Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. - II Timothy 2:15

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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Book Review: I Capture the Castle

3 out of 5
Recommended for: anyone who likes chick-flicks and British drama
Categories: Brit lit, writing you don't meet every day, humor, reader-friendly

I Capture the Castle tells the story of seventeen-year-old Cassandra and her family, who live in not-so-genteel poverty in a ramshackle old English castle. Here she strives, over six turbulent months, to hone her writing skills. She fills three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries. Her journals candidly chronicle the great changes that take place within the castle's walls, and her own first descent into love. By the time she pens her final entry, she has "captured the castle"-- and the heart of the reader-- in one of literature's most enchanting entertainments.

The thing to focus on in this book, I have discovered, is not the plot. If you focus on the plot, you may be sorely disappointed with Cassandra at the end. It's not fair that such a witty, gifted, original and spontaneously real and human girl like Cassandra doesn't have a plot that reads more eloquently than a typical chick-flick love triangle.
Her circumstances are certainly nothing but original. She's living in a crumbling old castle on a forty-year's lease with a riddle of a father, an artist's model {and fascinatingly sensible} stepmother, a rather ordinary {but rather funny} sister and a brother who becomes more and more likable as the book progresses. 
And Stephen. 
One cannot overlook Stephen {despite his overlook-ability} even though he makes about as much sense as an ocean liner in a desert.  
Her life is one of extreme "genteel" poverty. She can hardly scrape up enough paper to write out her journal and there seem to be scraping and darning and skimping at every turn.
Thankfully, Cassandra is blessed with a sense of humor and a knack for remembering chapter-long conversations which she can then record in her journal days later without dropping a word. 
It's the writing that makes this book what it is. 
Without Cassandra's inordinately amusing reflections on everything from bathing on roast platters to white-clad, fur-robed jaunts to London, this book would be a dismal failure. Such ludicrous situations and outlandish conditions couldn't possibly be pulled off without the pragmatic, off-hand descriptions from the heroine's gifted pen.
However, despite her best writing, even Cassandra cannot quite make up for the lack of depth in the plot when it hits its last chapters.  
As one of my friends put it, it's a "well-written bit of fluff".

The writing - obviously. Any book that starts out "I write this while sitting in the kitchen sink" and proceeds to uphold that level of creativity and spontaneity throughout should not be merely left unread.

Surprisingly, it's pretty clean. Aside from some kissing, occasional language, and sporadic mention of nudity (Cassandra's stepmother is, as already mentioned but now reiterated, an artist's model), I Capture the Castle is pretty innocent and carefree. Rather hard to believe when the movie is rated R, but Hollywood sometimes has different ideas concerning the spirit of a book.

I just loved the sheer craziness of the story. It is so erratic and so very British. Cassandra's honesty and bluntness about everything is engaging and easy to relate to. She's one of the best characters I've met within the realms of a book in a long time.

I was so disappointed with how the book ended. I know this probably isn't a common impression, but I thought that the book degenerated plot-wise as it went on instead of building to an ending that justified its marvelous beginning.

Okay, am I also the only one who wondered about Stephen? He seemed so...insipid. And it didn't help that the author either intentionally or unintentionally turned him out to be such a to-die-for guy that you almost didn't like him because of it.
However, I did appreciate his strength of character. He was rather sweet in an awkward, poetry-stuttered manner.

Ever since I heard that line "I write this while sitting in the kitchen sink", I've wanted to meet Cassandra Mortmain. Anyone who has the guts to write in a sink is bound to be a good friend for as long as a book lasts.
And, shoot. Green arms and Midsummer Eve dances and crumbling plot notwithstanding, she was.

Till next time, 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Casting Challenge {No.1}: Calico Captive

No one in the movie industry has ever seemed to think that Elizabeth George Speare's books are worth a movie adaptation and I am of the persuasion that such negligence is deprivation.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond is a Newberry Award winner, impeccably written with a solid message, sweet romance and it's exciting and thoroughly good to boot.
And what about Calico Captive? It's another excellent story combining romance, history, excitement and down-to-earth, believable characters.

And yet the film industry continues to churn the cheap, fluffy chick flicks and so on and so forth. 

I, for one, think this is a crying shame.

So since Hollywood can't seem to catch on to good writing, I've decided to cast my own group of actors/actresses for Calico Captive. Feel free to comment on what you agree/disagree with. If you haven't read the book, read it {you'll have no regrets, I promise!}and then comment! 

For Miriam Willard: the book describes her as short and slender with grey eyes and chestnut curls. She is also spirited and stubborn.
Amy Adams seems to fit the bill best for me. Her hair is the prerequisite red {though Miriam's should be darker} and her eyes are almost grey. She should probably be a tad bit tanner too, but those things can be fixed! In costume, I think she would make a pretty solid Miriam.

For Pierre Laroche {Miriam's Montreal beau}: He's a coureur de bois {roughly translated: a woodsman}. The book says he's tall and boisterous, with an "arrogant lift to his head and shoulders". He also has curly black hair and looks French.
I have actually never seen a movie with Eduardo Verastegui {and, I must admit, did not consciously know he existed until I googled dark-haired actors in desperation to find someone for Pierre} but a bit of hasty research showed me that he has acted in a strongly pro-life movie {Bella} and just recently was the executive producer of another pro-life movie Crescendo I. I don't like to cast actors I've never heard of, but for one who seems to have his heart in the right place, I'll make an exception to the rule. 
I can definitely see him has Pierre, anyway. He's not French, but he's got the dark hair and makeup does wonders with other things {if needed}. It wouldn't take much to transform him into a woodsman for Miriam.

Then we have Susanna Johnson, Miriam's older sister {I'm only doing the major characters here, by the way}: She is described as having smooth dark hair and dark eyes. Her personality comes off as a bit of a control-freak and she's very stubborn and proud of her heritage.
Emily Blunt {especially in her role as Victoria in The Young Victoria} struck me as having the correct blend of these qualities. Her eyes aren't exactly dark, but colored contacts could fix that.

Felicite Du Quesne, {Miriam's French employer's daughter} is described as "pink and white and fragile as a china figurine", with blue eyes, and hair like a "fine, powdery gold mist".

Hayden Panettiere has, I think, the right facial shape for Felicite, though she's not exactly fragile looking. Felicite is also supposed to be innocent and rather plump, and I can see this actress pulling off the necessary spoiled French pout. {In this picture, anyway. I'm not a fan at all of hers in real life.}

Phineas Whitney {Miriam's English beau} is another key player in this story. It took me forever to find the right actor for the job, though it's not as if it's a tough part to fill. Phineas is described as tall and blond with very blue eyes. Basic, bare-bones criteria. But I was looking for someone who could also be Phineas - not just look like him. Phineas is a wholesome, courteous, respectful young man, so I didn't want anyone who looked too unwholesome and, he wouldn't be careful with a girl's heart. 

Unfortunately for me, I've seen The Phantom of the Opera, {wouldn't recommend the movie, though the music is {obviously} stupendous} so I've seen Patrick Wilson in the role of Raoul. 

I also happen to know that he can grow out his hair without looking ridiculous, which is good, seeing as he'd need to pull off a 18th century queue {and the name Phineas - poor man!}. Fortunately, he can also act the role of a respectful, courteous love-interest. And his eyes are blue, which is perfect. Give him a Colonial coat, a pair of breeches and buckled shoes and he's a shoo-in! 

Lastly, we'll cast Madame Du Quesne. In the book, she's a tough nut to crack, incredibly affluently-minded and domineering. In my opinion, Judi Dench {with a wig, of course} would make this role.  

She doesn't seem to smile much {and when she does it's very reserved} so I can easily envision her being strong-willed and intimidating to cross. 

And there you have it! 

In case you were interested, I actually started this post back when I began my blog {2010 or 2011, I believe?} and can't believe I just finished it now {kudos!}. It's a lot of fun, but awfully hard to fit the correct actor/actress with the right role. Much harder {evidently} than I initially anticipated. I guess you'll never find me advertising for a job as a casting agent! 

Until next time,

P.S. I'm not sure if everyone has transferred over to the new url yet {} so if you have, please comment and let me know. Thanks!

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Story of My Life

I really shouldn't interrupt myself - because swabbing down my flute with rubbing alcohol is such a FASCINATING business - but I haven't blogged for a while {something you've probably noticed if you're still following after all this unforgivable neglect} and I do miss the old thing.

*pause for effect as I dutifully wipe away*

I have been incredibly productive during my absence, though, in case you were thinking that I've spent my hiatus sitting on my bum eating chocolate {which I only did a tiny bit of}.

Let's do a tick-off and I'll fill you in on the details:

- I was dead sick for three days before the turn came and I felt better. I didn't get the flu thing that was going around, but I did get the cold virus - and that with a vengeance.

- I have done pound upon pound of laundry. After dead-sickness there is, of course, all the militant germ-ridding that must be done. Sheets, blankets, towels, sweatshirts, pajamas, flutes and the like.

- Two of my sisters and I have now begun the task of cleaning our church once a week {we're being paid to do it, before you think I'm holier than I am}. I think I'm going to give myself tennis elbow or something from vacuuming.

- Of course, work must be gone to and completed every day.

- Christmas for us lasted until January 5th, so the busyness lasted that long as well.

- I'm going to MN this weekend to visit a friend and the planning that such a venture entails is astoundingly staggering.

- I've been catching up on some backed-up shopping - which always takes time, as we ladies know.  ;-)

- I am in the midst of editing a Nano novel {not mine}, major plotting for several novels, and not learning a Bible lesson that I am scheduled to demonstrate for a class on January 26th {eep!}.

- My brother, two sisters, two friends and I have recently become involved with POBLO ministries {People of the Book Lutheran Outreach}, which meets every Thursday night for two hours and is a class where we teach {or try to teach} local, inner-city immigrants the English language.

- Trying to finish I Capture the Castle for book club.

- Battling with our eternally slow internet connection. You never know how much you rely on it until it doesn't work, you know?

- Writing three thousand blog posts in my head - and typing none of them...

- Catching up on backed up organization and clean up.

- And, my biggest triumph this month: taking the 4.5 yards of black fabric I bought months ago and turning it into a skirt! {Pictures may be forthcoming, but I assure you, it is one of the greatest triumphs of my sewing career {a limited career - don't over expect}}.

And that is the story of my life.

Signed copies of this post are available upon request. :)

Perhaps someday I shall be rich and famous and it'll be worth something.