To Live in the World of Austen: Thoughts on Mansfield Park and Austenland

When I posted my summer TBR list and included both Masnfield Park and Austenland, I got recommendations to read the two books back to back. I’m so glad I did!

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Mansfield Park is my second to last Austen novel to read, in my quest to read all her finished novels. My only exposure to this story before reading was watching the adaptation with Billie Piper once. Despite the fact that almost literally every character is an annoying idiot, I actually enjoyed this one pretty well. As usual, it suffered from Austen’s tendencies to elaborate on what are ultimately minor plot points and water down the main romance (which is what the book is all about, I mean come on), but I really felt for Fanny and that helped me through this book. In fact, never while reading an Austen novel have I felt so inspired to write a modern adaptation. I think it could be really interesting, except Fanny would not be named Fanny, and Edmund would not be her cousin, obviously. It’s not my favorite of her works, but I definitely enjoyed it in its own right.

Rating: 3.5 stars

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It was a GREAT idea to read Austenland after a Jane Austen book, because there are so many references to all the stories (though I think Sense and Sensibility got the least mentions, and main character Jane kinda hated on Mansfield Park a little). I really enjoyed the quick pacing and just all around fun rompness of the book, but the ending felt a smidge convoluted and definitely rushed. Jane gets chased down in the airport not by one, but TWO men from Austenland, and one of those guys really wouldn’t have done that, I feel. The other, yes definitely, which is why… well, I won’t give anything else away. ūüôā Overall though, this is a fun read for all fans of Austen. I thought about watching the movie after, but after seeing the trailer and how many changes they made to the general plot (they make Jane look even more desperate) I decided against it.

Rating: 4 stars

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Are you a Jane Austen fan as well? Have you read Austenland? What are your thoughts on Mansfield Park?

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Book Review: Emma

I think Emma has possibly maybe taken over as my favorite Austen story. The 1996 film adaptation with Gwyneth Paltrow was my first exposure, and I enjoyed it, but then I saw the 2009 BBC mini-series version and I fell completely in love with it!¬†Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller were truly perfection in it. And then with Emma Approved coming out this year, I decided my Austen read for the year needed to be Emma. And though as the longest of Austen’s works it did start to eventually wear on me and feel a little too long, overall it was still the most enjoyable experience I have had so far reading an Austen novel.

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Emma is not the most likable character (though more likable than I think some people have made her out to be… mostly she’s just young and naive), and I don’t relate to her as well as Lizzie. I find all the interactions with her friends and family to be the most interesting out of any Austen story I’ve read, however, and there is just something so sweet about the Knightley and Emma romance. He has known her for her entire life and he knows her faults extremely well, and he’s not afraid to point them out to her. And yet, he loves her deeply. And for her the revelation that she loves him is, “Of course!” It makes sense.

emma-knightley2I also love how many quirky characters are in the story, like Mr. Woodhouse, Miss Bates, and Harriet Smith. They are far from the air of perfection certain characters (the Eltons and Frank Churchill, namely) try to give off. Harriet is a nobody with very little in the way of social graces, but she is kind and loyal. Much can be the same as Miss Bates, though she is less charming and more chatty. Mr. Woodhouse is well-meaning and loves his daughter with great devotion, but is an extreme worrier and germaphobe who is basically afraid to live any life outside of his house. But we see just as many flaws in the characters that supposedly have it all together, including Emma. And I like that about the story.

emma-approved-harrietIf you enjoy the story from its various adaptations, I think you’ll enjoy the book. It might get a little tedious, and Austen’s writing is not the easiest to read in general, but I think it’s worth the journey.

4stars2Have you read Emma? What are your thoughts? Which Emma adaptation is your favorite?

 

My Top 5 Favorite TV Shows & Top 5 Favorite Movies

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s topic is Top Ten Favorite Movies or TV Shows, so I decided to do my Top 5 of each. These are kind of in order, starting with my absolute favorite, though sometimes the numbers can be shuffled a little bit depending on my mood!

My Top 5 Favorite TV Shows

1. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

deep_space_nine_crewWhen I first started watching Deep Space Nine, I had just come off of the best of times for The Next Generation, and starting all over again with a new Star Trek series definitely had its growing pains. But THEN… the multiple episode story arcs, the obstacles the characters had to overcome, how dark the overall tone of the show became and yet how it actually thrived in humor as well (minus those Ferengi episodes… but no show is perfect…)… simply put, I fell in love with it. The characters, their struggles and stories, the station… and then the ending was satisfying and yet left me wanting more. Just thinking about it makes me want to binge it watch it all NOW.

2. Babylon 5

babylon-5Simply put, Babylon 5 blew me away and I was not expecting it. There are many similarities between it and Deep Space Nine, yet the production budget was clearly lower. But the characters, their story arcs, the overall story arc for the show… while Deep Space Nine did an extraordinary job in very similar ways, in some ways, Babylon 5 honestly outshines it (until its last season… but we won’t talk about that…). The writer/creator of the show actually had the story planned out in advance, as well as contingencies for characters leaving the show, and the thoughtfulness of it really shows (again, until… well, you know…). If you love science fiction or simply amazing storytelling, give this one a chance. (And it’s not¬†too¬†similar to DS9, I promise.)

3. Star Trek: Enterprise

Star-Trek-enterpriseEnterprise doesn’t get a ton of love from the Star Trek community, and it’s too bad. I can understand in some ways… the first season had more misses than hits, some of the characters had vanilla personalities and static arcs, and it didn’t move forward with the Trek timeline. But seasons three and four (er… minus the-finale-that-shall-not-be-named) were so strong. The show got Deep Space Nine level dark and heavy fast and I ate it all up. I also enjoyed seeing the rough stuff that had to happen before Star Fleet could become what it did.

4. Star Trek: The Next Generation

star-trek-the-next-generationThe Next Generation was seven years of hits and misses and everything in-between, but I have got to say, there is something about this particular group of characters that will stay with you always. Apparently the cast all got along really well in real life (and still do when they’re together for conventions!) and I think that helps their dynamics. Plus, there are some really fabulous episodes of Star Trek in the show that explore humanity, love, and make you think a lot.

5. Fringe

fringe-castIf you have read my blog for a while, then you were probably here for my journey through watching Fringe seasons 1-5 (you can read my general recap for the show here). It had some low points, but overall it was really strong and intriguing, and I don’t think I ever felt so deeply invested in a show before. I was listening to episode recap podcasts (The Fringe Podcast by Golden Spiral Media, in case you’re curious) nearly every day, my husband and I were deciphering the glyphs given between the commercial breaks of each episode with the glyph app, we would exchange theories at the dinner table, and simply put I was completely into it. I loved the main characters so much¬†and the storylines were just so interesting.

My Top 5 Favorite Movies

1. Inception

inception (1)Inception¬†is, without a doubt, my absolute favorite movie. Every time I watch it I have new questions, feel so wrapped up in Cobb’s mind, and am amazed by how these complex strands are tied together at the end. It blows me away every single time and I feel like it is the standard for its genre of film (however you would even classify it, because I sure don’t know). It challenges my view of the world and inspires me to create. Simply put, I love it.

2. Pride and Prejudice

pride&prejudice-2005Pride and Prejudice (2005) was my very first exposure to Jane Austen, and how thankful I am to have discovered it. The film is beautiful visually, and watching Matthew Macfayden and Keira Knightley as Darcy and Elizabeth is just perfection to me. It gets to me every time. I used to watch this movie so much I almost got tired of it for a while, but after a break I am back to loving it just as much as I did before.

3. While You Were Sleeping

while-sleepingWhile You Were Sleeping¬†may be a 90’s rom-com, but I have loved this movie for well over a decade now, and it will always be near and dear to my heart. I actually don’t care for most romantic comedies, but While You Were Sleeping feels pitch-perfect to me every time. It’s witty, charming, and interesting, and even if the look is aged, the story doesn’t feel aged. I will always adore it.

4. The Dark Knight

the-dark-knightI love what Nolan did with Batman, and the second film in his Dark Knight trilogy was, in my opinion, the strongest and most intriguing. When I watched¬†The Dark Knight¬†for the first time I was in college and minoring in psychology, and I was so blown away by how much a superhero story¬†captured the psyche of mankind. Every time I see it I am struck by how¬†dark, challenging, and bone-chilling it is. And Heath Ledger’s portrayal of The Joker? Quite possibly¬†the best villain to grace the big screen EVER.

5. The Phantom of the Opera

phantom-of-the-operaThe Phantom of The Opera was the first musical I truly came to love. I think it is a gorgeous movie and I love the music and the story. Every time I watch it or listen to the soundtrack I get caught up in it all over again.

What are your favorite TV shows and movies? Let me know if you’re a fan of any of my favorites!¬†

The Top 10 Things on my Bookish Bucket List

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s topic is Top Ten Things On My Bookish Bucket List. According to the ladies of The Broke and the Bookish, this may include things like meeting authors, reading x many books per year, finishing a daunting book, etc. This week’s list is in no particular order.

1. Meet Marissa Meyer

marissa-meyerThere are several authors I like and would enjoy meeting. But since Marissa Meyer is really becoming my favorite “current” author, I’d have to say she’s the author I’d definitely geek out/fangirl over the most if I had the chance to meet her, and I really hope to have the opportunity some day!

2. Visit a Hunger Games filming location

HenryRiver4When my husband and I went to Asheville last year, I looked into tours that took you around the District 12 village that was set up for The Hunger Games movie. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t going to work out for that trip, but since both the Asheville area (where they shot the first movie) and Atlanta (where they shot a lot of Catching Fire) are both very attainable drives for us, I hope I can visit some of these set locations sometime.

3. Finish Les Miserables… preferably this year

les-miserables-bookI started reading Les Miserables at the beginning of the year with the intention of reading small snippets at a time, hopefully finishing it by the end of the year. Well, I am reading it, and I do think it’s very good, but it’s hard to for me to read too many chapters in one sitting because of the way it’s written. And let’s just say at my current pace I am not set to finish by the end of the year. But maybe I can pick things up. Or maybe I’ll finish next year…

4. Read Harry Potter

harry-potter-seriesYes, I know. We’ve already discussed this. Let’s move on.

5. Read Lord of the Rings

LOTR111I’m crazy intimidated by this classic trilogy, but I want to read it.

6. Become a Published Author

snoopy-writerMy ULTIMATE bookish goal!

7. Take an archery lesson so I can feel like Katniss for a day

katniss-archerI think this is self-explanatory.

8. Read ALL of C.S. Lewis’ books

cslewisbooksSo I’d like to consider C.S. Lewis my favorite author of all time, but can I do that without having read all his books? So far I’ve read all of The Chronicles of Narnia and Till We Have Faces cover to cover, and I’ve read snippets of The Screwtape Letters and several of his nonfiction books. I own The Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity, and let’s not forget that Lewis also wrote a space trilogy. Needless to say, I have a long way to go, but everything I’ve read by him so far I have enjoyed.

9. Read to my future children

bedtime-story2This seems like a really simplistic thing to say, but I’m sure it’s harder to put into action. I would like to tuck my kids into bed every night possible, and again, whenever possible, I want to carve out the time to read to them/with them. I think instilling books into¬†a child’s life is important, and of course it is a great way to spend quality time with your child. I hope I will put this into practice one day.

10.¬†Read all 6 of Jane Austen’s novels

jane-austen-booksI’m already halfway through with this item, and plan to continue reading one Austen novel a year until I’m finished.

What’s on your bookish bucket list?¬†

Review-ish: Persuasion

persuasion-versionsIt was love at first sight for me and the 2005 movie adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, and after that I sought out more Jane Austen stories. I read the book and I also watched movie versions of Sense and Sensibility, Emma, and Persuasion. (Still need to seek out Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park!) But I found while reading P&P that while I loved a ¬†Jane Austen story, I didn’t exactly love her writing style.

Fast forward a few years, to last year to be exact, when I decided that I wanted to slowly work my way through all of Jane Austen’s novels, just because. I decided to read¬†Northanger Abbey, since I didn’t know the story, and I thought it might help me appreciate the book a little more. In a way, I think it accomplished this. Then this year, after reading the Persuasion retelling For¬†Darkness Shows the Stars, I decided I was due for a re-watch of the movie, and that maybe it was about time to read my third Austen novel.

I did struggle with it. Jane Austen has a way about writing a really boring chapter about something that seems innate, but then there will be a wonderful, interesting scene that gets cut just way too short. I don’t know why she elaborates on the boring and minimizes the romance, especially since the romance seems to be the point of the book (I suppose there is social commentary as well, but it’s time specific and hard for me to really appreciate). So if you want my thoughts on Persuasion the book, I give it three stars.

3stars2Now for the story itself, including Diana Peterfreund’s retelling of it. Anne Elliot (or just Elliot in FDSTS)¬†¬†at first seems a little meek (though less so, again, in FDSTS, but the similarities are there). She lives in a society where things are a certain way, and so she tries to live this way. She listens to her elders and respects them, but after years of living with regret, she knows she still loves Captain Frederick Wentworth (Captain Kai Wentforth in¬†FDSTS). Anne (Elliot) sees the choice she made as necessary at the time but very unfortunate, since her heart obviously still wishes she had not made that choice. Elliot feels like she owes it to her family and their estate. Anne feels it would have been a foolish risk eight years earlier when she was only 19 and he had no money. Anne (Elliot) is smart, and I think that is clear both in the original book and in FDSTS.

In the book¬†Persuasion, Captain Wentworth’s flirting was not nearly as obvious as the movie adaptation or in¬†FDSTS, because Austen never shows him flirting, she just tells you he does it. Kai in¬†FDSTS honestly made me kind of mad… he was flat out rude to Elliot on multiple occasions! Captain Wentworth is a little cold towards Anne in the original story, but he is mostly civil and you can better sympathize with him.

And then there’s Mr. Elliot, who I find interesting in the movie and in FDSTS.

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Since “Mr. Elliot” is named Benedict in For Darkness Shows the Stars, I just pictured him as Benedict Cumberbatch.

In the book Persuasion, Mr. Elliot doesn’t get much face time. And honestly, everything with him is pretty boring until the concert scene when suddenly he’s like, “You know, it’d be great if you never had to change your name,” and then Anne notices Captain Wentworth getting jealous (hands-down, best chapter in the book BTW). But in the movie, he’s somewhat charming. And in¬†FDSTS, though I got a bad vibe from Benedict at first, I almost liked him by the time he came on to Elliot. And what he was saying made sense. I mean, it seemed like Kai still might never forgive her and the two of them might not be so bad a match. Mind you, I wasn’t actually rooting for Team Benedict here, or for Team Mr. Elliot in the movie for that matter, but he seems like a more viable option than he does in the original book. In¬†FDSTS, Elliot¬†almost¬†seems to consider his offer. Not quite, not really, but almost. She doesn’t say no right away and she understands the logic, but of course she doesn’t love him and she still loves Kai. So I was a little sad with how underwhelming his character actually seemed in the original story. But maybe it was because I had checked out of the story at this point, at least until Austen got back to the good, juicy stuff.

But no matter what version it is, it ends well.

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So if you’ve read Persuasion, what do you think of it? And if you’ve seen/read other¬†adaptations¬†of it, how do they compare for you? And am I the only one who loves Jane Austen’s stories but hates her writing?

And if you haven’t already, check out my review of¬†For Darkness Shows the Stars.¬†

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: An Awesome Modernization of a Classic Story

Awesome Adaptations is hosted by Picture Me Reading, and is a focus on book-to-movie adaptations that we think are awesome! Today’s topic is an awesome modernization of a classic story. 

This feels a little bit like a cheat since The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is not a movie, but it is an adaptation (of Pride and Prejudice for the uninitiated), and it is done in video format. I have to admit, I love some parts of the series more than the rest. Some plot lines seem to drag too long, a few episodes seemed pointless, but a lot of it is just amazingly good. 

The cast is perfect. Lizzie, Jane, and Lydia all seem perfectly suited as modern-day versions of Austen’s characters. Lydia’s the crazy wild child, Jane’s perfectly sweet, and Lizzie is just Lizzie. In fact, I’ve always related to Elizabeth, but I relate even more with Lizzie, down to what she was studying in college. And plus, Star Trek references FTW!¬†

I loved how The Lizzie Bennet Diaries was able to stay true to Austen’s story while making it relevant for modern-day, and how the character interactions and emotional moments are still spot-on, even though it’s all happening from the limited perspective of Lizzie’s webcam.

If you haven’t seen The Lizzie Bennet Diaries yet, take a huge chunk of time from your schedule to watch it and enjoy.¬†

lizziebennetHave you seen The Lizzie Bennet Diaries? What are your thoughts? Or what is a modernized adaptation of a classic that you enjoy?

Emma: An Awesome Adaptation Featuring A Love Triangle

Awesome Adaptations is hosted by Picture Me Reading, and is a focus on book-to-movie adaptations that we think are awesome!

How appropriate that the same month that A Novel Idea is hosting their Love Triangles 101 event (which I participated in), that this topic would come up! Instead of focusing on a modern-day story, however, I thought I ought to pay homage to The Original Queen of Love Triangles (this is not official, but I thought it sounded good) Jane Austen, and of her most convoluted triangley stories, Emma.

bool-movie-emmaI have mentioned many times before how much I really love the 2009 BBC mini-series of Emma (it’s over three hours long and filled with so much goodness!). Though I have not read the book yet, every actor/actress in this adaptation just seem to hit their character so spot-on. They feel like real people and I really come to care for several of them (the ones you’re supposed to care for… Mr. Elton… not so much).

Just so you can see just how much love triangleness is going on Emma, I stole a chart from Diana Peterfreund’s website (apparently she thinks about Jane Austen’s stories even more than I do) and doctored it up with pictures:

emmadiagram-editI have to imagine if you have never seen the movie or read the book, this must be seriously hard to follow. But basically, everyone gets crushed on at some point and everyone crushes on someone at one point; sometimes it’s clear, sometimes it’s confusing, sometimes it’s a rumor, and sometimes they change their mind! It honestly feels like real life though (sometimes uncomfortably so), but it is so much more fun to watch it happen to these people in old timey England than it is for it to happen to you.

If you haven’t checked out this version of Emma and enjoyed Jane Austen’s stories, I would HIGHLY recommend it! The fact that it was able to push the 2005 Pride and Prejudice movie from the top spot of my favorite Jane Austen movie adaptations is a seriously huge deal and just shows how awesome it is. (Side note: I loved the 2005 P&P so much I used one of the tracks from the movie as the song I walked down the aisle to in my wedding, so yeah, I seriously love it.)

What do you think is an awesome adaptation that features love triangles? (I’ll give you a hint, the answer isn’t Twilight.)¬†