Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What I Watched and Why I Loved It. North and South

During my downtime from Musings, I did some reading but more than anything, I did a lot of watching. Movies, television series, miniseries, -- you name it, I was watching. Since I'm just now getting back into books, I thought, to keep this blog updated regularly while I find my footing, I would post different shows I've watched over the past year and a half that left a mark on me. This feature will be entitled "What I Watched and Why I Loved It."

The first installment in this new feature is North and South. Way back when, In 2008, I signed up for the North and South Crusade that was being hosted by KristieJ of  Ramblings on Romance. At the time, I fully intended to watch, but I never got around to ordering it. North and South sat in my Amazon basket for years. Enter 2010 and a cross country move where everything was left in storage because where we'd truly end up living for the next four years was up in the air until Hubs finished school (whew!) and got reassigned. The only form of entertainment I had was my laptop and the few books I'd brought with me. I wasn't up for reading much during that time, so I turned to Netflix and streamed movie after movie. One day North and South showed up as a suggestion and I finally had my opportunity to see what all of the hullabaloo was about.

There, a love was born.

In the world of book reviews there is always hype about something; the latest and greatest author, book, series, genre, sub genre, etc. I don't always get the hype and I was almost positive that North and South would have the same effect on me. The "yeah, it was good, but was it really THAT good?" effect. In this case, the hype was warranted. North and South was great. So great that I've probably watched it four times since my first viewing. Ask my husband and he will tell you that I don't watch anything more than once, much to his triple-time-movie-watching annoyance.

What was there to love about North and South? Every darn thing, I say.

John Thornton is a brooding, determined, passionate man who, in my humble opinion, should be the prototype for all romantic hero's. He has come close to kicking Mr. Darcy out of the top hero spot in my heart. Pretty darn close. Then there's Margaret. She's pragmatic, smart, kind and outspoken. With John being from the harsh, industrialized North England and Margaret being from the softer, rolling South, the two couldn't be more different in their approach to not only each other, but the world around them. There is a romance at the heart of this story, but more than just John and Margaret make this miniseries special. The secondary characters (Mrs. Thornton for me, especially) and the overall storyline about Milton's cotton warehouses and the people who work in them, make North and South a success.

I really don't want to spoil it for anyone who may not have seen it yet. I went into the movie not knowing a thing about it other than it was loved. I think being completely unspoiled made it all the more worthwhile. So, here I stop and tell you, go forth and watch. If you have Netflix, stream it while it's still available. If you don't, order it. I promise you won't regret it. For those who have seen it, below is one of my favorite scenes.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Review: Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones + I'm Back

*dusts off blog*

*taps mic*

Well HELLO! It has been a while. Like over a year, a while, but I'm back. The Hubs bought a new domain for me as a part of my birthday present and I couldn't just let Musings sit after that, so here I am!

So what have I been up to? Well, I relocated across the country and Pacific twice in one year. When I tell you that was not fun, I mean it. We welcomed a new addition to our family late last year, a baby, she's 8 weeks now and brings the total of my girls to three! YIKES! I can only imagine the trouble I'm in for in about 7 years.

 My reading during the break has mostly consisted of children's books, beginning readers, and now we're into "chapter books" as my 7 year old likes to call them. We're especially loving Nancy Drew, and the Magic Tree House series. Every now and then, I found time to read a good book for myself, mostly Fiction and Fantasy.

Anyway, I've scoured "the best of 2011" lists from countless blogs and have many books I can't wait to read and muse about!

Now on to my first review of 2011...

One book I had the pleasure of reading over my break was Silver Sparrow. It was a complete impulse buy and ended up being oh-so worth it.

My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist. He was already married ten years when he first clamped eyes on my mother.

So begins Silver Sparrow.

Set in Atlanta during the 1980's, Silver Sparrow tells the story of two sisters, Dana Lynn Yarbaro and Chaurisse Witherspoon, their father, James Witherspoon and their mothers Gwendolyn and Lavern.The story is told in two parts, starting with with Dana's first person narrative. Chaurisse takes up the second half. The narratives, just like the girls, couldn't be more different.

Dana, with her pretty looks and wise-beyond-her-years attitude is very much the product of living her whole life knowing that she was second best. She lived in the shadows of her father's life, unable to be claimed publicly and being told that she was a secret, all while seeing her father with a family that he did claim and spend time with out in the open. Her father, a bigamist, had another wife and daughter that lived in the same city as she and her mother. Dana's matter of fact voice details the coming together of her parents, revealing how it came to be that her already married father ended up marrying her mother. There is a sadness to Dana that grips you through the pages. Her tough exterior is just a cover for the inner turmoil she struggles with. It's apparent in the first few pages that Dana, though her father's first daughter, feels she is second best in his heart.
"In my mind, Chaurisse is his real daughter. With wives it only matters who gets there first. With daughters, the situation is a bit more complicated."
It would seem that with daughters it only matters if they were born to the first wife, and in Chaurisse's case she reaped the benefits of being the daughter of James' first wife. Chaurisse, plain and plump, is naive and almost innocent in her narrative. She and her mother are both in the dark about her father's double life. He has always been a loving father to her and a good husband to her mother. The bitterness that tinges Dana's narrative is nowhere to be found in Chaurisse's. She is less frank and more self deprecating, seen quite clearly in her description of her parents and in essence, herself.
"If you saw them walking down the street, if you noticed them at all, you would think the two of them might produce invisible children."
If Chaurisse is invisible, she's that to everyone but Dana, who sees her in a way that she doesn't see herself. To Dana, Chaurisse has it all. A house, a family, but mostly, their father. She gets the recognition that Dana has never received. She is able to go out with their father and be claimed publicly by him. Chaurisse unknowingly gets first pick of everything that involves both girls, from what camp they can attend to what job they can have. If Dana happened to be accepted to something that Chaurisse had been also, Dana couldn't go. If Dana and Chaurisse got a job at the same place, Dana couldn't accept. Their father, so bent on keeping his second life a secret, forbids Dana from ever going anywhere near Chaurisse.

Due to the constant slights, a bitterness grows within Dana. It becomes inevitable that she will rebel, but how she goes about it and the results of her actions could be predicted by no one, not even Dana herself.

Silver Sparrow is a truly gripping novel that I flew through. Jones' writing is so crisp and readable that the pages just about turn themselves. I was completely engrossed in Dana and Chaurisse's lives and I was hopeful that somehow they would be able to make something good out of the mess they'd inherited.

The characterization is rich yet simplistic. The characters are not overdone, instead they quietly manifest through their actions and Jones' effortless prose. The premise of bigotry was taken on in a way that I haven't seen represented before in books. This is no Big Love where everyone is one big happy family. This has no religious backing. It is simply bad decision making and deceit. Tayari Jones took on the topic of bigotry and gave it a face, a family, and two innocent sisters. I enjoyed every minute of it. Grade A.

Visit Tayari Jones here.