Top Ten “Tuesday” – Bookish Couples

I love Top Ten Tuesday and rarely post for it–but this seemed like a perfect topic for Valentine’s Day!  Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, with a new topic each Tuesday.  This week, it’s romance.

I wandered through my bookshelves, and pulled out a stack with my favorite romances in them–with a few bonus bromances and womances.  In no particular order…

1) The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig
Arabella and Turnip – I’ve written at length about these delightfully unconventional romantic leads, who are overlooked by everyone but each other.

2) Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Jane and Mr. Rochester – I know he has some serious problems…but Bronte punishes him so thoroughly and humbles him so completely that by the end of the book I really believe their romance.  And the last section is rather adorable.

3) Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Catherine Morland and Mr. Tilney – Mr. Darcy is the famous Austen hero, but I ❤ Mr. Tilney instead.  A smiling man who reads Gothic novels and knows his muslins–what’s not to love?

4) Enchantress from the Stars by Silvia Louise Engdahl
Elana and Georyn – The only bittersweet ending on my list, a beautiful love story about two people from, literally, different worlds, who change each other forever but can’t ever be together.

5) The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer:
Well, everyone – This quartet has four wonderful, engrossing love stories.  Cinder and Prince Kai were a hair behind the others; Scarlet and Wolf were as marvelous as Winter and Jacin; and my favorites were Cress and Thorne.  I have a soft spot for charming rogues with good hearts.

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Writing Wednesday: Characters Galore

I’m on a break from my ongoing work on my ongoing Phantom trilogy, and have turned back to the Beauty and the Beast novella I co-wrote with several writer friends.  It happened that I wrote my two (early in the book) chapters before the rest wrote theirs.  Which was fine for all plot purposes, because we had a good outline, but it means none of their characters had been created yet.  (It probably also gave an opportunity for prominence to Archambault, my footman-turned-coat rack who’s running around the castle with a feathered hat and a pink fur coat, but that’s a different point entirely…)

Now that I’m revising and we’re working on tying our respective chapters more closely together, I’m trying to get more characters into these early chapters.  Mostly just a glimpse, partially because my chapter one POV character really doesn’t care about any of them (she’s like that)–but it’s been fun working in those glimpses.

Here’s an excerpt, including no less than seven characters (plus music being played by three others), who will all have their moments of importance as the story goes on.

*****

“Now then,” I said once I was inside.  I shook snow off my cloak and looked over the two footmen standing in the hallway—both quite common fellows, one with long stringy hair and the other young, with freckles and very big eyes.  I do like how impressed common folk get.  As they should.  I pointed a long bony finger at the impressed footman.  “Where can I find your prince?”

He stammered for a moment, then blurted, “…in the ballroom?”

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Movie Review: Christopher Robin

I missed Christopher Robin when it was in theatres last year, but I watched it just last week at home.  If I did end of the year ratings of the movies I watched, this would be a serious contender for best of the year!

The movie begins where the Winnie-the-Pooh books end–they overlap with the first scene of the movie and the last scene of The House at Pooh Corner.  I always thought this was one of the saddest scenes in literature, as Christopher Robin is growing up and going away, and has to say good-bye to Pooh and his other friends.  The scene is faithfully and beautifully reproduced.  Bring your tissues!  The movie then goes on, Christopher Robin grows up, and somewhere over the years he loses his way.  He becomes, to borrow a phrase from J. M. Barrie who also wrote of children growing up, a “man who doesn’t know any stories to tell his child.”  But then Winnie the Pooh comes out of a tree outside Christopher Robin’s house in London, and wants to bring him back to the Hundred Acre Wood.

I have a soft spot for the Winnie the Pooh characters, and this was a charming delight of a movie.  The characters are beautifully rendered, in terms of portrayal and the excellent CGI for the stuffed animals.  They truly feel like Milne’s characters brought to life, and the details are all spot-on.  I notice when movie adaptations get it wrong, and this one got it so very right.

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Friday Face-Off: Belated Clergy

FFO.jpg

Time again for the Friday Face-Off meme, created by Books by Proxy, with weekly topics hosted by Lynn’s Book Blog.  The idea is to put up different covers for one book, and select a favorite.  This week’s theme (snakes) isn’t really speaking to me, so I decided to belatedly pick up the theme from a couple of weeks ago.

And that theme was: ‘Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.’ – A cover featuring a monk/priest/person of the cloth

The most obvious choice is the Father Brown series by G. K. Chesterton–even if I liked the TV show better!

This certainly gets right to the point!  No mistaking who the hero of this book is.

I like this foreign edition a lot–that’s about how I’d expect Father Brown to look (the smaller bespectacled man) and I assume the other man is his sometimes friend, sometimes adversary Flambeau, who features heavily in this collection.

I like this simpler cover best–it captured the iconic hat, spectacles and umbrella of Father Brown, looks rather elegant and understated, and has just a hint of humor with the umbrella hooked into the “of.”

No one appears to have done a TV tie-in cover… 🙂

Writing Wednesday: Research in Novels

In doing research for my Phantom trilogy, I’ve gone down some interesting trails trying to get information on a specific detail, like whether a Paris police officer would have a six-shot gun (yes), whether the catacombs are actually under the Opera Garnier (no, but I’m putting them there anyway) and where Meg’s home village ought to be (near Toulouse).  Bigger topics require more intensive research though, and I’ve read entire books on classical music, on 19th-century Parisians’ attitudes towards darkness and towards eccentricity, and on ballet.

The single most helpful book, however, has actually been a novel.   It’s been remarkably difficult to find substantive information about the ballet program at the Opera Garnier in the 1880s.  A lot of my information about the Opera Garnier itself has come from forwards in different copies of the Phantom of the Opera!

But I did have one wonderful find with regard to what life might actually have been like for Meg: Marie, Dancing by Carolyn Meyer, about the model for Degas’ famous statue, “Little Dancer Aged Fourteen.”  Marie was a dancer at the Opera Garnier at exactly the same time as Meg, and the novel paints a more vivid and more substantive picture than any book or essay I’ve managed to find.  I read it some six years ago, then read it again just in the last year, and it was incredibly helpful.  Along with a general picture, she has details like how much money the dancers earned, which nights performances were held on, and the schedule for practice and rehearsals.  Also, it’s just a good book!

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Book Review: The Inimitable Jeeves

In my quest for more funny reads this year, I turned to P.G. Wodehouse and an audiobook of The Inimitable Jeeves.  I am happy to report much hilarity was found.

This is the thirdish Jeeves book I’ve read–the previous two were both short story collections and turned out to have some overlapping.  This one was more properly a novel, but still very much episodic.  The premise was much the same as it was throughout the short stories: English gentleman Bertie Wooster gets into some sort of social scrape–or has a friend in said-scrape, in this book frequently Bingo Wilcox, who falls in love a good half-dozen times throughout the book–and turns to his utterly unruffled manservant Jeeves for help.  Or, alternatively, he tries to go it alone because he and Jeeves are on the outs, probably because Bertie is making a firm stance around a flamboyant article of clothing which Jeeves disapproves of.  Either way, Bertie usually manages to make the situation worse before Jeeves ultimately solves it with an ingenious manipulation of human nature.

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Reading Challenge Update: L. M. Montgomery Reading

I think we all know I’m very, very much a fan of L. M. Montgomery, so I think we all knew I was going to enjoy this January challenge!  Even so, I think it exceeded my expectations.  Hosted by Reading to Know, the challenge is simply to read Montgomery books, or ones about her, in January.  I read three books and a bit for this one.

1) First, the bit–in my ongoing reading of Montgomery’s journals, I finished Volume II and started Volume III.  Count that how you will!

2) I finally read Through Lover’s Lane by Elizabeth Rollins Epperly, which has been on my shelf for a long time.  Even though I didn’t love the book, it had some interesting insights and I’m happy I finally read it.

3) I reread The Story Girl by L. M. Montgomery, and was pleasantly surprised to find I liked it better than I had on previous reads.  In another “bit,” I started the sequel, The Golden Road, but haven’t finished it yet.

4) I also reread Magic Island by Elizabeth Waterston, very probably my favorite book about Montgomery.  It goes through each of her novels, analyzing what factors in her life, either in the past or at the time of writing, influenced the novel.  I didn’t get to a review of it, but maybe soon.

And so wraps my shortest challenge!  Time to get onto my other challenges…and I’ll post another update in a couple months.  In the meantime, happy reading!