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Chocolat by Joanne Harris July 25, 2009

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Chocolat by Joanne Harris

Chocolat by Joanne Harris

Chocolat follows Vianne Rocher and her young daughter, Anouk, as they come to live in a quiet, deeply religious French town, with a very traditional, strict lifestyle. They open a chocolate shop in the town square, at the beginning of lent, and this sparks off the battle between church and chocolate.

“Try me…Test me…Taste me…

When an exotic stranger, Vianne Rocher, arrives in the French village of Lansquenet and opens a chocolate boutique directly opposite the church, Father Reynaud identifies her as a serious danger to his flock – especially as it is the beginning of Lent, the traditional season of self-denial. War is declared as the priest denounces the newcomer’s wares as the ultimate sin.

Suddenly Vianne’s shop-cum-café means that there is somewhere for secrets to be whispered, grievances to be aired, dreams to be tested. But Vianne’s plans for an Easter Chocolate Festival divide the whole community in a conflict that escalates into a ‘Church not Chocolate’ battle. As mouths water in anticipation, can the solemnity of the Church compare with the pagan passion of a chocolate éclair?

For the first time here is a novel in which chocolate enjoys its true importance. Rich, clever and mischievous, Chocolat is a literary feast for all senses.”

Joanne Harris hasn’t created a world or an adventure or a journey. She has perfectly depicted a reality. From the clever plot to the interesting characters to the vivid descriptions to the ideas and values, everything is insanely realistic. So realistic, in fact, it is clear that this is written exceptionally well.

The plot unfolds with Vianne Rocher communicating and interacting with the townsfolk who have previously been alone with their problems. She helps them, supports them and encourages them to do what makes them happy. There is conflict, however, in the form of the priest of the town, who, sheltering a dark secret from the past, now sees the townspeople as his flock, and wants to protect them from change of any sort. Conflict, too, comes from Vianne’s own past as worries and memories consume her everyday life.

Vianne Rocher has depth and interesting thoughts as she goes about her business, as does the priest who the reader tries hard to understand, despite his being the antagonist.

The story manages to be inoffensive in the adventures and observations of the town, although it discusses such sensitive issues as the innocence of religion.

It hints that although those who are religious are do-gooders and mean well, it is very rare to find someone who has any less flaws than any non-believer. It ponders the idea that it is not so much the religion that is necessary, but believing in doing what is morally right, and living familiarly with the community, as well as using common sense to sort out situations.

The book also discusses topics such as the way a community blocks anything new and is suspicious of even the slightest change, as is often found within human nature.

In conclusion, this is a brilliant read, looking at all aspects of real life in a small town.

KJ
theBookGirl

Film Review: Public Enemies July 24, 2009

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Johnny Depp is being walked in handcuffs to an enormous and frightening prison, which looks like something out of Nazi Germany. He is forlorn and subdued, as he is pushed inside. He is playing John Dillinger, the well known bank-robbing criminal from the early years of the 20th century, known as the public enemy era, thus the film’s title.

The film follows a high-action, fast paced plot in which various bank robberies, prison breaks and car chases occur, which are fairly true to the life story of John Dillinger.

The plot is thick, fast and furious, and although in some places somewhat confusing to some, overall reasonably easy to follow, but not at all tame, and definitely enough to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Dillinger’s character has that beautiful balance between bad guy and good guy, with a Robin Hood-esque approach to being the number 1 public enemy – he steals, he kills, but he gives the innocent people what’s theirs; he doesn’t tolerate criminal offenses concerning the blameless.

Overall his character is well developed, with a sensitive side found when he sees “his girl”. This romance, although dangerous and complicated, allows us to see Dillinger as a caring, soft, loving and above all protective man, rather than the violent criminal which the police see. We learn to love and feel sorry for Billie, his girl, as she lives her life on a knife’s edge depending fully on him.

However, this romance is barely within the plot, as it focuses on the action and events which unfold. The rest of the cast are stereotypically, either cops or robbers, but within this you have the good robbers – with the same values as Johnny Dillinger – and the bad robbers, who are just in it for the money through and through.

This film could be critisized by the excess gunshot. As viewers we understand that there was lots of violence and gunfights, but we didn’t need quite so much gunfire and shooting scenes to prove this to us.

Public Enemies also seemed to find it hard to integrate the sensitivity of emotions with the insensitivity of the crimes, especially in the final scene (spoiler alert) where the delicate cinema scene is juxtaposed with the slow motion fight scene in which there is great violence as well as great sadness. However, it did do well to get as integrated as it was, as this is not an easy combination.

The film, overall, was extremely good and definitely worth watching, although not if action, history or crime films are not your sort of thing. This had thrill, suspense, tension, a good plot, was historically accurate, and was realistic, so all in all you should definitely see Public Enemies.

For more information on John Dillinger.

KJ
theBookGirl

A film/book comparison: Twilight July 24, 2009

Posted by KJ theBookGirl in Comparison, DVD, DVD/Film, Novel.
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Twilight the Film vs Twilight the Book

Twilight the Film vs Twilight the Book

Twilight the book by Stephenie Meyer has hit the ground running and not stopped, becoming more and more successful as its fame increases tenfold. The film, therefore, has shared a great portion of this fame, with the entire fan-base on the edge of their seats as they anticipated, watched, re-watched, bought and repeated the film.

The film, starring Kristen Stewart as Bella, and Robert Pattinson as Edward, was directed by Catherine Hardwick and produced by Summit Entertainment, and is said

to have had input from Stephenie Meyer.

Overall the film is very close to the book, often using direct quotes (“And so the lion fell in love with the lamb…” “I hadn’t ever given much thought to how I would die…” etc.), and taking into consideration the greatly detailed descriptions to perfect the scenery and the action.

The book manages to entrance the reader extremely well, stealing them from the real world and not letting them go. The intense relationship of Bella and Edward is beautiful, realistic and inspiring, and this is held onto with unbelievable strength by the self-proclaimed “Twilighters”. It also has very deep characters with flaws, strengths and different ideas and thoughts which allow the reader to truly imagine the story.

The plot is thick and complex, allowing an interesting and gripping read, whilst the chapters all have excellent, intimate description which increases the power of the novel.

The film has excellent chemistry between Bella and Edward, where the viewer can sincerely believe that these characters are soul-mates in every way. The lines are well written, although out of the novel can sometimes seem a little cheesy or unlikely to be said in real life. The vampires are very close to how described in the book, although the sparkling effect is disappointing.

Through and through, this is a film for the fans of the book. In its own right it is a well produced film with an excellent soundtrack and flawless acting, but without reading the book, the story told would be confusing.

The film also cuts out a lot of the book, thickly condensing the chapters that I personally found the most thrilling and beautiful. It has a hard time explaining the relationship between our protagonists, balancing out the love and danger, whilst also focussing on the action scenes and added twist of the “bad” vampires.

What the film does well is show the intensity of the relationship, and also the close relationship which Bella develops with her father.

In conclusion, the book is, of course, better than the film, as the film is strictly just the book acted out. Not much is added, it’s very strongly a companion to the book. The book is more intense and describes and explains Bella much better, but the film does portray this well and works excellently for the original fan-base.

KJ
theBookGirl

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K.Rowling July 23, 2009

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Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone is arguably the most famous children’s book worldwide. It is extraordinarily successful and as well as being the first of seven books (and further spin-offs), it has also been turned into a blockbuster movie starring Daniel Radcliffe.

The blurb reads as follows:

“Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy – until he is rescued by a beetle-eyed giant of a man, enrols at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, learns to play Quidditch and does battle in a deadly duel. The reason…  Harry Potter is a Wizard!”

And on the inside flap:

“Follow the adventures of Harry Potter as he discovers the magical, the dangerous, the unpredictable world of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”

For those of you living on the moon, the sotry follows Harry, an eleven year old boy as his normal life is suddenly taken (quite gladly) from him. His parents were killed when he was a baby and he had to go and live with his very prim and proper Aunt, Uncle and spoilt cousin, Dudley. This family truly hates anything out of the ordinary or not quite right, and so hate having Harry live with them, although he’s not quite sure why. He lives in a cupboard under the stairs and endures 11 years of misery until he is told, by a mysterious stranger, that he is, in fact, a wizard. But he isn’t just any wizard – he is famous. He is taken to the wizard boarding school, and here, for the first time, makes friends and learns to enjoy himself. We experience his new life before he is plunged into a serious adventure surrounding the terrifying wizard You-Know-Who.

This story, although written in a simplistic style as it is for children, is extremely easy to read. It is quite honestly a modern classic. The characters are all entertaining, the messages all noble and honourable, the plot thick and clever where we champion the good guy to overthrow the powerful bad guy. In fact, it is so honourable and noble, you almost want someone rebellious to be thrown into the equation. Yet that all comes in the later books.

The characters, of course, are fairly childish – Dudley is spoilt and a bully so therefore fat, piggy eyed and stupid. Harry is the underdog hero, so he is scrawny and begins the story with no friends and no love. Yet this is a children’s story, so it makes sense for it to be written in this way, you wouldn’t expect surprises and breaks in stereotypes for the first instalment of a children’s story.

The descriptions are beautiful and very vivid from the start and this adds to the whole theme of a magical story, making every part of it enjoyable to read.

The whole new world Rowling has created is realistic in the sense of that she has left no stone unturned in making everything work well and be logical, with humorous ties in all new names.

In conclusion, this is an excellently written book, and well worth a read, although don’t expect a thought-provoking response.

KJ
theBookGirl

Video Review of Tell it to the Skies by Erica James July 20, 2009

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Beauty by Robin McKinley July 19, 2009

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Beauty by Robin McKinley

Beauty by Robin McKinley

Beauty is a well written retelling of Beauty and the Beast, managing to take it away from the stereo-typical Disney storyline and make it almost believable.

“‘Cannot a Beast be tamed?’

Beauty, believing herself plain and awkward, loves roses. But when her father goes travelling and plucks just one magnificent, crimson rosebud from the garden of a magical castle, a fearsome Beast demands revenge. Either Beauty’s father must forfeit his life – or his daughter must promise to live with the Beast for ever.

A captivating retelling of the story of Beauty and the Beast from a Newbery Medal-winning author.”

Beauty is very gripping, managing to pull the reader into the magical world with little effort, as McKinley’s style so often does.

The plot, although simple, and a little disappointingly predictable, is developed well, with a fresh take on the magic and myth surrounding the story. It does stray a little from the original tale, but not enough for it to be critisized, the largest variation, perhaps, is in that the sisters are both honourable and loving daughters, rather than the jealous, shallow ones made out to be in the original tale – perhaps this is due to McKinley adding depth to them, giving them love and loss of their own, making the story much more realistic.

Beauty, as a character, is well written and cleverly thought out. Her extremely kind nature is still laced with flaws which is purely natural, making her a perfectly created character.

Beauty, the story, is funny, intelligent and beautiful. It allows the reader to experience a variety of emotions, and debate Beauty’s choices, dropping hints to the reader along the way of twists and turns.

The story follows a young girl, Beauty, as she, her two sisters, and their father, are forced to move to the country due to a sudden loss of income. The area they move to requires them to lose their finery and work hard and honestly, allowing them to appreciate everything in life. They live near an old enchanted forest, and within this is rumoured to be an incredible castle where a fearsome Beast lives, waiting for people to get lost in the forest.

For information on the original fairy tale, and other adaptations, this link is very informative.

KJ
theBookGirl

Tell it to the Skies by Erica James July 16, 2009

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Tell it to the Skies by Erica James

Tell it to the Skies by Erica James

Tell it to the Skies is a sensational novel which takes you on a journey you will never, ever forget.

“Suddenly in the middle of a crowded Venice street, Lydia glimpses a face that takes her back to England, back to her childhood and to a dreadful secret she believed she had banished to the past.

As children, Lydia and her sister were sent to live with grandparents they had never even met. It was a cruel and loveless new world for them, and it forced Lydia to grow up fast. She learned to keep secrets and trust sparingly, and through it all she was shadowed by guilt and grief.

Then, as an adult, the beautiful city of Venice gave Lydia peace, fulfilment and even love. But in a single moment a stranger’s face forces her to revisit the past she has been hiding from for the last twenty-eight years…”

This book is brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. From the start I was absorbed in the unique tale of Lydia as she copes with loss no person, let alone child, should have to face. She learns about responsibility and hatred and cruelty and harshness, without the basic love most of us can’t live without.

As she grows up she becomes involved in a beautiful friendship, one of the only saviours to her life. Yet the plot continues to twist, turn and leave you astounded at the events.

The characters are all exceptionally well written reaching depths that make them entirely believable. As the reader you will shake with fear at the mere mention of Lydia’s grandparents, and sigh in love of her dear friend Noah. No character is left as a shallow person simply written to thicken the plot.

The setting is well explored, using simple household names to zap you back to the 60s and 70s, this novel could very well been seen as mildly nostalgic on top of intense, romantic, tragic, angersome, mystery and crime…

This book is so very gripping, as anger consumes the reader, as well as love, pity, anxiety, and all the emotions Lydia goes through. It really does change how you view the world.

One of the most controversial topics in this book is the power of religion and how it affects the followers of it, and if this power, which drives people to do diabolical things, is the total opposite of what it preaches.

In conclusion…read this book!

KJ
theBookGirl

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger July 16, 2009

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The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

The blurb on the book reads:

“High fashion, low cunning – and the boss from hell

When Andrea first sets foot in the plush Manhattan offices of Runway she knows nothing. She’s never heard of the world’s most fashionable magazine, or its feared and fawned-over editor, Miranda Preistly.

Soon she knows way too much.

She knows it’s a sacking offence to wear less than a three inch heel to work – but there’s always a fresh pair of Manolos in the accessories cupboard.

She knows eight stone is fat. That you can charge anything – cars, manicures, clothes, to the Runway account, but you must never leave your desk, or let Miranda’s coffee get cold. That at 3am, when your boyfriend’s dumping you because you’re always working and your best friend’s just been arrested, if Miranda phones with her latest unreasonable demand, you jump.

Most of all, Andrea knows that Miranda is a monster boss who makes Cruella de Vil look like a fluffy bunny. But this is her big break, and it’s all going to be worth it in the end.

Isn’t it?”

This book is exceptionally well written as it captures the frustrations and pressures of working life in the real world, yet takes it to the next level where such a demanding boss really can make your life hell.

The plot is well constructed with clear development over the course of the book, and well explained twists and turns. It follows Andrea Sachs as she achieves a high positioned job which will allow her to get any job she wants in the future, as long as she stays there for a year. The job she has is in the fashion industry as a personal assistant to the top fashion editor in the world. Andrea, a down to earth, normal girl who doesnt particularly think about fashion now lives it, 24/7, and has to prioritise between her all important job which’ll set her up for the future, and her friends, family and long term boyfriend.

The characters are generally well written, such as the main character Andrea who has to battle with her priorities, making mistakes that many people can make but leading to disastrous affects, without taking the whole thing too far.

Other characters weren’t developed as far as they could be, for example,  Alex, Andrea’s boyfriend, doesn’t appear to have any flaws and is this perfect guy. Whilst this is good as it shows Andrea’s selfishness in a juxtar position, it makes him far less believable.

I found the story gripping and easy to get into, as well as to follow; it was very easy to lose myself in Andrea’s world. However, the end was disappointing and the development of Andrea was to go backwards and then to end up in the same place, with more experience.

KJ
theBookGirl