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Bitten – The TV Series, Episode 7

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GUEST REVIEWER – teachergirl73

This episode is definitely a turning point for the TV series Bitten. The writers for the show have completely changed the framework of the story as they eliminated another Pack member this week, one who in the book survives far beyond the first novel. For the die-hard fans of the novel, I think that the divergence from the original story that takes place in this episode might be just too much for them to handle.

DSIn this episode, the Pack are contacted by Daniel Santos again, requesting a meet in neutral territory to discuss territorial rights. As the Pack prepares to meet, Clay and Elena go to the agreed upon meeting site to check it out. While there, they realize that they aren’t the only werewolves there, as Zachary Cain tries to ambush them. This is all a ploy to keep Clay and Elena away from the real threat. Jeremy and Antonio are ambushed on the road by Cain’s girlfriend, Thomas LeBlanc and Daniel Santos. Santos uses Cain’s girlfriend as bait to lure Jeremy and Antonio out of the car at the scene of an accident.  Suddenly, Jeremy and Antonio find themselves in the middle of a knife fight with two mutts. Both men are badly injured, however, Antonio’s injuries prove fatal. This is just one example from this episode of how the show has completely deviated from the book.

bitten-episode-1x06-loganAnother significant change to the storyline is that Logan’s girlfriend is pregnant, and they are forced to start to deal with all the implications that go along with it. Logan begins to make promises that he knows he won’t be able to keep, like that he will never leave her. When Elena calls Logan to tell him about the death of Antonio, Logan ignores the call. Eventually, Jeremy gets through to Logan, but he makes no mention of the baby to Jeremy. Logan cannot avoid the Pack forever, so it will be interesting to see how long he can manage to stay put in Toronto with his pregnant girlfriend before someone comes looking for him.

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The final example of how the show’s writers are striking out on their own, is back in Toronto, Philip seeks out help from a techy ex-girlfriend. He asks her to help him locate video footage of two wolves running and hunting in a downtown Toronto park. He wants to track down the person who shot the film so that he can purchase the rights for an ad campaign that he is working on. It is clear that Philip’s ex-girlfriend wants him back, but he rejects her advances as he tries to explain that he in a relationship with Elena.  What Philip doesn’t realize is that the film footage is of Elena and Logan running.  He has unknowingly put himself in danger by pursuing the video and ironically, it would be Elena’s job in the Pack to deal with Philip. If you recall, back in Episode 1, the event that caused Elena to leave the Pack was her personal decision to kill a man trying to “out” the werewolves to the human world. Her decision to kill was based on the fact that it was her responsibility to ensure that information never became public. How will Elena and the Pack deal with this new development?

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Bitten – The TV Series, Episodes 5-6

GUEST POST – teachergirl73

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We finally get to see how Clay and Elena first met and fell in love in Episode 5. The writers stayed fairly close to Kelley Armstrong’s original story, with just a few minor discrepancies.  I thought that they did a good job of setting the scene that shows Clay’s desperate plan to keep Elena. Upon Elena and Clay’s arrival at Stonehaven to meet Clay’s family for the first time, Jeremy makes it very clear to Clay that he can’t possibly continue his relationship with Elena. Jeremy’s directive seems very cold and harsh, but this is how the Pack has survived over the centuries. The Pack rules state women are not allowed to have lasting relationships with any members of the Pack, for fear of revealing the existence of werewolves to the human world. This was just too big of a secret to try to hide from humans on a day-to-day basis, as already demonstrated by Elena’s struggle to live in Toronto with Philip. All male children were taken from their mothers at a very young age so that no one could discover the truth. Prior to Elena being bitten, no female werewolf had ever survived the change, so when Clay makes the reckless and desperate choice to change and appear in Jeremy’s study in his wolf form, Elena just thinks he’s a very large dog. She had no idea that her life was about to change forever.

In the book, Clay is banished from Stonehaven for more than a year, while Elena learned how to deal with her new circumstances. The show deviates from the original story again, instead of having Jeremy nurse Elena through the early days of her transition, Clay is also present. In the episode, Clay continually restated that Elena was a survivor and that she will survive this.

The novel does an excellent job of explaining how difficult this process was for Elena, and how Clay’s actions are never really forgiven. This is part of the back story between the two characters that I think the show is going to have a difficult time communicating. In the first few episodes, it is made very clear that Elena has no time for Clay, but what is unfortunately not really shown yet to viewers is that when Elena returns to Stonehaven, she is very conflicted by her feelings for Clay. As mentioned in my early post, we discover her struggle mostly through her inner monologue which is missing.

One character that was introduced in earlier episode, Daniel Santos, makes an interesting return. We first met Daniel when he paid  a visit to Logan in Toronto, to say that he wanted to reach out to the Pack. Daniel’s family once belonged to the Pack but after a failed attempt to oust Jeremy as alpha years before, they were kicked out of the family. In the book, there is more back story on Daniel which better explains his obsession with defeating Clay and making Elena his “mate”. At this point in the show, Daniel is offering to work with the Pack to help bring an end to the mutt problem in Bear Valley. In exchange, Daniel wants to return to the Pack.

Another new character in this episode is Victor Olsen, who is a convicted pedophile who has been released back into the community. One of the first people he encounters on the outside is Zachary Cain, who we know to be one of the mutts threatening the Pack. He offers Olsen a chance to seek revenge on his victims by going after Elena Michaels. I have to admit when I first saw this scene, I didn’t really understand where they were going with it.  In the novel, the first time the Pack meet the “new” mutts are through the various attacks in Bear Valley.  It isn’t until Episode 6, that it becomes clear that there is another connection between the Pack and Olsen.

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In Episode 6, the show deviates completely from the original. For die-hard fans of the novel, this episode might be too much to handle because the show’s storyline has truly become its own. If, however, I hadn’t read the book, this episode would certainly fill in some missing blanks.

Elena has returned to Toronto and her human life. She feels that her commitment to the Pack is complete, and as a result, she asked Jeremy not to call her back to Stonehaven.  All seems to be going swimmingly well, except for the fact that Daniel Santos makes another appearance, this time at the wedding of Philip’s sister. We get to see more clearly in this episode Elena’s distaste for Daniel, and we also get to see a little more of his darker side.  The show did a good job of casting, as I find Daniel to be very creepy, but it’s hard to say how much of that feeling is based on the actor’s performance or because I have prior knowledge of the character.

Another big departure from the original story is the connection between Olsen and Elena. In a conversation with Philip, Elena reveals that she was abused as a child at the hands of Olsen, who was a neighbour of one of her foster families. Elena’s testimony helped to get Olsen convicted. So now, it becomes a little bit clearer as to how Olsen will be a new threat in episodes to come.  In the book, Elena is a survivor of sexual abuse, but not from Olsen, the abuse came from her foster families and was mostly insinuated rather than told explicitly. Eventually, Elena learns to defend herself, and works very hard to leave her experiences in the foster system behind. Elena’s awful childhood is one of the reasons that Clay recognizes her as a fellow survivor.

The most shocking new development in the show is the discovery that Logan’s girlfriend is pregnant. Given that in the book, Logan is long gone by this point, it is going to be very interesting to see where the show goes with this new development. Will Logan be faced with the heartbreaking choice to tear his new-born child from the arms of the woman he loves, never to see her again? Or will he try to live in the human world? What will Jeremy have to say about this new development?

I guess that I’ll have to keep watching to find out!

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Bitten – The TV Series

GUEST POST – teachergirl73

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When I read that Bitten, the novel by New York Times best-selling author Kelley Armstrong, was coming to television, I was super-excited. This is one of my all time favourite books, and when I thought about how the story unfolds, I thought that there was definitely enough plot-line to carry a season. Now that we are into the first four episodes of the show, I’m still holding out hope that the show will continue to grow and develop into something really good. For the most part, the show’s creators have done a good job with the casting and setting, although I think in my own mind, Antonio and Jeremy were older and it is difficult to get around Clay’s lack of a southern accent, but that’s just me nit-picking.

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As for the plot, my verdict is still out. There are some places where they have almost taken the story and dialogue word for word from the novel and then in other places completely changed it. I know that this is inevitable, so I’m trying to keep an open mind about those changes. One of these changes is having Logan living in the same city as Elena. In the book, Elena is on her own in Toronto and you get a real sense of her isolation and loneliness being separated from her pack. I suspect that this story change was made to demonstrate the closeness between Logan and Elena, which is really told through Elena’s reflections in the novel.

bitten-tv-showElena is living in Toronto to escape her guilt over killing a human who was threatening to expose the existence of werewolves to the world. She’s forced to make a split second decision and blames the “animal” side of her for decision to kill. Elena’s struggle to be human rather than wolf colours every choice that she makes from that point on in her life, including her attempt to leave her pack family behind for good. For the most part, this is all conveyed over the course of the first two episodes. In the first episode, you get to see the life that Elena has tried to build for herself during her self-imposed exile. She has a job, an apartment, and a live-in boyfriend, while she increasingly struggles to hide the wolf side of her.  In the second episode, you learn the history of the pack, and who is in it and the different relationship dynamics that Elena has with each of her pack brothers. By episodes three and four, the danger to the pack has escalated quite dramatically and I certainly hope that the show’s creators can build on this momentum.

Recently I read a review by Kaitlin Thomas for www.tv.com, which I thinks does an excellent job of summing up what isn’t quite right with the story-line: Kaitlin Thomas www.tv.com  Jan. 14, 2014, “there’s nothing inherently bad about Bitten. Fans of genre shows will probably enjoy the series and its mysteries just fine, especially if the story picks up as the show progresses, but overall, Bitten isn’t adding anything new to a television slate that’s slowly becoming overrun with supernatural and fantasy shows. If the series wants to make a name for itself (especially in the U.S.), it’s going to need to step up its game by developing its characters, adding more action, and giving the pack members some distinguishing characteristics and personalities. ” http://www.tv.com/m/shows/bitten-2013/community/post/bitten-series-premiere-review-summons-season-1-episode-1-138946732922/

What I think is the missing piece to the show is Elena’s narration. In the book, most of the story is from her “inside voice”, and it is that personal recount that creates context for how the other characters interact with her, as well as the fills in the story-line more fully. Although somewhat unrelated, an example of a recent excellent film adaptation of a story where the majority of the inner dialogue of the protagonist plays an important part of the movie was Warm Bodies. In this depiction R’s narration was so skillfully incorporated that the film in my opinion was better than the book.

I will stick with the show until the end of the season, for better or for worse, but I’m hoping that it lives up to its potential. Bitten is the first book in Armstrong’s “Otherworld” series, where each subsequent book focuses on different characters and their stories. As a fan of Clay and Elena’s story, I’ve always wanted more of it.

GUEST POST – Longbourn by Jo Baker

GUEST REVIEWER – teachergirl73

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  • Title: Longbourn
  • Author: Jo Baker
  • ISBN 0385351232
  • (ISBN13: 9780385351232)
  • Series: Stand Alone
  • Published: October 8th 2013 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2013)
  • Format: Hardcover Edition
  • Genre/s: Literature/Fiction
  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Source: Puchased
  • Rating: A

Back in October, I had the opportunity to go to a special screening of Joe Wright’s 2005 production of Pride and Prejudice at the TIFF Bell Lightbox which was followed by a discussion with  Jo Baker, the author of the new novel Longbourn.  For those of you who are already fans of Pride and Prejudice, then you will recognize the name of the book as that of the fictional estate where the Bennet family lived.

I am a huge fan of Wright’s interpretation of Jane Austen‘s beloved novel, and I was lucky enough to have seen it at TIFF back in 2005, at its Gala Premiere. The cinematography and musical score are nothing short of exquisite, and Matthew Macfadyen‘s portrayal of a more vulnerable Mr. Darcy completely won me over. I was not the only one who was impressed by Wright’s production, as this version served as an inspiration for Jo Baker’s novel Longbourn. In Wright’s production, we get to see a glimpse of the Longbourn servants at work on the estate. This is the basis of Baker’s novel, as she tells the story of the servants of Longbourn, as the story of Pride and Prejudice unfolds.

Baker’s ability to describe the day-to-day business of living in the early 19th century is very detailed, and certainly made me appreciate the creature comforts that we have today! She does an excellent job of describing the arduous and mostly unpleasant work involved in keeping the Bennet family in the lifestyle to which was befitting of a family of its stature. Much of this description is used in the beginning of the novel to set the stage of just how difficult and uncertain the life of a servant could be. More importantly, however, Baker makes it clear just how powerless servants were over the circumstances of their lives.

longbourn uk hardback coverIn Pride and Prejudice, we are introduced to the Bennet family, who hope to arrange advantageous marriages for their five daughters because the estate was entailed to a male cousin. It is not until reading Longbourn, however, that you are introduced to the far more desperate fate of the servants living on the estate, what would become of them once Mr. Collins takes over? As most of Mrs. Bennet’s anxiety results in comedic antics as she frets about finding five husbands for her girls, there is a far more serious concern brewing in the servants quarters.

It is after she has set the stage of what a day in the life of a servant might look like in England in the early 1800’s, that Baker begins to weave another element, one of a very fragile love, into the story.  It is at this point that the novel takes hold of the reader and does not let go.

James had no intentions; he could not afford to have any; he could not afford to rope another person to his saddle. All he could do was keep his head down and get his work done. Which was why this stirring in him, the prickle of desire in his belly, the twist of jealousy there too, was so very unwelcome indeed. It must be quashed; it do not, after all, mean anything. It was a shame: that was the most that could be said of it. A shame to have to turn his head away, when he would very much prefer to look; a shame that Sarah would of course go and fall in love and it would not be with him. But the sorrow of it came as something of a surprise: he should by now be perfectly accustomed to doing what he did not want to do, to letting things happen that he did not want to happen. But this? No; he could not reconcile himself to this.

As I was reading, I found that with each page, Longbourn just got better and better. Baker paints not just the historical setting of the estate and surrounding area, but sheds some light on the troubles facing England at the time, namely the war with France and its inevitable costs on both the soldiers and civilians who survived. Baker also picks up a thread from Austen’s novel that suggested that Mr. Bingley’s family money came from his father’s involvement in the merchant trade. Baker runs with this storyline as she implies that the Bingleys’ money has not just come from trade but also has connections to a Caribbean estate and slavery.  All of these outside forces have some impact on the lives of all of those that live and work at Longbourn, and I think that is what makes this novel the perfect companion piece to Pride and Prejudice.

HIGHER FEES APPLY. British author Jo Baker pictured at her publisher's office.Jo Baker was born in Lancashire. She was educated at Oxford and at Queen’s University, Belfast, where she completed a PhD on the work of the Anglo-Irish writer Elizabeth Bowen. The Undertow is her first publication in the United States. She is the author of three previous novels published in the United Kingdom: Offcomer, The Mermaid’s Child, and The TellingJo Baker has also written for BBC Radio 4, and her short stories have been included in a number of anthologies. From 2001-2003 she was the Artistic Director of the Belfast Literary Festival. She lives in Lancaster with her husband, the playwright and screenwriter Daragh Carville, and their son Daniel. Longbourn is her fifth novel.

Review of The Wedding Night and I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella

GUEST REVIEWER teachergirl73

WNIf you are looking for a funny, romantic-comedy, that could very easily be translated into film, then you might want to check out Sophie Kinsella‘s most recent novel, The Wedding Night or last year’s publication I’ve Got Your Number. Both novels have the perfect combination of romance and comedy that I believe would make them easily transferable to the silver screen.  On the surface, both novels present as “light and fluffy” chic lit, but what I like the most about Kinsella’s writing style is that she is able to weave more complex themes that often deal with the dysfunctional side of families that is easily relatable for most readers, balancing the drama with some highly comedic moments. Throughout both stories, the reader gets to see just how flawed sibling or parent – child (especially adult children) relationships can be. Add to that a healthy dose of “rom-com” scenarios, I think both novels are great reads. The relationship themes are never allowed to get too serious thanks to the comedic hijinx that seem to follow the main characters wherever they go. Kinsella’s message that being true to oneself, and living life to the fullest is delivered in a most enjoyable way.

In The Wedding Night, we meet an ensemble cast of characters that include two sisters Lottie and Fliss, who are both suffering from the trauma of failed relationships. Lottie, recently rejected by the man that she thought she would live happily ever after, spirals out of control in a series of hilarious mishaps that absolutely go to the extreme, in the attempt to heal her broken heart. Fliss, Lottie’s older sister, is trying to come out the other side of a bitter divorce with a young son to raise. Fliss also feels responsible for saving her sister Lottie from herself, which is a role she has cast herself in time and time again.  Both women have some hard lessons to learn before they can move on, and Kinsella artfully takes us on an adventure that starts in London and ends in the beautiful Greek islands.  Her ultimate message that we can never go back and resurrect the past is crystal clear by the end.

In this excerpt from The Wedding Night, you get a little snapshot of Fliss’ reaction to Lottie’s latest drama:

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IGYNIn I’ve Got Your Number, Poppy Wyatt seems to have it all. She’s engaged to marry the very sophisticated (and rich), Magnus Tavish, who on the surface appears as if he will make “An Ideal Husband”, but you know pretty quickly on in the novel that Poppy’s path to happily ever after is in jeopardy. This first becomes apparent when the story begins with Poppy losing her engagement ring, which happens to be a precious family heirloom. Then to add insult to injury, she’s mugged and loses her phone which may have been as devastating to her as losing her ring! But just as she’s beginning to become completely undone, she spots a cell phone in the garbage bin, which seems to be kismet and the answer to her problems. Except for the fact that the real owner of the phone wants it back…and so begins the great adventure that is I’ve Got Your Number.

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Just as in The Wedding Night, Poppy’s got her fair share of troubled family relationships, and has a lot of ups and downs as she navigates her way through what society would say is the “perfect life”. But is it? Read it and find out for yourself.

TeacherGirlMy rating: 5 Stars                             

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Reviewer: teachergirl73

The Fault in Our Stars – John Green

GUEST REVIEWER – teachergirl73

Amazon.ca Editors’ Pick: Best Books of 2012

Despite the tumour-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love. http://www.amazon.ca/The-Fault-Stars-John-Green/dp/0525478817

the_fault_in_our_stars_cover_by_kaiasaurus-d3kr6bvWhen I started reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, I was a little apprehensive because I knew that it would be an emotional read. It is because I am a complete sap when it comes to books, TV shows or movies that revolve around terminal illnesses and loss, I typically avoid such stories for fear of becoming a blubbering mess. After hearing so many good things about The Fault in Our Stars, I decided that this book needed to be an exception to my avoidance rule, and I cannot say enough about how glad I am that I read this book.

Well, thankfully, The Fault in Our Stars is one of those rare books that has managed to break free of the trends, and stand alone. It is a literary novel for adolescents that challenges the mainstream as it takes the reader on the rocky path of teens living with cancer and the realities that they face. The following excerpt from p.15 of The Fault in Our Stars, is a good example of the “irreverent” attitude, hinted at in the novel’s description, that is displayed by Hazel and her support group friends, Augustus and Isaac:

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This is also a story about love, not just that of first love, but also the relationships that parents have with their kids, and the strength of friendships in the face of tough circumstances that no child should ever have to face.  The following excerpt is from a conversation that Hazel has with her parents where she tries to explain why she’s afraid to build new friendships:

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Despite Hazel’s attempt to “minimize casualties”, she realizes that is just not going to be possible as she discovers soon enough, Augustus is a hard person to shake. As for my earlier fear that I would become a blubbering mess before the book was through, that did happen, (and pathetically, again as I searched for quotes to use in this review) but I also laughed quite a bit. I truly enjoyed the development of the main characters Grace and Augustus as they stumbled along their journey together, it was quite the ride.

My rating: 5 Stars                             

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Reviewer: teachergirl73

TeacherGirl