Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict

Did I mention I was going to do my next update on The Nutcracker? If so, ignore that. I did, indeed, read it from cover to cover straight through Christmas and the days following just like the book seems to do in it's stretch of time but I don't feel like updating about it. See, the reason is that I fell head over heels in love with a book I bought with my Christmas present from my Nanny (a $25 gift card for Borders).

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict was a splurge buy as was it's companion Cold Mountain. See, I am very broke right now and have the fact that my seasonal employment is about to die in a couple of weeks. So in other words, I am screwed. With my money dwindling and the knowledge that bills will not stop coming I knew I could only spend that $25 on the card and nothing over that amount. All of the books I have dearly wanted, however, are about $20+ and I truly wanted to make the best out of this card and purchase two books- not one.

So I strolled around my store for a good half hour staring up at bookshelves contemplating what there was to choose from and spotted this book way up on the top shelf in the Fiction section. I had never heard of this book but the title seemed interesting and I, myself, have a great interest in Jane Austen and her books. In many ways, Jane Austen is a hero to my mothers side of her family. My cousins and I adore her work.

I plucked the book off the shelf and read the back. It was a modern day novel set in the time of Austen. Or rather, a modern day girl stuck in that time. She was miserable from a failing engagement and then found herself in that time, what is a girl to do. There was a trigger in my mind though- this girl is upset, miserable, her life is seemingly in shambles and she has to find a way to make it work. I felt I could relate with my failing job constantly on my mind. But this book seemed too chipper with it's bright cover and relatively perky description to be a book of negative tones so I decide to buy it. If this girl can find her way to happiness through a broken engagement and her displacement in time I surely could find my own happiness through the idea of unemployment.

I bought the book, brought it home, looked for jobs online, found none, felt bad for myself; then decided to curl up in my lovely reading chair, sip peppermint tea, snack on German chocolates, and open this book.

That was Saturday night and today is Tuesday. I had work yesterday in which I could not read and I've purposely been trying to drag this book along because I loved it that much I didn't want it to end.

There were many moments where I thought, "This woman had to have read my mind. I feel that exact same way!" but it still was generally sticking to the form Austen loves- relationships with men and how they can so easily change. The main character was humorous. Quick spoken, sarcastic, and blunt- all qualities that were unheard-of for a lady in that period of time but are so common now.

Instead of the main character going along with the constraints of women the main character was attempting to rebel and when she did not, she would always consider how such constraints were wrong. In many ways the book shed light on Austen's world which so many women consider glamorous and made it more real. The unglamorous parts, the servants who are more like slaves, the idea that you're practically an old maid if you haven't married by thirty, the incapability to dress yourself.

And the one fact that I really enjoyed, that for the main part, men haven't changed.

What I enjoyed most about the book is that the main character is an over-thinker like myself. Every situation, every conversation, is mulled over in her mind to the point of obsession. I do the same exact thing and in many ways the main character learns that she has to let go of all these thoughts. She has to let life be life and stop trying to have such an iron grip on it all.

It seems, very much, to be a good life lesson and one I certainly needed at this moment. I feel this book is a perfect solution to anyone suffering a break up, bad day at work, loss of work, or any other negative struggles that one might come across.

I'm placing it on my 'favorite books' bookshelf immediately.

Next book up:
I need to work on that mans manuscript again!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Tuck Everlasting

When I was little Tuck Everlasting was one of my favorite books. Now that I have reread it and thought of all the books I have loved in my life, I think Tuck Everlasting had left a lasting impression on me. It was, in fact, everlasting.

The jist is that this little girl, Winnie, feels trapped in her very orderly life and only wants escape. So she does escape and chooses her escape to be to the woods that surrounds her home. Once in the woods and after a series of events she meets the Tucks who is a family (husband, wife, two sons, and a horse) who had taken a drink from a spring in the woods and realized years later that it must be, in many ways, the Fountain of Youth. They don't age and by the time Winnie comes across them they're over 100 years old.

The story cleverly brings up the question of what would be right if you were faced with the chance to live forever. It speaks of the cycle of life, the way things are meant to be, immortality, and entertains young minds all at once. As a child I recall being horrified of death. The very idea of myself dying or my parents scared me to the core. I hadn't known anyone to die and I feared God because I felt he would take people away from me.

Now that I'm older and have (unfortunately) witnessed many deaths I've become more used to the idea and (sorry to be morbid) I am okay with the fact that I'll die. See, I realize nothings going to stop it from happening, it's a guarantee for us all, so no need to worry about the inevitable. But as a child it's a whole other story- it's a very scary thing.

Winnie reflects this fear because she is, after all, just a child. The idea of not having to worry about death is a very intriguing type of thing for a child. But she agrees to wait until she's older before making the decision and I feel her ultimate decision has a lot to do with the fact that she did grow older and she did understand life a little more.

Now we turn to the movie and the book at once. Here is one of the main characters- Jesse- who sounds cute and fun and a general good time. What's better is that he's immortal which adds and edge of magic to him. He's perpetually 17 (sound familiar Twilight fans?) and loves life (okay so that's a bit not like Edward Cullen) and he wants Winnie to wait and make the decision herself if she wants to become immortal and be a part of Jesse's life for eternity.

The movie upped Winnie's age from that of a preteen to a fifteen year old which makes the age difference not quite as creepy. In the movie, with the age difference cut down severely, they also take liberties to make more of a romantic relationship between Winnie and Jesse. However with the movie I feel this makes it appear more hard for Winnie to make a decision. Instead of just liking the family she's also truly in love with Jesse and she doesn't have long to wait til she can drink the water. But the book it's a childish crush and years til she can have the waters taste.

I love both the movie and the book. I own both. I enjoy both. I think the prettiness of being immortal- living on earth and getting to see the changes it has, going to see the world, living through all the eras, the history being built before your eyes, having all the time in the world to do what you want to do. It's all exciting to me and always has been. This book began my (slight) obsession with books concerning immortals. It was this book then the Anne Rice Vampire Chronicles, His Dark Materials, and then Twilight.

The thing I enjoyed most about reading this book was the realization that my interest in immortality all started with this book over a decade ago.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Pennsylvania Dutch Night Before Christmas

If you don't know, you'll know now: I live in Pennsylvania.

And if you don't know one thing that's big in Pennsylvania, let me tell you. It's a group of people who seem to be trapped in time circa 200 years ago. Things appear to the outside eye to be more simple for them and they seem more gracious of the lives they are given.

These people are the Amish, otherwise known locally as the Pennsylvania Dutch. Now, I live in coal country- which is another thing that Pennsylvania is very much known for. But just outside of the coal territory is Amish country where it's a daily occurrence to see horse and buggy traveling down the road.

They're very nice people, at least all the ones I have met, but they despise- hate- getting photos taken of them as if they're on display. I suppose I can understand their hurt feelings. They stay away from all modern technology and stick to the natural items of life.
I still, to this day, get really excited when I see a group of Amish people. In New York we simply did not have these people and I come to Pennsylvania and they're every where and a cause for great interest in my opinion.

Another thing I discovered upon this being my first Christmas where I've been fully living at this new house and not hoping back and forth between this house and school is the book Pennsylvania Dutch Night Before Christmas.

It's the classic "Night Before Christmas" tale except with the Pennsylvanian Dutch accent and imagery that is common amongst the PA Dutch such as cows and the familiar beard covered men in black. Don't forget the Hex Signs either!

I found it hilarious and yet incredibly captivating- this locally loved book- and immediately bought a copy for my family and one for my niece and nephew who live in Virginia. It's a great read if you're reading it out loud for the usage of the local dialect that is still used this very day. Such as 'outing' the lights= turning them off. And some random German terms thrown in there too. (Pennsylvanian Dutch are actually German, not Dutch. It's based off of the German name for Germany= Deutschland, which sounds a lot like "Dutch").

Here's an example:
It vas night before Christmas, und all over the farm,
Nothing vas schusslich, no cause for alarm.
The socks vere all hung by the chimney chust so.
Vith the hopes they get filled up from ankle to toe.*

The entire book is filled with that type of language and the story is quite funny with large colorful pictures along with it all. A great read for your children, especially if you're a good story teller whose great at doing voices. I suggest, however, to read it over once so you can at least try to get a handle on the hard German words and used to all the 'und's and 'vith's.

Next Book Up:
Erica is Bored at Work Series
Tuck Everlasting

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Tale of Despereaux

I didn't exactly expect this book to be a slow boring read and I was completely content with the entire story as a whole. It's enjoyable, it's cute, it's happy, and it's a fairy tale in my opinion. Well, it does center around the plot form of a fairy tale and what is normally seen in fairy tales. It's what the little mouse Despereaux so enjoys about fairy tales. I haven't much to say of the book, really, which is disappointing because I do want to make people- if they happen to read this- utterly convinced that they must pick this book up for a read as soon as possible.

But it's true! Take my word on it. It is a good book. I enjoy stepping back to my childhood- so to speak- and indulging myself in books that might not have been around when I was of that age. In a twisted sense, I read these books and think, one day I'll read these books to my own children.

When I was a child my mother read to me every night and I think that is the reason why I began to read at such a young age. Some of my favorite memories of my childhood is from when I was curled up in my bed, all of my stuffed animals laying beside me with their heads on the pillow and the blanket pulled to their chins, and my mother reading a book to me. I want to give that pleasure to my own children.

Despereaux is one of those books which I would read to my child. Each chapter is relatively three to five pages long, many with a picture each, and the chapters in themselves are like tiny stories too. For the really small child I feel you could read one of these chapters then call it a night, for the older ones you could go through a few, and it's all satisfying and interesting for myself and most likely for a child's mind.

I think I'll reread this story in the future, a quick pleasurable read when I just want to be entertained and left happy and warm in the end. And the movie which is being released in one week looks as though they've added a lot more story line to it but the movie version of Despereaux is just too adorable for me to care much. I mean, look at him!

Next Book Up:
I have to take a break for a couple of days and work on a proof-reading job I have.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Christmas Carol

In the spare bedroom, tucked away in the walk-in closet, stands a large bookshelf. This bookshelf we have owned since before my birth and is sturdy enough to hold an elaborate amount of weights. Currently it is a storage unit for all of our DVDs and the VHS tapes we still keep. And somewhere amongst this stash is a VHS tape that has TV recordings on it. You know, from back in the day where recording your favorite TV show or movie wasn't a big illegal issue.
On this tape is a list of childhood cartoons about Christmas. Eurekas Castle, the Care Bears, all of my favorites.

And tucked somewhere in this tape is also the Mickey's Christmas Carol. I have watched this since I can remember and it is still a favorite of mine. In my lifetime, this little thirty minute Christmas show was my introduction to Dickens classic. Most of my childhood I had know A Christmas Carol to be the telling as seen in the Mickey's version.

When I got older, I was introduced to The Muppet's Christmas Carol. This one not only had my beloved Muppet's but singing too! For days I would walk around my house with the songs stuck in my head and even now I do the same thing. I love that movie! It makes me happy the entire way through and brings me back to a more simpler time in my life- my childhood.

Now there are a number of other interpretations of this beloved classic. Many books from many different ages. Silent films, made for TV movies, major motion pictures. There are a few where Scrooge is actually a woman, others that are set in the present day, and a number that are attempting to capture what Dickens had written to a T. But Mickey's Christmas Carol and The Muppet's Christmas Carol are definitely my two favorites.

Let's skip a few years ahead to the year I was in the 8th grade. That year I had been assigned to read A Christmas Carol in English class. This is where my opinion of the book really begins. When I was a little 13-year-old and had this book presented to me I didn't really know what to make of it.

The language was so hard for my young uneducated brain. Many of the references I didn't understand and a great number of the words I didn't even know. Due to my memorization of The Muppet's Christmas Carol I had assumed that there were two Marley's- not one.

I struggled to make it through the book and had joined the general consensus of my classmates that it 'sucked' and we were 'bored'. All we wanted to do was get to the end of the book so we could watch a filmed version of it. The book was just so long, it had too many hard words, and it was just so tiring and boring I found no really good reason as to why we should be stuck reading it.

Well I felt a sudden urge this Christmas season, nine years after my first read of A Christmas Carol, to reread the classic and see how my 22-year-old mind took it all.

What I had shocked me was that the book is actually quite short. My copy of A Christmas Carol comes in a bound book with two other stories added to the mix. There is a lengthy introduction with a list of important dates before you even get to A Christmas Carol and by that time you're already on page 8. The book ends by page 88. So it was only 80 pages long with only five chapters. To think that nine years ago I found this book to be so long!

Aside from that I was surprised as to how easy the read was. The words were simple, I understood them all, and I took note that if I can make it through Jane Austen with grace I surely can make it through Dickens (who was born long after Austen began to write!).

Pushing all shocks of how my reading habits have developed in nearly ten years- I enjoy it. It has a classic moral of the story type of plot which is a lesson all people should learn. It's especially appropriate most at Christmas time. If you're greedy and snub no one will ever prosper because of you- you yourself will end up cold and alone in the end (much like Scrooge's possible future). You can't help but think a few seconds longer if you really want to pass by the bell ringing volunteer of the Salvation Army as you walk into a store after reading this tale.

During the cold winter months near a celebrated and beloved holiday where people give gifts to one another the idea that there are those out there who are less fortunate pulls on the heart strings. Seeing the horrors that Scrooge beholds makes it a little more clear that we should all take what we have into perspective. They're blessings, really, that we have the opportunity to have so much. We should try, if we are capable, to help those less fortunate. Don't they deserve the warm blessings we adore so much also? And we can only hope that God might bless us, every one.

Next Book Up:
The Tale of Despereaux

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

Words cannot describe how much of a nerd I am when it comes to the fandoms of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. I was one of those people who would go see the movies the moment they opened and immediately buy the DVDs. I was one of those people who could quote the books and movies without a minutes hesitation. I love this stuff, really, I do.

Although I am more of a Lord of the Rings fan then Harry Potter I still truly adore the Harry Potter series and could be called, for all intensive purposes, a Potterhead. So it is easy to say that I was ecstatic when, early this year, they announced the mass publication of The Tales of Beedle the Bard. I appreciated that J.K. Rowling wrote the book and sold it for charity, I think that was pretty sweet of her, but I had been very disappointed that I would never have had a chance to see the book and stories myself.

So I was quite content when I had my order made and it arrived at my house last week. I was somewhat surprised by the shortness of the book, for some reason I had imagined it to be longer, I suppose that's due to the length of the Harry Potter books. But I found the layout to be adorable. It being 'translated' by Hermione and having commentary by Dumbledore I found to be a perfect addition to the book. In some ways, it made it more believable that I was reading a book from the wizarding world.

I enjoyed that there were an assortment of different fairy tales, lessons that had to be learned and parts that very well could have been a part of 'wizard' history. There is even one tale that is not necessarily sweet and endearing but bloody and frightening like old fairy tales used to be (not the Disney sort). And I always have a great amount of respect for stories / books / poetry / anything in the written world that is aimed to appease children. That is one genre I get no pleasure in writing and don't seem quite capable to write to begin with. I come to a point where I'll be sitting in front of my notebook and pen, or maybe my lit computer screen, staring blankly at the wall before me without a clue what to say next. So as always, I take my hat off to Rowling for being capable of telling fairy tales that still seemed original if not amusing.

And from an artists perspective* I appreciate that Rowling did the art work herself in this story. It's always something I felt I would want to do for my own books, if I were ever able to crank out a children's book. I was impressed and found her artwork pretty and well done.

All in all, I give this book- as I have given so many others- a thumbs up because it was entertaining for me (the whole hour it took me to read). I could go into a heavy discussion about sexual undertones all of her novels have but I'll refrain. Just go read the book!


Next Book Up:
A Christmas Carol

*I don't tend to call myself an artist very often. I do enjoy art and I have studied different fields. I foolishly did not plan my college career out very well and was left one credit away from receiving art as a minor. In fact, before choosing to go to school for English I had wanted to go to school for Art. So the term artist is directed towards myself as saying- I do like art, I do like to draw, and I know I have some level of talent.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Time Traveler's Wife

I finished reading this book a few days ago but due to the craziness of my own personal life I'm only able to report about the book now.

The book was fabulous and I feel that is the best way to start this written opinion. I was absolutely in love with it after the first few chapters and was hooked to the very end. I say 'the first few chapters' only because it is a very strange layout to the novel and it took me some time to get used to it.

The plot centers around Clare and Henry. Henry is a time traveler and capable of going forward and backward in time. With this capability he's able to meet Clare while she's a child and therefore Clare knows Henry her whole life. The chapters will switch in years, going from 2001 to 1994 and back again. At times, there are two Henry's in the same scene. It's a very crafty way to tell a story and I cannot help but be impressed by
Audrey Niffenegger's power to create this world without it truly being confusing for the reader.

One thing that impressed me is the development of characters. I have a tendency to judge a book- not by it's cover- but by the characters within. If your book has a strong sense of character then you are more then likely to end up in my favorite book pile. With this book I felt for Clare and Henry. All of their gleeful moments and their upsetting ones would pull on my heart strings. I felt as if, in a way, I knew them. That if I could meet these people I would hug them both. The end of the book made me sad simply because I could no longer be a part of this couples life. The story had ended, there was no more.

This is not to be confused with the idea that I would want a sequel to this book. I feel the ending was perfect and satisfactory. It wasn't necessarily happy but it was not sad either.

Niffenegger took an idea, developed it, made it creative and exciting, and completed it very nicely. I would highly suggest the book to anyone else who enjoys random- but good- literature.

What excites me even more is that this book is being made into a motion picture! Now... I have to admit, I am a closet fan of books turned movies. I always give them a chance, I always try to see them- especially if the movie is based on a book that I loved. To my pleasure there are many a movie that once was a book that turn out splendid and stay with the story line. The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Atonement are all my favorites in many ways. They don't change the story line, they stick to the facts, and the only alterations are scenes that are taken out because they haven't the time to place them in. But most times, those scenes aren't necessary for plot development. That is the type of book-turned-movie I enjoy.

However there are also the millions that are utter crap. Blood and Chocolate comes straight to my mind. Horrible, TERRIBLE interpretation of the book. I didn't even know what I was watching through most of it.

I only hope (after boring you with this ramble) that The Time Traveler's Wife is made into a decent film that does not stray far from the book. When it's released I will try to go see it in theaters and I do hope I'll leave content.


Next book up:
The Tales of Beedle the Bard