy. Her tales of love, loss, growth, and sometimes forced humility has entertained fans for over 200 years.

The new movie, Mr. Malcolm’s List (based on the book of the same name by Suzanne Allain), was released in movie theaters last weekend.

Julia Thistlewaite (Zawe Ashton, replacing Gemma Chan) has been publicly spurned and wants revenge. After four seasons on the marriage market, she is still single. The man who spurned her is Mr. Jeremy Malcolm (Sope Dirisu). Mr. Malcolm is the most sought-after bachelor of the season and has the pick of the litter when it comes to his future wife.

To fend off the masses, he has created a list of qualities that a woman must have if she is to become Mrs. Malcolm. When Julia finds out about the list via her cousin, Lord Cassidy (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), she concocts a plan to get back at him. Enlisting her old school friend Selina Dalton (Freida Pinto), she and Lord Cassidy (known to his friend as Cassie) turn Selina into marriage bait. The final result is for Selina to reveal her own list and reject Mr. Malcolm.

But as things tend to go in this genre, the scheme is turned on its head. Jeremy and Selina genuinely fall for one another. Making this love story even more twisted is the addition of Captain Henry Ossory (Theo James). Captain Ossory seems also to be courting Selina, creating a very interesting love triangle.

Though it helps to know something about the regency era and/or Austen’s writing, it is not a requirement to enjoy the film. There is enough to keep the modern fan entertained and laughing.

Like its streaming counterpart, Bridgerton, the main actors all come from different backgrounds. What drew me in and kept me going was the organic romance between Pinto and Dirisu’s characters. These are two people who are perfect for one another, if only they can put down their individual baggage.

My only complaint is that the secondary relationship between Julia and Henry was a little underdeveloped. They are supposed to be the Jane Bennet and Mr. Bingley to Selina and Jeremy’s Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. The problem is that while Austen fully developed both couples, Allain (who wrote both the book and the screenplay) left Julia and Henry hanging.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Mr. Malcolm’s List is presently in theaters.

P.S. The costumes are gorgeous. Wearing any of them (specifically the ones worn by Pinto) would be a dream come true.

Austen Years: A Memoir in Five Novels Book Review

When life throws shit our way, we often turn to our favorite books or movies. It is the predictability in a sea of chaos that may be the one thing that gets us through the emotional turbulence.

Austen Years: A Memoir in Five Novels, by Rachel Cohen, was published last year. About a decade ago, Cohen was going through tough times. Her father was on the verge of dying of cancer and she was near the end of her first pregnancy. Needing something to provide a source of comfort, she turned to Jane Austen.

In this memoir, Cohen weaves her story with Austen’s while exploring the emotions and narratives within the novels. She writes about dealing with grief, loss, change, and watching your children grow up.

I really enjoyed this book. While reading it, I was reminded why after more than 200 years, Austen is still beloved as an author. The experiences of the characters are thoroughly human. The feelings are ones we can all relate to. If I were to make a list of books for newbie Austen readers, this one would be on the list. There is just enough detail to hook the reader, without going deep into the nitty-gritty details that only a longtime Janeite would understand.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Austen Years: A Memoir in Five Novels is available wherever books are sold.

Thoughts On the Persuasion Trailer

If I were to rank Jane Austen‘s novels, Persuasion would be on the top of my list. This story of second chances is one that over 200 years later still hits readers in the heart and sends a few tears down our cheeks.

The trailer for the newest adaptation of the book was released earlier this week.

The film stars Dakota Johnson as Anne Elliot, Cosmo Jarvis as Captain Frederick Wentworth, and Henry Golding as Mr. Elliot. For those unaware, the plot is as follows: eight years before the book starts Anne Elliott and Frederick Wentworth were young, in love, and newly engaged. She was persuaded to end their relationship due to his lack of status and income. Cut to the present and Anne is still single, still hurting from her decision. Wentworth is back in her life. He is a war hero, wealthy, and considered to be a catch. He is also still bitter from their breakup.

I would love to say that I am jumping for joy, but I have a few reservations. I am going to try to keep my concerns at bay because this is only the trailer. Trailers don’t always match up with the full movie.

  1. The dialogue in the scenes that we see so far seems to be loosely taken from the original text. Maybe it’s the Janeite in me, but I would prefer the wording to be as it is in the novel. To paraphrase her brilliant writing (especially in a reboot set in the Regency era) could be seen as a shanda (disgrace).
  2. The casting of Dakota Johnson as Anne. I have nothing against Johnson. I have a bias against American actors playing lead characters in Austen adaptations. It goes back to the casting of Gwyneth Paltrow in the 1996 Emma. Her portrayal of the character rubbed me the wrong way. But who knows, maybe Johnson will prove me wrong.
  3. Her hair should not be down unless it is either the beginning or the end of the day. Only young girls wore their hair loose. By the time they got to their mid to late teens, their hair was up. On a side note, that was my only beef with Sanditon. Charlotte Heywood’s (Rose Williams) hair should have been up.
  4. It comes off a little too rom-com-like. I like a romantic comedy as much as the next person, but Persuasion is not and has never been one. To turn this story into a rom-com is a double shanda and sure to turn off the fanbase.

On the upside, we see the early romance between Anne and Frederick. In previous film versions, the audience is only told about this experience.

That being said, I am willing to have an open mind and not condemn the film before it is released.

Persuasion will drop on Netflix on July 15th.

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Fire Island Movie Review

One of my favorite things about a book like Pride and Prejudice is that the story can be taken out of the Regency era and still be relevant.

The new Hulu movie, Fire Island, is a modern LGBTQ-centric adaptation of the beloved Jane Austen novel. Noah (Joel Kim Booster, who also served as the screenwriter and executive producer) and Howie (Bowen Yang) are part of a group of five queer friends who spend a week every summer on Fire Island. They stay with Erin (Margaret Cho), who is their unofficial “mother”.

While on the island, Howie has an immediate connection with Charlie (James Scully), a handsome doctor. Noah, on the other hand, gets off on the wrong foot with Charlie’s lawyer friend Will (Conrad Ricamora). Over the course of the week, there is miscommunication, possible romance, and unspoken feelings that will force these men to speak their truths and find the courage to open their hearts to love.

I love this movie. It is funny, charming, entertaining, and adorable while being true to Austen’s original text. It proves that love is love and underneath it all, we are all human beings. These days, representation counts more than ever. This film is a lovely romance, a delight to watch, and the perfect thing to watch during pride month.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Fire Ireland is available for streaming on Hulu.

The Trailer For Mr. Malcolm’s List is Out

There is something about a BPD (British Period Drama) that is sometimes what we need at a specific moment. It is not just the narrative itself, it is the ability for us to be taken out of our daily lives for a short time.

The trailer for the new film, Mr. Malcolm’s List, was released last week. Based on the book by Suzanne Allain, the epymonous Mr. Jeremy Malcolm, (Sope Dirisu) is the most wanted bachelor of the season. Every eligible young lady and her matchmaking mama have set their cap at him.

In response, he has created a list of qualities that his future wife must-have. They seem so impossible that no woman would ever fit the bill. Enter Selina Dalton (Freida Pinto). She checks off all of the boxes and then some. But she has a secret that could derail this marriage before he can pop the question.

I am very excited about this film. I loved the book, which owes a great deal to Jane Austen, and I loved the short film that was released a few years ago.

I can only hope that the full-length feature lives up to its promise and the book it is based on.

Mr. Malcolm’s List will be in theaters starting on July 1st, 2022.

Hot and Bothered Podcast Review

The thing about a book like Pride and Prejudice is that with every reading, there is something new to discover.

The new season of the podcast Hot and Bothered is about Pride and Prejudice. Specifically, the romantic aspect of the narrative. Subtitled Live from Pemberley, hosts Vanessa Zoltan and Lauren Sandler dive into Jane Austen‘s most famous novel in bites of two chapters per episode. Reading from the text and interviewing experts whose work is related to the novel, they explore how the wider world of the time contributed to the book as a whole.

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A friend recommended this podcast and I am so glad she did. Both Zoltan and Sandler nerd out in a way that I would expect them to, but not so much that it alienates those who have not memorized every tiny detail of the story. I laughed, I learned, and best of all, I smiled.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

New episodes of Hot and Bothered are released every other Friday on various platforms.

Operation Mincemeat Movie Review

When it seems that every story about World War II has been told, the door opens to reveal additional narratives that have remained hidden.

The new Netflix film, Operation Mincemeat premiered last week. Based on a book by Ben Macintyre, it tells the story of a secret mission to end the war via a corpse and false papers.

Among those who are in on the secret are Ewen Montagu (Colin Firth), Charles Cholmondeley (Matthew MacFadyen), future James Bond creator Ian Fleming (Johnny Flynn), Jean Leslie (Kelly Macdonald), and Hester Leggett (Penelope Wilton). They know that if they succeed, it could mean victory for the Allies. But getting to that point requires strategy, timing, skill, and a little bit of luck.

For obvious reasons, the movie was a must-see. A cast chock full of Austen actors (including the two most popular Fitzwilliam Darcys), a spy thriller set in World War II-era England, and the fight for freedom against tyranny.

I have mixed feelings about it. What was good was that the main female characters were initially more than secretaries, love interests/spouses/female family members, and background characters. They were as important to the mission as their male colleagues. I also very much appreciated the subtle reference to the Holocaust and the destruction of European Jewry. It reveals that the Allies once again knew what was going on, but did nothing to stop it (which is another topic for another time).

What was bad is that about halfway through the film, I started to lose interest. It was as if the screenwriter(s) just gave up. The other thing that bugged me was the love triangle between Charles, Jean, and Ewen. It felt unnecessary. It also trivializes Jean, making her little more than the wannabe romantic significant other instead of an integral part of the group.

Do I recommend it? Disappointingly, no.

Operation Mincemeat is available for streaming on Netflix.

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