November 26, 2014

LOST IN AUSTEN (2008): A Movie Review



Movie Description:    Amanda Price is sick of the modern world. She yearns for the romance and elegance found in the books by her favorite author, Jane Austen. But she's about to get a rude awakening as one fateful evening, she is propelled into the scheming 19th century world of Pride and Prejudice while that book's Elizabeth Bennet is hurled into hers. As the book's familiar plot unfolds, Amanda triggers new romantic twists and turns within the Bennet family circle as she clumsily tries to help the sisters nab husbands and even captivates the tantalizing Mr. Darcy herself. But what about Elizabeth...and what will become of one of the world's greatest love stories?





My Thoughts on Lost in Austen

I want to love this movie.  I mean really love and flat out adore this movie.  It has Jane Austen, it has Pride and Prejudice, it has Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy and it has a modern girl transporting back to Regency England and into that amazing book.  Can't go wrong, correct?  Unfortunately, no.

Let's start with the good.  The concept is gold.  If you're a Janeite (like me), devoted to Pride and Prejudice (like me) and feel that Mr. Darcy is the greatest romantic character in literature (like me) you have fantasized about saying "screw it" to this modern world and waking up in Regency England to being Elizabeth Bennet and being courted by Mr. Darcy (like me).  So Lost in Austen is already ahead of the game because those bases are covered.   Amanda Price doesn't wake up in Regency England but rather finds a portal in her London flat that transports her to Longbourne, the Bennet home, while bringing Elizabeth to modern day London.  So far, so good.  Amanda escapes her apparent lackluster job and completely unromantic boyfriend (who drunkenly proposes to her with the tab from a beer can, ugh!) to stay with the Bennet family.

And this is the best part of the miniseries.  The crazy Bennet family and Amanda's culture shock over not only daily life during the Regency period but that this fictional family is apparently real.  This is also one of the biggest failures of the series but more on that later.

Mr. Bennet, true to form, keeps to himself in his study, reading his books and shutting out his shrill and melodramatic wife.  Mrs. Bennet and her ever-present nerves spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about what will become of her and her daughters should her daughters not marry well.  Jane, the eldest Bennet daughter, is sweet and accommodating while Lizzy is more adventurous although we don't really get to know Lizzy very well since she is in Amanda's modern day London while Amanda is at Longbourne.  Mary is serious and studious, although a bit more lighthearted here than ever before.  Kitty and Lydia are silly and precocious.  All of that is well and good.

We, the viewers, expect that Amanda will find the reality quite different from the book.  And yes, we even expect for her to throw a wrench into Ms. Austen's beloved tale.  I did enjoy Amanda's confusion at what constituted a grand dinner at Netherfield as well as the primitive instruments used to brush teeth.  But overall I was disappointed and flat out angry with the character of Amanda.

She claims to have been a fan of Austen's and Pride and Prejudice from the age of thirteen and that she has longed for Mr. Darcy for thirteen years.  Given that, wouldn't you think that she would know how to conduct herself accordingly for the Regency times?  Yes, we can allow the initial culture shock and that she's not dreaming or on a reality show with hidden cameras.  Once she realizes that she is indeed within this story, wouldn't she realize that addressing persons by their Christian names is not allowed?  When she addresses Caroline Bingley by "Caroline", I cringe, or Charlotte Lucas upon first meeting as "Charlotte."  It simply was not done during that time and Amanda should have known that.  Additionally, allowing her hair to be down made me stabby.  There is no way any of the Bennet women, most especially Mrs. Bennet and Jane - - the model of propriety - - would have allowed Amanda to walk around with her hair loose. 

As mentioned above, Amanda not only throws a wrench into the general plot of Pride and Prejudice, she turns it on its ear.  Parts are humorous and downright funny but others are painful.  I am not an Austen purist, I enjoy variations of all types, but certain liberties were taken with some of the characters that changed not only the overall story but the characters themselves.  In that regard, I suppose I am a purist and I thoroughly disliked what was done.

Amanda was a troublesome heroine for me.  On the one hand, I liked her.  I liked her at the start of the movie and felt for her when she merely wanted to read her book and her boyfriend had other ideas.  I liked and empathized with her confusion over finding Lizzy Bennet in her bathroom and then meeting all of these fictional characters come to life.  But she lost me when she became borderline unhinged and began acting out and doing things that simply were not done in Pride and Prejudice.   She did continue to try and correct where the plotline went off the rails but her corrections oftentimes led to further (and worse) disasters and that led me to a gradual dislike of her. 

The actress playing Amanda did a fine job, as did the others.  The acting wasn't an issue, nor were the locations and sets.  I have read online distaste for Elliot Cowan as Mr. Darcy but I have to say that I found him rather amusing and fairly well cast.  He fit the shoe, so to speak, looks-wise and he certainly nailed Mr. Darcy's haughty command and personality.  Perhaps the haughtiness continued too long but that may have been more an issue with the script than with Mr. Cowan's portrayal. 

Speaking of Mr. Darcy, while I had no issues with how he was played, I did take serious issue with the notion that he would ever develop feelings for Amanda.  Like ever.  In a million years.  Nevermind that Amanda was completely disgraceful by Regency standards, she was rude and crass and that Mr. Darcy at one point told her he was repulsed by her.  This, by the way, is likely exactly how Mr. Darcy would feel but as a gentleman, he would never make such a comment aloud to her.  It is beyond farfetched to think that within a few days of making that un-Darcy like statement to her, he would then be professing his love.  Just . . . no.  

The most egregious error on the part of Lost in Austen was that Lizzy - - Lizzy - - became a secondary and supporting character.  For me, Lizzy was the heart and soul behind Pride and Prejudice and for this production to relegate her to basic cameos is downright sinful.  I expect they hoped the viewers would attach themselves to Amanda and root for her but it simply did not happen here. 

Lost in Austen is most definitely not for the Austen purist who will likely be horrified over what has been done to their beloved characters.  It is a somewhat entertaining romp through Regency England for a rainy afternoon and one not to be taken seriously.  I have seen it a few times and certain aspects do have charm upon repeated viewings. 

Amazon

FTC Disclosure: This movie is from my own personal collection and was purchased by me. I was neither paid nor compensated (ha ha) for this review.

November 19, 2014

Audiobook Review: STORIES I ONLY TELL MY FRIENDS: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY by Rob Lowe




Description:   A wryly funny and surprisingly moving account of an extraordinary life lived almost entirely in the public eye.

A teen idol at 15, an international icon and founder of the Brat Pack at 20, and one of Hollywood's top stars to this day, Rob Lowe chronicles his experiences as a painfully misunderstood child actor in Ohio who was uprooted to the wild counterculture of mid-70s Malibu, where he embarked on his unrelenting pursuit of a career in Hollywood.

The Outsiders placed Lowe at the birth of the modern youth movement in the entertainment industry. During his time on The West Wing, he witnessed the surreal nexus of show business and politics, both on the set and in the actual White House. And in between are deft and humorous stories of the wild excesses that marked the 80s, leading to his quest for family and sobriety.

Never mean-spirited or salacious, Lowe delivers unexpected glimpses into his successes, disappointments, relationships, and one-of-a-kind encounters with people who shaped our world over the last 25 years. These stories are as entertaining as they are unforgettable.







My Thoughts on Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe

As a teen of the 80s, I was superficially familiar with Rob Lowe, the actor.  I knew him as Billy from St. Elmo's Fire, Sodapop from The Outsiders and a handful of other roles.  I knew him as the one-time boyfriend of Melissa Gilbert and Princess Stephanie of Monaco.  Who could forget the details of his sexcapades during the 1988 Democratic convention in Atlanta?  Not this former Atlanta resident.  I wasn't a fan but I wasn't opposed to him either.  He was just another Hollywood actor in my book, albeit a stunningly good looking one. 

I purchased this audiobook for a road trip, thinking it would be entertaining and likely a piece of fluff.  Imagine my surprise when after listening to this audiobook, not only do I consider myself a fan of Mr. Lowe's but I can also add "author" to my mental description of him.

Put aside all of your previous opinions of this former (and, honestly, still) pretty boy and read or listen to this book.  It's worth every moment.  Mr. Lowe gives a painfully honest account of his background, from his family to his rise in Hollywood to his days of being in the Brat Pack.  He is never mean, he doesn't throw anyone under the proverbial bus but he also doesn't mince words or spare details. 

He speaks openly about his dysfunctional early family life and his mother's myriad of quests for living all naturally (to the point of hysteria) and dealings with depression.   He talks of knowing from a very early age that he wanted to be an actor, but having a strong attraction to politics, and of arriving in Malibu and being an outcast for years.  Unlike today, back in the 1970s it was not cool to be an actor.  Even friends, and future thespians, Emilio Estevez, Charlie Sheen and the Penn brothers, were not necessarily the popular kids.

I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Lowe's recounting of Malibu and Hollywood in the 1970s - - how fascinating was it to hear that he was present at one of very early shoots on the then unknown Star Wars?  That Charlie Sheen's first love wasn't acting but baseball and that he hoped to be drafted and play major league ball?  And that Mr. Lowe himself had already decided to throw in the towel on his minor career and attend college when he was cast in The Outsiders

Did anyone know that Mr. Lowe and John F. Kennedy, Jr. had met and spoken about John's decision on marrying?  I certainly did not although Mr. Lowe begins his book with a recounting of meeting the one person he was most excited and humbled to meet - - yes, John F. Kennedy, Jr.  In Mr. Lowe's retelling, Kennedy is a down to earth, all around nice guy who loved the sneak peek he was given of The West Wing and demanded that Rob Lowe, and Rob Lowe alone, be given the cover of his new magazine George.  It is somehow shocking to know that Mr. Lowe was doing the same as the rest of the nation back in July of 1999 . . . waiting to hear news on the plane crash and being shocked and saddened over the loss.

Serious Rob Lowe fans may already know this but Rob Lowe has lived a heck of a life so far.  He has met scads of famous people, from trying to meet Telly Savalas (unsuccessfully) as a child in Ohio to getting future career advice from Liza Minnelli to the pre-career and teenage Darryl Hannah to the aforementioned Princess Stephanie of Monaco (whose lifestyle will make you scratch your head in wonder.) Despite the many connections, the women, the alcoholism and career success, Mr. Lowe manages to come across unscathed.  He's your next door neighbor, the father of a child in Little League, someone who is incredibly humbled by the good fortune bestowed upon him and who ultimately holds himself to a high standard.    Surely I wasn't the only one feeling triumphant over his comeback with The West Wing.    

Perhaps this is the most surprising part of Stories I Only Tell My Friends. . . Rob Lowe can write.  No, really.  He is as blessed with the pen as he is with looks.  From the first chapter, his prose draws the listener/reader in, inviting you into his world and his story.  Listening to the audio version of this book versus reading it, I was privileged to hear his own voice and his incredible impersonations.  He is a gifted narrator, from the pleasantness of his voice to verbal inflections.  His impersonation of Tom Cruise had me giggling in the car.

There was one thing I didn't like about Stories I Only Tell My Friends and that was the book had to end.  It was so good and so enjoyable I did not want to part company with Mr. Lowe.   The upside is that he has generously written a follow up memoir, one I will be picking up to savor.

I would not hesitate to recommend Stories I Only Tell My Friends.  It's the perfect celebrity memoir -  interesting, fun and dishy without being catty or cruel. 

Amazon

Audible

Author Website

Twitter

FTC Disclosure: This audiobook is from my own personal collection and was purchased by me. I was neither paid nor compensated for this review. You're welcome. 

November 18, 2014

Giveaway Winner: MY SISTER'S GRAVE



The lucky winner of a copy of My Sister's Grave by Robert Dugoni is . . .


Jennifer Ricketts


Congratulations, Jennifer!  I hope you enjoy your new book.  I will be emailing you directly to get your mailing address for your new goodie.

A big THANK YOU to all who visited Psychotic State Book Reviews and entered this giveaway.  I appreciate each and every one of you taking the time to visit and to post your entries. I hope you will stick around for future reviews, giveaways and interviews. 



Thank you to TLC Book Tours for making this giveaway possible.

November 14, 2014

A Ball at Pemberley!



Have you RSVP'd for the Pemberley Ball this weekend? 

Lady Vee at vvb32 reads is hosting a ball at Mr. Darcy's lovely estate Pemberley and all are welcome! 

Stop by, partake in the food, dancing and socializing.  Will you take a dance with Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley, Mr. Wickham or Mr. Collins?  What mischief will Lydia Bennet be up to?  And how will Mrs. Bennet's nerves fare?

In addition to the wonderful ball, there is also a Darcy Surprise Prize Pack to be won!

Hope to see you there!

November 12, 2014

The Rules on Writing


The rules are . . . there ain't no rules!



You have to write about what you know.

You have to write every day.

You have to outline.  Everything.

You have to start on Chapter 1, page 1.

You have to know how your story will start and end when you begin.


Sound familiar?  I'm sure you have heard at least one of the above "rules", if not all of them.  What do they have in common?  They all start with "you have to" and as the old saying goes, the only thing you have to do is pay taxes (well, you should!) and die. 

I have been writing in some form or another since I was eight.  I remember hearing all these rules at some point while in school or while reading various books on how to write. 

There are no set rules in writing.   Some authors write every day, without fail, because it works for them (paging Stephen King!).  Others write every other day, or write Monday through Friday giving themselves the weekends off.  Still others write only on the weekends. 

Some writers never write an outline or use index cards while others get heart palpitations thinking of going without them.  By the same token, you will find authors who swear by knowing every detail of their work before putting pen to paper while others enjoy the adventure of seeing what happens as they go. 

Stephenie Meyers, the author of the Twilight series, began her successful first book not with Chapter 1 but writing a scene that ended up happening in the middle of the book because she dreamt it and it was vivid in her mind.  After she wrote that scene, she went from there and went back and sketched out the beginning of the book. 

I find that starting can be hair-pulling at times but simply writing a random scene in your work can not only be fulfilling but successful in helping you to find your book's voice and flesh out your characters.   There doesn't seem to be the same pressure or weight that may paralyze you when starting on page 1. 

I took a creative writing class last year and one of the first things the instructor said was "Just sit down and write."  It's probably the best piece of writing advice you can have.  Don't think too hard about it and don't read too much about it. (When I think of the sheer number of "how to" books I've read over the years, I shudder).  Just do it.

In short, there isn't one right way or one wrong way.  Whatever works for you is the way to go.

As the great quote from Grease above says, remember that the rules of writing are that there are no rules.

Isn't that thought insanely liberating? 




November 10, 2014

MY SISTER'S GRAVE by Robert Dugoni



Description:  Tracy Crosswhite has spent twenty years questioning the facts surrounding her sister Sarah’s disappearance and the murder trial that followed. She doesn’t believe that Edmund House—a convicted rapist and the man condemned for Sarah’s murder—is the guilty party. Motivated by the opportunity to obtain real justice, Tracy became a homicide detective with the Seattle PD and dedicated her life to tracking down killers.

When Sarah’s remains are finally discovered near their hometown in the northern Cascade mountains of Washington State, Tracy is determined to get the answers she’s been seeking. As she searches for the real killer, she unearths dark, long-kept secrets that will forever change her relationship to her past—and open the door to deadly danger.




My Thoughts on My Sister's Grave by Robert Dugoni

I have been a fan of Robert Dugoni's for many years, since picking up my first novel by him.  I found him then to be an engaging writer with tight plots and heroes you could root for and his newest installment, My Sister's Grave, does not disappoint. 

Mr. Dugoni wrote a fantastic hero in David Sloane (first introduced in The Jury Master) and he manages to conceive an equally awesome heroine with Tracy Crosswhite.  Our gal Tracy is no helpless woman.  She's a Seattle detective who's strong willed and determined and while she's unmarried, she's no man hater.   Plus girlfriend has been seeking justice for her sister for twenty years so she's definitely loyal.  I have found that a number of female "leads" are written as nearly unlikeable but I liked Tracy.  A lot. 

Additionally I felt a kinship toward the fictional town of Cedar Grove, written so vividly that I could picture the downtown street, the houses with the wraparound porches and the friendly neighbors.  As far as I'm concerned, Cedar Grove was a supporting character in this book.

Mr. Dugoni's background shows with the courtroom scenes and legal terminology but the book  definitely falls under the mystery/thriller umbrella versus the legal one.   There is also a decent amount of forensics but this reader found it just enough to be of interest and not necessarily tutorial or educational in nature. 

The actual mystery itself was extremely well thought out and executed, making it difficult to put this book down.  I was surprised by the reveal and was quickly turning the page to get to the outcome.  I found the resolution satisfying and was pleased. 

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend My Sister's Grave and look forward to another literary encounter with Tracy Crosswhite.  Bravo, Mr. Dugoni.

Amazon

Author Website

FTC Disclosure: The review copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.  In no way did the provision of the book affect the outcome of my review.    

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for allowing Psychotic State Book Reviews to be part of this tour.



After reading the synopsis and my review, would you like your own copy of My Sister's Grave?  Of course you would! 

Use the Rafflecopter entry below and leave me a comment letting me know what one mystery you would solve if you could.   Me?  I would like to know once and for all the true identity of Jack the Ripper.  (Yes, I have a dark mind.)

Enter now.  U.S. and Canada only.  Giveaway ends Monday, November 17! 


http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/3d34989f2/" rel="nofollow">a Rafflecopter giveaway



November 5, 2014

The Goal of NaNoWriMo



As it is November and some of us are either gliding through NaNoWriMo or paddling desperately to stay afloat, I thought I would pen a few entries of my NaNo experience as well as (hopefully) help others.

Here's a little secret. This is my second attempt at NaNoWriMo. I signed up a few years ago, determined to write my novel in 30 days. Go me! That lasted until the second or third day when I was informed on my dashboard that I was behind in my word count and that I would need words each and every day in order to hit 50,000 words by November 30. I was panicked, overwhelmed and generally freaked out so I quit.

This year I began NaNoWriMo with an entirely different attitude and objective. The 50,000 word count is great but my priority is to just write. If I hit 50,000 words by the end of the month, hooray! If I don't . . . well, I don't. It's not like the NaNo police are going to show up and arrest me or even post my name and picture on their page for all to see.   No one is going to take my laptop away, my head is not going to blow up and it's not going to mean that I'm not a "real" writer.

If I write for the majority of the month, if I get the story that is nagging me incessantly onto the screen (seriously, these characters just will not shut up) - - and not even the story in its entirety but a portion of it - - I consider NaNoWriMo a success for myself.

Because I'm writing.

Repeat after me.

Because I'm writing.

Tell yourself that because, really, isn't that your ultimate goal? Isn't that why you sit down in front of a terrifyingly blank screen after working all day or early in the morning or while your friends and family are out playing (or all three) to pull every ounce of creative juice we can out of yourself and weave a story?    Or is that just me?

If you're participating in NaNoWriMo this year, give yourself a pat on the back. Shout it out! You deserve it! Tell yourself that whatever you achieve, whether it's 50,000 words or 5,000 or 500, is an awesome accomplishment because it's more than you had on October 31.

Jump in. Let me know what you think and how NaNoWriMo is working for you.