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Content by Jennifer B. Barton
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Reviews Written by
Jennifer B. Barton "Beth Barton" (Ridgeway, VA)

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Sense and Sensibility
Sense and Sensibility
by Jane Austen
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 7.20
83 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Very Similar to Pride but Holds Its Own by the End, July 10 2004
This review is from: Sense and Sensibility (Paperback)
In Sense and Sensible the storyline dwells on the two elder sisters of the Dashwood family, Elinor and Mariane. Elinor is always in control of her emotions and is governed primarily by prudence (sense). Her younger sister, Marianne, is an emotional whirlwind whose sensibilities dictate that those who do not evidence wholly encompassing emotions are without them entirely. As in Pride & Prejudice, the family home of the Dashwoods has been willed to another member of the family not in the immediate nuclear family. In Pride & Prejudice, the home was entailed to Mr. Collins, a distant cousin. Where there was only an overshadowing of the loss of the estate in that book, in Sense & Sensibility, the house is actually lost to the half brother whose wife, a Ferrar, not only talks her husband out of the generous support to his half sisters that he promised (albeit vaguely) his dying father but makes life in general unpleasant for the Dashwood ladies until they find a situation with a cousin, John Middleton. Part of the unpleasantness surrounds an apparent but unprofessed affection of her brother, Edward Ferrars, for the eldest Dashwood, Elinor.
It would seem that the move has quashed the supposed attraction, leaving Elinor attempting to contain her disappointment. Marianne meanwhile strikes up an intense relationship with equally extroverted Willoughby. When Willoughby suddenly disappears, the two girls come together to support each other emotionally through a storm of discoveries, pleasant and unpleasant.
Sense and Sensibility develops into its own independent storyline after many similarities with Pride & Prejudice. Although this novel holds its own and is an enjoyable book, I still feel that Pride & Prejudice is its superior in pace, story line and general feel. Sense came out well before Pride and it almost feels that the same idea is being worked out in both - an idea that got clearer and was better communicated in Pride. Pride had a much more natural (believable) feeling to the events where Sense does require a little suspension of disbelief in some of the contrivances to get to a happy ending (specifically referring to the actions of Robert Ferrar). If you liked Pride and want more Austen, this is your book. If you are choosing between the two, choose Pride ... than come back for this one.

Pride and Prejudice
Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 6.56
109 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars It�s Not So Much in What Happens but How it Happens, June 25 2004
I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed Pride & Prejudice. Although it has to be called a romance, I personally feel that the fascination is much more about the rules of behavior and courtship in Victorian society. The same story set in the modern day would not be nearly so interesting because you no longer have the rules to navigate that are present in the time in which it is set. It is the compliance with these rules and the reaction when they are not followed properly that makes the social structure of the time (as it is presented here) more like a chess game than a simple romance story. This given with characters and settings that have a feel to them that reminds me of Little Women made this book a great deal of fun to read. It was fast paced with plenty of intrigues.
The back of my book puts the entire plot into one short paragraph. I was at first concerned that this would take the fun out of the reading since who marries who in the end was spelled out right there. However, in reading it I realized that it is not WHAT happens in this book as much as it is HOW it happens and in this Austen is a true master. Essentially the story is of the five daughters of the Bennett family. The addle-brained mother has no other concern than to marry her daughters off and the detached father generally just makes fun of the whole situation. Jane and Elizabeth are the two eldest daughters and Jane forms an attachment early on to Bingley, a gentleman who has leased a house/estate nearby. When a pompous Mr. Darcy interferes in Jane's attachment to Bingley, Elizabeth is turned vehemently against him - a sentiment further deepened by aspersions made by Mr. Wickham, Mr. Darcy's father's godchild. As fate would have it, Mr. Darcy develops an attachment to Elizabeth and has to redeem himself in her eyes, despite his feelings of social superiority and her many resentments.
I don't know if the title is to reflect the pride of Mr. Darcy and the prejudice of Elizabeth against him. At one point she says the following: " Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us." I see her really exploring this in the character of Mr. Darcy and his relations and feel that the title may have more to do with the exploration of this sentiment than in any of the individual characters.

by Jane Austen
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 7.43
60 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars First Half Slow but Satisfying Overall, June 25 2004
This review is from: Emma (Mass Market Paperback)
Honestly, if I had not read Pride & Prejudice first, I would have thought that I did not like Jane Austen's writing style. Emma is extremely slow to begin with though it picks up about half way through. The story centers on Emma Woodhouse, the unmarried daughter of a man obsessed with ailments to be potentially caught from drafts, rich foods and just about anything that is part of ordinary life. Consequently he does not go out (as a rule) and depends on Emma substantially for companionship and general well being. Despite his eccentricities, he is well loved by the community and is a very genial character. Emma, resolved not to marry, takes up matchmaking after her governess, Miss Taylor, marries friend and neighbor, Mr. Weston and Emma feels that she had contributed to making the happy union come about. Against the advice of family friend and mentor, Mr. Knightly, she "takes under her wing" a young girl at the local school to groom and bring out into good society in hopes of finding her a husband - specifically Mr. Elton of the vicarage. Despite her unknown parentage and lack of good expectations, Emma convinces the girl, Harriet Smith, to aim high in her expectations of a husband and to reject the advances of those of her natural social set in preference for a gentleman.
This goes on for so long that I was convinced that this was going to be the whole of the book. Joyfully, though, the Mr. Elton angle blows up catastrophically and simultaneously several more interesting characters are introduced. The icily reserved Jane Fairfax comes to visit her grandmother and aunt before hiring out as a governess. Though she had been taken in by the Campbells and raised very genteelly along side their own daughter, she has no fortune of her own. The same age as Emma, they are expected to be fast friends but Emma's resentments of Jane's superior abilities and deportment do not bode well for this. Then Mr. Weston's son, Frank Churchill, who was raised by his aunt and uncle after his mother's death, comes to meet his new stepmother and makes a splash in Highbury society. Mrs. Weston has designs for Emma and Frank. Emma meanwhile has designs for Harriet and Frank. No one can figure out Jane's designs though Emma suspects improper attachments between her and her benefactor's daughter's new husband. Mr. Elton then brings in a new wife whose forceful manner and arrogant air threaten to turn everything upside down against Emma when Mrs. Elton tries to force a relationship as Jane's benefactress. Similarities between Emma's presumptions with Harriet and Mrs. Elton's presumptuous behavior with Jane are unavoidable and provide a relatively subtle irony.
In this last half as the intrigues play out, the story takes on the flavor of Pride and Prejudice and becomes infinitely more interesting. Though the first part was slow, it did serve to really build the character of Emma and she becomes very real through her actions in the second half. It also serves to humanize Mrs. Elton's character to some extent while softening Emma's.
This really is a very, very good book and I would have given it 5 stars except for how slow it was in the first half. A patient reader will enjoy this but readers who don't have patience with character studies or slow bits would do better to read Pride and Prejudice.

The Mayor of Casterbridge
The Mayor of Casterbridge
by Thomas Hardy
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 7.99
86 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly the Perfect Tragic Character, May 31 2004
When Thomas Hardy penned The Mayor of Casterbridge, he brought to life a very authentic character in Michael Henchard. He is possibly the perfect tragic character. The only other character I can think of to compare him to as I struggle to describe him and the story - for he is so much the story - is King Lear. But where Lear was a King who was foolish, Michael is the common man, a simple hay trusser, with several character flaws ... most notably shortsightedness and a desire to "be on top". He at no point feels something that most people don't but where we restrain our first rash and selfish actions (most of the time), he goes full out until he has cost himself everything and too late finds redemption. His flaw is insidious and all too common, so we relate easily even through his most outrageous misadventures.
In a fit of drunken despondency, feeling that he is being pulled down by the responsibility of being a twenty-one year old husband and father, he jests that he would gladly part with his wife and daughter for the sum of five pounds. After having sworn this so vehemently for the entire evening, he has little recourse when someone takes him up on it and his wife, in shame and anger, agrees to go with the purchaser, taking their daughter with her. When sobriety brings full realization, it also brings a vow of temperance from Michael who in the following fifteen years builds himself up to a position respectability and public admiration in the nearby town of Casterbridge.
Though he seems to have learned his lesson, we are only on chapter two and his story is just beginning as his wife and child return and his friendship with a trusted friend and critical advisor becomes a bitter rivalry. Time and again he demands allegiance when he need only ask it and return it in kind.
Hardy's writing style is direct and straight-forward with no flourishes like you might find with Dickens or Twain. He has a story to tell and he tells it - no swashbuckling adventures like DeFoe or Dumas. However you feel about that, the character of Michael Henchard continues to skulk around in my head. He represents to me a very real possibility of personal failure and haunts my mind now just as Scrooge's deceased partner haunted him in A Christmas Carol. I would have given this book a fun factor of three stars when I first read it. Now I give it five stars because I have had the time to realize what a masterful job Hardy did when he created Michael Henchard.

by Walter, Sir Scott
Edition: Library Binding

5.0 out of 5 stars Great Twists and Turns, May 30 2004
This review is from: Ivanhoe (Library Binding)
This review is of Ivanhoe strictly as a fun FICTIONAL book to read. I can not vouch for any historical accuracy nor is that my intent.
I turned onto Ivanhoe because I had heard that this story influenced Dumas when he wrote the Three Musketeer saga and I am really glad that I gave it a chance. The story of Ivanhoe is about the return of the Wilfred of Ivanhoe and King Richard from the Crusades. Wilfred is the disinherited son of Cedric of Rotherwood, aka Cedric the Saxon. Cedric dreams of restoring the Saxon monarchy and has been trying to facilitate a union between his ward, Rowena and Athelstane, whose pure bloodline would give credit to a claim for rule. A strong affection between Rowena and his son Wilfred (henceforth called Ivanhoe) has caused him to exile his son - his sacrifice to promote the Saxon cause. The disinherited Ivanhoe went to serve with Richard the Lion Heart in the Crusades. While Richard and Ivanhoe have been gone, Richard's brother, Prince John, has been gathering friends and making schemes for wresting control from Richard before he could get back and squelch his efforts. The conflict between the Normans and Saxons and the absence of King Richard (Lion Heart) has created the perfect conditions for a rebellion of the Saxons and/or a coup by John - both of which seem almost imminent.
The twists and turns are great. When Richard and Ivanhoe return incognito and fight in a tournament, besting all of the strongest, the wheels start turning that will see damsels abducted, the storming and sacking of a castle with the aid of Robin Hood and his Merry Men, a witch trial and more swordplay. Great, great, great. It's no wonder that this work is still being read almost two hundred years later and influenced what I consider to be one of the best adventure stories ever - the Three Musketeers. If you like Dumas, you will more than likely like this even though it is not as involved or long as a Dumas novel.

Songs About Jane
Songs About Jane
Price: CDN$ 7.83
115 used & new from CDN$ 1.29

5.0 out of 5 stars Plays Well With Bare Naked Ladies, May 22 2004
This review is from: Songs About Jane (Audio CD)
The first two songs have gotten tons of radio air time and I bought the CD after I heard a third song played on the radio and was able to recognize that it was them without the DJ's help. I love the first two songs, obviously, but I am now more impressed with several of the other songs further down the play list. The first time I listened through the whole CD and thought that all of the songs were good but were very similar except for track 6 which reminded me of Sting for some reason (probably lyrics). So I put Sting in my rotation with it and a couple of the Bare Naked Ladies CD's. I have decided that they sound nothing like Sting but rotate REALLY well with BNL. Their style is similar but less hyper although, musically, more complicated. I really feel that this band is extremely talented and very versatile. On the r&b mix, I wouldn't call it r&b like at all, but very much a good jazz influence. The real talent, I think, is apparent in many of the songs that they don't have sound bytes for. I really think that this CD is a good buy and that, if you like the songs for which sound bytes are provided or if you like BNL, you are almost guaranteed to like all of the songs on the CD.

Twenty Years After
Twenty Years After
by Alexandre Dumas
Edition: Paperback
29 used & new from CDN$ 0.73

5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, Lots more history, maturity, May 5 2004
This review is from: Twenty Years After (Paperback)
It is twenty years after the first Musketeers saga and Athos, Aramis, Porthos and d'Artagnan have all gone their separate ways. Midlife has mellowed the musketeers and definitely complicated their perceptions. Porthos has been indulging himself with his widow's money and working himself up the caste ladder but is still not entirely accepted but the upper crust he wants to become. Aramis has gone into the church and, although he dreams wistfully of the days that he was a musketeer, his scheming has become more of a way of life than a troublesome quirk. Athos is the only one who still closely resembles the man he was in his youth. Even the hot tempered, rambunctious D'Artagnan has settled in to his career as a professional soldier. He is now a musketeer for the paycheck instead of the glory. Yet all deep down reminisce of 'the good old days' - the only question is what will they do to recapture them.
Mazarin has replaced Richelieu as Cardinal and the queen, once persecuted by the previous Cardinal, is now in league (or at least in bed) with the despised Italian Mazarin. Though Mazarin is popularly hated by the people, D'Artagnan jumps at the opportunity for advancement when Mazarin commissions him to reassemble the foursome ostensibly for the protection of the prince regent and queen. But the others have their own ideas about working for Mazarin and Dumas maintains a delicate balance as the four eventually do come to work together though not entirely on the same side.
Twenty Years After is more grounded in history than the first and I highly recommend this particular book for the notes in the back. For all the criticism that Dumas plays fast and loose with history, it depends on where you place your yardstick. He moves events around a bit with people coming back from exile a year or two early and a battle being fought several years later but, over all, this is really grounded in history. The bulk of the plot is the siege of Paris by the Queen (and Mazarin) in the late 1640's. The death of Charles I and the peasant revolt are more substantial historical events than the retrieval of the Queen's diamonds in the first novel so expect a lot more complicated plot as far as people and events. Dumas knew his history (judging by the degree of deviation suggested by the notes) and though he might move or bend it, he still tried for plausibility. We also have a new arch enemy in this one - Lady DeWinter's son, Mordaunt, who has come to seek revenge on the men who executed his mother in the first book.
While still a superb adventure story, this is a more adult tale with more emphasis on psychological motivations and the effect of time on a man's ideals and motivations. I enjoyed the first one more because of the less complicated plot and swift action but that is not to suggest that Twenty Years After is lacking in any way. When taken in conjunction with the first, the idea is brilliant and brings out many more elements that a simple 'more of the same' sequel just couldn't do.

No Title Available

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Phenomenal movie, lots of DVD bonus features, May 4 2004
Oh, wow!!! This was a fantastic movie and definitely a good one to own AND give as gifts. The DVD has lots of features including an alternate ending longer than the one that was actually used. I am still not sure which ending I liked best.
This is TRULY a family movie that the whole family will just adore. Walter (Haley Osment) has one of those moms who looks pretty but is about as substantial as a fistful of sand. Under the pretense that she is going to a court reporting school and can't take care of Walter, she drops him off with his eccentric, reclusive and rich uncles Garth (Michael Caine) and Hub (Robert Duvall). Everyone knows that the two old coots have tons of money but no one agrees on how they got it. Though most think that they robbed banks in their youth, Garth spins a beautiful tale to Walter of how they were abducted into the French Foreign Legion and stayed on in Morocco to fight wars and win their fortune. They spend their time target practicing on traveling salesmen until Walter convinces them to start spending some of their money. From vegetable gardens to second hand lions, they have a whale of a summer getting to know each other. Walter is smitten with his uncles and they with him. When Walter's mother returns, he will be forced to choose whether to believe the fanciful stories of his uncles that are so inextricably tied up with who they are and their relationship to each other or to believe the more realistic sounding stories of the envious relations with disastrous results.
Don't miss the alternate/deleted scenes either. There were a lot of side stories or running jokes that had been intended and then were mostly cut out. For instance, substianting evidence that the two had actually been bank robbers deepens Walter's dilemma in who to believe but that was for some reason cut out. There is virtually a whole other movie in the deleted and alternate scenes. This is a great, great movie that should take its place beside films like Old Yeller and Wizard of Oz on the shelf of American Family Classics.

The Richest Man in Babylon
The Richest Man in Babylon
by George S. Clason
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 8.28
83 used & new from CDN$ 1.61

3.0 out of 5 stars Chicken Soup for the Thrifty, May 4 2004
Not a fan of self help or investment books, I put this off for far too long under the assumption that it would be a dry and boring self help book on how to become rich easily (sort of like losing lots of weight really fast). It was not what I expected. The stories are parabolic so the fiction is not like picking up something by Clancy or Updike but they are entertaining and not painful in the least. The strategies suggested for increasing your wealth make sense and are so simple that they seem self evident but it is often the simple things that we overlook. Save one tenth of what you make, make your money earn more money, be careful who you trust, etc. For the average person, this is not a guide to getting rich, but I believe it is a good guide to becoming and staying solvent at least. This is not going to get into any methods, just offer a mindset.

Intolerable Cruelty (Full Screen) (Bilingual) [Import]
Intolerable Cruelty (Full Screen) (Bilingual) [Import]
DVD ~ George Clooney
Offered by Warehouse105
Price: CDN$ 10.01
39 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2.0 out of 5 stars L.A. Comedy, May 4 2004
This is another one of those comedies that makes you wonder if the people living in Los Angeles are familiar with the world as the rest of us know it. The movie is funny but the premise is pretty "out there". Once you get past accepting the premise that the sole reason people, mostly women, marry is to get a good divorce settlement you can appreciate the idea that we should all be giddy that Miles, the foremost in divorce attorneys, has fallen in love and wants to marry Madeline whose original goal of soaking him for the usual good divorce settlement has gone awry because she has fallen in love with him too. Past that, there are a lot of chuckles and both Clooney and the female lead are very attractive actors.

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