Books

Classic Novels I’ve Read This Year So Far

Do you remember my post about the top 10 classics I wanted to read? If you don’t, then you can read it here. Classics like Anna Karenina, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, and The Great Gatsby were on that top 10 post. I’ve read two of the four classics mentioned. Also, I read one other classic, one that wasn’t on the list. Here’s the list…

Great Expectations

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

It chronicles the story of an orphaned boy named Pip as he becomes a gentleman with “great expectations.” Coming of age stories are one of my favourites; it’s the growth, the change, in the main character, due to their experiences that I find myself able to relate with. Charles Dickens wrote such a haunting, intriguing novel with a cast of likable characters that seem real.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina cover

It centres on the doomed love affair between the sensuous, rebellious Anna Karenina and the dashing officer, Count Vronsky. Tragedy unfolds as Anna rejects her passionless marriage and must endure the hypocrisies of society. I thought it to be both sad and amazing. It saddens me that Anna couldn’t be with Vronsky without being ridiculed by society. I must say that the final part was disappointing; when I was expecting the reactions of Anna’s close ones, it was instead something else; one of the only times she’s mentioned is through disrespect by Vronsky’s mother. Despite that, I will read the book again and see the film starring Keira Knightley.

Jane Eyre coverJane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Surviving her harsh and lonely childhood, orphaned Jane Eyre takes up a post as governess at Thornfield Hall, where she falls in love with the dark and sardonic Mr. Rochester, who hides a terrible secret; one that forces Jane to follow her moral convictions—even though it robs her of her happiness. I admire and respect Jane for being strong throughout her childhood, as well as for her independence. Novels with strong women appeal to me immensely. One line I loved was: “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.” I loved Jane Eyre!

There are plenty other classics that I want to read: The Count of Monte Cristo; Les Miserables; Pride and Prejudice. Next to be read will be a Jane Austen, The Iliad, and The Count of Monte Cristo.

—Luke

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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.

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.

Books, Movies/TV series, Top Ten

Melissa’s Top Ten Heroines and Films to Check Out

One of the first lists I came up with when we decided to compile a series of top ten posts (after books and authors, of course) was top ten heroines, so here they are:

  1. Elizabeth Bennet220px-Prideandprejudiceposter

    Lively, clever, independent and able to capture (and inform) the arrogant Mr. Darcy, who is above her station in life (which was important in the 18th Century) – Elizabeth is number one. I can re-read Pride and Prejudice repeatedly and still be amused and amazed at her. I adore both portrayals of her in the 1995 BBC mini-series) adaptation and the 2005 Keira Knightly version.

  2. Jane Eyre coverJane Eyre

    Her independence, morality and strength of character captured me from first reading. The 2011 adaptation with Mia Wasikowska is my favourite. I love the line, “I am come back to you.”

  3. Ann Elliot

    Ann Elliot (of Persuasion, Jane Austen) is an unlikely pick as I much prefer independent women but she is such a good, gentle character, so much put-upon and she learns her lesson eventually.

  4. Elinor Dashwood

    Elinor Dashwood (of Sense & Sensibility, Jane Austen) is the pragmatic older sister to the romantic Marianne. I adore her sense of responsibility, pragmatism and dependability in the face of a family that needs her strength. I love that she gets her happily ever after, after all her sacrifice.

  5. Sydney Sagethe indigo spell

    In my review of The Indigo Spell I declare Sydney to be, “the perfect protagonist to read in the first person. She is intelligent, scientific, analytical, independent, strong, and some social interactions perplex her.” She also holds her own against some formidable opponents. The actress cast to play her (in the Vampire Academy films) will have to be pretty awesome in order to avoid letting me down.

  6. the time travellers wifeClare Abshire

    Another strong, romantic figure in a beautiful book and film, Clare Abshire is The Time Traveller’s Wife. Rachel McAdams is the perfect Clare.

  7. Margaret Hale

    Margaret (of North & South) is a lively, intelligent young woman who rises above terrible, successive events with elegance while capturing the heart of the tough Mr Thornton. Daniela Denby-Ashe is the perfect Margaret in the 2004 mini-series adaptation.

  8. Rose Hathawayzoey deuch

    Rose is the protagonist of the Vampire Academy series. She is kick-ass and unfailingly loyal. I can’t wait for the first of the movies out next year. I hope Zoey Deutch (set to play her) can do her justice.

  9. tomorrow when the war beganEllie Linton

    I love Tomorrow When the War Began, I loved it when the books came out in the 90s, I adored the movie when it came out in 2010. Caitlin Stasey wasn’t exactly how I imagined Ellie, but she was so awesome it didn’t matter. There will potentially be a follow up film out next year .

  10. Katniss Everdeen

    I came at this series the wrong way around, I saw the first movie and then began reading the books (because I had to know what happened next). You know the movie I’m talking about, because you haven’t been living under a rock have you? The Hunger Games. Either way Katniss is awesome – she is as compassionate as Margaret Hale, as integral to her family as Elinor the hunger gamesDashwood and as feisty as Rose Hathaway.

Is there anyone else that should be included in the list?

Books

Melissa’s Reading Round up May

Despite having read many magazines this month and being rather too busy for my liking, I have managed to read nine books. Below is the round up for May:

Jessica Alba The Honest Life: Living Naturally and True to YouThe Honest Life

Honest is eco, environmentally and health friendly. It is also sustainable. Her key chapters are on food, cleaning, beauty, style, home, baby and inspiration. A beautifully illustrated, genuine journey through Jessica Alba’s philosophy in life.

Be a Free Range Human: Escape the 9-5, Create a Life You Love and Still Pay the BillsFree Range Human, Marianne Cantwell

This book is about finding, developing and executing your idea to redefine your work/life balance. Cantwell writes clearly, succinctly and draws on real life examples (beyond her own) to illustrate her points. This book is for you if you are trying to get up the courage to try a new venture (she will help you want to jump off the precipice); if you don’t think you could escape the 9-5 (for curiosity purposes) and if you have a niggle but you don’t know what it is (this could be your key!). Read my full review here.

The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After, Elizabeth KantorJane Austen Guide

The aptly named Elizabeth Kantor takes you through an intelligent reading of Austen’s work with the thesis that Austen’s heroines provide a road map to clever dating. Kantor recommends a rational analysis of prospective heroes using a set of very Austen-ite categories, before you are too emotionally invested to make a sensible decision. I wrote a full review here.

The Ten Day MBA, Steten day mbaven Silbiger

I’ll be honest; I only read the Accounting and Finance sections of this book. But it was well written, clearly presented and I have used the knowledge I gained already. An introductory knowledge of economics, accounting and marketing are useful before digging into this tome of knowledge.

10,001 Ways to live Large on a Small Budget, the writers of Wise Bread

This handy, quick read book provides tips for frugal living and personal finance. It provides great tips like how to throw frugal parties; travelling on the cheap and saving three months salary (don’t buy a diamond engagement ring!). It’s worth a read.

How to Make Money on Your Blog, Duane Forrester and Gavin Powellhow to make money on your blog

This book is an easy to read technically focused book on starting, growing and monetizing a blog. I have pages of notes of things to try, including some plug-ins, search engine optimization work and tips on how to write good blog posts. If you’re really game there is some HTML code speak!

Smart Money: How to Structure Your New Zealand Business or Investments and Pay Less Tax, Sheryl Sutherland and Martz Witty

This is a good book to take you through the peculiarities of the New Zealand tax system. It talks about tax compliance, deductable expenses, common tax traps, tax audit guides, investment information and business planning. It is a well written, easy to read book.

Confessions of a Lapsed Catholicconfessions of a lapsed catholic, Sheila Cassidy

What a life story! This woman is amazing. She writes of the sublime beauty of nature and how that makes her feel closer to her concept of God than church services full of people. It was timely reading for me in terms of my currently expanding worldviews. The most profound piece of learning this book provided was, “There was no word [in Jesus’ teaching] about celibacy, or the evils of homosexuality; there was nothing about birth control, churchgoing, or respect for Bishops. No. He told us to love one another as he had loved us.” p141.

North and South, Elizabeth GaskellNorth and South

Proving that second readings of classics only gets better; I have delved back into Margaret’s 19th Century Milton (England). I would love to do an essay on the portrayal of social justice in this book. This is an excellent book from the time of the Brontës. Written in the Victorian period, but influenced by the ever-present Romantic period, the tensions between classes and sexes are vividly drawn by Gaskell. Margaret is on the cusp of two worlds as an ex-minister’s daughter living in a manufacturing town. The plight of the working class weighs heavily on her heart and her views (clearly ahead of her time) are that of equality. Like Pride and Prejudice this is a book of intense feeling, beautifully portrayed characters and the development of a deep relationship (firmly based on respect) between the hero and heroine.

Books, Fancy

Escape Antics: And Good Books to Escape With

I’m an “escaper”—when things get stressful (the compounded, excessive kind of stressful) I do a Houdini. Sometimes it is literally, but most of the time it is imaginatively. I create a plan, then imbue that plan Pink Pantherwith bucket loads of hope, and ardently look forward to the fruition of said hope. However, when I do this, I am no longer invested in the present, I am AWOL.

Three years ago, after my emancipation from an unhealthy five-year relationship, I literally escaped—I went to the Sunshine Coast in Australia alone. Two years ago, I moved cities, nothing like being nine hours drive away from home for an escape. The former escape was a relatively impulsive plan, hatched and undertaken within weeks of realising I was free. The latter was the product of six months thinking and six months planning. This was my lifeline; I endured all of the present knowing I would soon be rewarded with my escape.

The only problem was that I wasn’t enjoying the now. At the time, there was no other conceivable way to act, even with the benefit of hindsight; I don’t know what else I could have done. Now I have a choice. I stop myself from planning too far in advance.

When a situation arises, once I’ve pull my brain out of a tailspin, I find the space to look at the situation logically and make a short-term plan to deal with the problem. Lists are great. Mini to-do lists are my favourite. When I began this year redundant and half-employed, with no idea of what I wanted to do next, I was panicking (not visibly, but internally and quietly). So I created a to-do list for January, February and March. Naturally, finding a job I wanted to do (that wouldn’t bore me within two weeks, that didn’t involve central city parking or long hours etc.) was number one. But I also added several tasks that would keep me busy (like starting this blog).

I started my new position in April. Crisis averted.

Another form of escape is disappearing into addictive novels; I have been known to disappear into a series comprising several books. But single title books are still good. Below are a few good books/authors to disappear with:

The trouble with escapism is, defining when it is acceptable and when it is not. I am learning to avoid my inbuilt instinct to escape and can put in road bumps to slow me down. And it can be massively rewarding in the end to stick with something. Sometimes though, you just gotta go, and if it is just a mini-escape, there are many excellent books to go with.

Books, Top Ten

Melissa’s Favourite Ten Authors

Note: Not in exact order. Except for Jane Austen, of course. 🙂

1. Jane Austen

Must re-read every year!

Pride and Prejudice

Six truly classic novels that can be for any mood or stage, incisive and witty, and insightful.

2. Jodi Picoult

Will follow her anywhere!

Lone Wolf

Around twenty novels of all different subject matters, all treated with equal tenderness, intelligence, and insight.

3. Belinda Alexandra

Favourite historical novels set in the war period!

Golden EarringsBeautiful, sweeping tales from a range of different contexts  experiencing the war, i.e. China, Russia, Australia, France, Italy, etc Continue reading “Melissa’s Favourite Ten Authors”

Books, Top Ten

Luke’s Top Ten Classic Novels To Read

There are openings to some classic novels that I have heard:

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

“There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.”

Despite this, I haven’t actually read any of them. And this is the reason I’ve written this list.

Below are the top ten classic novels I want to read:
Anna-Karenina-Movie-Tie-In-Edition-Tolstoy-Leo-97803458039241. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy – Who hasn’t heard of the doomed love affair between the “sensuous and rebellious” Anna and the “dashing officer,” Count Vronsky? Everyone should, even those who haven’t read the book. I’d definitely like to read it. Back in early February, my desire to read it intensified when Melissa and I watched the newest adaptation starring Keira Knightley.

2. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë – I’d like to read it because it’s about a woman’s journey for independence and love on her own terms. In her childhood, Jane was abused both physically and emotionally by her aunt and cousins, and despite this she managed to stay strong.

3. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen – Melissa adores all of the Jane Austen novels. She was the one who influenced me to want to read them. I’ve seen the 2005 movie adaptation starring Keira Knightley, and definitely plan on reading the novel.

4. Dangerous Liaisons, Pierre Choderlos de Laclos – I’ve seen Cruel Intentions, which is a modernized movie adaptation of this book, and the thing that makes me want to read it is because I want to compare and contrast it with that movie.Jane Eyre cover

5. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald – I would like to read this because I’m interested in this period. Melissa read it and liked it, and recommended it to me. Plus, there is a new movie adaptation by Baz Luhrmann coming out soon.

6. Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen – I started to want to read this after I saw a little bit of the 2007 mini-series.

7. Emma, Jane Austen – One day, I picked my sister’s little pink copy of this book and the opening line reeled me in:

“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.”

I like how Jane Austen knows her character so well.

Evelina cover

8. Evelina, Frances Burney – I discovered Frances Burney while reading one of the author bios of Jane Austen, her early works were read and enjoyed by her. And I’d really like to read this because of the time period its set in.

9. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë – What most interests me about Wuthering Heights is that the narrator is what you’d called an “unreliable narrator.” The main characters are Catherine Earnshaw and Healthcliff, but it’s Lockwood (in the beginning) and Nelly Dean (the main narrator) who tell the story.

10. Camilla or a Picture of Youth, Frances Burney – Much like Evelina, I’d like to read Camilla because I’m interested in the time period its set in.

By Luke Parkes