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Agreeable Men and Foolish Little Girls: A Triple Austen Review

I thought I loved Pride and Prejudice. I really did. Lizzy was fun, Darcy was everything dark and brooding, and the rest of the characters varied from kind hearted to selfishly foolish. I really enjoyed Jane Austen’s “unique” writing style, plot twists and happy-ish endings. She even made it onto my top ten books series of all times list.

And I still like the book. Thanks to a friend, I’ve been following The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a vlogging creation of Hank Green and Bernie Sue.

It turns out, though, that it is also the only Jane Austen novel that I can stand. And so, here we go.

Austen # 1: Emma

Emma-Jane-Austen

MY RATING: 2 star rating

RECOMMENDED FOR: I honestly don’t know. If you’re an Austen fan, then go for it. If you don’t mind romances between individuals more than 15 years apart, then this just might be the story for you!

Of the three, this Austen was my least favourite. Emma is a selfish, proud and meddling young woman. She fancies herself a matchmaker, and as such proceeds to almost ruin the life of another woman introduced in the story, Harriet. Ignoring advice from Mr. Knightley, a man 16-17 years older than her (I don’t think Ms Austen cared much for age or accuracy), throughout the novel, Emma finds herself in some unfortunate circumstances. I ended up wondering at some point what the entire story was building up to.

A positive for me was the message I took from it: most of us don’t know what is good for us, let alone anyone else. Putting ideas into people’s head can lead to consequences one could never have foreseen. By taking Harriet under her wing and giving her ideas about who she should marry (as opposed to who actually wanted to marry her), Emma nearly ruined the young woman’s chance at marriage. Although I did not like Emma, Jane Austen did make her character believable. A negative, however, was Harriet’s character. She was so one-dimensional, I felt like the woman needed to be checked.

And then there is the “surprise” towards the end (no spoilers). Which was great, because it meant the story was building up to something. Maybe romance just isn’t my genre.

Austen # 2: Mansfield Park

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MY RATING: 3 star ratin

RECOMMENDED FOR: Austen readers, fans of Jane Bennet, and anyone else with nothing better to do.

This one got a 3 because I did NOT foresee the ending. In Mansfield Park, we follow the life of young Fanny Price, who is living at her aunt and uncle’s house (Mansfield Park). She lives with her cousins Tom, Edmund, Maria and Julia Bertram. Also in the picture is another aunt, Mrs. Norris, who exists (it seems) solely to make Fanny feel inferior to her cousins. The moral of the story is quite sweet, and I did not feel forced to finish this Austen (a step up from Emma).

As for Fanny herself, I felt like I was reading a story from Jane Bennet’s point of view. All gratefulness and kindness, the main difference between the two that stood out to me the most was that Fanny is a much better judge of character. That she didn’t fall where many before her did (oh Henry Crawford!) was enough to show that much. And yet, I couldn’t shake the Jane Bennet feeling.

Mr. Love Interest himself, Edmund Bertram, was boring. And hypocritical when he thinks he’s ‘in love’. Is that a normal symptom? All double standard aside, it felt like the way Austen described Edmund’s change of heart towards the end left me unconvinced. I could understand his fallout with one woman perfectly well; it was understanding the second relationship which left me baffled. I did not ‘believe’ in them. At least I can say something slightly better about our third leading man.

Austen # 3: Northanger Abbey

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MY RATING: image
RECOMMENDED FOR: Austen lovers! And anyone else willing to read a book from the 19th century.

The ending soured the beginning for me. I felt like I had wasted my time, in a way, waiting for relationships to develop. Which never did. The 3 stars is a little unfair. I liked Henry Tilney (sort of?) and did not hate Catherine, making this one better than Emma and Mansfield Park. But not by much.

You see, the title of this post came to me after finishing this book. Henry is all that is ‘agreeable’, and Catherine is just foolish enough to be ‘endearing’ and not stupid. If Fanny spoke more and looked flustered less often, she would have been my favourite female protagonist of these three. Catherine loves reading Gothic novels, and her active imagination leads her to a few awkward situations when she is invited by a couple of new friends to stay at Northanger Abbey. Hearts are broken and friendships dissolve in this Austen, leaving it with the most predictable ending of all three.

What did I like? The writing style. It made discrepancies in character’s behaviour amusingly obvious, a definite plus where certain characters are walking contradictions. It was simply written, tempting me to shelve it as a children’s read.

Henry Tilney may have beat out Mr. Darcy as favourite male lead, but he was far too one-dimensional. Catherine’s relationship with Henry’s sister seemed nonexistent to me, and for a while I was afraid Henry’s widowed father would ask Catherine to marry him! Some family.

Overall, Austen’s writing feels almost identical throughout the books. Different characters with different attitudes ending with the same result: a happily ever after marriage. I have grown to enjoy the subplots a lot more, since they vary from book to the next. Elopement is definitely a favourite, though.

And that’s a wrap! I do not plan on reading Sense and Sensibility or Persuasion anytime in the near future. Easy reads for the winter break/first week of second semester. And now back to my Reading Challenge book, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter! Gathering Blue review soon!

Good night!

 

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City of Thieves: Review

‘Leningard is not afraid of death. Death is afraid of Leningard.’ (91) You’ve got to love war propaganda.

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MY RATING: cartoon-cupcake

RECOMMENDED FOR: Older audiences, in my opinion. The language and sexual content may be too much for many readers. To a lesser degree, the violence as well (it’s a war novel after all).

Oh City of Thieves! Had I followed my feelings halfway through the book, I never would have finished it. Lev’s sexual imagery came on a bit too strong at some points, for me. The language was not a real problem. In fact, the book’s strongest point lay in its writing for me. It was one of those books where you want to quote everything. It was not enough to say ‘breathe’. There was always some effective imagery instead.

Once you get your head wrapped around the premise–two young men sent on an egg hunt during the second World War–the story lays out like many war stories do, fiction or nonfiction. Hunger. Death. Bombs. Children.

But I have never read a war novel with so much non-rape sex. Seriously. It was quite standard in content, but above par in delivery. Cannabilism, rape, starvation, elitism, betrayal–and the list goes on. The characters, on the whole, were fleshed out in all of their unwashed stench and spitting profanity. Lev, the protagonist, was the one I could relate to the most. His companion, Kolya, was odd. He was all perfection, and for a while through the book, I was waiting for any imperfection to surface. It took its time, but it did. So for anyone who threw the book down at some point, wondering if a man like Kolya could possibly exist, you will (hopefully) be satisfied by the end of the book.

One thing is for sure. I am glad I survived the profanity and Lev’s imagination. The last six-seven chapters made the entire story worth it. If you didn’t enjoy it, I can understand. But a new year now, and my challenges have begun!

Happy Reading in 2013!

 

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Last Book of 2012!

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City of Thieves, by David Benioff. My final read of the year. I may do a few rereads before next year and the 2013 reading challenge, but I’m saving the new books for the new year! My feelings are a bit confused, but I will say this much: the last six-seven chapters made the profanity and Lev’s imagination all worth it. Review next week!

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2012 in Book Reviews, Uncategorized

 

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Thirteen Reasons Why: Review

It’s Monday, and this week I will be reviewing Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. I have not read any other books by him, but I think I just might after this read. After finishing it, I posted my initial reaction here. This is going to be my first (but not last) online book review. So, here we go.

thirteen reasons why

MY RATING:4 star ratin

RECOMMENDED FOR: Preteen and teenagers, definitely. Adults–put your high school hat back on. It’s time for a trip down memory lane.

This novel is generally up my alley–YA fiction makes up the majority of my list of books read over the past few years. It is written from the point of view of Clay Jensen, a high school teen who receives cassette tapes from an anonymous sender. It turns out to be from Hannah Baker, a girl who committed suicide at his school, and in these tapes she spells out why she took her own life. The unique part of all of this? In these tapes, she tells the listeners that if they received the tapes, it is because they are one of the reasons why she killed herself. After listening to the tapes, they must be passed on to the next person on the list. Confused, Clay listens to the tapes to find out what role he played in Hannah’s death. In the end, he finds out a whole lot more than he could ever have expected.

Asher’s choice of writing style for this novel worked out very well for me. Hannah’s tapes and Clay’s story were unfolding simultaneously. At first, I thought that it may get annoying. When Hannah was getting to a particularly shocking revelation, I did NOT want to know where Clay was sitting! And yet, as the book progressed, I realized that I did. Clay’s thoughts were what kept me from yelling at Hannah sometimes. He was like a running commentary. Other times, he provided insight into Hannah’s stories that she left out or did not know. And he provided some real humour on occasion, not the dry/sarcastic variety Hannah provides on her tapes.

Hannah: If you ever caught me reading one of those teen magazines, I swear, it wasn’t for the makeup tips. It was for the surveys.

Clay: Because you never wore makeup, Hannah. You didn’t need it.

Hannah: Fine, some of the hair and makeup tips were helpful.

Clay: You wore makeup?

And then there was the suspense. If you like reading books that keep you turning the page, wanting to know who-did-what next, Thirteen Reasons Why does that. I would give credit to Hannah’s story telling ability for that. It had its benefits. I ended up reading the entire book in one go, and then rereading it because I lost track of who the Peeping Tom was and what exactly Courtney did. One downside I found to this was that, during the first half, it really made Hannah seem like a bit of a jerk. I imagined her smirking, like she was having the last laugh at their discomfort. Which is understandable, but it wasn’t what I had expected from her. The second half, though, when she got really down and into the last few days of her life, was what got me.

The real take home from this, for me, was that we never know the impact of our actions. Or our “lack of action” at other times. We are often so wrapped up in our own world that the idea of getting involved in someone else’s is just not our cup of tea. And ‘little’ things, like passing on a rumour about something that seems believable (so we’re not really spreading a rumour, right?) or is just ‘funny’. I wasn’t very sympathetic, I’ll admit, at the start. You may not have been either. Don’t sweat the small stuff– life moves on, right?  I guess not always.

And now, I shall give City of Thieves another shot.

 

Book of the Month

I will admit, I have not read a wide variety of books. I am working on that with a challenge to myself: read one book every month that would not have been my first pick and leave a review here. This month will be:
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City of Thieves by David Benioff. First step: head to the library!

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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