Thursday, July 20, 2017

Movie Review: Camille (1984)

Camille. Directed by Desmond Davis. 1984. 100 minutes. [Source: Library]

Marguerite Gautier is played by Greta Scacchi. Armand Duval is played by Colin Firth. Duval (Armand's father) is played by Ben Kingsley. Prudence is played by Billie Whitelaw. Count de Noilly is played by Denholm Elliott. Gaston is played by Patrick Ryecart.

This was a made-for-television adaptation of Alexandre Dumas fils' novel/play Camille. There's a great line of dialogue in this one: "Love me less, or understand me better." It's something that Marguerite is saying to Armand. That simple phrase says so much about this story.

The movie opens with a plea of sorts: a dying Marguerite is writing in her journal, confessing everything to Armand, pleading with him to understand her.

One of the first scenes of the movie shows Marguerite with her abusive father. At the very least he is verbally abusive, but, I lean more towards physical abuse as well. Regardless the movie opens with a very young Marguerite deciding to LEAVE HOME--for better or worse. She makes her way to Paris with just the clothes on her back. No money, no food, no place to stay, no plan on how to survive. She's desperate. Perhaps sensing her desperation, an older man, an Impressionist painter, offers to pay for a meal if she'll sit and pose for him. She eagerly accepts. In fact, she devours the food as if she hasn't eaten in days. But the painter has more than a sketch in mind. To be blunt--and this takes place offscreen fortunately--he rapes her. At first she scorns the idea of staying with him, she looks at him with hatred and disgust. But she realizes that her body is her commodity. With it, she has a way to get food, wine, clothes, jewelry, a place to stay. She still doesn't like him--but she realizes that they can use each other for a while. She'll hopefully find someone richer, someone better to take his place. She's definitely on the look out. She's "discovered" by the Duke de Charles. He finds that she looks like his now-deceased daughter. He is looking for her to take the place of his daughter. He wants her off the street; he wants her cleaned up; he wants her to stop selling herself to men. He's willing to treat her like a princess, gifts of money and jewels, an unlimited amount of credit it seems. But there are strings attached. She's to be a good girl.

Armand Duval is introduced early in this adaptation. Viewers first see him with his father and his sister celebrating life. His father seems to be encouraging his son to be YOUNG and to LIVE IT UP in Paris while he can. Armand becomes close friends with the wealthy Gaston. And the two seem to like women and booze. Like might not be a strong enough word. Let's just say the two are lusty young men.

So how do these two meet in this adaptation? Prudence spots Gaston at the theatre. Gaston tells Armand that Prudence was his first lover, that as an older, much-experienced woman she was a great teacher. Gaston and Armand go home with Prudence that night. Prudence is Marguerite's neighbor. When Marguerite invites Prudence over, she says she has two guests. Marguerite says COME WITH YOUR GUESTS AND RESCUE ME FROM THIS SUPREME BORE, the Count. For Armand, if you believe in such things, it's love at first sight. For Marguerite, however, she's not wanting to fall in love with any young man. Especially a poor one.

The rest of the story follows the other adaptations for the most part. Though Armand seems very much a jerk in this one. For example, his father tells him: do you know that by being with her you are ruining your sister's chance for marriage? Do you know that her wedding could be called off? And he's like MY SISTER LOVES ME AND I'M SURE SHE'D RATHER SEE ME BE HAPPY. Also, there were a few times at least when Armand crossed the line into abuse--in my humble opinion. He tells her IT'S ONLY BECAUSE I LOVE YOU SO MUCH THAT I ACT THIS WAY. And her response is: LOVE ME LESS OR UNDERSTAND ME BETTER. I think those are wise words indeed under the circumstances.

The characters are oh-so-human in this adaptation. Neither comes across as a saint.

Overall, I am definitely glad I watched this one. It is more of an interpretation of Dumas' work than an adaptation of it.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Les Miserables 10th Anniversary Concert

Les Miserables: 10 Anniversary Concert at London's Royal Albert Hall. Directed by John Caird and Gavin Taylor. 148 minutes. [Source: Library]

Features Colm Wilkinson as Jean Valjean, Philip Quast as Javert, Ruthie Henshall as Fantine, Jenny Galloway as Madame Thenardier, Alun Armstrong as Thenardier, Lea Salonga as Eponine, Michael Ball as Marius, Judy Kuhn as Cosette, Michael Maguire as Enjolras....

Premise/plot: This film is not a production of the musical itself but a concert featuring the music from the musical. One disc is the concert. The other disc is the special features. The special features include two documentaries that are well worth watching.

My thoughts: I have seen the 2012 film adaptation of the musical. I have very mixed feelings about the film. I really do. I think it is almost torturous to watch in places. It definitely is not a film that I'd ever say "again, again, again" after viewing.

I LOVE the book. It's one of my FAVORITE books of all time. I think the musical only makes sense if you've read the book OR if you've watched a better film adaptation.

So what did I think of this concert? Well, I found myself liking it much more than I thought I would. I liked the concert aspect of it--especially seeing the orchestra behind them and the ensemble cast. The ensemble cast wore Les Miserables t-shirts. The main characters were in costume.  (Probably two dozen or so were in costume.) Valjean and Eponine were my FAVORITES.

I though the singing was EXCELLENT for the most part. I also love watching orchestras.

My favorite songs:

I Dreamed a Dream, Fantine
Who Am I, Valjean
Fantine's Death, Fantine and Valjean
One Day More, Valjean, Marius, Cosette, Eponine, Enjolras
On My Own, Eponine
Bring Him Home, Valjean
Epilogue (Finale), Valjean, Fantine, Cosette and Marius, Ensemble

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


When Your Child Has Food Allergies

When Your Child Has Food Allergies. Mireille Schwartz. 2017. 240 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: This is a book written by a parent, for parents. So it is full of practical, honest, first hand information about how to cope, and thrive, with a child who has a chronic food allergy.

Premise/plot: Who is the book for? Parents, primarily. But also grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers, and dare I say food service workers? What is it about? Food allergies. Specifically it is about how to create safe environments for children with food allergies. It deals with home environments--going beyond just the kitchen. It deals with school environments. It deals with eating out at restaurants, going to holiday or birthday parties, going on vacation, flying on airplanes, etc. It teaches parents how to be advocates and protect their children from allergens. It isn't always going to work, however, so each and every chapter--in reality more like every few pages--the message is always, always, always have an epi-pen with you; always contact 911 and get help if you're having a reaction.

The book is divided into four sections: "What You Need to Know," "Ways You Can Offer Support," "How Your Child Can Live Fully and Safely," and "Ways You Can Protect Your Child."

The big eight are: milk, eggs, finned fish, crustacean shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, and soy.

The book contains several lists: "Mild Early Warning Signs," "General Symptoms of Food Allergies," "When to Call an Ambulance," "Symptoms of Anaphylaxis," and "Symptoms of Eosinophilic Esophagitis."

My thoughts: I thought this one was packed with a lot of information. It covers every area--at least every area that I can think of. It deals with diagnosis, symptoms, medical treatments, emergency care, emergency preparedness. It deals with how to talk with your child, with family members, with friends, with parents of your child's friends, with teachers, with principals, with school nurses, with waiters, with chefs, with babysitters, with anyone and everyone that might come into contact with your child. Don't keep your child's allergies private, tell anyone and everyone. You never know.

I thought the book was thorough. I had heard of cross-contamination. But I'd not thought of how this might involve pets and pet food. I had heard of the Big 8--the eight foods that are the most common allergens. But I'd not thought of looking for the big eight outside of food. For example, some inks contain soy!

This book definitely drives home the message that everything--every little thing, every big thing--takes deliberate thought and planning once someone in your home has an allergy. The book mainly deals with severe allergies which are a matter of life and death. The book mentions in passing milder allergies which are not life threatening but are still uncomfortable and best avoided. For example, a severe allergy reaction would lead to a person not being able to breathe. A milder allergic reaction might be breaking out in hives. You won't die from hives, but, certainly you don't want to purposefully expose yourself to anything that will lead to them!!!

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Counting with Tiny Cat

Counting with Tiny Cat. Viviane Schwarz. 2017. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: None. One. Two. Three. Four. More. Even More. About a dozen. Lots.

Premise/plot: Tiny Cat is counting his (or her) balls of yarn. At first this is easy for tiny cat. But it doesn't stay easy. What comes after four?! Tiny Cat's not exactly sure. But that doesn't stop her from having FUN counting.

My thoughts: I really, really, really LOVED this one. I love the expressiveness of Tiny Cat. In particular. I love the expression for "lots" "some extra" "too much" and "enough." The story is told with just a few words. These words--like the number words--might be familiar to preschoolers. And I wouldn't be surprised if little ones end up memorizing this one and reading it themselves. I think one can definitely read the story based on the pictures alone.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Monday, July 17, 2017

Camille: A Play in Five Acts

Camille: A Play in Five Acts. Alexandre Dumas, fils. Translated by Matilda Heron. 1852. 72 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Some one has rung the bell.

Premiseplot: Alexandre Dumas fils adapted his novel, Camille, into a five act play. There are just eleven characters: Armand Duval, Camille, Count de Varville, Nichette, Gustave, Olimpe, Gaston, Prudence, Nanine, and Monsieur Duval (Armand's father).

How does the play differ from the novel? The play removes the framework. The novel begins after Camille, our heroine, has died. Readers of the novel first meet a grief-stricken lover, Armand, who only slowly reveals the details of their romance. The play begins by introducing Camille's close circle of friends. Are all the people in this play her friends? Maybe, maybe not. Certainly most of them are. But a few do seem to be using Camille to their own advantage. Prudence, for example, stands out as someone taking full advantage of Camille. Olimpe is a rival of hers, so their friendship is more "friendship." Readers--viewers--watch the romance blossom, grow, mature in the play. Quite a difference emotionally, I believe.

 My thoughts: I really loved the play. I enjoyed the novel very much. I didn't think the story could be improved upon. But I'm glad that Dumas also gave us the play version. By simplifying the story, I feel we get a better impression of who the characters are.

Armand: Will you be loved?
Camille: For how long?
Armand: For eternity!
Camille: Alas! my life may yet be happy--it cannot be long--and short as it may be, it may outlive your promise.
Armand: Now, who is melancholy?
Camille: Not I. The weight that chained me to her throne's removed, and all around breathes ecstasy! But it grows late, and you must away.
Armand: When shall I see you again?
Camille: [Giving him a Camelia] When this little flower is faded, bring it to me again.
Armand: Ah, Camille, you have made me blessed.
Camille: It is a strange flower, Armand--pale, scentless, cold; but sensitive as purity itself. Cherish it, and its beauty will excel the loveliest flower that grows; but wound it with a single touch, you never can recall its bloom, or wipe away the stain. Take it, and remember me. Now go.
Armand: Adieu! (19)

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

You should know several things before you contact me:

1) I do not guarantee a review of your book. I am just agreeing to consider it for review.
2) I give all books at least fifty pages.
3) I am not promising anyone (author or publisher) a positive review in exchange for a review copy. That's not how I work.
4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
5) I do not guarantee that I will get to your book immediately. I've got so many books I'm trying to read and review, I can't promise to get to any one book in a given time frame.
6) Emailing me every other week to see if I've read your book won't help me get to it any faster. Though if you want to email me to check and see if it arrived safely, then that's fine!

Authors, publishers. I am interested in interviewing authors and participating in blog tours. (All I ask is that I receive a review copy of the author's latest book beforehand so the interview will be productive. If the book is part of a series, I'd like to review the whole series.) Contact me if you're interested.

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