Caroline: Little House Revisited
This is Little House on the Prairie told from the perspective of Caroline Ingalls, otherwise known as “Ma”. It tells of the Ingalls leaving Pepin, Wisconsin, and of the long, arduous journey to “Indian territory”, of building the cabin, eking out an existence from the raw land, of the love of family and of Caroline’s journey mirrored by the one of her own child growing inside her. Several adventures from the original book are described again here, and several new ones added. All are more realistic and “gritty”. I mean, as a child, did you ever wonder where they all went to the bathroom? Well, here Sarah Miller covers all those “unmentionable” aspects.
Also note that this is a more adult story and includes a couple descriptions towards the end of the book of Caroline and Charles making love together.
The book is very introspective, following Caroline’s thoughts and deep, hidden emotions. This portrayal makes “Ma” seem less strong and self-reliant than she is in Laura’s novels, but still, the emotions are very believable and do explain some of the tension Laura felt with her ma. I found the emotional arc to be repetitive though. Maybe that’s realistic, but the movement of the storyline was dragged down by Caroline constantly grieving her family back in Wisconsin, her fears, the dreams she could hardly dare to dream, and the inability to express herself. Overall, I would recommend this journey back to Little House on the Prairie through Ma’s eyes!
Book of A Thousand Days
When Dashti becomes maid to the Lady Saren, her oath of loyalty is put immediately to the test. Lady Saren has refused to marry the suitor her father has chosen, choosing instead to endure the punishment of being locked into a dark tower “until she comes to her senses”. It takes all of Dashti’s pluck and ingenuity to support Lady Saren through her fears, manage their food and resources and deal with the suitors, one welcome and one not, who come to try to speak to Lady Saren.
Shannon Hale is my favorite contemporary young adult author. Her plots are simple (this one based on an old Grimm’s tale), but the raw emotions, the sweet romance, the character arcs and the worldbuilding that is both fantastical and completely believable, are all absolutely engrossing. I was once again on the edge of my seat following Dashti’s adventures.
I listened to the Full Cast Audio production, which was very enjoyable. Due to some subject matter, I wouldn’t recommend this to young children. This would be a great novel to read with teen girls and use as a springboard for discussing how to spot abuse in a romantic relationship.
All Creatures Great and Small
Fresh out of college, young James Herriot lands a job as an assistant veterinary surgeon in the Yorkshire Dales. The work is hard and varied, and James finds himself up during the night, out in all weathers and having to tactically weave his way between the eccentricity of his employer and personalities of his clients. As the months go by, James comes to love his work, the animals, the farmers and most of all the new land he calls home. Each chapter is a vignette, loosely organized chronologically, telling funny or pathetic stories of the animals James treats and the lives of their owners. Some chapters will have you doubling over with laughter and some will mist your eyes. By the end, you just might long for a year living on a remote Yorkshire farm, high in the hills, with James Herriot coming to help you with you animals!
I listened to this audio version. The narrator, Christopher Timothy, played Herriot in the BBC miniseries and is fantastic. He captures the nuances of manner and humor perfectly. (Note: the book has a fair bit of strong language and instances of taking the Lord’s name in vain.)
Florence Foster Jenkins
This unhurried film tells the story of Lady Florence, a belle in New York society and lover of classical music. With her fortune, Florence supports music endeavors all throughout the city. Florence also loves to sing opera herself; the one problem is, she can’t sing. Really. Her voice wobbles, her intonation is atrocious, her sense of timing all over the chart. Yet somehow, she has gained a following and her private concerts have become famous. When Florence takes it into her head to give a concert at Carnegie Hall for the returning war veterans, her husband/manager, St. Clair Bayfield, tries to dissuade her, feeling sure she will ruin her reputation and health forever.
I found this movie to be rather boring and quite odd. I couldn’t quite accept the strange domestic arrangement Florence and Bayfield had, with Bayfield’s mistress thrown in the mix. The one thing the film had going for it was the superb acting from Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant. They were both incredible. The reason I finished the movie was because of Simon Helberg’s portrayal of the piano accompanist – he was hilarious. The movie is currently free on Amazon Prime Video.
On a typically Dickenseque dark and foggy London day, three young people come before Chancery to have their futures decided. The pretty Ada Clair and enthusiastic Richard Carstone, known as the “Wards in Jarndyce”, and Esther Summerson, the illegitimate daughter of nobody-knows-who engaged to be their companion. The court approves the plan for all three young adults to go live with Mr. John Jarndyce at his country estate called “Bleak House”. Life is certainly not bleak there, however. Mr. Jarndyce is the most amiable of guardians, Ada and Richard form an attachment and all of them love and rely on Esther’s level-headed sense and kindness. As the series progresses, we are introduced to a wide array of characters: Mr. Tulkinghorn, the hard and persistent solicitor; Mr. Guppy, the ambitious and ridiculous clerk; the cold Lady Dedlock; the pompous Mr. Turveydrop; the greedy and deceptive Mr. Skimpole; the slimy moneylender Smallweed; the noble and proud Sergeant George, kind Doctor Woodcourt and many, many more. We see how all the characters are drawn together by the thin thread that is the chancery case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce.
This mini-series is one of BBC’s finest Dickens adaptations. The choices they made in condensing the story were on point and the acting superb. Dark, dreary, funny, thought provoking and romantic – Bleak House is one of my favorites.
When Migo, a giant, white, furry creature known as a Yeti, discovers that humans really do exist, he faces banishment from his village for questioning the traditional belief that there is no such thing as a “Small Foot”. Migo embarks on a journey down below the clouds in an attempt to prove he is not mad. When he brings his new human friend back to the village, Migo finds himself pitted against the Stone Keeper and the long-cherished traditions of his society.
There are enough clever lines and imaginative scenes to keep most adults engaged as well as kids. It’s mostly clean, but with a couple “butt” jokes, etc. I was troubled, however, by the film’s portrayal of tradition and “faith”. The laws and traditions laid down by the Stone Keepers ended up being all false, even though they were designed to protect the community.
Note: this movie is currently still in theaters and not released to DVD at the the time of this writing.
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