Saturday, May 31, 2014

Book Review: The Silent Governess

Title: The Silent Governess
Author: Julie Klassen
Genre: Romance, Christian, Regency
My Rating: ****
Official Rating: Adult fiction
Age Group: 18+

Summary: Olivia Keene wants to be a teacher, but when she saves her mother's life through a violent act, things change. Fleeing her home town in obedience to her mother, Olivia encounters various friendly and unfriendly people before she is captured by the gamekeeper of the Brightwell Estate. It seems she has overheard a rather confidential conversation between Lord Brightwell and his son, Lord Bradley.
Lord Bradley has his own problems to deal with. He's too much of a gentleman to leave Olivia in a jail where she has been assaulted, but too careful to set her free with the information she knows about him--information he himself has just discovered and isn't quite sure how to come to terms with. The solution is simple: hire Olivia as the under nurse for his cousin's young son and two stepchildren--requiring her complete silence of course. But the problem gets bigger still. Olivia is a charming girl and the servants, and everyone around her, truly enjoys her company whether or not she can speak. That's not really a problem, since Lord Bradley has limited contact with his servants.
No, Lord Bradley has to deal with threats of violence, the possibility of losing his inheritance, and falling in love with the silent under nurse.

Word of Warning
Please note that I did not originally intend to review this book and so did not take notes as I usually do when reviewing a book. This means I may have missed some of the smaller things which should go under this section. By giving the bigger problems, and providing the age rating of 18+, I do not believe anything I may have missed with be a problem. I apologize for not being as thorough with this review as I usually am.

A few small things first:
  • A man brings his young daughter to the bar and has her show off by adding or multiplying big numbers. She enjoys this and he is able to encourage men to bet on this, winning money off her talent.
  • A man is hit with an iron poker from the fireplace over the head. He lives.
  • A fire nearly kills a small child and a man is injured (not seriously) in his rescue attempt.
  • Olivia is choked by a man attempting to rape her.
  • A young woman accidentally walks in on a man bathing (she sees only his upper body).
  • Lord Bradley is obviously attracted to Olivia, physically as well as her character. Most, if not all, descriptions of physical attraction are sweet and handled well (this is a Christian romance novel, after all).
  • A young woman is attacked by wild dogs thought to have rabies. She hits her head on a rock and is bitten by one of the dogs.
  • A young man stands in a doorway, watching a young woman sleep with a child in her arms. His excuse is that he is helping the child's older sister look for him (the child) as she was worried that he was missing. While this excuse is true, the fact that he stands there at all and is clearly enchanted by what he sees is a bit uncomfortable.
  • A man is wrongly accused of embezzlement and nearly sentenced to death.
  • Lord Bradley orders Olivia to remain silent even after she recovers her voice, to protect his reputation. He also forbids her from talking to the outside world without his approval, and various other small measures to keep his secret safe. Eventually he begins to trust her and finally he apologizes for treating her in such a disrespectful manner.
  • It is commonly understood that servants are not allowed to marry other servants from the same household. Also, if a young women (servant) becomes pregnant, she is let go by the household and, if lucky, given a bit of extra money before being sent out into the world to fend for herself and her unborn baby.
  • A young man is constantly flirting with servants and even the young woman everyone understands is intending to marry his cousin. He also squanders his money while away at college.
  • Squandering of money, gambling, drinking (mentioned and sometimes a key part of a minor character's arc).
  • A few rather sweet kisses.
Now for the bigger things:

Olivia escapes attempted rape more than once. A man forces her to kiss him (she promptly punches him in the eye). Sometimes she is rescued, other times she has to fight her way free.

The entire story revolves around illegitimate children. A woman who is unable to give birth adopts the child of another young woman (who was raped) who dies after giving birth to her son. A few more honorable men in the story confess to having love affairs with women other than their wives (often servants) and regret their actions, realizing the actions were not out of love for the women involved. Others do not confess or regret it, but the more honorable ones do this for them.
My Thoughts
The last time I actually finished a Christian romance novel was, well, I can't even remember when. Basically, novels which revolve mainly around romance, especially overly-preachy ones, drive me up a wall and I usually end up throwing them at the wall. It's just not my thing.
But I finished this one in less than a week. It's a sweet story and the romance, as well as the Christian aspect, are skillfully woven in between two mysteries and various other small plot points. Lord Bradley is not perfect and though Olivia boarders on being so, even she has her moments.
It was refreshing. And I can assure you I am off to see if I can find any more books by Julie Klassen. I'm very glad I rescued this book from the pile of books in my friend's bedroom. And I'm glad she let me rescue it and didn't keep it for her own bookshelf.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Album Review: Storyline

Title: Storyline
Author: Hunter Hayes
Genre: Country, pop, young adult, teen
My Rating: *****
Official Rating: Young adult/teen
Age Group: 14+
I'm going to do this by song because it seems like the most efficient way to review an entire album.
(Note: I apologize for the length this method caused, but because of the content of the album and how it is distributed, I thought it would be the best way to review this particular work. Due to the length, I have inserted a break in the post. Please click the link to read my analysis of each song.)

My Thoughts
Wow. I'm honestly impressed. Hayes' first album was a bit disappointing with all the little suggestive lines that made it hard to listen to with younger children around. This album, while it does have its suggestive lines, is a lot deeper than that. I remember listening to the first two albums and being struck by Hayes' ability to really address the desires of fellow human beings in a unique way. This album, though it does have its weaknesses, takes that ability one step further. Yes, at times he sounds like someone playing the victim card and complaining about broken relationships, but for the most part there's a little more there than meets the eye.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Movie Review: Charlie St. Cloud

Title: Charlie St. Cloud
Genre: drama, family, loss, sailing, romance
Author: Universal Pictures
My Rating: ****
Official Rating: PG-13 for language including some sexual references, an intense accident scene, and some sensuality
Age Group: 16+

Summary: Charlie St. Cloud and his little brother are close. Like, really close. So when Charlie and Sam are hit by a semi, and only Charlie survives the crash, he's devastated. Until he realizes that he can still see and talk to his brother. Of course, he's the only one who can, but that's a minor detail. Life is bearable, even if it goes no where, until Charlie meets a girl. As she draws him away from his little brother, both Sam and Charlie are confused and upset. But when Charlie realizes he might have to give up his little brother to save the girl he loves, well, that's not so simple.

Word of Warning
  • Language: 
    • older brother calls younger one a punk (teasingly)
    • older brother warns his little brother to "look out for cops" while they are driving
    • geese cause trouble at a grave yard where they "crap" on things and apparently have corrosive s***
    •  someone is called a "dick"
    • "son of a b****" 
    • someone stops short of saying f***
  • Sexual references:
    • a friend tries to set his buddy up with a girl out of kindness, then adds that she's "saucy" and "promiscuous"
    • a young boy refers to a girl as "hot" and asks if there are any swimsuit shots of her
    • a young boy confesses that he lied when he told his older brother he had kissed a girl
    • a young man kisses his sweetheart's shoulder tenderly
    • a passionate kiss is cut short, another is not (it's more slow than passionate)
    •  silhouettes slip off clothes (we only see the guy lose his shirt, but are lead to believe the rest follows), kiss, and sexual intimacy is implied
    • When Charlie shows up late one morning, his friend jokes, "Please say you got laid at least."
    • Charlie is shown shirtless
  • Violence:
    • Sailing boat tips over, potentially harming the sailors
    • Car crash: car is rear ended, then a semi smashes it from the side and we know the younger brother is on the side it hits. The screen goes black, then we see a shot of the two brothers covered in blood with the younger one whimpering "I hurt so much." Later, a brief shot of the wrecked car is shown with Sam's baseball hat inside. There is at least one flashback to the crash.
    • Ambulance: paramedic is shown using a defibrillator on a shirtless Charlie more than once, he is assumed dead at first. Charlie revives, realizes Sam is dead, is understandably upset.
    • Charlie tries to attack geese with a plane, resulting in them dumping all over and him diving into the water for safety.
    • A brief fight in a bar (not due to drinking), ending with a punch to the face.
    • Blood on a girl's head.
    •  Charlie is trapped and almost drowns (the scene is very intense). His head/body are slammed against rocks.
    • Charlie lies next to an injured Tess, opens her jacket and shirt, and presses himself against her to keep her warm. I put this here and not under sexual references because it was a dramatic, not sexual, scene.
    • A character is shown with a bloody face and blood on the side of his head.
  • Other:
    • Charlie sneaks out when he is supposed to be watching his brother, intending to go to a party.
    • Charlie is able to see dead people and talk to them.
    • Because of his job, and ability to talk to certain dead people, many scenes take place in the graveyard.
    • A comment is made about digging up a dead guy because police suspect his wife in his death.
    • A man has cancer and says his only consolation is that he has lived a full life.
    • Brief mention of werewolves as a joke. It falls flat.
    • Legal drinking.
    • Charlie is hit between the legs by a baseball and collapses.
    • Charlie has burn marks from the defibrillator.
    • Sam claims he will become nothing if Charlie forgets him or moves on. This turns out not to be the case when he actually looks quite happy and disappears.
    • For a portion of the movie, it is assumed that a character formerly thought to be living is dead. Simply put, this "revelation" (which is false) is a little unnerving.
    • Charlie steals a boat with the help of his friend.
My Thoughts
I put off watching this movie because I thought the premise sounded really strange. A guy in a car crash who finds out he can see and talk to dead people? What? Then I finally watched it and realized how beautiful it is. Charlie's relationship with his brother is so great, and Charlie's character struggling to move on from the death of his brother but still remember him is hard to watch simply because it's such a real challenge.
The best part, I think, is that the only time anything good happens to Charlie is when he does something for someone else with no intention of it coming back around to himself. As he begins to realize that holding onto his brother is selfish and not something he does for Sam, he is faced with a hard decision: risk everything for someone who might possibly be alive, or keep living in his comfortable little world. When he dives into frigid waters to quite literally risk his life for another, the message seems to come home at least.
Unfortunately, it's a message so many movies are without.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Movie Review: Beastly

Our most sincere apologies for the lack of posts. We happen to be two college students dealing with finals, internships, jobs, teaching, summer classes...the works. Just like everyone else. But that makes it a bit challenging to write reviews since instead of simply reading or watching the material, we have to pay close attention and take notes. We do plan to get the blog back on track this summer and want to thank you for continuing to visit. Please let us know if you have any requests!

Title: Beastly
Author: Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Hudgens
Genre: Romance, fairy-tales, fantasy, drama
My Rating: ****
Official Rating: PG-13 (for language including crude comments, brief violence, and some thematic material)
Age Group: 18+ (due to the crude comments)

Summary: Kyle is a jerk. Like, a super big totally nasty jerk who says whatever he wants and gets away with it, and his choices when it comes to comments are nothing but cruel. He lives by his father's philosophy that how much people like you is directly proportional to how good you look. Lucky for Kyle he's pretty attractive.
But when Kyle messes with the wrong girl, his days of spewing insults are over. His father leaves him in a secluded house because he has become so ugly that he doesn't want anyone to see his son. Kyle is trapped with his ugliness, a kind housekeeper, a blind tutor, and the knowledge that if he can't get someone to say "I love you" within the year, he'll be ugly forever.
Beauty and the beast, pure and simple. Right?

Word of Warning
In all honesty, there wasn't much here except for the really cruel and nasty comments. The first ten minutes of the movie are maddening and make it nearly impossible to like Kyle. They're so bad that only the promise of the beauty and the beast story kept me watching. I'm glad I did, but more on that later. Some things to watch out for:
  • Kyle has numerous moments where he is shirtless, sometimes for no apparent reason.
  • The movie starts with Kyle working out shirtless and in his boxers. As the scene changes to one of the town, we see advertisements which include a young woman lying on her side wearing a bra and panties, along with a few other skimpy shots.
  • Kyle and others throw around the words slut, witch, bitch, and a**.
  • Kyle's father is horrible. First he essentially ignores his son, then when his son becomes ugly, he locks him away from the public and though he continues to support him financially, he never goes to visit and eventually Kyle just asks that they stop pretending and that ends all contact other than money.
  • The insults, as mentioned above, fly constantly for the first part of the movie. So much so that they comprise nearly all of the dialogue.
  • Kyle is cursed by a witch and there are a few minutes where he staggers about hallucinating.
  • Kyle's face and body are transformed to be ugly. He is covered in twisting tattoos that mirror a tree's branches and roots, his face becomes red and puckered and has red slashes running across it. If you want to see how bad this is, all you have to do is look at the cover of the DVD to decide whether this is too much for the audience you intend to show the movie to.
  • Kyle is a reckless motorcycle driver.
  • The tutor remarks that at fifteen, his friends lost their virginity, and he lost his sight. He adds that chicks dig blind guys, and Kyle mourns that chicks don't dig ugly guys. He also makes a remark later to a girl about aliens building rooftop creations which they used to capture virgin human girls and use them for breeding. He quickly adds that this is a joke, albeit a distasteful one.
  • Kyle's former online profile reads: Interests: Anything bangable.
  • Kyle shouts "Jesus!" when startled.
  • A father figure is known to be doing drugs and at one point over-doses and ends up in the hospital (we hear all of this off screen). He is also the cause of a main character's stress as she is constantly worrying about him and trying to fix his life.
  • Kyle's mother leaves him without explanation. Lindy's dies of some unknown cause and she doesn't know what it is.
  • We are almost completely lacking in good parent roles in this movie--except the role of the maid who is working to bring her children into the country and misses them dearly.
  • A man gets in a fight which involves paying a debt. The victim ends up shooting the one asking for money. We hear two gunshots and then we see the dead man lying on his back but the scene is dark.
  • There are, I believe, about five or six kisses total, none too passionate.
  • One couple who is not the focus does get a bit passionate in their kisses, but we're supposed to be disgusted by this (and are).
  • Social media is used to complain about various classmates.
  • Kyle more or less spies on Lindy at the beginning of their romance (Lindy is just reading books or buying candy). This is portrayed as sweet, but really, looking back to the scenes where he stands across the street, hoodie pulled over his face, and watches her, it's a bit creepy.

My Thoughts
I admit it. I was disgusted--with the first part of the movie. I watched it for the storyline and because I like Alex Pettyfer as an actor, and I honestly could not bring myself to like his character while he was being a jerk. At all. Couldn't even bring myself to make excuses for him like "his dad's so mean, he has no idea how to be good" or whatever.
Then I got to watch his character learn how to love. He learned that love couldn't be bought, and he learned that love wasn't merely an attraction. Possibly the most beautiful part of the beauty and the beast story is when the beast sends the beauty back to the real world because he believes that is what is best for her. Watching Kyle reach the point where he did this not because he knew it was true love, but because he just knew it was right, well that was pretty darn awesome.
Did it have any unique twists to the original story? Not really. It was adjusted to be modern, but nothing very unique. That gets me thinking though. Do we really need a unique twist for this story? Personally, I think it's just too good a story to need anything but what it already has.
So, beauty and the beast, pure and simple. And that's a good thing.