Friday, January 30, 2015

Death Comes to Pemberly review

Matthew Ryhs and Anna Maxwell Martin in PBS's "Death Comes to Pemberly"

The latest Jame Austen(ish) Masterpiece miniseries sparked my curiosity when it aired at the end of the year (here in the US anyway), but I didn't get around to watching it until its recent release on Netflix (I'm sure I have Netflix to thank for too many hours wasted, it makes movie viewing just too easy!). 

In short, I have mixed feelings about this adaptation of P.D. James' Pride and Prejudice murder mystery sequel. Granted, I have not read the book, so can only judge the film. 

I'll start by stating what I liked about the series...

The scenery and costumes were beautiful and lush. Masterpiece always does a top-notch job with their films.

I have no complaints about the acting (though I'll share some issues I had with the casting shortly). The actors did a fine job.

It held my interest! I watched all three hours of the series in one sitting. 

So what didn't I like about the series?

I think my biggest issue is the plot. I have not read any of the P&P sequels that Austen's followers have written, though to the best of my knowledge there are several, and I thought this one was an odd choice to adapt. The plot centers largely on Mr. Wickham being suspected of murder and, quite honestly, who really cares that much about Wickham? Now, if Darcy would have been accused of murder, that may be a good premise... but, not so. Of course, Wickham's life is not the only thing at stake, but also the Darcy's reputation and good standing as Wickham's family through marriage-- what looks badly for him, will reflect badly on the family... but again, is social standing really enough to grip a reader's/viewer's heart and twist it with sympathy and longing? Not quite. The plot felt, in a word, small. I craved more from a sequel with such a famous predecessor. That said, there was a cute side story involving Darcy's sister Georgiana, which really could have been the main focus of the plot and probably would have been splendid in itself.

My next issue would be the casting choices for Elizabeth and Darcy. Matthew Rhys was almost, almost Darcy worthy, but not quite (in my opinion), though I have no complaints about his acting, I think he actually did a pretty good job. And I like Anna Maxwell Martin, but not as Lizzy, I'm sorry to say. She was just all wrong, I felt.

Lastly, where was the trademark Austen wit!?
There were a few cheeky remarks and some of the social humor that Austen is famous for, but all and all wit was sadly lacking in this film, especially in Elizabeth's character... you don't really see her taking on life's challenges with that vivacious persona that is not merely an aspect of our dear "Lizzy Bennet", but is, in fact, the essence of her character! I'm sure that the author was trying to show that Elizabeth was grown up now and how she would handle a darker real life sort of situation, but it just didn't do it for me.

And even though I said "lastly", I do have one more small complaint, and that is that I felt the love scene was merely gratuitous, placed in the film just for people who would want to see Darcy and Elizabeth in bed together. The original Austen novels are perfect without any of that, so why change it? Albeit, the scene was brief and not too graphic, so it didn't ruin the movie, and sure Darcy and Lizzy are married and all that, but the scene could have cut after they started kissing and it would have been good enough.  

After all that, it kind of sounds like I hated it, but I honestly didn't. It was good... and, really, that's my complaint, it was good, when it could have been great.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Book Review: This Quiet Sky: A Novella

Title: This Quiet Sky
Author: Joanne Bischof
Publish Date: Nov. 2014 (Mason Jar Books)
Amazon rating: 5 out of 5 stars
My Rating: 3.8 out of 5 stars

A bittersweet love story that tells the tale of 16-year-old Sarah Miller and fellow student Tucker O'Shay. When Tucker took on the task of tutoring Sarah in algebra, she had no idea it would lead to a love that would stay with her for the rest of her life. A bond quickly forms between the two, but Tucker is unwell-- just how unwell Sarah is not sure, but as her feelings for him grow so does her fear that Tucker may not live to see all of his dreams fulfilled. 

I enjoyed this little novella and felt the author told her story well. There were a few instances where I had a difficult time setting it aside! My only qualm, and this is often the case in the Christian romance genre, is that I felt the characters were a little too physically affectionate for Christians of that era. But, it wasn't enough to toss the whole book out, it was still a sweet story and a pleasant read.

Book Review: A Proper Persuit

Title: A Proper Persuit
Author: Lynn Austin
Publish Date: Sep. 2007 (Bethany House)
Amazon rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Finally got around to reading this book, which I've been meaning to do for the past year! Lynn Austin was already a favorite author of mine, so I knew I couldn't be too let down, and I wasn't. Lynn writes her stories in a style that feels easy and natural, and the stories she tells are fresh, witty and always have a pleasant surprise thrown in.

In this coming of age adventure, Violet Hayes is a 20-year-old socialite determined to find her mother in 1893 Chicago during the World's Fair. But her time in Chicago holds much more adventure than she could have dreamed and opens her eyes to ways of life she had never imagined.

This book made me chuckle on several occasions-- you can't help but love Violet's dramatic imagination, and yet the story held substance and meaning. The characters are well thought out-- individuals, not cookie cutter heroes and heroines. For me, Lynn Austin's books are what all other Christian Romances should aspire to. I liked this one a lot. There was one fairly passionate kissing scene, which I generally don't like, but compared to "Christian" books I have read that take the whole "kissing, touching, lusting" thing way too far, this felt tame. Aside from that, I think the very end could have played out just slightly different, but I can't get into that without giving away major spoilers. All in all, a fun and fulfilling adventure, and I have no qualms against recommending it to fans of Christian fiction.

It's just good to finally be reading again!