Movie Review: Pride and Prejudice (2005)

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Plot: Sparks fly when spirited Elizabeth Bennet meets single, rich, and proud Mr. Darcy. But Mr. Darcy reluctantly finds himself falling in love with a woman beneath his class. Can each overcome their own pride and prejudice?

Continuing on my slightly unhealthy craze of Pride and Prejudice and all things Elizabeth and Mr. Bennet related, I had to watch this 2005 adaption again. I can’t find a review for it anywhere on my blog, and I know I’ve seen it before – is it possible that I did it pre-blog? I’ll never know!

I had a great time. I remember enjoying it the first time but not really appreciating the ending back then – I think I didn’t get at that stage just how British this story is and how perfect that ending was.

There are a number of changes made, but it was organic– I didn’t feel that it deducted from the story at all. The changes made were done to fit the span of the book into a movie, so a lot of information and pivotal scenes were ignored. As I said it didn’t damage the film much, but the book certainly provides a more comprehensive scope of Darcy’s character and the change Elizabeth was able to inspire in him.

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Matthew MacFadyen is truly a perfect Darcy. He is a wonderful actor, truly being able to convey emotions without saying too much. He is perfectly British and his contained atmosphere and telling outbursts as Mr. Darcy is spot on.

My love/hate relationship with Keira Knightley seems set to continue. The way she has of pulling her mouth frustrates me to no end. But, as I listed here, the fact that she has an annoying mouth does not derive from the fact that she is an accomplished actress. Ms. Bennet is as challenging to a female lead as Mr. Darcy is to a male lead – complex, intelligent characters with the weight of being a beloved classic weighing them down. She manages her role admirably and is a delight as Ms. Bennet, and has sufficient and delightful levels of impertinence that made me love her all the more.

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Rosamund Pike as Jane Bennet was a choice that I was not that all that pleased with, but she did her best. There was a desperation to her impression of Jane that I did not enjoy – Jane is shy and sweet natured and a bit too believing in the best of others, but she isn’t a desperate woman. Jenna Malone as Lydia Bennet was a perfect choice – Lydia is really the worst thing, she is a flirting little girl with no sense or morals or particular care for her family. It takes a strong actress to bring that particular disregard to family and tradition to life, and the callousness with which Lydia does it as well. Donald Sutherland as Mr. Bennet properly emanates that exhaustion Mr.Bennetmust feel from a lifetime with the skittish and irritating Mrs. Bennet (Brenda Blethyn) – who can’t but help being such an annoying person. I wish I could have seen more of Rupert Friend as Mr. Wickham – he was good on screen but not particularly often on it, which is frustrating as Mr. Wickham is quite important to the events that unfold. I wish I liked Simon Woods as Charles Bingley – he was just too ginger for my idea as Bingley. I did like Kelly Reilly as Caroline Bingley – she was as snobbish and backhanded and mean spirited as her character requires.

I felt similarly in the book – a need to rush through and to get to the end to know everything, but the pacing was slow and careful and makes you subsequently pay a lot more attention. The British countryside is beautiful despite the depressing weather, and the director managed to capture it and incorporate it into this very British movie.

The ending of the film is different to the book only in execution, with the phrases altered slightly but still much the same. It is powerful and touching, and the chemistry between Knightley and MacFayden is through the roof at that very moment. I’ve seen the extended version and the normal version, and the extended is a lot more true to what happens in the book.

I enjoyed this adaption so much. It is a great cast, it is well paced and despite missing some key events it still tells what it needs to tell. Watching this soon again is inevitable. An 8.5/10 for me.

 

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Book Review: Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)

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Plot: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” So begins Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s witty comedy of manners—one of the most popular novels of all time—that features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing-room intrigues. Renowned literary critic and historian George Saintsbury in 1894 declared it the “most perfect, the most characteristic, the most eminently quintessential of its author’s works,” and Eudora Welty in the twentieth century described it as “irresistible and as nearly flawless as any fiction could be.”
–penguinrandomhouse.com 

I started to write this already at the halfway mark of the book, so as to not forget any of my thoughts. I can tell you that I am going to pretend I am British for another week now (the same inevitably happens when I watch Downton Abbey). I had the best time working through Pride and Prejudice and can really not think of a time this year when I felt so content reading any book.

This is finally a successful attempt at reading Pride and Prejudice – the first time I picked it up I only managed to get through half of the book. I have no idea why, perhaps I just wasn’t as inclined as I was this time around. I watched Pride and Prejudice and Zombies AGAIN the other day, and I love the 2005 adaption of this novel with Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFayden. The plot speaks to me on many levels – the unerring feminism of Elizabeth Bennet, the courage of Jane Austen to write about Elizabeth Bennet, the love story between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. I can tell you now that I find difficult people so much more appealing than the Mr. Bingleys of the world. Their loyalty is ultimately more rewarding and unyielding. Pride can be attractive in any person. Mr. Darcy is a difficult man, but truly appealing. It is fun to find a character that isn’t written in the typical hero fashion – he’s so ornery and stubborn and proud.

The differences between the movies and the original work are perhaps not significant but the book is naturally more illustrative to the characters. Mr. Wickham is even slimier than his onscreen presence shows, Mr. Collins is a phenomenal, pompous and amazingly irritating pain in the ass.  Mrs. Bennet is truly an embarrassment to her offspring. Her antics are mortifying and she has a cold disregard to Elizabeth that is not shown often in a film adaption. She never ceased her ambition to have her daughters favorably married. Whatever true care she felt for each of them was very much overshadowed by her need to see her daughters settled with men of high fortunes. It was embarrassing.

There is only one section that felt tiresome eventually. The section where Lydia runs of with Wickham is pivotal in the romance of Elizabeth and Darcy, but it really took an extraordinary amount of pages to get through. The conclusion of Pride and Prejudice is the most delightful British ending you can hope for. Feelings are expressed in the utmost British way – please tell me they are still like this! – and the overpowering sweetness of Darcy’s happiness when Elizabeth expresses her love and admiration is lovely. I really did enjoy how sweet he became eventually when he was around her, and that the strength of his feelings could make him do such introspection and radical personal change.

The theme of the book is clear the very descriptive title, but there are also themes of family, learning to look deeper into a person and not expressing yourself in anger – Elizabeth’s family had quite the shock when she professed to love the man she had been so against the majority of the time she’d known him.

Pride and Prejudice really isn’t a quick and easy read, and it takes time to get yourself acquainted with the author’s writing. It is high English, and it was a good exercise for me as a predominantly Afrikaans speaking person to read through it. You also really need to be in the mood to read this book, it isn’t going to be pleasing or successful if you want a fast read.

I am giving this a 9.5/10. It is a very high rating, yes, but I found it very deserving of the classic cult status and many adaptions it has gone through. I really enjoyed it so much! One of my favorite books this year!

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Book Review: Chasing Harry Winston (Lauren Weisberger)

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Plot: Meet Emmy, Leigh, and Adriana. Best friends since college, each has seen her share of career foils and romantic foibles over the past decade. Now, as they approach thirty, they’re looking toward their future…but despite all the success and luxuries they’ve attained—they’re not quite sure they like what they see.

When they are each alone for one reason or another on Valentine’s Day, the trio makes a pact. Within one year, each woman will change the thing that most challenges her. For Emmy, whose boyfriend of five years just left her for a personal trainer, it will be to find romance—or a fling—in every foreign country she visits. For Leigh, a book editor with a dream boyfriend and dream apartment, no change seems necessary—until she starts to notice a brilliant and brooding man named Jesse. And for commitment-phobic, drop-dead-gorgeous Adriana, her goal is to have an engagement ring and a house in Scarsdale. Each woman starts the first day of the year with the best of intentions—which is exactly why the pact goes immediately, and exceptionally, awry.

Filled with delicious insider details, Chasing Harry Winston whisks readers into the heart of an elite world, where friendships will be tested to the point of breaking, and showcases Weisberger’s best storytelling efforts to date

Rating: 5/10

This had to be one of the most grating books I’ve ever read. If you don’t remember, I felt like the other novel of Weisberger (The Devil Wears Prada) was essentially full of white girl problems where the character felt she was being treated badly because work was tough and people didn’t automatically just like, like her. While Chasing Harry Winston doesn’t directly deal with Privileged College children that expect stellar treatment everywhere they go in life, it deals once again with the type of people I suspect the author knows and understands way too well because she is one of them. Emma, Leigh and Adriana are all three insufferable for legion of reasons. Adriana was the worst of the three – a privileged trust fund baby that hasn’t had to work for anything in her life, which is spoiled and is weak of character and completely lacking of morals. I rarely consider myself a prude, but with the amount of men Adriana has slept with she seems to be the ambassador for the local brothel. I found her way too annoying – her constant attention seeking, her sleeping around and her lack of any direction was just too much in one character to deal with. I felt that the character was written in a way to represent Sofia Vergara’s character on Modern Family – anyone share that notion?

Emma was more frustrating than she was intolerable. She’s just one of those women who are so stuck on relationships becoming married that she’s a shadow being without any real personality and that makes me furious. I appreciated that she took note of the fact that she should immediately think marriage when meeting a man, but it was extremely ridiculous that she felt ashamed with only sleeping with three men in her life – again, I must be a prude here to dare think that three sexual partners are sufficient (a bit more than).

Leigh was probably the character I identified the most with – she’s so happy to just be by herself and constantly worrying whether it is a crime, and living a stress ridden life that most people think is perfect but is actually just a lot of managing crises after crisis. Although, she really should have dumped Russell’s ass early on – while he seems to be a nice man he’s obviously a walkover and not the man for her. I’ve been where she was – in a relationship because everyone wanted her to be in one, which is about as healthy to your mental well being as tuberculosis is to your physical well being.

Something that made me see red was the constant use of the “dear” and “sweetheart” –I use “dear” only to friends when I’m being a little sarcastic and really only in emails in work where I am forced to be polite. These three characters? DEAR DEARDEAR SWEETHEART. Every conversation contains these endearments and really, who even addresses people they know like that? What is wrong with you?

This book lacks originality – the story has been used ten million times and nothing new – people who need to change: one woman is too commitment heavy, the other too commitment phobic and the last is seemingly perfect but really not. This is a standard story for any half-baked author who wants to push chicklit onto the market and if you’ve read it once, you’ve read it a hundred times.

The ending very slightly redeemed the book. It wasn’t an original ending by any means– like I said, if you read it once, you’ve read it a hundred times. Everyone ends up being more themselves than they were, more accepting of their own worth and heading forwards into life. Emma discovers that she can truly walk away, Leigh finds the courage to do something that she should have done ages ago and Adriana finally gets a job. It’s worth something that Adriana didn’t end up marrying Toby, but gosh, still one of the most disgusting characters I’ve read about in a while.

I was obviously riled enough at this book to write this entire review out, so there’s something. The print was also exceptionally tiny on my copy – so the book was actually quite long. However, reading it went quick, so I can probably mention one thing good that it is a fast paced read. Anyway, it was an exceptional waste of time. Have you read it? What did you think?

Book Review: The Collaborator (Margaret Leroy)

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Plot:

1940, Guernsey…

Vivienne de la Mare waits nervously for the bombs to come. Instead comes occupation. Nothing is safe anymore. But was anything truly safe before?

The façade of the perfect wife, with her husband fighting on the frontline, cracks under the strain of the lie. Her new life is one where the enemy lives next door. Small acts of kindness from one Nazi soldier feels like a betrayal. A forbidden friendship in a frightening world. But how can you hate your enemy when you know his name, when he makes you feel alive, when everything else is dying around you?

Vivienne is fighting her own private war. On one side, the safe, secret, loving world she could build with her captain; on the other, virtuous loneliness and danger. It’s time for Vivienne to choose: collaboration or resistance…

Rating: 8/10

A two word review of The Collaborator would be “thought-provoking”. Set in the Crown Dependency Island Guernsey during WWII, The Collaborator raises some interesting questions. Can we really call someone our enemy without them having personally slighted us? When they appear to be kind and thoughtful and ready to help out? When they are your enemy based on a war that is not occurring in front of your eyes but somewhere far away?

Leroy goes all out by writing her male lead as a German soldier, the most reviled characters of WWII. She refrained from writing Gunther as SS, because there would be no redeeming qualities in such a person and her book would have flopped. Gunther is merely a man that is fighting for his country and actually grateful to live on the small island and not to further Hitler’s mad plans around the world. He misses his old life, and Vivienne and Gunther are able to create some fragile contentment in their lives for a while. As the war continues Vivienne finds it more difficult to remain impassive about it and questions how much Gunther is also turning a blind eye too. Can the two exit the war unscathed?

Leroy wrote this book with an underlying tension. The feeling is so dreary and tense. It brings the reader to ground level and makes you question your beliefs about a lot of things – religion, the Germans in a time where everyone hated the Germans. Vivienne starts to crack as the soldier’s wife – she knew her husband cheated on her before the war, he made her feel inadequate and he was already emotionally removed from her when he left to go to war. Can we blame her for cracking? Do we dare? Max and Gunther, part of the German army, are seemingly good men fighting for their country’s honor. They aren’t evil bastards running death camps, they are soldiers working on a small island doing as they are instructed. They face harsh punishment and certain death if they rebel. Some in their group aren’t as kind as these two, which leads to some complications later on as one would expect.

What I consider a huge improvement from the previous Leroy novel I read, The Lake House, is that Vivienne actually cares for and considers her children a great deal. Millie and Blanche are a few years apart and both pose a different challenge to Vivienne – Millie is young and requires a lot of care, while Blanche is on the verge of the rest of her life and struggling to remain a young teenager when the world around her is crumbling and harsh. On top of these troubles is Vivienne’s elderly mother-in-law, who can be extremely forgetful and dangerously attentive at times. So can we really judge her for seeking her comfort with a kind, understanding German soldier? I couldn’t.

The book has some surprises in store – the awakening of Vivienne’s determination to do something for the prisoners of war, the twisting at unexpected times and the very sad and bleak end. I’m not usually one for such a depressing end, but it suited the tone of the book – war is a cruelty that changes people and destroys lives.

The Collaborator probably wouldn’t be enjoyed by everyone. I liked it though – it kept me in such suspense most of the time and I kept thinking about it while I wasn’t reading it, a sure sign that a book is a good read.

Book review: The Obsession (Nora Roberts)

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Plot: (not included – I literally couldn’t find one that didn’t spoil the entire book!)

Rating: 8/10

So I gave in to my obsession (hehe) and bought this book in a world where books have become so expensive I’m not that surprised that people aren’t reading anymore. It was worth the cost and I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Roberts seemed uniquely inspired in The Obsession, because let’s face it, the woman recycles her stories. The outright creepiness of this story was a brilliant way to go, because it is something that we always witness in the news but it remains so shocking and terrifying. It pleased me to no end that Naomi and her brother were raised by her gay uncle and his partner, that they weren’t portrayed as extravagant or stereotypical – they were the best thing that happened to Naomi and her brother, and that their sexuality was merely a characteristic and not an insult, which is something a lot of authors get horribly wrong.

The development of the book is great. Nora Roberts has a talent when it comes to describe certain phases of her character’s life, providing in-depth insight to a character. I liked the following of Naomi’s discovery, her adaption to her new life and the eventual present day for her, where she has to ultimately fight the demons of her past. It was really good. I had some issues with the end – not that it wasn’t satisfactory, but I couldn’t understand how a four hundred page book had it’s final scenes within twenty pages. My other (only) major complaint is that it is becoming clear that a Roberts book only properly develops until the first sex scene. It feels disloyal to say this from one of my favorite authors, but we get a fantastic villain, great character development and gorgeous scenery, until the first sex scene and then all we get is steamy showers with a final rushed ending. It deducts from the impact from the book.

If it sounds like I didn’t enjoy the book, that’s wrong, because I had the best time. The characters are great and I laughed so much with the prototype male the hero was – who couldn’t just love that? I also really loved the dog, and wanted to pet and adopt all the dogs in the world.

This mammoth book was one of my latest favorites from Roberts – there is a sense of refreshed uniqueness that she’s been missing. It ticks all the boxes, except perhaps the rushed end. It is a definite for fans, and she might even get a couple of new fans from this!

Book Review: Sacred Sins (Nora Roberts)

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Plot: n the lazy days of summer, a merciless heat wave is the biggest story in Washington, D.C. But the weather is knocked off the front pages when a young woman is found strangled to death. A note left behind reads Her sins are forgiven her.

Two more victims soon follow, and suddenly every headline is devoted to the killer the press has dubbed “the Priest.” When the police ask top-notch psychiatrist Dr. Tess Court to help with their investigation, she comes up with a disturbing portrait of a twisted soul.

Detective Ben Paris doesn’t give a damn about the killer’s psyche. What he can’t easily dismiss is Tess. Tall, dark, and good-looking, Ben has a legendary reputation with women, but the coolly elegant Tess doesn’t react to him like other women he’s known — and he finds the challenge enticing.

Now, as the two are thrown together in a perilous quest to stop a serial killer, the flame of white-hot passion flares. But someone also has his eyes on the beautiful blond doctor … and Ben can only pray that if the madman strikes, he’ll be able to stop him before it’s too late….

Rating: 6/10

Yep, another improper title that makes you wonder what exactly is going to go down in this book. I swear, if Roberts only had better titles she would get more conservative readers on her side, because then they wouldn’t think her books are porn. That is what kept me steering clear from this particular novel for some time – I thought it was from her Mills and Boon days.

The book is okay. I had major issues with the waving–the-white-flag end, but otherwise I enjoyed it. I even had a few chills about the serial killer – the Priest – his sections were chilling and his stalking of Theresa made me check if my windows were sealed shut. I even enjoyed the –sigh- cop – hero, who managed to be entertaining but not terribly layered.

The book had a good amount of chills and a surprisingly little amount of cheese and improbable romantic gestures. I enjoyed the vibes around the police station and the interaction between COP and BEST COP FRIEND. (I forgot both their names at this point). I just hated the end – no drama and really the equivalent of the widely hated end Breaking Dawn provided.

If you can get over wimpy ends and typecast characters, then read this book. Else, there are much better Nora Roberts books to pick from.

Book Review: Hidden Riches (Nora Roberts)

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Plot: Dora Conroy has a passion for antiques—and any other rarities she can acquire for her quaint Philadelphia shop. A seasoned dealer, she knows all the tricks of the trade. But she is unprepared for the deadly consequences when she purchases a few curiosities at an auction—and unknowingly brings home a priceless cache that makes her the target of an international criminal. Entwined in a reckless chase, Dora turns to her new neighbor, Jed Skimmerhorn, a cop who’s turned in his badge—and whose desire for lovely Dora puts him back in the line of fire. Fighting their attraction while falling in love, they find that hidden riches can have a most ordinary façade. And that possession can be a lethal obsession…

Rating: 8/10

I saw this book in retail recently – for R300. Now, I don’t mind spending that much on a book when I read it and want my own personal copy because it was an enjoyable read. Every single new release from Roberts in the past two years have disappointed me so I was not overly keen for forking out cash for a wildcard read. I walked away sadly, shaking my head at the price of hard copies these days, hoping that the price would come down in a few months.

Then I found this 2015 release book for R100 at my favorite bookshop and I had a wild happy dance in my head. What a sweet find!

Ironically this is the best release form Roberts in the last few years and would totally justify R300. I thought the book extremely well written and that Roberts had deliberately chosen a new path of writing. Her character constantly identifies as a feminist and the hero was not as McDreamy as all the others- he seemed battered and mostly like an ass but with some good qualities too (i.e. most men on this earth).

It annoyed me a bit that the villain was identified very early on (somewhere around page 14) but it worked fine because his madness ran concurrently with the story and kept escalating through the book. DiCarlo was more terrifying than Finley – he was such a predator and how he hid in Dora’s room was scary. Finley was the current favorite prototype for a villain – extremely rich and well-presented and secretly mad.

I liked Dora – she is very right-brain whereas I am really left-brain, but I thought her well written and interesting. Throughout the entire book she continues being her own woman, even though some of her actions are still very retarded and dangerous. Jed was obviously fleshed out to be a more realistic hero and he seemed as real as it was going to get in one of these books.

The drama and mystery escalated quite well and the ending was a rough one – I really enjoyed it. The book was written fluently and was not too thick and didn’t contain scenes that weren’t really necessary.

Hidden Treasures is truly a treasure in my Nora collection (har-har). I might even say now it is one of my favorite reads by the author… YAY!

Book Review: Matched (Allie Condie)

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Plot:

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander’s face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate… until she sees Ky Markham’s face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it’s a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she’s destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can’t stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society’s infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path that no one else has dared to follow

Rating: 6.5/10

Matched is a Dystopian novel and it tries to be unique. I’ve heard it is quite similar to the Maze Runner or one of those. However, I’ve only ever read the Divergent series and the Hunger Games in Dystopian genre, so I won’t be calling myself an expert or anything J

I enjoyed Matched. Cassia isn’t annoying, and that is a big attribute in books that essentially revolve around teenage hormones. Dangerous things. All the characters come across as if they are on Prozac, which is probably spot on because their Society controls them through pills. Cassia’s attraction to Xander and Ky is very PG 13 and seems insincere most of the time.

The biggest flaw in Matched is its slow pace and that it takes forever for anything to happen, and even when there is finally some movement, nothing is as clear as clear as it should be. I still don’t have a clue about the Society and how they properly controls their citizens – that at least could have been nicely written out somewhere in the middle of the first book.

Other than that, the book is okay and mildly interesting. It is much better than Beautiful Creatures, one of the only books on earth that I flat out hate. I see they are planning to do a movie with this, and if adapted properly and more developed, it will be an interesting watch.

PS: I don’t know what these kids are complaining about in Dystopian novels all the time. Cassia gets 1) a perfect partner 2) her food gets made for her 3) she gets to do the work she is the best at 4) she doesn’t have to make decisions. As a grown-up I really can’t see the problems here

The Iconic Bookscene: American Gods by The Sporadic Chronicles of a Beginner Blogger

Thanks to my awesome Bestie Zoë for sending this one through! See her discussion and quote below 🙂

So this is a scene that struck me when I was reading American Gods a few months back. I cannot precisely explain why it resonated so much with me, but a part of it is because it speaks of how people can make anything happen, provided they believe in something strongly enough. I just thought I would share it, it is a genuinely beautiful piece

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