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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Book Review: El Dorado

El Dorado: Further Adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel (I've been trying to space out my book reviews but it's just that I've recently read so many great books that I really want to review...just let me know if it gets annoying and I'll try to stop.  Really, I will.)
A popular sequel to the classic adventure tale, The Scarlet Pimpernel, this suspenseful story unfolds against the backdrop of the French Revolution. An irresistible blend of political intrigue, colorful period detail, and vibrant characterizations, it recounts the mysterious Pimpernel's attempts to rescue the young Dauphin from imprisonment. [This summary doesn't do the book justice at all, but don't go and read Wikipedia's summary - it's full of spoilers]
There are some books that touch me in a very special and personal way but they are extremely rare.  In fact, at the moment, there are only four that qualify to be on that list and El Dorado is one of them.  I discovered TSP in general one or two months ago and I've read about six of the books.  El Dorado is without a doubt my favorite.  It was sort of funny when I first read The Scarlet Pimpernel because I stayed up until midnight reading the first book and then because I couldn't bear to leave the world of the French Revolution, I started reading El Dorado (I picked it because I knew it was Ally's favorite).  I rarely ever cry so hard during a book that there are actual tears falling (although every book on my special list has affected me that way), but this was one of those rare times.  The arrest...the prison scene...the letter to  I was emotionally drained when I finished three in the morning.  I'm glad that I'm a fast reader or else I would never have finished it in one sitting and then I probably wouldn't have gotten any sleep anyway because I'd have been too eager to find out What Happened Next.
Anyways.  On to the book review.  I was quite sure that Something Bad was going to happen (I had heard vague rumours) but I was lulled into a false sense of security by the fact that nothing really exciting seemed to be happening.  Armand was mooning about a French actress (I quite enjoyed this part because it reminded me of Marius and Cosette...).  Of course I was thrilled when Sir Percy appeared and frustrated with Armand for not trusting him but still, everything was going quite well...and then It happened.
The invincible Scarlet Pimpernel is finally captured.  I figured that wasn't a spoiler since it happens quite early in the book...his arrest (in a bad sort of way).  It was absolutely horrible what they do to him...and then the book skips over to Marguerite in England, leaving us on quite a cliff-hanger.  Of course, Marguerite, being the amazing wife that she is, hurries to France despite the dangers, with Sir Andrew Ffoulkes as her escort (Sir Andrew is awesome.  Almost as awesome as Percy.  And the way he sticks by Marguerite through it all...)
Chauvelin finds them and offers to let Marguerite see Sir Percy in prison.  And what follows is one of the most heartbreakingly gorgeous, tear jerking, melt-in-a-puddle-at-the-sheer-romance-of-it-all scenes in literature.  It is the ultimate Scarlet Pimpernel scene, period.  And it has some amazing quotes in it.  But it is a very hard scene to read, especially near the end.
But it ends happily.  Ooops...was that a spoiler?  Never mind.  Anyway, you should know that it ends happily because there's really so much heartbreak in this book that you might put it down before you reach the end :)

Oh...about Armand.  I've never been able to hate him because after Percy gets captured he's so torn up and heartbroken about what his foolishness has done to all of them, that I can't help but feel sorry for him.  So I don't belong to the We Hate Armand club (of which Ally is the proud leader).  Anyway, I think hating Chauvelin in the book takes up all my energy - Chauvelin was horrible in this one...he was at his worst I think.  In fact I was sure that I would never, ever forgive him...but then I read Sir Percy Hits Back (which is a whole other book review) and that sort of changed.  I actually did never forgive him for El Dorado but SPHB softened my feelings toward him (although I'll admit he deserved everything he got).  Bit of a digression there...

This book is amazing.  If you're a fan of TSP, read it.  If you've already read it, read it again.  I've read it three times and each time I've loved it even more.

Vive The Scarlet Pimpernel!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Javert ~ The Misunderstood Villain

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And by 'brick', I mean the unabridged version of the book.

Ideas for this post have been going through my mind for quite awhile now and since Miss Elizabeth just started her Villain's Tournament, I thought now was as good a time as any to finally write this post.

He was born in prison, the son of a fortune teller whose husband was in the galleys.  As he grew older he came to believe that he was outside society with no prospect of ever entering it...he joined the police...his mental attitude was compounded of two very simple principles, admirable in themselves but which, by carrying them to extremes, he made almost evil - respect for authority and hatred of revolt against it. ~ Les Miserables, Part I, Book V, Chapter V - Flickers On The Horizon

Despite the title of this post, I don't believe Javert is the villain of Les Miserables.  He's an antagonist which means that he is an obstacle in the way of the protagonist but is not necessarily evil.  Thenardier is evil.  Javert is not.  Basically, Javert believes in the absolute authority of the law and the reason he chases Valjean for over fifteen years is because he thinks that by breaking his parole and living as a free man, Valjean is rebelling against the law (which he is, but I think that's taking things a little too far - I mean, he only stole a loaf of bread) and he deserves to be brought to justice.

I'll admit that at times Javert is cruel.  Take Fantine's arrest from the book...

She spoke thus, rent in twain, shaken with sobs, blinded with tears, her neck bare, wringing her hands, and coughing with a dry, short cough, stammering softly with a voice of agony. Great sorrow is a divine and terrible ray, which transfigures the unhappy. At that moment Fantine had become beautiful once more. From time to time she paused, and tenderly kissed the police agent's coat. She would have softened a heart of granite; but nothing can soften a heart of wood.

"Come!" said Javert, "I have heard you out. Have you entirely finished? You will get six months. Now march!" ~ Les Miserables, Part I, Book V, Chapter XIII - The Solution of Some Questions connected with the Municipal Police

And from the musical...

I have heard such protestations
Every day for twenty years
Let's have no more explanations
Save your breath and save your tears
`Honest work, just reward,
That's the way to please the Lord.'
And then, of course, Valjean comes and saves Fantine.  This is the final straw and Javert, who had had previous suspicions denounces Valjean (or Monsieur Madeleine which is the name that everyone knows him by) to the Prefect of Police in Paris.  They write back and say that he is mistaken because the real Valjean has been found.  And then comes Javert's best scene...the one that truly illustrates his character.
Pinned ImageJavert comes and apologizes to Monsieur Madeleine and asks him to dismiss him because Javert has shown disrespect to a higher authority - monsieur le maire.  And then he delivers the news that the 'real' Valjean has been found.  Madeleine is about to leave, probably wanting to be left alone with his thoughts, when Javert says...
"Excuse me, monsieur le maire," said he.

"What is it now?" demanded M. Madeleine.

"Monsieur le maire, there is still something of which I must remind you."

"What is it?"

"That I must be dismissed."

M. Madeleine rose.

"Javert, you are a man of honor, and I esteem you. You exaggerate your fault. Moreover, this is an offence which concerns me. Javert, you deserve promotion instead of degradation. I wish you to retain your post."

Javert gazed at M. Madeleine with his candid eyes, in whose depths his not very enlightened but pure and rigid conscience seemed visible, and said in a tranquil voice:-- "Monsieur le maire, I cannot grant you that."...This was uttered in a proud, humble, despairing, yet convinced tone, which lent indescribable grandeur to this singular, honest man.

"We shall see," said M. Madeleine.

And he offered him his hand.

Javert recoiled:-- "Excuse me, monsieur le maire, but this must not be. A mayor does not offer his hand to a police spy."  He added between his teeth:-- "A police spy, yes; from the moment when I have misused the police. I am no more than a police spy."

Then he bowed profoundly, and directed his steps towards the door.

There he wheeled round, and with eyes still downcast:-- "Monsieur le maire," he said, "I shall continue to serve until I am superseded." ~ Part I, Book VI, Chapter II - How Jean May Become Champ

Javert soon learns that monsieur le maire is actually Jean Valjean and he chases him from the apartment where he lived with little Cosette, to the convent, to the Thenardier's apartment and finally finds him at the barricade.  Or rather, Valjean finds him.  And when given the chance to shoot Javert, Valjean lets him go.  This throws Javert but the biggest turmoil in his life is yet to come...

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The barricade has fallen.  All the defenders are dead.  Valjean grasps Marius and drags him through the Paris sewers and finally believes himself to have reached safety when Javert catches up to him again.  Javert agrees to let Valjean take Marius home and once that is done, surprises Valjean (and himself) by also allowing him to go home for a few moments to settle his affairs.  Valjean goes up to his apartment, turns for a moment, perhaps to see where Javert is...but he's gone.

He beheld before him two paths, both equally straight, but he beheld two; and that terrified him; him, who had never in all his life known more than one straight line. And, the poignant anguish lay in this, that the two paths were contrary to each other. One of these straight lines excluded the other. Which of the two was the true one? ~ Volume V, Book IV, Chapter I - Javert Derailed

Javert has always allowed himself to be guided by the law, to accept its rules as absolutes but Valjean's act of kindness to him and then his act of kindness to Valjean, especially his kindness to Valjean both amazes and frightens him.  All his life he has only known one thing: duty.  And now the thought that there could be something more than duty confuses him. 

There were only two ways of escaping from [the quandary]. One was to go resolutely to Jean Valjean, and restore to his cell the convict from the galleys. The other . . .

He commits suicide.  Unable to live with the knowledge that because of him, Valjean will go as a free man, he throws himself into the Siene.

And must I now begin to doubt,
Who never doubted all these years?
My heart is stone and still it trembles
The world I have known is lost in shadow.
Is he from heaven or from hell?
And does he know
That granting me my life today
This man has killed me even so?

I am reaching, but I fall
And the stars are black and cold
As I stare into the void
Of a world that cannot hold
I'll escape now from the world
From the world of Jean Valjean.
There is nowhere I can turn
There is no way to go on....


It's heartbreaking in the book and heartbreaking in the musical.  The intriguing (and incredibly sad) thing about this song is that it's set to the same tune as 'Valjean's Soliliquy' and while Valjean turned his life around after he was shown an act of kindness, Javert couldn't handle the fact that he owed his life to Valjean (because, after all, any of the other barricade defenders - except Marius - would have shot Javert) and he ultimately commits suicide.  You really need to read the scene in the book because it reveals so much more depth and thought in Javert.
What are your thoughts on the character of Javert?
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Monday, February 18, 2013

Book Review: Georgiana Darcy's Diary

Georgiana Darcy's Diary: Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice ContinuedMr. Darcy's younger sister searches for her own happily-ever-after.

The year is 1814, and it's springtime at Pemberley. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy have married. But now a new romance is in the air, along with high fashion, elegant manners, scandal, deception, and the wonderful hope of a true and lasting love.

Shy Georgiana Darcy has been content to remain unmarried, living with her brother and his new bride. But Elizabeth and Darcy's fairy-tale love reminds Georgiana daily that she has found no true love of her own. And perhaps never will, for she is convinced the one man she secretly cares for will never love her in return. Georgiana's domineering aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, has determined that Georgiana shall marry, and has a list of eligible bachelors in mind. But which of the suitors are sincere, and which are merely interested in Georgiana's fortune? Georgiana must learn to trust her heart and rely on her courage, for she also faces the return of the man who could ruin her reputation and spoil a happy ending, just when it finally lies within her grasp.
I'll admit I'm not an Austen purist.  I love reading spinoffs and continuations of Jane Austen's books.  Most of the time.  I've only read one other, full length Austen continuation - it was from S&S and it was horrible.  Willoughby came back.  Marianne was discontented with being Colonel Brandon's wife and it was just really, really weird.  I've mostly only read spinoffs (namely the 'diaries' by Amanda Grange) and the stories in Jane Austen Made Me Do It which include some really nice continuations (one based on Emma comes to mind).  So despite the mixed reviews on Amazon, I purchased Georgiana Darcy's Diary.  I read a little excerpt before I ordered it and I really liked it. 
I wasn't disappointed with the rest of the book either.  In the introduction, the author states that she wouldn't even try to match Jane Austen's writing style which is why she wrote the book in diary form.  I love books that are written in first person so I knew I would enjoy this.  It's quite as 'light and bright and sparkling' as the original book and it was highly amusing in certain places.
Now, Wickham did come back but I didn't mind it because 1) he was actually shown to be bad and Georgiana had no interest in him and 2) it was actually important to the plot that he would come back.  Plus it led to a rather amusing incident in which Colonel Fitzwilliam - Edward - mistakes a man that Georgiana is talking to for Wickham...and, well, I won't tell you what happens.  You'll just have to read it :)
Speaking of Edward, the story between him and Georgiana was so sweet and you really got to know him a lot better.  As for the other characters, Lady Catherine is still just as imposing, Caroline's character is slightly changed but not too much as to be annoying and Anne de Bourgh's gradual character change was amazing...I loved it.  Elizabeth is just as witty and sparkling as she is in Pride & Prejudice and though you hardly see anything of Darcy, I liked him too.

Overall, Georgiana Darcy's Diary is an enthralling read for any Austen fan and I highly recommend it.


Sunday, February 03, 2013

Book Review: Glimpses Of Truth

Glimpses of Truth
I know that I promised that my next post (after my War Horse review) would be some snippets from The Revealing and that I've posted lots and lots of book/movie reviews here recently.  But today I finished reading this book for the millionth time so I thought it was about time I reviewed it (and I promise the next post will be snippets and the next book review I do will be a Jane Austen-related one).


An extraordinary intellect, the love of a beautiful woman, and a remarkable mission - life holds great promise for Thomas Torr. Chosen by John Wycliffe to assist in translating the Latin Vulgate into English, the young peasant senses God calling him to an incredible, but dangerous, destiny. Thus begins a thrilling adventure, leading from the catacombs of Rome to the hinterlands of Britain. Here are characters to fall in love with, exotic settings, drama, intrigue . . . and an ending that will stir anew your desire to fulfill God's call on your life.

I don't really read Christian novels (or novels of any kind for that matter).  There is exactly one Amish fiction trilogy that I read on a semi-regular basis (I don't like Amish novels in general but this one is special to me), one Christian fiction trilogy that I read on a semi-regular basis and this book - Glimpses Of Truth.  My Grandpa gave it to me and I read it right away.  And then I read it again.  And again.  Each time I started it over again, it seemed to be new to's my favorite book ever, bar none.

The characters are amazing.  Thomas is the main character and although I like him, he's not my favorite (which isn't really surprising because, in general, main characters in books and movies aren't my favorites).  Felice is another story...I love her!  But the award for best character goes to her father, Howel.  A simple peasant with a love for God and His Word, a devoted father and courageous man, Howel really shines as the true hero of the story.  Kendall, the third person in the love triangle (which is a subplot that balances the main story perfectly) is a close second.  He's such a gentleman and so kind and protective to Felice...and his sacrifice in the end just broke my heart.

The plot moves quickly, but not too quickly and I must say that I love Jack Cavanaugh's writing style.  Descriptive, simple and moving.  The story takes you from England to Italy then back to England...hmmmm, sounds a bit like Little Dorrit.  

The final scene is. so. heartbreaking.  I don't even want to talk about it.

Have you read Glimpses Of Truth?  What did you think about it?

War Horse 2011 Review

Love, love, love this film!

[I am not following the usual format I use for my reviews...I'm just going to ramble]

My first introduction to War Horse came when Petie reviewed it on her blog and it really intrigued me (I have more than a passing interest in horses) and I had the privilege of watching it a couple of months ago (I watched it for the third time a few days ago).  I loved it.  I hardly ever enjoy war movies but this one was different.  From the very first sweeping shots of the English countryside with delicious music...I was hooked.

Albert and Joey <3The characters are awesome.  There's Joey, of course :)  And Topthorn (love that horse!).  I really got caught up in ever person on the screen and that surprised me because usually I just have one or two favorites that I really connect to.  Albert (who is awesome - in a big, big way), Captain Nicholls (my first introduction to Tom Hiddleston - I was quite blown away), Gunther and his brother, Peter, I believe is his name (I was rooting so much for them to get home safely so I was left staring at the screen with outraged disbelief when a certain something happened...).  The Grandfather and Emilie (loved the Grandfather, didn't care so much for Emilie but that might just be me) and my brothers' personal favorite, the German private near the end of the movie who takes care of Joey and Topthorn.  I liked Mr and Mrs Merrincott (am I spelling that right?), and Andrew made me smile :)

This scene just broke me up inside...:'(
This scene...

My three favorite scenes would definitely be the plowing scene (yay!), the mock-charge (loved that little race) and the reunion scene (I was crying.  All. three. times.).  There's so many other little scenes that I found wonderful but if I listed them all, there would be spoilers and this post would be too long.  Oh...I forgot the mention in my bit about the different characters that Eddie Marsen (Mr Pancks from Little Dorrit) makes a small cameo appearance  - made me smile.

The music is sweepingly gorgeous.  The End.

And so ends my review because although I could say so much more, I can't really find the right words to say it (you know how that works).  One last thing...the final scene is amazing.  Simple but amazing.

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