Movie Review: “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”

Image via Teaser-Trailer.com

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Happy Valentine’s Day everybody! What better way to celebrate the holiday of love than watching an adaptation of a Jane Austen classic with the walking dead thrown in?

Last Wednesday, a small group of ladies from my book club joined me to watch “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” which was directed and written by Burr Steers. I was feeling optimistic going into the theater, because I had skimmed several positive reviews and thought the casting was great.

The actors did not disappoint. Lily James made an excellent, feisty Elizabeth Bennet, Sam Riley played a brooding and badass Mr. Darcy, and Douglas Booth provided major eye candy as Mr. Bingley.

Ladies, did you even need another reason to watch this film? (Image via Wikimedia)

What surprised me the most, however, was how much was changed from Seth Grahame-Smith’s parody novel. I don’t want to spoil either the book or the film, but there were certain characters who were supposed to transform into zombies and never did, as well as vice versa. The movie also added the element of “vegetarian zombies,” ones that could eat animal brains to slow down the progression of the sickness.

Despite the leaps of faith you have to make with this plot, I was certainly entertained. There were elements that I missed from the book, including Elizabeth eating the hearts of ninjas and kicking the ass of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, but it was clever and female-empowered. Matt Smith played a hilariously flamboyant Mr. Collins who had just as much of a crush on Mr. Darcy as the women in the audience.

“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” isn’t Oscar-worthy, but nobody who sees it will be expecting that high of quality. Critically speaking, it’s currently rated 6.4/10 on IMDb and a 5.5/10 on Rotten Tomatoes, but it’s still great fun.

I don’t know any other movie where you’ll both swoon over a love story and scream at jump-scares. If you’re a Jane Austen fan and are looking for a passionate film for Valentine’s Day that the man in your life will actually enjoy, I recommend “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” As the tagline promises, it’s “bloody lovely!”

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Book Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Image via Amazon

Rating: 3 out of 5

Usually it doesn’t take me an entire month to complete a novel, but life has been keeping me more than busy lately. If it wasn’t for my book club acting as my group of accountability partners, I’d be concerned about getting any reading done right now!

Today the film adaptation for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is released, and the real-life Book Club Babes will be taking a field trip to see it on Wednesday. This week we had tons of fun sharing what we thought of Seth Grahame-Smith’s parody of the Jane Austen classic.

Only a couple women in the group had read the original Pride and Prejudice, and I had to admit that I never finished it. I have always felt that the novel was lacking, from its tittering dialogue to its lack of passion. I much prefer the gothic romance of the Bronte sisters, arguing that Wuthering Heights is the superior story of love vs. money.

That being said, I definitely felt that zombies improved this tale dramatically. My only complaint was that there weren’t enough of them! According to Amazon, about 85% of the original text is preserved, and the remaining 15% includes references and scenes of the walking dead. Popular demand for more zombies even contributed to the release of an “ultraviolent” edition, which I’m bummed was not the version I borrowed from the library.

These sporadic additions are hilarious. I find it amusing how there’s no real explanation as to why zombies have been ravaging England for decades, but the Bennet sisters do a kickass job of keeping them at bay. Mr. Bennet is more concerned with their abilities as warriors, while Mrs. Bennet just wants to see them married.

It’s very clear that a man wrote this adaptation, given the over-the-top fight scenes complete with Elizabeth ripping hearts out of ninjas and eating them. I also look forward to watching her roundhouse kick Darcy into the fireplace when I see the film. Our book club agreed that Jane Austen would be pleased with this uber-feminist portrayal of her protagonist.

Another minor issue that I had with this book was its unnecessary Orientalism by fetishizing China and Japan as places to train zombie fighters. It also references that the zombie plague originated in the east, so it inherently positions the region as both the problem and the solution. Jane Austen’s work has already been critiqued by English literature scholars for postcolonial themes, so Grahame-Smith does her a disservice by making Pride and Prejudice sound more racist than intended.

Other than that, if you love Pride and Prejudice, you probably don’t need an excuse to read it again with zombies added. And if you’re like me and never liked this novel…well, at least it’s more entertaining now!

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The perfect wine pairing for your book club!

(Bonus) Book Review: Pride and Prejudice graphic novel

Image via Campfire

Rating: 3 out of 5

Hey everyone!

I’m over halfway done with Frankenstein, and I’m looking forward to reviewing it soon, but in the meantime, I have a fun book to share with you all! I recently received a graphic novel adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and even though I don’t officially count comics toward my reading quota, I figured that you would be intrigued to hear about it!

Given to me as a souvenir from India, the book is published by Kalyani Navyug Media Pty. Ltd., adapted by Laurence Sach, and illustrated by Rajesh Nagulakonda. It’s part of a series commonly known as Campfire Graphic Novels, and the publisher has adapted other classics, such as Oliver Twist, The Jungle Book, and Alice in Wonderland.

Those who know me have heard me admit that Pride and Prejudice is one of the few books that I did not finish. I read about fifty pages before I became so frustrated with how superficial the characters were about wealth and marriage that I gave the novel back to the library without completing it.

Granted, I realize that Austen was making valid points about the cultural norms of the time, but I believe that other writers addressed them without creating vapid characters who are no better than ‘clucking hens’ in my mind. I preferred the stories of Edith Wharton, Kate Chopin, and the Bronte sisters for their superior writing and better developed characters.

So did this graphic novel change my mind at all? Despite my resolution of keeping an open mind, this adaptation only solidified my negative first impression. By condensing the story to about 100 illustrated pages, the plot and characters become even more watered down. People’s opinions are more trite and their decisions take longer leaps of faith to comprehend.

I felt that Mr. Darcy was an absolute jerk most of the time, and I often wanted to slap Elizabeth’s mother across her shallow face. The only character that I felt sympathy for was Mr. Bennet, because I respect a person who can stay witty surrounded by all that nonsense.

Ultimately, I rated this higher for its impressive illustrations and unique medium, but I am hesitant about its ability to encourage me to give Austen a second chance. I think that I have decided to try reading other novels of hers, since I need to learn to appreciate her style before returning to a book that turned me off so badly.

Would you be interested in reading a graphic novel adaptation, and if so, which one? Let me know your thoughts about comics, Austen, and everything in between in the comments!

Top Ten Books Recommended to Me

Another edition of Top Ten Tuesday, a meme in which I sporadically participate that is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. This week it’s the books which have been recommended to me the most. This was actually difficult, since it seems people usually ask for my suggestions rather provide their own, but here are a few that stood out, in no particular order:

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

A Game of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Any novels by Ayn Rand

Some of these books are already on my to-read list, some I couldn’t care less about, and some are wasted recommendations because I’ll never read them. I’ll leave it to you to decipher which are which 🙂 But I’d love to hear your opinions on them!

Which books have been recommended to you the most? Are you simply procrastinating or are they never going to happen? Share the details!

Book Review: Reading Lolita in Tehran

Reading Lolita in Tehran

Reading Lolita in Tehran (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Oh goodness, it feels like it’s been forever since I’ve last blogged! This summer seems to be flying by, but I’m looking forward to the fun that’s in store this month.

As for meeting my reading goals, I’ve been trying to pick up the pace. Fortunately, that was easy with this past read since it was so enjoyable.

I’m always interested in reading outside my comfort zone and learning about different cultures, so thanks to a recommendation by one of my loyal followers, I’ve finished Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi.

This 2003 bestseller is Nafisi’s memoir about her experiences as a literature professor secretly teaching a group of seven girls in revolutionary Iran. Every week for two years, she opened her own home so that passionate women could speak their minds and dress how they wished without facing the morality police.

In this regime, Western literature faces outright banning or heavy censorship for its allegedly immoral and decadent themes, so educating students about Nabokov or Fitzgerald is a huge risk–especially when your students are all young females without male supervision.

First, I should mention that the structure of this memoir is unique. Nafisi does not narrate her life chronologically, but rather separates her recollections in four sections titled, “Lolita,” “Gatsby,” “James,” and “Austen,” which are based on the authors or characters that best reflected that respective time in her life.

Some readers have complained that they were expecting a tale about an Islamic book club of sorts, but there’s so much more to this story. To ask merely for Iranian chick-lit is a waste of this author’s writing prowess.

Have you ever searched for one-star reviews of a book you loved, just because you were curious to know why others thought differently? Well, after reading quite a few diatribes, I couldn’t believe that anyone could declare Nafisi boring and pretentious. Gosh forbid a woman get an education and share her knowledge with the world!

While many may not appreciate Nafisi’s musings outside of her illicit class, she is certainly an academic at heart, and as a lover of literature myself, I appreciated how she related the political changes in Iran to the novels she critiqued.

Yes, I do believe that there’s a slight barrier of entry to enjoying this story. If you have never familiarized yourself with Lolita, The Great Gatsby, Daisy Miller, or Pride and Prejudice, you might feel a bit disconnected, since these novels play dominant roles in Nafisi’s life.

However, I’ve only personally read Gatsby, and although I admit that that section was my favorite, it doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy the other three parts. In fact, I applaud the author for discussing literature with such fervor, because she encouraged me to experience these masterpieces for myself!

Not only is Nafisi’s passion for the written word contagious, her own prose is equally poetic. She manages to reflect on some very painful memories and analyze various sociopolitical ideologies with finesse.

She’s also self-aware enough to not present either a condemnation of or support for the Iranian government. The issues present are much more complicated than American vs. Iranian, Christian vs. Muslim, or democratic vs. totalitarian. And as much as I can’t stomach such glaring gender inequality, I appreciate Nafisi to offer a nuanced perspective of her country’s culture and history.

Needless to say, you’re going to learn a lot if you read this book. And unless you’re among those ridiculous one-star reviewers, I’d fathom a guess that you like learning…and thus, would like this story.

As for me, now that I’ve stimulated my mind, it’s time to stimulate my other senses…next up? You guessed it! A sexy fun romance novel!

Big Book Phonies: Buying Novels Just to Look Smarter

Pictured: Just one of my bookshelves, with stacks of manga up to the ceiling!

I just read an article posted yesterday on the Daily Mail’s website called “The books we buy to look more intelligent: How the average shelf is filled with 80 novels we have never read.”

A British survey found:

  • 70% of books on people’s shelves have never been read
  • 40% admitted their collection is for display only
  • 57% only display literary classics, even if they haven’t read them
  • 47% prefer “trashy” novels they would never show
               The books Brits pretend to read the most are Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Jane Eyre, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Wuthering Heights. On the flip side, the authors they consider “guilty pleasures” are Sophie Kinsella, Jodi Picoult, Jackie Collins, Helen Fielding, and Danielle Steele.
               Obviously, this article has flaws, since it doesn’t include how many people were surveyed or their demographics (age, gender, ethnicity, education level, etc.). I don’t even know how the survey was given, whether by phone, online, or randomly asking people on the street. Thus, the results should be taken with a grain of salt.
               I found this article both depressing and amusing. The handful of books on my shelves that I haven’t read are the ones that I haven’t read YET–my to-read list is just backed up right now. But I will get to them eventually, because I could never spend money on a book without even attempting to finish it.
               I bet if this survey was conducted in my town, the results would be even worse. Most people here probably don’t even OWN 80 books! I could count all of my mine, but it would take forever: I’ve filled my two bookshelves to the brim, shoved piles of books in my closet, and stacked hundreds of manga on top of my largest bookshelf so that they reach the ceiling (see photo above). Packing these books when I finally move out of my parents’ house is a recurring nightmare for me!
               But I always tell my students that if you haven’t read a book, don’t pretend to know it. I can tell a mile away. Read it or don’t, period. What if someone strikes up a conversation about To Kill a Mockingbird with you, and you rant about the evils of animal abuse? You’ll just look dumber when your friend realizes you can’t talk the talk.
               That being said, I can understand the pressures to read literary classics and avoid popular fiction. The Jane Austen bandwagon is so huge, sometimes I feel like less of a woman for not finishing Pride and Prejudice. But while I might tell people I read it, I always clarify that I read only the first 50 pages before I got so bored I stopped. I might try it again, but if I don’t, that’s okay. Everyone has different tastes, and I think that as long as people read, it doesn’t matter what the books are.
               I also love Sophie Kinsella, and we should stop treating popular novels as “trashy” or “guilty pleasures.” There’s nothing wrong with reading, or writing, chick-lit/romance novels, and if anyone looks down on you, then screw them. Nobody likes a pompous reader anyway.
               So the moral of my story: be proud of what you read, and don’t waste your money on trying to impress your house-guests. Try to read some classics, but don’t beat yourself up if they’re not your cup of tea. Reading should be a reward, not a punishment.
               What do you guys think of this survey? Are you a big book phony? Do you feel pressure to read certain books? Are there books we “should” or “shouldn’t” read? Post your thoughts!!!

30-Day Book Challenge: The End!

It’s the last day of September! For once, I’m glad my birthday month zoomed by, because it means I’m that much closer to ending 2011, starting anew, getting my Master’s, and finally joining the ‘real world.’ But sadly, the end of September also means the end of the 30-day book challenge. It was a fun list to fill out, and I’ll definitely refer back to it when I’m mulling over what to blog on my slow days.

So here’s the end of the list!

Day 21: Favorite picture book from childhood = Little Critter books by Mercer Mayer

Day 22: Book you plan to read next = 1984 by George Orwell

Day 23: Book you tell people you’ve read, but haven’t (or haven’t actually finished) = Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Day 24: Book that contains your favorite scene = Wizard Howl’s meltdown in Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Day 25: Favorite book you read in school = Demian by Herman Hesse

Day 26: Favorite nonfiction book = On Writing by Stephen King (book-related), The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins (unrelated)

Day 27: Favorite fiction book (That hasn’t been stated already) = Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Day 28: Last book you read = The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell

Day 29: Book you’re currently reading = Shoe Addicts Anonymous by Beth Harbison

Day 30: Favorite coffee table book = Uncle John’s Bathroom Readers (I only have magazines on the coffee table, so I chose what’s in my bathroom instead)

As always, feel free to jump in and comment on my choices–or add your own!