Books

Melissa’s The Watsons By Jane Austen and Another Review

Rating: ★★★★★ – excellent!

Imagine if your favourite author wrote six novels (masterpieces, really) and passed away with a few unfinished pieces. Then imagine someone took one and finished it, adhering to the style as best they can. I have been reading The Watsons, by Jane Austen and finished by Another. It has been a great read!

Emma Watson is an unusual heroine for an Austen novel, she is the only protagonist who must work (or contemplate it) for her income. Fanny Price (Mansfield Park) is taken in by her cousins and Jane (Emma) is not a main character. The Bennet sisters (Pride & Prejudice) need to marry well to be secure, but they do not talk of finding work.

Emma is a gentle, nurturing young woman who has been bought up in luxury with a wealthy aunt and uncle. She is deposited home with her invalid father and sisters after her uncle’s death and her aunt moving overseas to marry a foreign man. In true Austen-style, she is noticed for her beauty and her intellect. The story begins with her settling in to her family home, after a long absence she is more like a stranger. But she manages to befriend her older sister and father, becoming indispensible to the latter.

After many trials, including the death of her father, Emma is nearly sent to work as a governess. However, fate intervenes when she is called to stay with a friend who helps along the process of courtship with a local parson. True to the formula, there are misunderstandings and we watch with breaths held, as the pieces finally fall into place for the match.

There was no way I was going to dislike this book. I was able to get lost in the fact that it was another Austen novel. While there was no escaping that it just wasn’t as deep – the plotting, the wit or the character development, it has taken a place in my heart beneath the other six treasured books.

Fancy, Movies/TV series

Wicked the Musical!

It blew my mind!elphaba and glinda

Wicked the Musical came to New Zealand and I scored a ticket due to my partner having to work that night.

I entered Auckland’s Civic Theatre for my first time and was confronted by a large mechanical dragon hanging above the stage. The theatre itself was amazing.

From the moment they began I was blown away by the voices and the dancing. There is nothing quite like the experience of your first time hearing phenomenal singers live. Sure, I’ve been to concerts, but they had nothing on these women.

Suzie Mathers as Glinda and Jemma Rix as Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West) were two of the most amazing singers I have ever heard.

The re imagining of the classic Oz story was truly astonishing. They wove in a prequel and a convincing alternative explanation to the witches and their roles in the Oz story. This story centres around the friendship of Glinda and Elphaba and how they changed each other for the better. It was really thought provoking to see how a different point of view can vastly change the way we see a character.

It was also really funny. Suzie Mathers’ portrayal as a young Glinda was part-Legally Blonde, part-Clueless, and although she was entirely more superficial than you would imagine Glinda to be, surprisingly, it fit. One of the people I went with said their eardrums had been shattered by the pitch of Glinda’s squeals of excitement.

The entire cast was amazing, from the dancers, to the actors, to the monkeys – I was super impressed with the monkeys. It was flawless.

This was a spectacular, well produced, well performed, event that everyone should see to understand what theatre can be.

Fancy

More time?

I work reduced hours. It started as an experiment two and a half years ago, when I was deathly exhausted from working full time with chronic pain and fatigue. Now, I wouldn’t have it any other way. There is so muchWhite_Rabbit_KHREC to be savoured in life, so much to do. Beautiful brothers to see grow up, writing aspirations to attempt, gorgeous dogs to hang out with and so much to read!

The New Economics Foundation in the UK are supporters of the reduced working week. By working less, more efficient and productive hours, they hypothesise that we would reduce stress on ourselves, the economy and the environment.

Obviously, we can’t all afford to do it. We need to increase wages in line with living costs. New Zealand certainly has a way to go to figure out how to make a more just system, but a pay rise for the lowest wages seem a good start. I am lucky to have managed to work in a sector that has endowed me with the skills and experience to, after a university degree and seven years working, earn enough money to subsist on a reduced income. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t an opportunity cost, I don’t spend a lot on clothing, I don’t go on holiday very often (I haven’t been overseas since I reduced my hours) and I am frugal with my money.
This does mean that when I purchase something, it is almost always a measured decision and I am always grateful for it.
As someone who works 25-30 hours per week, I am efficient and “on” in my working hours. Afterwards, (after a quick rest), I get to have an afternoon! I pick my brothers up from school, supervise homework, walk the dog, cook a nice meal, read, write, whatever I like. I am a staunch defender of this lifestyle. For someone who is not struggling with a chronic illness, the “reduced hours” quota may look different.
But imagine, if your banker wanted to coach a primary school softball team and she got to finish work at 3 on a Thursday to do that? How much more willing to be helpful to her clients would she be? Imagine if your doctor, instead of being harried when they see you, their 20th patient that day, got to have one day a week off? Imagine if all mothers could negotiate a way to work only school hours? Well this one is easy, children would be supervised, nurtured, entertained – surely this would translate into healthy, happy young people with less likelihood of leaving school early, offending or drug and alcohol use.
21 hours
You can find the New Economics Foundation’s 2010 report 21 Hours exploring organisations that had introduced a shorter working week. The benefits they suggest a shorter working week would produce are:
  • Safeguarding the natural resources of the planet.
  • Social justice and well-being for all.
  • A robust and prosperous economy
Of course, they are aware that things need to change to accommodate this, including flexibility in the workplace and higher wages. I found it to be interesting reading, so you may too. 
Find an overview of the book here, which includes the introduction and chapter listings.
Books

Luke’s Reading Round-Up

obsidian-cover5Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Katy moves to West Virginia. After a stranger attacks her, Daemon, her arrogant and infuriating neighbour who seems to always forget to put a shirt on, freezes time. Because of this supernatural ability occurring in her presence, she shines like a beacon of light to the Luxen (what Daemon and his sister, Dee, are) and the Arum (not-so good aliens). I have to agree with a reviewer: it does have serious competition with I Am Number Four. It was such a compelling and enjoyable read, and I definitely recommend it.

Onyx by Jennifer L. Armentrout

The Department of Defense arrive in town, and if they discover what Daemon can do and that he and Katy are linked, they’ll be taken away—or killed. Also, a new boy comes to town, and he has a secret of his own. Just like Obsidian, it was indeed compelling and such an epic read.

Dare You ToDare You To by Katie McGarry

It follows Beth Risk as she overcomes the obstacle of learning how to trust—both herself and others—and Ryan Stone as he risks everything for Beth, who won’t let him get too close. Dare You To was awesome! Kate McGarry has impressed me yet again!

Seven Minutes in Heaven by Sara Shepard

Sutton’s body shows up in Sabina Canyon, and suddenly everyone knows there are two girls who look like Sutton Mercer. First assumed as Emma’s body, Emma has no idea how long it will take until the truth comes out—that Sutton is dead. It’s sad that another great series has ended. This is my favourite book in the series, but I have to admit that Sutton’s killer was kind of predictable.

Starlight by Erin Hunter

The Clans have finally arrived in their new home, after following the prophecies of their warrior ancestors, StarClan, but Leafpaw, the ThunderClan Medicine cat’s apprentice, knows they must find a replacement for the Moonstone, a place to communicate with StarClan. Not only this, but one cat

starlight

has plans that could lead to violence and darkness. Beautiful description, action-packed, and filled with good and bad cats, this is another great example of good and evil.

Wanted by Sara Shepard

In the eighth installment in the Pretty Little Liars series, Aria, Hanna, Emily and Spencer, along with the rest of Rosewood, discover a secret that the DiLaurentis family has managed to keep: their dead daughter, Alison, who turned the four Pretty Little Liars into the beautiful girls they are now, has a twin sister named Courtney. Another dramatic and scandalous book in this series about four pretty little liars.

Books, Fancy

Spring Happiness

For us, here in the Southern Hemisphere, September marks the beginning of spring and the ascent to the warmth of summer. I love being warm, I love blue skies and late evening walks with my dog.

Source: http://www.treklens.com/gallery/photo191566.htm
Source: http://www.treklens.com/gallery/photo191566.htm

Spring and autumn are my favourite seasons – for the relative warmth in my adopted home city and for the vivid colours and smells associated with these seasons.

I have been reading two sources of literature that have reminded me about the celebration of happiness. The August 2013 edition of Harper’s Bazaar (UK) has a cheerful focus with two prominent authors’ quotes regarding happiness:

“Happiness quite unshared can scarcely be called happiness; it has no taste.” Charlotte Bronte

“Happiness leaves such slender records; it is the dark days that are so voluminously documented.” Truman Capote

The other is Francoise Heritier’s The Sweetness of Life. This short book is a love song to life. She recommends “enjoying what you like without inhibitions (including the roar of racing cars).” p.7

Some of the things that make me happy include how my dog looks when we are walking, with his tongue hanging out, looking like he is grinning and there is nothing in the world other than him and I on that walk. Now that I have one, I realise what a delight a hug with your significant other can be – which is amusing to those who know me as I tend to have a large personal bubble.

the night circusIt is a joy to be recommended a book that you would never have found on your own, as I have been with The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. (I always welcome suggestions for a good read! Even though I always have a pile at least five high and a whole lot more on Good Reads, I love adding books to the list!)

It is also awesome to have had my sister here for the last week, it will be so hard saying goodbye, as she is a real source of love and joy, and can be a great partner in crime!

So, happy spring or happy Friday – whichever you can claim.

Books, Fancy, Movies/TV series, Writing

Adaptations: Every Reader’s Dream?

By Luke Parkes

It’s every reader’s dreams to see their favourite book on the big screen, but would it leave you disappointed?

The fact is the alterations made from novel to screen can be either a huge hit or an epic failure. It really depends on how filmmakers “translate” a full-length novel to the screen and how the reader responds to it. I will delve into the reasons behind changes and how readers can interpret the film adaptation as its own entity.

Tomorrow, When the War Began

Corrie says to Ellie in the film Tomorrow, When the War Began that her book is “better than the movie,” to which Ellie comments, “Yeah, books usually are.” I have to agree with Ellie there; books are usually better than the movie. Yet you’ll be surprised how many films are based on literature.

In the article Adaptation: From Novel to Film, it was estimated by John Harrington that if you include all the literary forms—such as novels, drama and short stories—the percentage of film adaptations might well be 65% (or possibly even more). It shows that most of the films are based on literature.

Most of the classic novels have been adapted to the screen at least more than once, such as Sherlock Holmes, which has over 200 adaptations. Some of the classic novels have been adapted to both a different time and setting, such as Cruel Intentions, an adaptation of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses, which is set among wealthy teenagers in modern New York. Filmmakers decide this so the film can be more appealing toward younger and older audiences, as well as for both sexes.

Many people in the world, including myself, rave about a favourite book being adapted into a TV series or movie. I am excitedly anticipating the film Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters (out February 14, 2014), which is based on the first book in the six-part series by Richelle Mead. If the author says the movie looks great, then it’s going to be great, right?

Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters

However, many other people fear that screen adaptations won’t do the book justice. All the omitted scenes, characters, dialogue, backstories and other details are the most troubling aspects in adapting from novel to screen. Changes, though, are made for several reasons. In the case of adapting a novel, the filmmakers have to cut scenes, characters, dialogue, backstories and other details to make a two hour long movie. Also, sometimes the filmmakers will make other changes to make it slightly—or possibly a great deal—different to the novel, so they get more than just the readers on board.

Some adaptations stick closely to the novel. I have seen many adaptations that only have very minor changes from the original novel, such as the film Tomorrow, When the War Began. None of the alterations made a difference to the plotline, like the omission of Ellie’s confused feelings for Homer in the film, which is “A-OK with me, as that was my least favourite part of the book,” says Aftran from Aftran’s YA Book Reviews.

Other changes can be major. I have seen many adaptations that divert from the book, like the television series The Vampire Diaries, based upon the novels by L.J. Smith. Excluding the first few episodes, it has developed in its own way, making it seem more like its own entity. Characters’ personalities and roles are different and the storyline takes on a completely different direction. One difference that anyone would notice is that in the show Elena has brunette hair and is really “sweet and caring and tough,” says Jenny from Forever Young Adult, while in the book she is blonde and “whiny and mean and snobby,” says Talya.

Cruel Intentions

Changes can have bad effects on movies, as well. Most reviews on the film Eragon, based upon Christopher Paolini’s debut fantasy novel, talked about the lacklustre acting, dialogue, and lack of pace, with a reviewer saying, “The only solid piece of real acting comes from the voice over work of Rachel Weisz.” An alteration from the book is when Eragon and Brom kill the Ra’zac, who aren’t actually killed until Brisingr, book three. Of course, not all reviews are negative; in fact, there are plenty of positive reviews, such as “It’s still a pretty good movie though.”

Always look to the positive side. When it comes to reading, you can visualise a movie playing in your head; whoever you’d cast in the movie, however the locations would look, that power is in your hands. For an adaptation, it allows everyone to see someone else’s interpretation, which gives readers an opportunity to compare and contrast to their own.

It’s true: every reader’s dream is to see his or her favourite book on the big screen. The question is: will it leave you disappointed? Yes, there will be disappointments, I admit, but you know what? Changes are inevitable, and it depends on how filmmakers “translate” a full-length novel to the screen and how the reader responds to it. Readers, like me, should enjoy the book and film for their own qualities.

Adventures, Books, Movies/TV series

Mortal Instruments and Fatigue

Never judge a book by the movieWhen I’m super tired and struggling with my neck I tend to crave “quiet” weekends and retreat into other worlds.

Last Saturday, I went to The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones with my brother, Luke. It was a great movie of itself, but movie adaptations are rarely a good translation of the book. Especially where there are complex storylines that span several books, things are left out or altered for time and end up falling flat.

In saying that, they did portray the world/setting admirably. I adored the two main characters and I look forward to seeing Lily Collins in Love, Rosie, the movie adaptation of Cecelia Ahern’s Where Rainbows End.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones was based on the first book of the same name, in a six book series by Cassandra Clare. I picked up the third book right after, wanting to be transported, in the way only YA Urban Fantasy seems to be able to do.

mortal instruments city of bonesClare has created a fantastic world filled with delicious characters. She weaves the subplot and main story together building toward an inexorable climax. Her protagonist—a young, powerful girl whose journey of self-discovery leads her to the centre of the action and the solution—is delightfully flawed. The conclusion was satisfactory in the kind of way that leaves you pleased and settled. When I told Luke how I felt—not compelled to read book four right now—he informed me that Clare originally intended book three to be the conclusion of the trilogy.

I don’t thoroughly hide during periods of increased fatigue; I’ve still walked the dog everyday and carried on, with a slightly reduced schedule. But I find inhabiting another’s psyche to be a nice holiday from my foggy brain.