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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Movie Review: The Water Horse {Legend of the Deep}

The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep

When a lonely young boy named Angus discovers a large, mysterious egg along the shores of Loch Ness, no one is prepared for what lies within. He soon discovers that the strange, mischievous hatchling inside is none other than The Water Horse, the loch's most mysterious and fabled creature! But with the Water Horse growing ten times its size every day, Angus finds it increasingly difficult to keep his new friend a secret.

I love this film.  I believe I've watched it about four times, all told, and I still haven't gotten sick of it (a rare occurrence, to be sure - I usually cave in after about three viewings one after another).  The fourth time was just a couple of days ago, and I thought it was high time I reviewed it.  The little description on Netflix made me think, at first, that it was set in modern times in America (just an impression I got, there was really no basis for the idea) but Water Horse is actually set in WWII, in Scotland (eeep!  Although they actually filmed it in New Zealand - I feel a bit ripped off).  I've discovered an obsessive liking for WWI and WWII films, when they're more about human stories than just battles and fighting, so that was one of the biggest reasons for my love of this movie.  My entire family really enjoys it, as well (another rare occurrence) and we quote/talk about it quite a bit, which is fun.

One thing that really stands out in Water Horse is the computer imagery.  Crusoe (the Water Horse - Angus named him after Robinson Crusoe) is entirely CGI, but he looks incredibly real (besides being over twenty feet tall and having the body of no animal I've ever seen).  It's really amazing imagery.  I read somewhere that they combined the face of a dog, horse, eagle, and a couple of other animals to make Crusoe's face familiar, and yet not familiar.  I think it worked well.

The characters are another thing that is truly great about this film.  I love good characters, and Water Horse has really awesome ones.  Let's see...well, for starters, there's Angus.  Period drama fans will probably recognize him as Harry from Cranford/Return To Cranford.  He does an excellent job and I thoroughly enjoyed watching his character (except for a couple of typical Cliched Irritating Kid Film Moments).  Angus' mom, Ann (played by Emily Watson - she also played Albert's mom in War Horse), was one of my favorite characters.  Then, there's Captain Hamilton.  The first time I watched the movie, I thought he was a good character (for the first half, at least) but he's something of a jerk.  I wouldn't go so far as to call him the villain, but he's sort of like that [edit: just realized that Hamilton is played by David Morrisey (Colonel Brandon in S&S 2008).  I thought he looked familiar].  My favorite character is Lewis Mowbray.  He's the handyman about the manor house and the first time he came on-screen, my siblings and I were all saying "Yep, he's a spy.  He's definitely a spy" because he was so mysterious and he yelled at Angus, and other things like that.  But he was quickly shown not to be a spy (or even a slightly bad guy) and I loved the little romance thingy with him and Ann.

The  James Newton Howard is a genius when it comes to composing film scores.  He's easily my favorite movie composer.  There was a nice melancholy feel to the music and, of course, Scottish themes.  Now, as a warning, it might be a bit too much for young children (especially the second half) because Crusoe goes a bit wild for a time and gets pretty violent in a few scenes.  There are also a few curse words scattered throughout.  Other than that, I can't recommend this film highly enough.  Amazing scenery/music/story/characters...and an intriguing ending.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Book Review: Ellen

As the young wife of a sea captain, Ellen lives cheerfully and faithfully. Then tragedy strikes and all that she has and is–is put through testing fire. Bound up with her story is that of Pierre–an urchin off the streets of a far-distant city shipping out on a great adventure–and also that of his captain–a man seeking to snatch safety for his men whatever the cost to himself.

I finished this book several days ago, and I was going to have a review out, but my family and I have been caught in the Great Canadian Ice Storm of 2013 (still are, actually, although we have our electricity back now) so I haven't been on the internet for a few days (*gasp*).  Don't worry - we're all fine.  I had my iPod, my books, and my writing (I wrote longhand in some notebooks) so it wasn't all that bad.  Still, it was an enormous relief to have the lights come back on last night.  Now where was I...oh.  Yes.  The book review.

I've been reading a lot of new books lately, mostly because I get alerted when certain books are free for Amazon Kindle (I got an amazing one about the significance of food in Jane Austen's novels about a week ago), but Ellen wasn't a free book on Kindle.  I was asked to read and review it by the author after she read my review for Swept To Sea.  Considering the scathing review I gave that book, I was surprised, but agreed right away.  I read it in a couple of days and my overall opinion is that it was a really good read.  I liked it.  It was a bit slow at times, but I forged through and I'm really glad I did, because it had a blissfully happy ending.  I loved the ending.

Let's see...I'll talk about the different aspects of the book like a good reviewer should.  Firstly, the writing style.  I'm thinking that Heidi Peterson had read at least some of the Elsie Dinsmore books, because the writing style is very similar to them.  And I'm not saying that in a mean way - I actually enjoy the ED books, although the character herself gets on my nerves a lot (mostly when she's little; she improves with age).  I mean, if you replaced Ellen with Elsie and Joshua Bryant with Edward Travilla and tweaked a few things, it could pass for an ED book easily.  There was a nice old-fashioned quality to the writing which I really enjoyed.  And the dialog was, I thought, extremely realistic and well done.  That was one of the best parts, in my opinion.

The characters...well, I wasn't all that enthralled with the characters.  They weren't bad, per se, but they weren't all that memorable either.  I did like Pierre.  He was probably my favorite character (he reminded me of Gavroche, even though he isn't French, no matter what his name might make you think).  I did think the characters played off each other well, and Ellen and Joshua's conversations were adorable.  Now, at first I was thinking that the authoress shouldn't have put in a prologue at all, since I thought it gave away a part of the book, but then when the Unexpected Twist came along, I thought it was a good idea.

Overall, Ellen is an enjoyable read for anyone who enjoys light romance, old-fashioned writing, and a splash of adventure.  I highly recommend it.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Cinderella: 2013

Can we just take a moment to appreciate the gorgeousness of the logo?
I watched the movie-musical of Cinderella when I was pretty young (the Lesley Ann Warren version) and I didn't like it that much.  It was actually sort of weird, if I remember correctly, because even though it was a movie, they made everything look like a theatre set.  I didn't really like musicals back then, and I wasn't even in my teens so it hardly made any impression on me.  Then, when I started getting into musicals, I decided to see if I could find that movie on Youtube.  It wasn't there, but there was a movie-musical done in the 90's.  I started watching it, but it was weirdly multi-racial (for instance, the king was white, the queen was white [or the other way around] and the prince is Asian.  How does that work?) and there was too much talking and not enough singing, so I forgot it.

so CUTE.Then, less than a month ago, I came across the Original Broadway Cast Recording for Cinderella (which was actually done in 2013).  I was vaguely interested, so I borrowed it, took it home, and listened to it...and I was hooked.  For one thing, there was no talking since it was a soundtrack, so I was able to listen to all the songs right after another.  I've probably listened to about ten times since now and each time I love it better.  Two new goals of mine are to see the show live, and to play Cinderella at some time (her role is actually the easiest I've ever wanted to play, vocal wise, at least).  I really like how the prince was more three dimensional, especially with 'Me, Who Am I?' (I also liked how one of the step-sisters turned good).  My favorite songs are 'Me, Who Am I?', 'The Prince Is Giving A Ball' (Jean Michel's one and only appearance in the soundtrack) 'Ten Minutes Ago', 'Stepsister's Lament' (such a upbeat melody - I love how it's reprised in both the Overture and the exit march), 'A Lovely Night (and reprise)', and 'Loneliness Of Evening'.

Annnnnd...I can't really think of anything else to say, other than that the cast is amazing, and you should really listen to the whole thing as soon as possible.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Breaking Shadows: BOLD {Release Party Tour}

“Rains will flood the earth,
Fires burn the hearth,
Blood be spilled like wine,
I’ll lose what once was mine,
But flowers still will grow,
Light burst through shadow,
So child rest tonight,
My child, sleep tonight.”

Raven falls is a dark place, a harsh place filled with destruction. But from the shadows, a revolution is rising. In a torn country lead by a corrupted, militaristic government, fear pervades every nook, every crack. It fills every broken heart, and chases the hopes and dreams from the people. In the midst of it all, Jesse and her brother have taken a stand. 
Just two kids, they'll have to rebuild their parents' army if they ever hope to justify their deaths. A battle is coming, whether they're ready or not.
Their only hope is to be BOLD.

Bold was released two days ago and this review is part of the blog tour celebrating its release.  I read Bold a few months ago after I volunteered to beta-read it (I really do read all the best books that way) and when I started it, I rolled my eyes inwardly as I thought it would be another cliched Hunger Games-first person-present tense-dystopian knock-off.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  It wasn't cliched, or anything like THG, even though it was dystopian first person, present tense.  It's one of the only dystopian books I've read, but if Bold is anything to go by, the rest of the genre must be superb.  If I remember correctly, there are three more books coming in the series which I can't wait to read.

One of the things I love most about Bold, is the richness and color of writing.  The pacing never lags, and there are no plot holes, despite it being narrated in first person (not to mention present tense) which is really hard to keep up over an entire story.  Believe me, I know.  Torn Hopes had two first person narrators and I still found it hard to get everything in.  It's the kind of book that I can sink into, be totally caught up in the world of, and emerge from it several hours later, dazed.  I love books like that.  The emotional impact of the whole thing is not to be ignored either.  I teared up a few times while reading it, but the part that hit me hardest was the very end.  It was terribly tragic and unexpected.

Jesse/Jessica was a worthy heroine (and narrator of the book).  I could feel her pain and heartache and the little girl deep down inside.  She made me laugh and cry and feel inspired with the way she fought for what she believed in, even when the going got tough.  Her brother, Ben was a huge favorite of mine.  Hannah Stewart did an amazing job portraying the brother/sister relationship between him and Jesse.  And in his own right, and not just in his relationship with Jesse, he was a strong, vivid character (with way more depth to him than at first glance).  My two favorite team members were Mason ( favorite characters *SPOILERS* always die) and Jimmy (he was adorable, in a way).  Award for the most complex character goes to Jude.  Even after two re-reads, I don't totally 'get' his transformation at the end, but it's freaky.  His and Jesse's romance was one of the sweetest things I've ever read.  And, even though he...did Unpleasant Things in the end, he's still a favorite character.  And I think we'll be getting a book in the series from his POV.  Yay!

In summary, Bold is an amazing read for anyone interested in a good, solid, interesting read.  I highly recommend it.  


[check out the other stops on the blog tour, as well as information about the tour contest below]

You and Your BOLD self Contest
One special winner will receive a signed copy of Breaking Shadows: Bold for free. First read the following scene (which by the way is hilarious) from Chapter 2 of Bold, and come up with your own artistic interpretation. Drawings, videos, audio recordings, written responses...any for of art will qualify you! Entries need to be sent to by midnight, December 29th. Just like the giveaway there is no limit to number of entries per person, so working on those creative pieces!
The top ten entries will be posted at the Breaking Shadows site on December 10th for voting. The entry with the most votes will be announced on January 6th. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Book Review: Swept To Sea

Swept to Sea by Heather Manning,

Lady Eden Trenton never wanted to leave her privileged existence in London—until her father invites a dangerous suitor into her life. Left with few options, Eden devises the best reprieve she can: escape. Chasing freedom, she stows away aboard a pirate ship, praying she will gain her independence in the colonies before she is discovered by the nefarious crew.
Captain Caspian Archer has spent the last five years hardening his heart and searching to exact revenge for the event that tore his life to shreds. When he catches word that his enemy is residing in Jamaica, Caspian steers his ship toward the colonies in all haste. His plans soon change, however, when he discovers the young beauty hiding in his ship’s hold.
Cut from the only lives they have known, Caspian and Eden are pulled together as each pursues a fresh hope upon the sea. 

I was the wrong reader for this book.  I requested a free copy for to review on here, mainly because ever single review on Amazon was five-star, talking about how amazing and witty and gorgeous this book was.  I went into it with high expectations, and came out nearly disgusted and certainly let down.  One of the reasons for that, I believe, was that even though I can be a gushy fangirl, I'm used to romance being a subplot (big or small), not the main thing, and if it does have a big focus (Jane Austen, anyone? - by the way, it's her birthday today and I totally forgot *blushes*), I want a well-written book with an intriguing plot and interesting characters.  This book had none of that.  The beginning was interesting, the end was...nice, I guess, but in between there was pretty much nothing more than ridiculous sea battles and a dysfunctional relationship between the 'hero' (he doesn't really deserve the name) and the 'heroine' (ditto).  More on that in a bit.

The characters were insipid (what an Austenish word!) and since I'm someone who can forgive a slow plot or mediocre writing as long as the characters are good (well, they have to be really good to combat bad plot/writing, but, anyway...), this was a major bad point against me liking Swept To Sea.  If the heroine wasn't chewing her plump bottom lip, she was flinging her umber curls around her head (seriously, the authoress had to mention the odd color of her curls all. the. time.), or fainting.  Or cowering from the hero, afraid that he'd hit her (even though he very emphatically said he wouldn't even think of it).  Or giggling about the hero's son's 'cute' antics (he was one of those obnoxious, very badly written children in novels).  And if the hero wasn't going off into fits of anger/jealousy (honestly, he did that over the most petty of things), he was thinking about how brave/beautiful the heroine was (beautiful she may be, but brave she most certainly is not - she fainted about six times in the course of the novel).  

The minor characters were cardboard cutouts, prone to interacting unbelievably with the opposite gender (with perhaps the exception of First Mate, and later Captain, Gage Thompson - I quite liked him, actually) and all in all not making any impression on me.  There's a merchant captain who's helping Eden's friends find her, and he takes to insulting one of the friends whenever he can, and yet they end up falling in love.  Do I sense a P&P knock-off?  The way the authoress switched between hero/heroine/heroine's friend #1/heroine's friend #2/merchant ship captain/first mate/villain's point of views was confusing to say the least.  Especially Caspian and Eden's POVs because it was like seeing two different versions of the characters every time the point of view switched.  I know some authors who can skillfully handle several different points of view, but Heather Manning is definitely not one of them.

The author bio says that Heather reads every inspirational romance she can get her hands on, and, frankly, I think she took all her ideas for how a relationship should work (or not work) from cliched Christian romance novels.  She's only sixteen, so I don't think she would have much experience with things like that.  It really shows, at times.  Like I mentioned before, Eden keeps thinking Caspian will hit her every time she says something slightly out of turn.  One reviewer said that there was a Pride and Prejudice quality to the bantering.  What bantering?  Eden was too wimpy to say anything.  Oh, and there was this one bit where Caspian thinks that maybe it was a good thing that his wife died (the wife who he's been trying to avenge for five years), because if she'd survived, he'd never have met Eden and fallen in love with her.  And I was sitting there, with my mouth hanging open.  WHATWHATWHAT?

Ugh.  I didn't mean to be so harsh with this review, but it's honestly the way I feel.

*le sigh*

Now I'll sit back and wait for everyone to blast me, since it seems everyone else adores this book.


Friday, December 13, 2013

Stuff I've Been Doing/Reading/Watching/Listening To Lately

Sooooooo...what have I been doing lately?

Well, I watched Captain America, for one.  It was so good.  I've wanted to watch it ever since Maribeth reviewed it on her blog, but didn't actually get a chance to until a few days ago.  I had to wait, partly because my parents didn't want the little kids to watch it (because of Red Skull - disturbing imagery, and all that), so I watched it with my two brothers (I actually have five, but the oldest two are who I meant).  They both know a lot more about it than I do, but it really got annoying when they started saying "I just love Captain America and his shield and his outfit" once every five minutes, or so.  It got old quickly.  Anyway, CA is definitely one of my new favorite movies, and I'm really excited about the sequel that's coming out in March.  I watched the trailer yesterday, and it looks really, really good.

Speaking of movies, I thought I'd share my movie to-watch list for 2014...
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier (obviously)
  • Despicable Me (I've had good recommendations about this movie from several people, so...)
  • Frozen (this one probably tops my list mainly because of the music - it's incredibly gorgeous)
  • The Christmas Candle (Samantha Barks and Susan Boyle - need I say more?)
  • Wives & Daughters (I'm kind of obsessed with Elizabeth Gaskell period dramas right now)
From Disney's upcoming movie, Frozen!  I'm looking forward to this one...I think it has a Tangled feel.  :)I've been listening to several things lately.  A few of the songs from Frozen have completely entranced me - 'Do You Want To Build A Snowman?' and 'For The First Time In Forever', as just a couple examples.  Also, I've been running my iPod on shuffle lately - it's like eating ice cream and pickles, but it's actually been pretty good lately (sometimes when I shuffle the songs, I end up skipping every one, but this time around it's been wonderful - a lot of great mixes).  Current favorite song?  All In My Mind from A Tale Of Two Cities.

I finished read my sister A Legend Of Honesty last night, and we're going to start The Point Of No Return tonight.  It's been a wonder I got through the first one without breaking down, but I guess reading it for the fourth time changes things a little.  Anyway...I've been reading a mix of different novels, one in particular that I have to review on here pretty soon (I reeeeally don't want to, because it's one of the worst novels I've ever read, but I agreed to do a review in exchange for a free copy [I didn't know what it was like before] so, yeah.  It's awkward).  I actually haven't been reading that many books lately, for some reason, but I'm sure I'll get back to it soon.

As I know not all of you follow my writing blog, I thought I'd give you a little update on how I'm progressing.  I'm almost at 90,000 words in I Will Repay (the novel I started during NaNo) and although I don't think I'll get 100K, I'm sure I'll come pretty close.  It's bittersweet to be coming to the end, because I don't really want to (and yet I do) but as I'll still have two more books to write in the series, it isn't as bad as if it had been a standalone.

What have you been doing lately?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Little Things {76-100}

 Reasons to love being alive
~new songs
~my characters
~being able to talk about anything with certain people
~my writing journal
~afternoon sunlight
~the beauty of prayer
~reading books out loud
~crying over a good book
~having that one amazing song playing in my head over and over again
~johnny tremain
~private fandoms
~hot pink
~soft grey
~my pinterest boards
~other people's fandoms
~lemony sugar cookies
~belting out favorite showtunes
~recommendations from friends
~my family
~blimey cow
~golden retrievers
~books I've beta-read

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Soundtrack Spotlight {Air Bud}

Air Bud (“Air Bud”)   The dog shoots hoops. What else needs to be said?

I like the Air Bud movies, but I don't talk about my interest in them very much, because it's the kind of thing that admitting to liking it is akin to killing any thoughts of maturity people may have of you (hmmmm...that sentence sounds oddly-worded, but I'm sure you all know what I mean - and I'm sure most of you have little 'guilty' obsessions like that).  But I still like them, although I hardly ever watch them anymore (our library has all the movies, or did at one time, and my siblings and I were averaging about two re-watchs a week for the longest time).  They're incredibly cheesy, the plots for all the movies are exactly the same, and, for the most part, the acting is bad (except for the first two).  I think one of the reasons I like them so much is the music.

It's epic in the fullest sense of the word.  I mean, it's the kind of music that can make me cry when I listen to it, and I often have to stop whatever I'm doing at the moment to fully appreciate it and let it all soak in.  It's that good.  My favorite tracks are 'Remembering Dad' (lots of melancholy, but a beautiful melody), 'Buddy and Josh: Together At First' (chills every. single. time.), 'Buddy Makes A Basket' (this one is so vivid in that I can see the whole scene playing out in my head), 'From The Heart' (the iconic - at least to my family - main theme; my favorite track in the whole thing), and 'The Final Shot' (another vivid track).

Have you ever watched any of the Air Bud movies?  What do you think of the tracks I listed above?

Monday, December 02, 2013

Movie Review: Return To Cranford

Return to Cranford (2007). #tv, #drama, #comedy, #pbs, #cranfordGoodness.  It seems like this blog has become a movie/book review blog and nothing else.  But I like writing reviews, and Return To Cranford was an excellent period drama, and this blog is all about period drama (well, mostly) so here's my review.  To begin, nothing can be better than the first movie.  Sequels usually aren't better than the first book/movie, you know, and Return To Cranford was no exception.  However, it was a charming film (I can't really call is a miniseries, especially as there were only two episodes) and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  One thing that made RTC feel different from Cranford, was the absence of some characters that were there throughout the whole first miniseries.  Mr Carter, of course, as well as Lady Ludlow, Martha, and Jem (I know the last three were in RTC, but they weren't there for most of it).  Not to mention Dr Harrison and Sophy.

I did like it that none of the cast members had changed from the original.  One of my theories about Martha and Lady Ludlow dying so quickly was that they had pressing engagements elsewhere, but the film directors wanted them in for continuity purposes.  But since they couldn't stay for long, they just killed them off.  Typical BBC (oh, that reminds me of something...when we all thought that Harry had died, and then he 'came back to life', my five year old brother said "But he's a main character", as if giving a reason that he couldn't really die and my mom said "That doesn't make any difference".  Ah, yes, we know BBC far too well).  But it was really fun to see all the old cast (as well as some new faces, which I'll get to in a moment).  And although two years may not have made a difference with most of the cast, it definitely did with the guy who plays Harry.  He shot up about a foot or more, I think, and his voice was a lot deeper.  It was actually a bit hard to understand him at times.

Leesha, what do you think of her for Eve? Jodie Whittaker as Peggy Bell in Return to Cranford. (It was so hard to find a picture of her! All searches for Return to Cranford end in hundreds of pics of Tom Hiddleston! Under normal circumstances, that would be more than fine).
So...about the characters.  Pretty much all the old cast had the same personality traits, with the exception of Harry and Mary (hehehehe...I'm a bit of a poet...).  Now, from what I'd gathered from reading Amy's review of RTC, I thought Harry would be a foolish, disobedient boy who totally disregarded Mr Carter's instructions and just did his own thing.  However, he wasn't like that at all.  Sure, he let Septimus have the estate, but he thought he was doing the right thing.  And he ran away from school/refused to go back, but I think he was justified, at least a little.  I mean, the stuff he went through at that school...*shudders*  I'd refuse to go back.  As for Mary, well, I'm not sure about her character.  Having very recently seen a friend go through a similar situation as she did, I can't really decide whether or not she was in the right.  I guess breaking off an engagement just because you want to write more doesn't seem a really good motive.  Anyway...

I really liked the new characters.  William Buxton, Peggy Bell, Lady Glenmire/Mrs Brown.  I agree with pretty much every other fan of Cranford in saying that I liked William just a wee bit better than Frank.  His and Peggy's relationship was so sweet and adorable and full of obstacles (which made me root for them harder).  I liked how he got a job working for the railway, even though it was such hard work, so that he could support Peggy.  Peggy herself was great.  A good replacement for both Sophy and Mary.  I never quite figured out her relationship to Edward/Mrs Bell.  They treat her like a servant, at times, so I'm thinking she's their stepdaughter?  I'm not sure.  And I really liked Lady Glenmire.  I just knew she was going to marry Captain Brown.

William and Peggy in "Return to Cranford"// Despite the fact that his hair looks like it was electrocuted, I still find this sweet. After all, it is Tom Hiddleston.

I loved, loved, loved the ending.  I had this huge grin on my face during the dance - the music was so pretty.  It was really sweet.  Everything got wrapped up nicely, and everyone was happy.  The perfect ending to the entire Cranford story.  On a completely unrelated sidenote, it was, shall we say, interesting to finally see Septimus.  To tell the truth, I thought his manservant was Septimus himself, at first.  But I quickly figured out how everything went.  And wasn't Miss Galindo great when she gave him what-for?  I was mentally cheering her on in that scene.

Have you watched Return To Cranford?  Who is your favorite character?

Happy Birthday To Miss Jane Bennet!

Every. single. email.

Today is the birthday of a very special friend of mine - Miss Jane Bennet (obviously not her real name, but since she doesn't want the whole world to know her real name, I'll just be calling her Jane for this post).  Jane and I met about four months ago (August 8th) when I offered to re-design her blog for her.  She had commented on my blog a number of times before that, but I had never really checked out her blog until one day she shared a link with me about a post she'd written defending Enjolras.  I'm always up for posts about Enjo *wink, wink* so I clicked on the link and read the post.  I knew right away that she was some kind of special.  Her post was incredibly well written, and I've actually re-read it quite a few times since.  I gave her blog a follow, sent the post off to friends so they could enjoy it too (most of them followed her as well), and it was about that time that she asked for help with her blog design.

inspirational quotes

After I got her blog looking tip-top (in both our opinions), we gradually started emailing each other.  It started out with sharing our likes/dislikes and our email correspondence quickly grew to (literally) hundreds of emails, most of them very, very long although we do have one thread where we share weird/funny/interesting little thing we find online all the time.  I've always thought it strange (in an awesome way) that we find so much to say to each other because there's literally nothing we disagree on.  When we first started emailing, we were like THIS WAS MEANT TO BE WE LIKE THE SAME KIND OF ICE CREAM and that's really the way it is.  We have the same favorite classical composer (Vivaldi - we both love all the violins in his pieces), flavour of ice cream (chocolate mint), favorite Christian heroes of history (Willimam Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Jim Elliot...and we also talk a lot about Raoul Wallenberg) and, of course, our opinion match up perfectly when it comes to books and movies.

mint ice cream. yum
Oh, I know it's not a meaningful quote, or even a very meaningful picture, but Jane keeps giving me virtual mint chocolate for finishing NaNo and to cheer me up sometimes, so I figured I'd return the favour.
Everyone loves introducing friends to different obsessions and watching them go crazy over it as well, and Jane and I do this all the time.  "Hey, have you watched/read/listened to _________?  It's really, really good" is a common refrain in our emails.  I've gotten her 'into' Les Miserables (through Barricade Boys Week), A Tale Of Two Cities (the musical), Jack Cavanaugh's books, BBC Robin Hood, and different movie soundtracks (or single tracks) that I love.  She, in turn, has introduced me to Johnny Tremain (the book and the character), for which I am forever grateful.  It's one of my favorite books now.  Oh, and I also helped her decide to do NaNo (at least I think it was my plunge in that helped her make up her mind).

Fangirl defined; I am offically a Fangirl.   Lord Of the Rings.  The Hobbit.  Richard Armitage.  Captain America.  Charles Dickens.  Elizabeth Gaskell.  BBC Robin Hood.  The Chronicles Of Narnia (The books and the first movie, but not the second or third Narnia movie :P)  Sir Guy Of Gisborne.  Much from Robin Hood.  Alan A Dale from Robin Hood.

This seems to have turned into an Eva/Jane friendship post, instead of a birthday post, so let me tell you a few of the things I love about this girl...for one, she's a sweet Christian girl.  Even though it doesn't make up a huge part of our emails, we often talk about favorite Bible verses, how God has used people in history, favorite Bible characters, and other things like that.  Having her friendship is encouraging and refreshing on many levels.  Also, she's funny.  I grin/laugh my way through her emails, as she always seems to have a humourous spin on anything that deserves it.  We have several inside jokes (much of them are about Much...PUN TIME) and she can always make me laugh.  And the way she fangirls is really the best (y'know what I'm talking about - lots of capitals and exclamations points).  I don't know many people that can go crazy over a new fact about Jim Elliot, or an amazing new concerto put up on Youtube, but that's what she does.  I do it too.

sweet quote about friendship

Anyway, Jane (is it weird to see yourself being called Jane?), all I really wanted to say with this post is THANK YOU FOR BEING MY AMAZING FRIEND and I'll be answering your super-long email soon (actually, as I'm scheduling this post, I'll probably have answered it by the time you read this...whatever).


Sunday, December 01, 2013

Book Review: Toilers Of The Sea

Even though Victor Hugo wrote a lot of novels, plays, essays, reviews, etc, etc, there are only three novels of his that are widely known.  In order of widely-knownness, they are as follows.  Les Miserables, Notre Dame de Paris, and The Toilers Of The Sea.  I've read the first several times, of course, but when I tried reading Notre Dame, I couldn't quite get 'into' it and understand the plot fully.  I didn't have any map to go by, so to speak, whereas in the case of Les Mis, I had the musical.  Toilers Of The Sea doesn't have a major movie, a musical, or anything of that ilk, but as I saw it was shorter than the other two of Hugo's novels, I decided to give it a go.  I had a vague sense of the plot after reading a really, really short summary in a biography of Victor Hugo's life, and it sounded interesting.  A man battles the sea/a sea monster to win the hand of the woman he loves.

When I opened up the book on my Kindle and started reading, I immediately remembered everything about Hugo's writing style (it's been a while since I've dipped into Les Mis, and I'd somewhat forgotten).  He spends fifteen pages (on a Kindle, that is) talking about how people seem to imagine that there's someone watching them in the dark, and even though there usually isn't anyone, they can't shake the feeling.  When the hero is grabbed by an octopus, he spends an entire chapter talking about the octopus' habits and way of life before getting back to the predicament.  And he tells the whole life story, motives, and little peculiarities of every character, as well as all their ancestors (okay, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but not much).  But, honestly, I don't mind it that much.  It makes for a very rich book and that's something I love, even if it did get tiring at times.  Anyway, I'll give a summary of the plot (be be spoilers) with remarks on the characters and plot points as I go along.

The story takes place on one of the islands in the English Channel, but the whole thing feels like it's in France.  French names (of both people and places), French customs, and French people (all the primary characters are either French, or have French ancestry).  A man named Mess Lethierry ('Mess' is a title like 'Mr') built a steamship when he was young, and now he has a thriving business ferrying people from the islands (along with their produce and animals) back and forth between the islands and France for trading and such.  I think he gets about one thousand pounds a year, and that's his whole livelihood.  He has a niece called Deruchette, who he treats like his daughter (and she calls him 'father').  I quite like her.  She reminds me of Cosette (beautiful, a little uncomprehending at times, but very sweet for all that and devoted to her father-figure).

File:Victor Hugo-Octopus.jpg
Victor Hugo's illustration of the octopus
Lethierry is in a partnership with this guy called Sieur Clubin ('Sieur is another one of those titles).  Everyone thinks he's honest, but really he's in league with smugglers and murderers.  All his life he's wanted to be rich, so he robs a robber and then crashes his partner's boat against the Douvres cliffs.  All the passengers leave the boat, and he is now free to do what he wants with the money.  However, when he tries to escape the ship, an octopus grabs him and kills him (that's not the instance I was talking about above, by the way).  Now, a word on Gilliatt, since he's the hero of the book.  All the townspeople are afraid of him, because they think he's demon-possessed or something (he's not).  He fell in love with Deruchette four years before the boat crashed, and he never stopped loving her.  However, she says she'll never marry, so he watches her from afar.  He's very strong and brave, an excellent sailor and swimmer and very hero-like all around.  He's my favorite character in the whole thing.

So, anyway, Lethierry is in despair over his boat crashing, because now he has no more money.  The engine of the boat is still intact, and if someone was brave enough to rescue it, he could build another boat because the engine is one-of-a-kind.  No one is willing to risk it until Deruchette says she'll marry whoever gets it back.  Gilliatt instantly volunteers his services, and off he goes.  I loved him at this point.  He was so courageous and heroic and was awesome.  After a long string of difficulties which I won't go into here, he manages to get the engine out and onto his sloop.  Then, he goes exploring the caves under the cliffs because it's too dark to sail out.  He's almost eaten by an octopus (probably one of the most nerve-wracking parts in the book) but he kills it with his knife.  Bad luck still plagues him, as once the boat is on the open sea, a terrible storm comes up that lasts over twenty hours and he barely makes it out alive.

Now, before he went off to get the engine (before the boat even crashed), Gilliatt saved the life of a young priest.  He was sitting on a little seat of rock, carved out naturally by the sea, and Gilliatt came along in his boat and warned him that if he sat there too much longer, the tide would strand, and then drown him.  The priest's name was Caudrey and while Gilliatt was gone for two months, getting the engine, he fell in love with Deruchette.  When Gilliatt returned, he witnessed Caudrey's proposal to her (by this time, I knew what was going to happen).  When Lethierry comes and tells him he shall marry Deruchette, he refuses to (even though he still loves her with all his heart), and the next day helps the couple to secretly marry by standing in as the bride's witness and producing a forged note, giving the consent of Mess Lethierry (I knew he would do that...he's very much like a younger version of Valjean).

The ending made me cry.  He sees the couple safely off on the boat that will take them away on their honeymoon and then goes and sits in that little seat and watches the boat slip out of sight, and then drowns (eerily reminiscent of Javert, in a way).  It doesn't sound all that sad but, believe me, it was.  I have a love-hate relationship with stories like that.  Mostly love, but a bit of hate as well.  Oh, and just before Deruchette left, he gave her a trunk full of clothes that his mother had bequeathed to him to give to his bride.  That's just...SADNESS.  But really, really sweet at the same time (like I

Have you read Toilers Of The Sea?
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