Friday, October 26, 2012

Media Monday...on Friday - Downton Abbey

Up until the Emmy Awards, I thought this show was called "DowntoWn Abbey"
I honestly just thought all the actors, writers, producers were saying it those silly accents of theirs.
I mean, what do they know, right?

Anyhoo, I've been meaning to watch the show for the last couple of years because I knew it sounded like something I'd like...British family, family manor, 3 daughters, tradition, loyalty, Elizabeth McGovern, the plight of woman in a pre-women's rights world, British lord whose family loses its fortune and marries an American heiress for her money, etc.
Has my name written all over it.

One of my favorite Edith Wharton novels is the unfinished The Buccanneers, and I LOVED the BBC mini-series made from the novel.

The premise of Downton Abbey sounded very familiar to The Buccaneers...except in Wharton's novel, the wealthy American wives were forgotten and many times mistreated once the British family fortunes were restored.  In "Downton Abbey," somehow, someway, the husband does actually, albeit accidentally, fall in love with the wife...after they're married.

What I Like

Elizabeth McGovern - I'm going to be honest here.  Besides the whole Buccaneers connection, she's probably the hook that pulled me into this particular series.  We are close in age, and I've followed her career since our younger days.  I admire her ability to keep her private life private and raise her family in relative peace.  I was first introduced to her in Once Upon a Time in America.

And then, one of my all time favorites "She's Having a Baby"

Another pull for me is the fabulous Maggie Smith.
Um, please?
Professor McGonnagall...the professor we'd all like to really and truly be??

Now, she's not Professor McGonnagall in "Downton Abbey"...far from it exactly...but how can you not love this iconic actor who embraces life and her career...her craft...even at her age...when you and I both know she doesn't need the money.

The sisters - ah, the inevitable sibling rivalry...I'm always relieved to hear other people tell their own personal family tales of sister/brother relationships.  While there are some inevitable pitfalls and the sibling relationship evolves over time (hopefully one day ending up in friendship), those growing up years, different personalities, dreams and goals can sometimes prove rocky at best.  Heaven help the young women maneuvering through the growing up years trying to find themselves as compared to their sisters and their family expectations in today's society...but whoa!...I can't even imagine the pressure, the dance, the drama of being in this same situation in history when a woman's worth was wrapped up in who she married.

At Downton, the stakes are higher than even the "nomal" situation of marrying your daughters off to make a lucrative match.
Cora and Robert beget Mary, Edith and Sybil...Mary must marry someone who qualifies as heir to her mother's estate since the money is/was Cora's but became her husband's in marriage, but there is no male heir to the fortune.  It is on Mary's shoulders to not only provide for her own future but to save the family's estate, which until she marries and secures the family's birthright, could very easily be usurped by even a distant male relative with ties to the Earldom (with her mother's money forever now tied up within that title).
Essentially the family loses everything if Mary doesn't marry the right person...and soon.

The glimpse into the life of the of the support staff (I have a hard time calling them servants...even though that's what they are).  Led by Carson the Butler and Mrs. Hughs the head housekeeper, for those of us who don't have much knowledge of the way an estate (at least a British estate) is run, this series really explains a lot.  Probably the most interesting tidbit to me is the pride that many of them take in their roles...a service position in an aristocratic family was (and may still be) an honorable position and was even passed down through generations.

What I Don't Like

Mrs. O'Brien and Thomas - two characters who are about as mean, sneaky, irritating, conniving, unpleasant, whiny, and hateful as two characters can be.  The fact that Mrs. O'Brien holds one of the highest positions in the household (Cora's ladies' maid) is confusing to the heck did she get there with her attitude?  And, how the heck does Cora not see how Mrs. O'Brien really feels??
Thomas just needs a slap on the head...and I'm just the gal to give it to him if Carson doesn't set him straight soon.

That whole little ridiculousness with Mr. Pamuk and Mary...really?  I don't see Mary as a doofus, but she sure acted like one in that episode.

Edith - Dear Edith, quit being a little whiny snot.  Love, Peppermint.

Overall Recommendation 

If you're interested in gender and class issues, the goings on of a British aristocratic household, historical fiction beginning with the sinking of the Titanic, and family drama, go ahead and rent, Netflix or buy this series :)
On to Season (or series) 2 :)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Things Remembered - TLC Book Review

Things Remembered by Georgia Bockoven
HarperCollins, 1998, 2012

Source? the publisher via TLC Book Tours
FTC Disclosure:  I was provided a complimentary copy of Things Forgotten in return for a review.  The opinions below are unbiased and my own. 

Why?  Family drama, sisters, mother, grandmother...yes, please :)

Title? Memories play a huge role in bringing Karla, her sisters, her mother and their grandmother together...stories of their lives are woven throughout Things Remembered as they put together the pieces of their lives in preparation to carry on without their matriarch.

Cover? Karla makes Christmas baskets for her does Amy when she and Jim take over in Karla's absence, but I'm not sure of the significance of the basket on the cover with the woman holding it. 

What Now?  I'm happy to pass this one along to anther interested reader who's looking for a feel-good, Fall read.  Just leave your name, email and blog address in the comments section if you're interested :)

Golden Lines

She would come.  Not out of love, but out of duty.  The love she'd buried too deep too long ago.  Together they would find it again.  This was the reason the old woman hung on to life, this one job left undone, the long failure she could not forgive herself.

Karla was beginning to understand there were ways to listen that she hadn't recognized then.

Karla ran her hand over the soft fur and felt a powerful sense of having done so before.  But it was another cat, another time.  She closed her eyes and concentrated.  Nothing.  She was used to the feeling.  Her life was a series of free-floating thoughts and ideas and sensations; the smell of cinnamon made her happy, discarded shoes made her sad.

She shouldn't feel this disappointed.  He hadn't rejected her, he'd rejected using her.  Wasn't that the kind of friend she needed?

Thanksgiving is a time for tradition.  Or at least that's what it used to be.  More and more it's becoming a placeholder to mark the official beginning of the Christmas shopping season.  Think about it, Karla.  There are no presents to exchange, no candy to hide or give away, nothing but sharing a traditional meal with the people you love.

The hurt, the longing, the loneliness for a woman gone almost a quarter of a century was theirs alone.

Karla had never hit one of her sisters and was as surprised as Grace when she slapped her across the face.  "You ungrateful little bitch."

"You are the link between the women in this family, the only daughter who remembers her mother..."

In the end, it was the memories, not the wealth or belongings, that marked the sum of a person.  If Karla allowed those memories to die for lack of the right questions, she would be witness to two deaths.


Karla, Heather and Grace are sisters who lost their parents in a car accident and were shuffled around between their father's family members until landing permanently at their grandmother Anna's home (mother's mother).  The oldest, Karla, never really deals with her mother's death nor Anna's efforts to create a home for her and her sisters.  She returns as an adult to help Anna set her affairs in order before she dies from congestive heart failure.  Karla doesn't know, however, that Anna is determined to set things right between them and hopefully bring their family back together again.

What I Liked

Anna - she's strong, she's made mistakes, she's willing to admit them, she doesn't use her weaknesses as excuses, and she's determined to make amends with her granddaughter before she dies.

The Setting - Fall and Thanksgiving, Northern, Bockoven had me at Fall and Thanksgiving's shameful how easy I am :p

Food - Bockoven included recipes with this edition of Things Remembered and I have already added her applesauce cake to my Thanksgiving menu :) 

Mark, the veterinarian - I'm just gonna be honest here...he reminded me of McDreamy from Grey's Anatomy.  I could just see his eyes in my mind as I read his and Karla's dialogue...a sensitive soul, this Mark For heaven's I'm swooning...look what Bockoven has done to me ;)

I loved the way the sisters could dish it out to each other, honest and upfront, calling a spade a spade when necessary...but then they got over it.  Their ties run deep.

What I Didn't Like

My smoochy-smoochy radar flared a little while reading Things Remembered, and I had to fight not to roll my eyes at first...but then, before I finished the book, I had to fight back tears in my eyes...I had to wipe my eyes quickly and look around to make sure nobody was watching :p... but that's the kind of book this is...sisters and their grandmother...their lives, past and present and how their combined histories shaped the women they are.

The ending was too perfect...and again, I don't usually like that sortof thing...but I liked it...Bockoven certainly ruined my street cred as a hard core, vampire, detective, serial killer, no romance sorta reader.

Overall Recommendations

This is an emotional to curl up with with a cup of tea on a cool Fall day and enjoy just for what it is.  No deep critical analysis needed here, just a relaxing read.

The Author

Other Stops on the Tour

Wednesday, October 17th: The Crazy Life of a Bookaholic Mom
Friday, October 19th: As I turn the pages
Monday, October 22nd: Peppermint PhD
Tuesday, October 23rd: Kritters Ramblings
Thursday, October 25th: Seaside Book Nook
Friday, October 26th: WV Sticher
Tuesday, October 30th: Library of Clean Reads
Wednesday, October 31st: A Patchwork of Books
Thursday, November 1st: Me, My Book and the Couch
Tuesday, November 6th: Kahakai Kitchen
Wednesday, November 7th: Peeking Between the Pages

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday Salon - October 21

This past week has been a very interesting one to say the least...and it ain't over yet.

We're headed out today to watch our girls soccer team fight for the state championship against their arch-rivals.  Every single time we meet this team, it is a "scrap," and the outcome is up in the air no matter whose record is what.  We have beat them twice already this season, but the championship game is on their turf and we are truly falling apart after a knock-down drag-out game yesterday against another team we beat 6-0 earlier this season.  We won 1-0 with 3 minutes left on the clock during the 2nd over-time.  
I honestly thought about going to the car once over-time started.
There is no doubt that our team is the most talented in the state...but we've lost two starters to knee injuries and another couple of players for other reasons.  We only have a few subs, so our girls have played hard all season without much down time.  Obviously, their bodies are beginning to cry "UNCLE"!
I'm honestly not looking forward to this game.  I think I'd rather grade papers.

One of the most bizarre experiences happened this week at work.  I can't talk too specifically about it bc that would be un-ethical (and this is not an academic blog - review the header, people).  At our college we pride ourselves on trying to help our students find their way through the first couple of years of their educational experiences in higher ed.  However, we're finding more and more students who have so many issues other than academic ones that it strains our abilities to help anyone.  Yes, we have counselors in place at our college, both the academic kind and the emotional kind.  I've honestly thought before that we should make emotional counseling a mandatory "study-hall" kind of thing for incoming freshmen.  I mean, really, today's young adults enter college with some pretty serious problems.  
It becomes a problem for those of us not trained to counsel, but who are expected to advise (and counsel) a group of students each all the ones who are in our classes (I have approx. 300 this semester).    Those who come to us "broken" don't always have the emotional capacity to deal with inappropriate feelings they might have...and it can quickly escalate to scary for the person trying to help them if that student somehow transfers those feelings to the person who's trying to help him/her.
Yep, that's what happened to me...the person trying to do the helping. 
The situation has been diffused, and the student is not to contact me in any way, shape or form again, but while I'm grateful for the administrative support and quick action, I feel very sorry for the student.  The student still needs a lot of just won't be from me.
I love it when people think teaching is an easy job.

I finished Gone Girl this week and am almost finished with the review.  What a roller-coaster ride that was!!   Surprises at every turn of the page almost and I HATED the way it ended.  Literally wanted to throw the book...but that wouldn't have been good for my Nook :(  Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter was on sale for $2.99 this week so I've downloaded it, and I'm feeling incredibly left out of the Sarah Jio conversation so I've also downloaded Blackberry Winter to read on my Nook next. 

I'm also almost finished with The Chaperone on audio...and I've LOVED the experience.  I'm beginning to find my audio niche, I think.  Slow, savory books for the car from now on...and I've got The Age of Desire and Abdication on the way next thanks to the fine folks at Audiobook Jukebox :):)

I'm taking it slow with The Casual Vacancy...cause for me, that's the kind of book it is.  I refuse to fly through it bc it's JK Rowling's first foray into adult books.  I want to read it and enjoy it for its merits besides that hard to ignore fact.  In my opinion, there should be no doubt that Rowling is a good writer...I'm only about 100 pages in and have marked more Golden Lines than I can possibly use in my review.  

On television, I've been catching up alternately on Dexter and Downton Abbey and also keeping up with the new season of The Vampire Diaries...(reviews coming soon).  I've still got several new shows I want to try, but I don't want to overwhelm myself...nor find myself glued to the tv rather than doing all the other things I need to do. 

This past week on the blog, I reviewed Jamie Oliver's Great Britain for TLC on Monday - FABULOUS cookbook and a GIVEAWAY from the brilliant publisher :)
I made it through the crazy week and finally managed to post again on Friday with a little meme from the ladies over at She Reads and more teasing about Blackberry Winter...which is on the Nook finally.
And then, yesterday with photos from our trip to the Pumpkin Patch :)

The only thing I know for sure that's happening this week is a review of Things Remembered on Monday.

 I've got probably 10 other reviews started, but we'll just have to see which ones I feel like finishing ;) in between grading the 80 billion papers I have as well.