Posts Tagged ‘cbr4’

#CBR4 Cannonball 18: Emma by Jane Austen

EmmaEmma by Jane Austen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Likeable people often have the power of making you like the things they like. When they get excited about something, it makes you want to get excited about it, too. One of my pastors is a great example of this. It’s thanks to his enthusiasm that many in our church love the Lakers, Braveheart, “Band of Brothers,” and kettle corn (I am guilty as charged of liking all of these things).

Jane Austen wields a similar power in Emma. She set out to write “a heroine whom no one but myself will much like,” and made generations of readers fall in love with her.

Emma Woodhouse is “handsome, clever, and rich.” She lives on the estate of Hartfield in the town of Highbury with her aged father. Her mother died when she was young, so there was never anyone to really challenge Emma, and she became used to always getting her own way. The only person that she can’t charm into doing as she pleases is Mr. Knightley, the owner of Donwell Abbey, and brother-in-law to Emma’s sister, Isabella.

The book opens with the wedding of Emma’s former governess, Miss Taylor, who is now Mrs. Weston. Emma takes credit for having made the match and is determined to make a hobby of matchmaking. When she meets the artless and beautiful Harriet Smith, she takes Miss Smith under her wing and sets out to spark a romance for her.

emma and harriet

Emma (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Harriet (Toni Collette, who was brilliant in this role).

These days, a lot of people seem to complain that Emma is spoiled and selfish, and there’s plenty of evidence to that effect in the book. But Emma changes towards the end of the book, and what ultimately makes her a redeemable character is that she learns from her mistakes and, at the heart of it, always had good intentions despite her pride.

Mr. Knightley is also my favorite Austen hero (Mr. Darcy doesn’t even compare). He’s charming, chivalrous, clever, and, most of all, wise. He’s never afraid to tell Emma the truth, even when it hurts. He’s a faithful friend in that regard, and it’s a character trait that far too few people value in a future spouse. He’s insightful enough to see Emma’s flaws, but gracious enough to believe that she can change.

Emma is funny, touching, romantic, and really witty. It’s my favorite of Jane Austen’s novels, and I think Emma’s flaws are what make her relatable in the end.

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#CBR4 Cannonball 12: Dracula by Bram Stoker

Dracula by Bram Stoker 1897 editionDracula by Bram Stoker 1897 edition by Bram Stoker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I imagine that, when it was first published, Dracula probably kept a lot of people up at night. The idea of the undead rising up as evil killers in the night must really have thrown people for a loop.

But I am not a Victorian socialite. I grew up watching horror films that my parents didn’t know I was watching. I startle easily, but I don’t scare easily. And I have to say that Dracula didn’t really do much for me.

If you’ve lived under a rock for the last hundred years or so, here’s the synopsis: Jonathan Harker, a young lawyer, is retained by the mysterious Count Dracula. While there, it becomes apparent that there’s something a little off about the Count, and things soon get dangerous. In the meantime, Harker’s fiancĂ©e, Mina Murray, is corresponding with her best friend, Lucy Westenra. Lucy is proposed to by three men in the same day, and accepts one: Arthur. But, in the meantime, Lucy contracts a mysterious illness. Arthur calls in his friend and Lucy’s former suitor, Dr. John Seward, to cure her. Seward, unable to find the cause, calls in his colleague, Dr. Abraham van Helsing. It seems that van Helsing has some inkling of what’s plaguing Lucy, but is reluctant to say. We eventually find that Jonathan’s imprisonment and Lucy’s illness are connected.

dracula

I'm sure Bela Lugosi was a terrifying Dracula for his time.

Parts of it were quite quaint, actually. It’s almost laughable how Dr. van Helsing, the vampire expert, keeps everyone in the dark about the existence of vampires. Instead of telling Seward & Co., “I think Lucy’s being stalked by a vampire. Here, let’s keep some garlic in her room and see if she gets any better,” he simply brings in the garlic flowers and tells no one how important they are. Instead of telling Seward, “I think a vampire is coming and sucking her blood at night. We should sleep during the day and keep awake at night to protect her,” they keep falling asleep and Lucy keeps getting weaker.

But the fact is that none of us live in the late 19th century, and you just can’t go back. Unless you’ve lived a very sheltered life and scare very easily, Dracula probably won’t do much for you.

I guess it’s a groundbreaking work in the horror genre. But I’ll never forgive Bram Stoker for being the precursor to Twilight.

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#CBR4 Cannonball 11: Fables, Volume 9: Sons of Empire by Bill Willingham

Fables, Vol. 9: Sons of EmpireFables, Vol. 9: Sons of Empire by Bill Willingham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sons of Empire was a little up and down for me, but the little bonus at the end brought the volume as a whole back up to solid ground.

The Fables are continuing to prepare for the possibility of war against the Adversary, and the Adversary is now preparing his hostile takeover of the mundy world (that’s our world, y’all). This is especially tough for Pinocchio, who still loves his friends back in Fabletown, even though he’s under a loyalty enchantment to his father, Geppetto (also known as the Adversary).

Here’s one thing I don’t get: the wooden soldiers Geppetto creates to people his armies are so disdainful of “meat” people (humans). Yet, they hold their “father” in such high reverence. It doesn’t make sense to me that they’d think so ill of meat when their own beloved father is meat.

Snow & Bigby continue rearing their rambunctious brood of sons and daughters, and the kids are growing and learning all the time.

There are two special treats at the end of this volume. The first is a Christmas special, and we get to see the Wolf family take a special trip back to the Homelands to visit Grandpa: the North Wind. He and Bigby have a strained relationship, and we get to peek behind the curtain and see why.

By the way, the Wolf kids/cubs are absolutely adorable. Good job, artists.

The second special treat is especially fun. Over the years in which Fables has been in publication, readers have sent in thousands of questions. Willingham and the writers chose eleven questions to answer in one-page comics. Some of them are absolutely hilarious. This segment alone elevates an otherwise unremarkable volume.

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