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review 2016-07-03 23:16
#CBR8 Book 68: Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade by Patrick Dennis
Auntie Mame - Patrick Dennis,Paul Rudnick,Michael Tanner

After little Patrick's father dies, he is left to the care of his eccentric and adventurous aunt, Mame. His childhood goes from one of routine and order to one rather more unusual, and over the course of his adolescence and early adulthood, his colourful Auntie Mame keeps providing him with amazing anecdotes. Each chapter starts with the author reading about some saintly spinster from New England who took in an orphan, leading to his own recollections of his life with his aunt. Suffice to say, anything the spinster did in the Digest article he's reading, Mame did too, only more elaborately and with a lot more hijinks.


While little Patrick's father wanted him raised with a proper, conservative education, Mame tries to enrol him at an experimental school, which enrages the head of his financial trust enough that he's sent off to boarding school. Mame eventually marries a fabulously wealthy Southern gentleman and does her best to become a proper Southern Belle, and where ordinary mortals may have broken their necks, she impresses the entire neighbourhood by staying on the back of an absolute monster of a horse throughout a long hunt.


When she is sadly widowed, Mame is nonetheless left wealthy beyond imagining, and sets out to write her memoir, until her mousy assistant elopes with her ghost-writer. Said assistant is then left pregnant and distraught, with Mame showing up shortly before Patrick's graduation from St. Boniface's Academy, absolutely careless of any danger to his academic record or reputation, determined that together they will help bring forth the unfortunate child to the world.


During his college years, Mame's lavish parties greatly impress Patrick's college chums, and as he grows older, his free-spirited and outrageous aunt does her best to try to help him smoothly through the vagaries of romance. During the war, she nearly kills both Patrick and herself trying to foster displaced war orphans, who sadly turn out to seemingly be demons in child form. Once Patrick finally does find a wife and beget a child of his own, Mame returns after multiple year abroad to tempt her great-nephew with tales of adventure and promises of journeys to exotic locations.


Growing up in Norway, I was entirely unaware of Auntie Mame, the 1955 novel that was turned into a movie, a Broadway play and a musical (which was also filmed). My best friend Lydia gifted me the book several years ago, and I have to admit it languished on my shelves until now, when I finally picked it up and was absolutely delighted. While some of Mame's escapades had me sympathising greatly with Patrick and rolling my eyes at her more outrageous turns of phrase and crazy schemes, I was also mostly entertained throughout. The book, which is more like a collection of short stories with a common framing device, that a continuous narrative, suggests that if Dennis, who based Auntie Mame on his real life aunt, experienced even half of the things he writes about in the book, he had a very eventful coming of age, indeed.


Apparently there is a sequel as well, about Patrick and Auntie Mame's travels around the world after he graduated St. Boniface and I suspect I am going to have to read that too. Having now had the joys to finally get to know Auntie Mame, I can't wait to see what she'd get up to travelling around Europe and possibly beyond. Thank you, Lydia, I'm terribly sorry it took me so long to read the book.


Judging a book by its cover: I absolutely love the cover for this book. The cover artist, John Fontana, did SUCH a good job. The yellow background has a textured pattern, evoking a brocade wallpaper, with the decadent Mame to the right of the cover, wearing a stunning gown and dripping in pearls and jewelry, as is only right and proper for a woman of her formidable wealth. Her darling boy, Patrick is clearly only a young child, wearing his school uniform, complete with short pants and a cute little red cap. On the back cover, which is mostly red, the lovely Mame is lounging at top of the page, resting on one elbow with a martini glass in her other hand. It's a lovely touch.

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2016/07/cbr8-book-68-auntie-mame-irreverant.html
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review 2016-04-10 14:52
#CBR8 Book 35: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen,Juliet Stevenson

After their father dies and leaves pretty much everything to their older half-brother, the three Misses Dashwood and their widowed mother have to find a new place to live, which isn't exactly easy with the meagre income they have. After some searching, a cousin of Mrs. Dashwood's offer them lodging in a little cottage on his estate in Devon. The eldest daughter, Elinor, admonishes them to make the best of it, but the middle sister, Marianne, is determined to be miserable. Then she meets the dashing John Willoughby, and Devon suddenly becomes the only place in the world she wishes to be.


Elinor too has a prospective suitor, Edward Ferrars, the eldest brother of her sister-in-law, but he seems most reluctant to declare himself before they leave for Devon and she comes to believe that she may have misread the situation entirely. Elinor worries about Marianne's behaviour with Willoughby and how heedlessly she throws herself into her infatuation. When he suddenly has to leave Devon, without any good explanation, she fears the worst for Marianne. 


The kind, yet frivolous Mrs. Jennings invites the eldest Dashwood girls to come to London with her, and Marianne is delighted, as it means she may be reunited with Willoughby. Elinor, on the other hand, having learned why Edward never made any real advances towards her and seemed so reticent, dreads going, because it means the possibility of having to see him and interact with a man she can likely never have.


Sense and Sensibility was the first novel Jane Austen ever published, anonymously as "A Lady". The Dashwood sisters experience loss, reduced finances, love, heartbreak and eventually happiness over the course of the novel. It was the second Austen I ever read, but unlike Pride and Prejudice and Emma, I had never re-read it as an adult woman. Obviously, one's perspective changes quite a lot in twenty years. I remember liking it a lot as a teenager (I read it during a skiing vacation with my family in the mountains, and seem to recall being told to put the book away more than once, so I could join the family in card games, rather than "being so anti-social" - story of my life), but I doubt I found Marianne quite so unbearable as I did now. Seriously, Marianne's drama-queen behaviour in this book almost ruined my enjoyment of the book. After some fairly considerable heartbreak and a life-threatening illness, she finally starts to see how self-centred and oblivious she's been, but to me, it was almost a case of too little, too late.


Elinor Dashwood more than makes up for her younger sister's impetuous and frustrating behaviour though, being a stoic and sensible rock no matter what horrible things befall her and her family. Forced to balance out not just her overly emotional sister, but on occasion her grieving mother as well, Elinor is almost superhumanly competent. In the absolutely amazing Ang Lee movie version from 1995, starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslett, Elinor gets a proper emotional breakdown in one scene, which never fails to bring me to tears. Being an absolutely champion, she doesn't let it affect her for long, but picks herself up and goes on being the most capable you could imagine. In the book, the outburst is much less violent, which makes it feel as if Elinor bottles her emotions just a little bit too much than is entirely healthy. Thompson, who wrote the screenplay for the movie, allowing Elinor a proper venting of her feelings, makes the character more human and relatable. 


Much as I like this book and the lovely Elinor, Pride and Prejudice will always be my favourite. Nor do I think I can ever extricate the story from the movie version either, they are just so perfectly matched in my mind. While I was ill recently, I watched the film while in bed, probably more affected than ever before, because of the sad recent loss of Alan Rickman, who portrays Colonel Brandon so wonderfully. With him as my constant mental image of Brandon, it makes Marianne's continued failure to see his greatness even more baffling. 


I had also completely forgotten how many loathsome characters there are in this book. Really, the list is long. The girls' brother, John Dashwood, his horrid harpy of a wife, Fanny Dashwood. Her brother Robert Ferrars. Lucy Steele, and to a certain extent her sister (whose name escapes me). Willougby's aunt, although as the story progresses, her actions may be understandable. Mrs. Jennings is quite frustrating on occasion, but not really as bad as the others, and mostly, she means well and does what she can for the young ladies. She can't help being very silly, any more than Mrs. Bennett can. I seem to have repressed the number of awful people who make the Dashwood womens' lives more difficult. At least, with this being a romance, it all turns out happily in the end. 


Finally, I just want to note that I listened to this in audiobook, and Juliet Stevenson does an excellent job with the narration. She has a very arch accent that fits the story very well. I can highly recommend it as a listening experience. 

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2016/04/cbr8-book-35-sense-and-sensibility-by.html
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review 2015-12-31 10:51
#CBR7 Book 151: Pride and Prejudice by Rosamund Pike
Pride and Prejudice - Audible Studios,Jane Austen,Rosamund Pike

Is there anyone, from barely discovered tribes in the South American rainforests, to nomadic tribes on the Mongolian steppes, who doesn't actually know the gist of the plot of this book? Just in case there are any people who have lived in a barren cave their entire life, I will attempt to summarise it the major plot beats.


Jane and Lizzie are the two eldest, prettiest and most sensible of the five Bennett sisters. Their mother is a silly and easily upset woman who wants nothing more than to see her daughters happily married. Their father would seem to mainly want to be left alone with his books (a household full of women, I can symphatize). There's also the stuffy Mary, and the boy-crazy youngest sisters, Kitty and Lydia. A rich and handsome young gentleman, Mr Bingley, moves to the area, and Mrs. Bennett is determined that he will fall in love with one of her girls. After he meets Jane, that seems very likely to happen, but after some promising encounters, the majority of the Bennett family make a dreadful spectacle of themselves at a ball and before anyone is even cured of their hangover, Bingley's two spiteful and snobbish sisters and haughty and supercilious friend, Mr. Darcy have convinced him that he imagined Jane's affection and persuaded him to return to London. Lizzie's none too surprised as she pretty much loathed Darcy at first sight.


Meanwhile Lizzie upsets her mother by refusing the proposal of the family's distant cousin, Mr Collins, who will one day inherit their house. He marries her spinster friend Charlotte Lucas instead. After some months of getting used to her friend choosing security and a home of her own at the price of being married to someone quite ridiculous, Lizzie comes to accept her friend's choice and goes to visit her at her new home. Here she runs into Mr. Darcy again and over the course of her six week long visit, she sees him quite a few times. She likes his cousin quite a bit, but is shocked speechless when Mr. Darcy proposes marriage towards the end of her stay there. He confesses that he does so against his better judgement and that he thinks her family are beneath him, but he loves her enough to overlook their difference in station. Lizzie, having recently discovered the truth behind his spiriting away Bingley and breaking Jane's heart, as well as believing Darcy financially ruined a childhood friend, wastes no time telling the man exactly how appalled she is and tells him to stuff his proposal. He's offended, but writes her a comprehensive letter explaining his side of the story with regards to the accusations she flings at him, and once Lizzie calms down sufficiently, she starts to wonder if she's owes the man an apology.


Six months later, when travelling in Derbyshire with her aunt and uncle, Lizzie meets Mr. Darcy again, here at his magnificent estate, Pemberley. He's like a changed man, amiable, generous to a fault, complimentary and insisting he wants to introduce Lizzie and her relatives to his younger sister. Having had time to think and consider everything she learned in the letter carefully, Lizzie's heart is already more receptive towards Darcy when a terrible scandal is revealed, involving the youngest Bennett sister. Any happiness with the proper and respectable Darcy seems sure to be doomed - just as Lizzie was considering telling him her feelings had changed.


I've read Pride and Prejudice countless times, first in Norwegian, later in English. I fondly remember waiting eagerly along with my mother for every new episode of the 1995 mini series, that for a very long time type cast Colin Firth as the romantic lead in all sorts of things, as he was the perfect Mr. Darcy. When I don't have time to watch the six hour mini series, the 2005 movie version starring Kiera Knightley and Matthew McFadyen will do nicely as well. I adored the modernised YouTube version made around the book's 200th anniversary, and the spin off book resulting from it. I still return to the original every few years though and each time I rediscover little bits that I'd forgotten in Ms. Austen's brilliant romance, which as well as having several satisfying happy endings, is a very clever social satire, using the eternally unmarried parson's daughter's observations of the people around her and the situations of ladies very much in her social sphere. While Austen has written many memorable book, this was the first of hers I read and it remains my absolute favourite. 


The new Audible audio version, narrated by Rosamund Pike, who played Jane in the 2005 movie version, is excellent. Ms. Pike has a lovely voice and manages to differentiate between the huge cast of characters with pretty distinctive voices for everyone, mostly to great success. It was a perfectly soothing and comforting listen in the hustle and bustle of the pre-Chistmas weeks. All the characters are so familiar to me, and having the book to listen to while running errands and trying to finish the last of the shopping made several stressful tasks go easier. If you've never allowed yourself the pleasure of reading Pride and Prejudice, you should consider the audio version for an extra treat. If you already know and love the book, get the audio, as I can't imagine a version that could be better.

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2015/12/cbr7-book-151-pride-and-prejudice-by.html
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review 2015-09-03 22:57
#CBR7 Book 79: Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
Far from the Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy,Nathaniel Parker

Farmer Gabriel Oak falls for the pretty, independent-minded and headstrong Miss Bathsheba Everdene pretty much the first time he sees her. He proposes to her, but is rebuffed, as she's unsure if she ever wants to get married. After losing his entire livelihood after one horrible accident, Gabriel has to go back to being a lowly shepherd and through a series of circumstances ends up working on for Miss Everdene, who's inherited a farm from her uncle and is determined to run and manage it herself.


While steadfastly and loyally working for the very woman who rejected him, Gabriel falls into the role of her reluctant confidant, watching her interactions with other suitors, the vain and arrogant Lieutenant Troy and the older, most prominent farmer in the area, Mr. Boldwood. While Bathsheba is an impressively independent and progressive woman in a novel written in Victorian times, she shows extremely poor judgement when it comes to men, something the narrator bemoans while being gently supportive of her wishes to run her own life.


Having sent Farmer Boldwood a Valentine in jest, mainly to catch his attention, poor Bathsheba is mortified when she realises that her tiny missive has made him interpret the situation all wrong, and she spends the next few years trying to fend off his semi-stalkery declarations of undying affection and increasingly more insistent proposals. Then the silly young woman gets taken in by the dashing red coat and the handsome face of Lt. Troy and ends up married to him, quickly realising that she's made a huge mistake. At this point, the book, which starts out as a quiet pastoral tale with some romantic undertones turns into a melodrama to rival even the most impressive soap opera.


My only previous experience with Thomas Hardy was Tess of the D'Urbervilles, which I had the great misfortune of having to read for English lit at University. To this day, I think it's one of the most relentlessly miserable books I've ever forced myself to read all the way through and I absolutely hated it. From what I heard about other Hardy books like Jude the Obscure and The Mayor of Casterbridge, it didn't sound like I would ever want to read anything of his literary output, and I would probably have stayed far away from this novel as well, if not for the current movie adaptation starring Carey Mulligan, making me curious. This review over on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books (warning: does get quite spoilery) and Bonnie's review, recommending the Audible version narrated by Nathaniel Parker, convinced me that maybe I should give Hardy one more try. I'm very glad I did.


On occasion, the book dwelt a bit too much on the pub conversations of the many, MANY rural farmhands working for Bathsheba or the minutiae of Victorian sheep farming, but I really did love Gabriel Oak and his quiet and steadfast devotion to the woman he loved, waiting around for her to come to her senses longer than I probably would have done. While initially I had some sympathies for Mr. Boldwood, who is overwhelmed by his belief that the pretty and vivacious Miss Everdene may have feelings for him, they gradually turned to impatience and frustration because he really would not take no for an answer. Way to live up to the "nice guy in the friend zone" stereotype, dude. I had no time at all for the odious Troy and wanted him dead of some sort of painful wasting disease.


Unless someone can convince me that other of Hardy's novels are more in this vein than the misery that was Tess, I severely doubt I'll be reading any others by him. I'm hoping to see the movie adaptation this weekend and am looking forward to seeing how the film holds up.

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2015/09/cbr7-book-79-far-from-madding-crowd-by.html
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review 2015-07-14 02:10
#CBR7 Book 73: Paper Towns by John Green
Paper Towns - John Green

Quentin "Q" Jacobsen is a fairly average, if overly anxious teenager. He has lived next door to Margo Roth Spiegelman for most of his life, and been in love with her for as long as he can remember. Margo is one of the most popular girls in school, has a nearly legendary reputation. Of course, she also barely seems to know that Quentin or his friends Ben and Radar exist, but that doesn't stop Quentin from dreaming of her from afar. So when Margo climbs in his bedroom window one evening, less than a month from their high school graduation, saying she needs his help to enact an elaborate revenge plan, he feels compelled to assist her.


Quentin ends the evening exhausted, but exhilarated, convinced that when he arrives at school the next day, everything will be different and for his last month in school, Margo's actually going to be part of his circle of friends. But Margo never does return to school and initially appears to have disappeared without a trace. Her parents are at their wits' end and pretty much threaten to disown her. Quentin becomes obsessed with the idea that she's left clues before she disappeared, and that she wants someone to find her. As Quentin continues to search for Margo, enlisting the aid of his and her friends, they discover that Margo was a lot more secretive and mysterious than any of them expected. As they proceed on their quest for the lost girl, while adjusting to the end of high school and anticipating the future, there are arguments and adventure, revelations and an epic road trip.


When I realised that the film adaptation of Paper Towns was going to be in cinemas here soon, I decided that I'd best get round to reading the book that had been on my shelf for over a year. For a very long time, I was pretty sure that this was merely an ok book, until the last third or so, when Quentin and three others race across the country on an epic road trip to possibly find Margo before she disappears forever. The book is divided into three parts. There's the introduction, where Quentin explains about his friends and his life-long crush on Margo Roth Spiegelman. This part culminates in the audacious revenge plot Margo has designed to get back at those who betrayed and wronged her. It's quite clearly the greatest night of Q's life so far.


Then there is the extremely long middle bit, where Q becomes obsessed with Margo's disappearance and becomes convinced that she left HIM a whole load of clues, wanting him to find her. While he comes to realise fairly quickly that the Margo of his imagination is an idealised Manic Pixie Dream Girl, he entirely give up on the dream that everything will work itself out if and when he just finds her again. If he succeeds in completing his quest, like the knight in shining armour he seems to imagine himself as, he will be rewarded with the hand of the fair princess. I found Quentin really rather tedious in this part, and if it hadn't been for the fact that his friends, and even Margo's friend Lacey, repeatedly call him on his unhealthy fixation and continue to be delightful and entertaining, I possibly stopped reading. I love the way John Green writes teenage friendship, but Quentin really annoyed me. 


As I already mentioned, the final third where they have to travel in a minivan for nearly twenty-four hours, with barely any stops, was absolutely my favourite part. While Quentin's last month of high school is pretty much consumed with his need to locate Margo, his two best friends Radar and Ben are having a rather different experience, discovering that interacting with and actually talking to girls instead of just dreaming about them can be a successful strategy if you want a girlfriend. Like me, they get pretty fed up with Q's behaviour, but unlike me, they've been friends with him for years, and as they're good guys, they forgive him his selfishness and even help him. As they look for, and go on a cross-country drive to locate Margo, the reader also discovers the many different ways in which Margo appeared to the people in her life, with Green cleverly deconstructing the afore-mentioned MPDG idea. Tomorrow, I have a chance to see the film version of the book in a preview screening (the trailer looks promising) and if they've adapted the book well (and hopefully shortened the middle bit a LOT), the film may actually turn out more entertaining than the book. The final third of the book, and Q's friends were fun enough that I will give the book 4 stars, but that fourth star is dangerously tenuous. 

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2015/07/cbr7-book-73-paper-towns-by-john-green.html
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