Friday, February 29, 2008

Becoming Jane

2007
Runtime: 120 minutes
Rated PG for brief [unnecessary] nudity and mild language
Cast includes: Anne Hathaway, James McAvoy, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, & James Cromwell

Jane Austen is young and unmarried, but none of the men who come courting her live up to her expectations...until a disagreeable young man honors the people of Hampshire with his presence. Mr. Thomas Lefroy is rude—yawning over Jane’s writing!—and, in her words, “insufferable.” However, upon meeting at other occasions, the two realize they are equals in wit and intellect.

Sound familiar? Yes, the beginning is so filled with painfully obvious Pride and Prejudice references—in characters, lines, and scenes—that it seems like a cheap rip-off on the classic novel. Maybe Austen did find inspiration in her everyday life, but Pride and Prejudice was not an autobiography, for goodness’ sakes. The allusions could have been much more subtle.
Fortunately the second half of the script smoothes out into a story of its own. And yes, liberties are taken with Jane’s life and her mysterious flirtation with Tom. So? Personally I can forgive a fictional movie for changing the story of a person’s life if it is well done (Amadeus, for instance), and Becoming Jane is, altogether, a lovely film.
James McAvoy was amazing and Anne Hathaway’s acting has improved immensely (her British accent wasn’t even half bad), but unfortunately Maggie Smith’s talents were hardly seen. The English countryside scenery was delightful and the soundtrack was very pretty, though it did not seem to go with the mood that was visually illustrated in certain scenes.
Over all, I thought the movie was well worth watching at least once—for the intense emotions portrayed with little direct speaking between the lovers in a near-end scene alone. My final opinion is: it was passable, but could have been excellent.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Gideon the Cutpurse

Being the First Part of the Gideon Trilogy
by Linda-Buckley Archer

To Peter Schock, nothing sounds more boring than the trip from his home in London to the little farm in Derbyshire. But his father has an urgent business meeting, and his mother’s been on a movie set in California for months. So with his au pair, Margrit, he goes out to the country to spend the weekend. But things don’t turn out as boring as Peter thought. Kate Dyer (the oldest girl from the farm) and Peter are chasing the dog through Kate’s father’s laboratory when they accidentally run into the experimental “antigravity machine.” When they next wake up, they find themselves in an almost completely unfamiliar place. Lost, disoriented, and hungry, the two children are confused and frightened about what happened. But Gideon—Cutpurse and Gentleman—has been hiding in the bushes and sees what happens to them. He is the one who tells them the shocking news: the year is 1763. They’ve traveled back in time. Seeking shelter, Peter and Kate journey with Gideon to his new employers’ house in Bakewell, where they find good food, ridiculous clothing, and (hopefully) a way to get home. But who would believe their story? Both Kate and Peter know how improbable it sounds, so they tell only Gideon, who already believes them. On their way to London, the party runs into highwaymen, famous figures including King George III, and many people who seem to be on the hunt for Gideon. Meanwhile, Peter and Kate desperately try to get home, help keep Gideon from the noose, and stay alive in such a lawless era.

A great book. The School Library Journal remarked that Gideon the Cutpurse “may very well give J.K. Rowling a run for her money.” Peter and Kate were only twelve-year-olds, but I liked how they didn’t act extremely juvenile because of it. The story was great, lots of twisting in the plot and unexpected new adventures at every corner. Gideon the Cutpurse was renamed The Time Travelers in the US, so try not to be confused like I was. Book #2, The Time Thief, was recently released, and the final installment, The Splintering of Time, will be published sometime this year.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hush

An Irish Princess’ Tale
by Donna Jo Napoli

Melkorka is a princess, she is used to people treating her with respect. She’s entitled to it. Her life is good until, when visiting Dublin for a special treat, misfortune befalls her family. An incident that brings her father to the brink of war with the Norsemen results in the princess’ need to hide. With her sister, Brigid, Mel flees to a neighboring kingdom, but they way is far and peasant-boy disguises don’t protect them from the wickedest of thieves, the ones who trade in humans. Mel and Brigid get a new perspective on life as slaves, and “a slave life counts for nothing unless the slave finds a trick.” Mel’s trick will be to hush. Read this Irish princess’ tale and find out how silence can be power.

I felt sort of in the middle about Hush. The writing was well done, and the characters were interesting, but the story wasn’t very exciting. Things take place, but Mel mostly went along with what happened to her, and though that is part of her power, it doesn’t make for a particularly adventuresome tale. It’s not your classic princess story (it is more about pain and hope than love or romance), and because of that and the writing I did enjoy it, but it wasn’t a new favorite.

Read and reviewed for my Royalty Rules Reading Challenge.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Secret Sacrament and Time of the Eagle

by Sherryl Jordan

Navoran-born Gabriel Eshban Vala has felt a connection to the gentle Shinali people since he was seven years old, when he witnessed soldiers conducting a horrible act on a Shinali woman. That event changed his life forever, giving him a longing to heal and help people.
His dreams come true when, at eighteen, he is asked to train as a healer at the Citadel, which means seven long years with little contact with the outside world. But Gabriel only wants to heal and shows an immense talent for it, including the rare ability to mind-heal. However, he is distracted by the peaceful harmony of the Shinali people, and their unjust treatment by the Novorans. Perhaps his destiny is to begin the Time of the Eagle and mend the conflicts between the Navorans and the Shinali.

In Time of the Eagle we meet Avala, a young Shinali woman and a “child of love out of nations that hate,” who will finish bringing the Time of the Eagle into its full being. The small Shinali tribe is looking for a leader with the strength of a warrior and the heart of a healer, and they think Avala will be the one to bring the three clans and revolting Navorans together. When she finds and helps a wounded Igaal warrior it seems her destiny might be beginning without her noticing, but not everyone appreciates Avala’s destiny, and challenges will block her way.

Secret Sacrament and Time of the Eagle are two beautiful, powerful stories of love and hate, fear and hope, war and peace, greed and sacrifice that leave strong impressions on the reader long after they are finished. I really am doing them no justice with my summaries. Sherryl Jordan is a creator of amazing stories and descriptions, and believable characters, and I have no idea why her books are not immensely popular.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Red Queen’s Daughter

by Jacqueline Kolosov

Mary is the daughter of Henry VIII’s last wife, Katherine Parr, but her farther was Katherine’s second husband, the treasonous Thomas Seymour. With both her parents executed and her guardian now also dead, nine-year-old Mary is taken into the custody of Lady Strange, a woman with an air of mystery about her. Mary learns that Lady Strange will be her teacher, but not in stitching and mending. No, Mary is to become a white magician—and a white magician with a destiny at that. Her future is to protect Queen Elizabeth from “romantic intoxication” and prevent her downfall. As the years pass Mary’s skills grow until, at sixteen, she is ready to move to Whitehall palace and become one of the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting. Here Mary must at once learn the schemes of Court life and discover the deepest part of her magic. Fortunately her ability to see auras allows her to learn something of a person’s intentions, but there is one she cannot see: Her cousin, Edmund Seymour, a powerful and possibly dangerous young man who is also a magician...but a dark one. The plots for power increase a notch with magic to an exciting and unique novel of a little-known historical girl, The Red Queen’s Daughter.

Jacqueline Kolosov does a fantastic job of portraying Elizabethan England with an element of magic without overdoing it; no abracadabra spells, but believable ones of seeing, knowing, and understanding. I will admit that the end was kind of rushed, with some plotlines left hanging, and the romance was a little unsatisfactory, but mayhap a sequel would take care of those small things.

****Also posted on YA Books Central.****

Monday, February 4, 2008

Eva’s Reading Meme

Alyssa from The Shady Glade tagged me with Eva’s Meme:

Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews? Honestly?
I don’t think there are any books out there that received only positive reviews, but there are some very popular books/series that I have no desire to read. Such as The Bartimaeus Trilogy, the Artemis Fowl series, and any anime/manga. There’s probably more but I can’t think of them at the moment.

If you could bring three characters to life for a social event (afternoon tea, a night of clubbing, perhaps a world cruise), who would they be and what would the event be?
Only three? Humph. Well, I’d be delighted to make the acquaintances of Nancy Kington (Pirates! by Celia Rees), Sarah Wheelock (Ann Rinaldi’s Girl in Blue), and Jacky Faber (the Bloody Jack Adventures by L.A. Meyer)—although if I knew the latter personally I suspect that I might find her rather tiresome. There are others, but as I am only allowed three....
As for the social event, what fun are those? Just give me a week or two with them and they could teach me to hunt, ride horses, sail, spy, and many other things. But a lovely picnic lunch each day could be included, too. :-)

(Borrowing shamelessly from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde): you are told you can’t die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for awhile, eventually you realise it’s past time to die. Which book would you expect to get you a nice grave?
Honestly it would probably be The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and/or The Hobbit. I have tried SO many times to read those books and never gotten more than half a chapter into them. I don’t think it’s that the story is unappealing—the first movie was good—but as a friend put it, “You feel like you’re hacking through all this description to get to the actual story.”

Come on, we’ve all been there. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted, that you’ve read, when in fact you’ve been nowhere near it?
I have to admit that I sort of pretend I’ve read Pride and Prejudice when indeed I have not. Although I have, in fact, been near it, only unable to get into it.

As an addition to the last question, has there been a book that you really thought you had read, only to realise when you read a review about it/go to ‘reread’ it that you haven’t? Which book?
Nope.

You’re interviewing for the post of Official Book Advisor to some VIP (who’s not a big reader). What’s the first book you’d recommend and why? (If you feel like you’d have to know the person, go ahead and personalise the VIP.)
There are so many different types of people and so many books that each of them would enjoy that I don
’t think I could answer this.

A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: you will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with?
I don’t know. Maybe...French because there’s so much classic literature that was originally published en fran├žais.

A mischievious fairy comes and says that you must choose one book that you will reread once a year for the rest of your life (you can read other books as well). Which book would you pick?
Probably Bloody Jack, by L.A. Meyer (and the rest of the series after it!).

I know that the book blogging community, and its various challenges, have pushed my reading borders. What’s one bookish thing you ‘discovered’ from book blogging (maybe a new genre, or author, or new appreciation for cover art—anything)?
Well I read pretty much any genre before blogging, so it can
’t be discovering a new genre.... Nothing really comes to mind aside from books and maybe a few authors that I hadn’t heard of .

That good fairy is back for one final visit. Now, she’s granting you your dream library! Describe it. Is everything leatherbound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few favourite authors have inscribed their works? Go aheadlet your imagination run free.
It would be dark and spooky and when you open the door a recording of “Enter. MWAhahahahaha!” plays. Just kidding. :-)
Although I don’t generally like dark wood much, you just have to have it in a library. So, you walk in the door to find tall mahogany shelves loaded with every novel I’ve ever read and liked. The walls, where you can see them for the bookshelves, are a soothing cream color dotted with sconces that produce warm light. The blue and stars-scattered ceiling soars high above your head, but not so much as to make you feel dwarfed.
The floor (also mahogany) is decorated with area rugs in a dark blue with oceanic designs. Chairs that you can sink deep into are placed in nooks between the shelves, but I would spend most of my time reading and dreaming on the comfy window seat of the large window overlooking green hills edged with trees.
Every book on the shelf a hardcover so new the spine cracks when you open it (I love the smell of them), and there’s a magical book-drop from which all of the new releases I’ve been waiting to read fall the second of their release!

I tag Aella Soifra, Enna Isilee, Harmony, and Megan. (Sorry if any of you have already been tagged.) Now all of you answer and then tag four people!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Royalty Rules Reviews & Kickoff!


Today kicks off the Royalty Rules Reading Challenge, so start reading! This is where you may, if you would like, post reviews of the books you read for the challenge.

Thank you, and I hope you have a great time with this challenge!

–Ink Mage

1. WORD for Teens: A Countess Below Stairs, by Eva Ibbotson

2. Maelstrom Books: Nobody's Princess, by Esther Friesner

3. Squeaky Books: Nobody's Princess, by Esther Friesner

4. Squeaky Books: Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow, by Jessica Day George

5. Blogging My Books: The Kitchen Boy, by Robert Alexander

6. WORD for Teens: Just Ella, by Margaret Peterson Haddix

7. Framed and Booked: The Blue Sword, by Robin McKinley

8. The Magic of Ink: Hush, by Donna Jo Napoli

9. And Another Book Read: Nobody's Princess, by Esther Friesner

10. Reader Rabbit: The Princess and the Hound, by Mettie Ivie Harrison

11. Teen Book Review: Song of the Sparrow, by Lisa Ann Sandell

12. And Another Book Read: Airman, by Eoin Colfer

13. The Story Siren: Dragon's Keep, by Janet Lee Carey

14. Reader Rabbit: Ophelia, by Lisa Klein

15. Teen Book Review: Princess Mia, by Meg Cabot

16. Blogging My Books: Peter the Great, by Robert K. Massie

17. Squeaky Books: Dragon's Keep, by Janet Lee Carey

18. Reader Rabbit: Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale

19. And Another Book Read: Enna Burning, by Shannon Hale

20. The Story Siren: Ironside, by Holly Black

21. WORD for Teens: The Other Boleyn Girl, by Philippa Gregory

22. The Story Siren: A Countess Below Stairs, by Eva Ibbotson

23. Kinsmen of the Shelf: The Red Queen's Daughter, by Jacqueline Kolosov

24. Reading Mamma: The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette, by Carolly Erickson

25. Blogging My Books: The Diamond, by Julie Baumgold

26. Kinsmen of the Shelf: Far Traveler by Rebecca Tingle

27. The Story Siren: The Faerie Path by Frewin Jones

28. Reader Rabbit: Airman, by Eoin Colfer

29. Someone's Read it Already: The Queen of Attolia, by Megan Whalen Turner

30. Becky's Book Reviews: Sword of the Rightful King, by Jane Yolen

31. Becky's Book Reviews: Dragon Slippers, by Jessica Day George

32. Becky's Book Reviews: Dragon Flight, by Jessica Day George

33. Becky's Book Reviews: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis

34. Becky's Book Reviews: Prince Caspian, by C.S. Lewis

35. Becky's Book Reviews: Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C.S. Lewis

36. Becky's Book Reviews: Saga, by Conor Kostick

37. Becky's Book Reviews: On the Edge of the Sea of Darkness, by Andrew Peterson

38. Becky's Book Reviews: The King's Arrow, by Micheal Cadnum

39. Becky's Book Reviews: Before Midnight, by Cameron Dokey

40. Teen Book Review: Princess Ben, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

41. The Magic of Ink: Guinevere's Gift, by Nancy McKenzie

42. Readermandy: Ombria in Shadow, by Patricia A. McKillip

43. Readermandy: Eleanor: Crown Jewl of Aquitaine, by Kristiana Gregory

44. Bold. Blue. Adventure.: The Looking Glass Wars, by Frank Beddor

45. Bold. Blue Adventure.: Seeing Redd, by Frank Beddor

46. Orchidus: The Hero and the Crown, by Robin McKinley

47. Between the Covers: The Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey

48. Between the Covers: William's Wife, by Jean Plaidy

49. Between the Covers: Antony and Cleopatra, by William Shakespeare

50. Reader Rabbit: The Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale

51. The Story Siren: Princess Ben, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

52. The Story Siren: Faerie Lord, by Herbie Brennan

52. The Story Siren: Nobody's Princess, by Esther Friesner

53. The Story Siren: Ruler of the Realm, by Herbie Brennan

54. The Story Siren: The Sorcerer King, by Frewin Jones

55. The Story Siren: The Lost Queen, by Frewing Jones

56. The Story Siren: The Red Queen's Daughter, by Jacqueline Kolosov

57. The Story Siren: The Princess and the Hound, by Mettie Evie Harrison

58. The Magic of Ink: Primavera, by Mary Jane Beaufrand