Friday, April 30, 2010

Book Blogger Hop: April 30 - May 6, 2010


Welcome and thanks for hopping by!

The Book Blogger Hop is a great meme hosted by Crazy-for-Books! The idea is to network and find amazing new blogs to read. You can hop over there to see the rules and join in the fun!

I had a ton of fun on last week's hop and found some great new blogs! I'll list a few of them here:

In the Hammock
Media Molly
The Bookshelf Sophisticate
The Eager Readers
Mindful Musings

You can hop around to all the blogs using the Mr. Linky below! It will be updated as new links are added throughout the week. I'm going to put it after the jump so that it doesn't stretch out the home page and slow the load time - so click "Read More" to see all the links!

Thanks to everyone who hopped by last week! Happy Hopping!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre's early life was not a happy one. Orphaned as an infant, taken in by a benevolent uncle, then left to the devices of her hateful aunt upon his death - Jane was neglected, abused, unloved and despised for the first ten years of her life. However, the young orphan possessed a unique spirit, fiery and enduring. After flying into a fit of passion so powerful that it scared her much older and much larger Aunt Reed, Jane is sent to Lowood Institution, a school for girls. Unfortunately, the transition isn't much of an improvement. The manager of the school, Mr. Brocklehurst, is even worse than Aunt Reed, forcing the girls to wear plain and uncomfortable dresses, feeding them inedible meals, and not sparing them a moment for leisure. Eventually, however, the local townspeople become privy to the goings-on at the school and intervene - Mr. Brocklehurst is deposed and a more reasonable board takes over the management of the school. Jane is content to pass the rest of her school career there, and even two further years as a teacher. However, at the tender age of 18, the young heroine begins to feel a restless desire to see more of the world than the narrow confines she has heretofore inhabited. Jane's spirit is not of a type to let life pass her by and she takes initiative, seeking a position as a governess - the decision that leads her to the dark but majestic Thornfield Hall, and her fate.

When Jane arrives at Thornfield, she is surprised to find that the kind old lady with whom she has been corresponding is not the mother of her charge, but merely the housekeeper. Her new master is in fact the older, enigmatic, unhandsome and sometimes surly Mr. Rochester. Only a few days pass, however, before Jane comes to realize that within his grim breast resides a kindred spirit. When she begins to detect more than friendly feelings stirring within her, she resolutely tries to squash them, but to no avail. Mr. Rochester's own behavior toward her is inscrutable; at times he is the kindest of men, at others he is like a sleeping bear. Their relationship is helped along, however, by a series of mysterious mishaps at Thornfield. First, Mr. Rochester is nearly burned alive in his bed. Then, a stranger appears from the West Indies and is attacked and bitten in the attic. Everyone at Thornfield seems to be in on the secret except Jane, but it's not long before an unexpected and inevitable series of events brings her face-to-face with the heartbreaking truth.

Charlotte Bronte's classic Jane Eyre is a tale of fire and passion, class and custom. It is Bronte's best-loved and best-known novel for a reason. Her writing is descriptive and enchanting, immediately drawing readers into Jane's world. Her young heroine is one for the ages - strong-willed and fiery, but loving, gentle and strong in her principles. It's impossible not to love Jane and sympathize entirely in her trials and tribulations from the first moment readers see her fly into a fit of passion at her oppressors. Her journey is described by Bronte in exquisite detail, with alternating moments of poignant sadness and witty humor. Her social commentary is undeniable and incisive; even though modern readers live in a very different world, the message still resonates. While Mr. Rochester does not exactly fit the stereotype of the dashing and gallant hero, readers will find him intriguing and captivating - accompanying Jane on the highs and lows of their dark romance. For newcomers to this classic story, the magnificent plot twists will come as a utter and delicious surprise, keeping them on the edges of their seats to see if the seemingly insuperable obstacles can be overcome and the lovers united at last. For old fans of the classic novel, re-reading Jane Eyre is like meeting with an old friend - simultaneously comforting and exciting. The cast of characters are varied and quirky, creating an entertaining backdrop for the mainstage action of the heroine and hero. The more unearthly elements add spice to the story and will sometimes cause readers to question exactly what world they're inhabiting alongside the airy heroine. Jane Eyre is a gripping gothic tale that blends mystery with hints of the supernatural, producing a romance that withstands the test of time.

Rating:
Premise: 5/5
Plot: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Writing: 5/5
Setting: 5/5
Overall: 5/5

This novel can be purchased here

*Don't miss this week's Teaser Tuesday from Shadow of the Sun by Laura Kreitzer below.

**Don't forget to enter my 111 Follower Giveaway! It's been updated: The author, Charline Ratcliff, has generously offered to provide a personalized copy of The Curse of Nefertiti to the winner!

***Finally, check out the details on the upcoming Monsters in May!

Teaser Tuesday - Shadow of the Sun by Laura Kreitzer



Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser this week is from Shadow of the Sun by Laura Kreitzer.


"I was reliving the feeling of the velvety darkness wrapping itself around my body, swallowing me whole. I shivered. She knew." (p. 64)

Intrigued? ;-) Review coming soon!

You're welcome to link to your teaser in the comments, or post it there if you don't have a blog!


Don't forget to enter my 111 Follower Giveaway! It's been updated: The author, Charline Ratcliff, has generously offered to provide a personalized copy of The Curse of Nefertiti to the winner!


Also, check out the details on the upcoming Monsters in May!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Author Interview: Charline Ratcliff (and Giveaway of her novel The Curse of Nefertiti)



Hello readers! Welcome to my first interview and giveaway! The giveaway details are at the BOTTOM of the post. **UPDATE: Ms. Ratcliff has generously offered to provide a personalized copy to the winner!**

Not long ago, I posted my review of The Curse of Nefertiti by Charline Ratcliff. Here is a little bit about this lovely author from her website:


Charline Ratcliff is a creative soul who loves adventure. She has lived in every state within the continental United States before the age of sixteen and she has also traveled extensively throughout Europe.
 

Ms. Ratcliff enjoys being an entrepreneur. She loves being a writer, photographer, artist and interior designer. She currently lives in Phoenix, Arizona and is working on her second novel which is based in Pompeii before its ultimate destruction by Mount Vesuvius.



Ms. Ratcliff was kind enough to answer some questions about her novel, her career and herself for The Bookish Type. Without further ado, please enjoy her fascinating answers!


What inspired you to write The Curse of Nefertiti?

All my life I have experienced unusually vivid and life-like dreams but I never took the time to write them down. On the night of November 14th, 2006 I had another such dream which seemed to center around Nefertiti and ancient Egypt. When I awoke the next morning I felt compelled to write this one down. Once the dream was typed out I just kept going and “The Curse of Nefertiti” was born.

Have you always had an interest in Ancient Egypt?

Yes. I love history but Egyptian history / mythology has always been my favorite. 

What kind of research did you do for this novel?

Believe it or not I really didn’t do much. As I wrote; the story took on a life of its own and I just allowed it to happen.

In what ways did you change the story of Nefertiti? What motivated you to make those changes?

Honestly, not much is known about Nefertiti other than that she was married to Akhenaten, she was the step-mother to Tutankhamen and she is credited with being one of the most beautiful women in the world. Consequently I wouldn’t say I changed anything about her. I imagine she would have been a very strong, independent woman and she is portrayed as such in my book. I also opted to use Egypt’s mythology in the story which is why Egypt was destroyed. We all know Egypt is very much “there” today so two of the major questions both asked and answered within the book are: What happened that caused Egypt’s ultimate destruction? How was Egypt restored to the way it was prior to its annihilation?

Reincarnation is a major motif in The Curse of Nefertiti. Do you believe in reincarnation? If so, who do you think you might have been in a past life?

I’m not sure I would say reincarnation is a “major” motif in “The Curse of Nefertiti” since it only applies to one specific person. One of the story twists is that the reincarnated person is not whom most people would presume it to be. As to whether or not I believe in reincarnation. *chuckle* I would say that yes, I do, but I’m not limited to just that belief.

An interesting fact is that during the writing of “The Curse of Nefertiti” I always had an amazingly easy time writing about the ancient Egypt timeline whereas I had difficulty at first with the present day timeline. I was told in no uncertain terms by a friend that I was “channeling” the Egyptian side of the story and I nodded and said “I know.”

Six months later, when the book was finished but the ending wasn’t quite right, her words to me finally sunk in. I remember standing in the shower thinking to myself “well, who did I THINK I was channeling??” That moment actually provided me with the final ending for the book and also left “The Curse of Nefertiti” open for a sequel.

As to whom I “might” have been in a past life… I prefer to just allow possible past-life experiences to shape my dreams and in turn shape my writings rather than try to pinpoint myself to a specific person or people.

What was your biggest challenge in writing this novel?

My biggest challenge was writing the present-day timeline. Like I mentioned earlier I experienced the dream; I wrote it down and the next three chapters just kind of came out. However, this book has two timelines; ancient Egypt and present day. While ancient Egypt was easy to write about; 20th century was not. I wound up having writer’s block for a year, a month, a week and about three days. Once I understood the “problem” of writer’s block I was able to overcome it. Things were grand! There was order in the universe once more and the words “flowed out” in much the same way that water flows from the tap when the handle is turned to the “open” position. *chuckle*

What was your favorite scene to write?

Honestly my favorite scene was the final “story” in the book which can be found in the last nine paragraphs. The final sentence is my absolute favorite and in my mind’s eye I can see her standing there as she says it.

If you were an Egyptian god or goddess, which would you be and why?

Definitely Isis. She is the “mother” of all and as such she fully embodies all known and unknown traits. Most other gods or goddesses have only a few specific traits they are known for. Isis is loving and wise. She is kind yet no one would ever be foolish enough to push her for she also carries a destructive side within her. Unlike Sekhmet she is not primarily dominated by that side. Isis also understands pain and heartbreak firsthand. This allows her traits like understanding, sympathy and empathy. For the record, Isis was worshipped in more countries and cultures than just Egypt.

If you could go back in time, like Kayla, to any period, when would you go and what would you do?

*chuckle* Here’s a shocker. I would travel back to the Renaissance period and ask Leonardo Da Vinci to take me on as a pupil. I love to learn…

How did your interest in writing develop?

Everyone always asks me that and my reply is that it was a “happy accident.” I never intended to be a writer. I had no idea I loved writing. In fact, it wasn’t until after I finished writing “The Curse of Nefertiti” that I figured out “what I wanted to be when I grew up!”

What are your favorite books? Why are they your favorites?

That’s a hard question for me to answer. Truthfully I wind up loving the majority of what I read and my tastes include almost every genre except horror. Each book has its own unique aspect and I would be hard-pressed to choose a favorite. It’s like eating twelve Granny Smith apples. Yes, they are all the same type but each one has its own particular flavor so how do you really choose which is best? And maybe you’re not in the mood for a Granny Smith today but it doesn’t mean you won’t be tomorrow. ;)

What is a random fact that readers probably don’t know about you?

Well, I love all animals but squirrels are my very, very favorite. What’s not to love? They are SUPER cute, extremely intelligent and each one has their own unique personality.

What can you tell us about any future novels that may be in the works?

I’m currently working on a new book based in Pompeii, Italy before the town’s destruction by Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. This book also started from a dream and yes, the Prologue is the actual dream. It’s written in the first-person and is a “biography” of a woman who was brought to Pompeii as a young child. Her fate was to be a slave but instead she was raised as the daughter of an influential town councilman.

Two days before the Vesuvius’s eruption there was a huge earthquake and Sonata (the main character) was trapped in the large storerooms beneath her parent’s house. She managed to live through the town’s annihilation but tragically she can’t escape the subterranean chamber she is trapped in. Days pass and her hopes of rescue fade so she decides to write out her memoirs in the hopes that maybe someday at least her words will be found.

The following is a rough draft of how the back cover will read:

Much of the world is aware of the tragedy which befell Pompeii in 79 AD. An eyewitness report details the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in letters from Pliny the Younger to the historian Tacitus. Even with this recounting set to paper, Pompeii faded out of history to become little more than myth. In the late 16th century Pompeii’s ruins, and those of her sister city Herculaneum, were discovered by architect Domenico Fontana. Pompeii reappeared as more than mere legend. The horror of seeing her citizens frozen in time, struggling against their demise has shocked and amazed the world ever since.


Years have passed and some are lucky enough to walk within Pompeii’s walls to uncover her history. The surrounding region which holds her firmly in its embrace is still volatile. Vesuvius slumbers, looking peaceful, yet anyone who has walked Pompeii’s streets understands the devastation that will rain down should it awaken again.


This past year has been quiet but several months ago Pompeii experienced a moderate quake. Afterward, I and my fellow archeologists were surprised to find the only damage centered at a remote section in the city’s northwestern region. We discovered a new chasm and entered a large, heretofore unknown subterranean chamber. Detailed exploration suggested we were in a storeroom belonging to an affluent city councilman. This hypothesis was supported when we later discovered remains of a young woman and the written account of her life.


There is some eeriness in the finding of this chamber. The superstitious among us wonder if the woman’s spirit remained trapped until finally breaking free causing the quake to pinpoint this spot.


However it happened… This is her story… Will you listen?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[CLOSED]

Thanks so much to Ms. Ratcliff for this fantastic interview! I’m definitely looking forward to her next Pompeii-centered novel!

So many readers have expressed an interest in The Curse of Nefertiti that I would like to host a giveaway of it in honor of reaching 111 followers! Thank you all so much for your support and comments!

Here are the giveaway details: **UPDATE: Ms. Ratcliff has generously offered to provide a personalized copy to the winner!**

I will be giving away a copy of The Curse of Nefertiti to one lucky reader!

The only requirement is that you must be a follower (via Google Friend Connect on the left-hand sidebar) to enter! You can also get extra entries for tweeting, posting in your sidebar, or blogging about this contest, as well as becoming a fan on Facebook, following via NetworkedBlogs, and following on Twitter.

The winner will be picked using random.org. Winners must have a mailing address in the United States (I’m sorry about that – for later contests, I’ll try to have them open internationally.) I will email the winner immediately upon selection and they must respond with their mailing address within 7 days or a new winner will be selected (via random.org). I will mail the book within 48 hours of receiving the winner’s address.

To enter, please fill out THIS FORM! Good luck! (Comments do not count as entries, but they are greatly appreciated :-))

Contest ends May 16th at midnight EST.


*This is an adult novel. Please do not enter if you are under 18 years old without your parents' permission. The Bookish Type is not responsible for the age of the winner.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Book Blogger Hop: April 23-29, 2010



Welcome and thanks for visiting! As you can see, I've really gotten into the memes this week! I thought it would be good to keep the blog active between reviews.

The Book Blogger Hop is a great meme hosted by Crazy-for-Books! The idea is to network and find amazing new blogs to read. You can hop over there to see the rules and join in the fun! Since it's my first week, I've only discovered one new blog so far:

Emily's Reading Room

Next week I promise I'll have a bigger list! In the meantime, you can hop around using the Mr. Linky below (I think it should update in real-time as new links are added). (UPDATE I'm going to put it after the jump so that it doesn't stretch out the home page and slow the load time - so click "Read More" to see all the links!)

Happy Hopping!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

2010 Reading Challenges

I absolutely adore "Gilmore Girls" - I've seen the entire series all the way through more times than I can count. Rory Gilmore is literally my TV alter-ego for many reasons, but mostly because she loves to read as much as I do! I've been looking for a comprehensive list of the books mentioned on the show for a long time, so I was ridiculously excited when I heard about the Gilmore Girls Reading Challenge. Of course I had to join!



There are three levels of participation:
Emily: Read 5 books from at least two different categories.
Lorelai: Read 10 books from at least three different categories.
Rory: Read 20 books from at least four different categories.

The challenge runs from January 1, 2010 - December 31, 2010. I'm a little late, but that's not going to stop me from trying for Rory Level!

Here are the books I'm going to read (sadly I must omit the ones I've already read):

Classics:

1. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
2. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
3. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
4. Candide by Voltaire
5. Roman Holiday by Edith Wharton
6. Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence
7. Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Children's/Young Adult:


8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Modern Classics:

9. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
10. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
11. Daisy Miller by Henry James
12. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
13. 1984 by George Orwell
14. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
15. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
16. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
17. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Non-Fiction:

18. The Miracle Worker by William Gibson
19. On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Other:

20. Atonement by Ian McEwan

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I'm also obsessed with Jane Austen - I've read all her books, but I will be re-reading them (and reviewing them, of course!) for a class this summer. I've never read any of the spin-offs though, but there are several I want to check out. Thus, the Jane Austen Challenge is a perfect fit!



This one also runs from January 1, 2010 - December 31, 2010.

Levels:
Newbie 2 books by J. Austen, 2 re-writes, prequels, sequels, or spoofs (by other authors)
Lover 4 books by J. Austen, 4 re-writes, prequels, sequels, or spoofs (by other authors)
Fanatic 6+ books by J. Austen, 5+ re-writes, prequels, sequels, or spoofs (by other authors)

I'll be going for the Lover level on this one.

1. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
3. Emma by Jane Austen
4. Persuasion by Jane Austen
5. Mr. Darcy's Diary by Amanda Grange (rewrite) 
6. The Darcy Cousins by Monica Fairview (I guess you'd call it a rewrite, which I just won from Austenesque Reviews!)
7. Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange (sequel)
8. The Intrigue at Highbury, or Emma's Match by Carrie Bebris (sequel)


If you're a fan of Gilmore Girls or Jane Austen (and why wouldn't you be?!) it's not too late to sign up! Here are the links again:
Gilmore Girls Reading Challenge
Jane Austen Challenge

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Teaser Tuesday - Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte


Welcome to my very first Teaser Tuesday!

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser is from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (I've read it before, but I'm re-reading it. It's THAT good. Well, and I have to write a paper on it ;-))



"While I paced softly on, the last sound I expected to hear in so still a region, a laugh, struck my ears. It was a curious laugh - distinct, formal, mirthless." (Chapter 11)

My review will be posted sometime this weekend!

You're welcome to link to your teaser in the comments, or post it there if you don't have a blog!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

In Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld, Lee Fiora is just a typical teenage girl growing up in a middle class family from the American Midwest until she decides, for reasons neither she nor her parents may ever fully understand, to apply to several elite boarding schools in New England. To her own and her parents' surprise, she is actually accepted and wins a scholarship to one of the best: Ault School. So what choice does she have but to pack up, leaving behind everything she's ever known, and head east? Unfortunately, when she gets there, it's not quite what she expected from the glossy pictures in the brochures. Lee is used to being the brightest in her class, but at Ault, among the best and the brightest in the nation, she finds herself struggling to keep up. Academics are the least of her worries, however. Most of the students at Ault come from wealthy families, and Lee fears that her status as a scholarship student is glaringly obvious - branding her as an outsider. Because of this fear, Lee spends the majority of her time trying to blend into the woodwork, not making friends or speaking in class unless called on. Thanks to these efforts, Lee finds herself completely alone at the mall one holiday weekend and decides she might as well get her ears pierced; unfortunately, the shock of the process overwhelms her and she faints for the first time in her life. Of course, the most popular and gorgeous guy at school, Cross Sugarman, then comes to her rescue and saves the day. The two strike up an unlikely friendship for the day, and on the way home it seems like Cross may be interested in more than just friendship. Thus begins the crush that consumes Lee for her entire time at Ault. To her chagrin, Cross seems to have forgotten about this day - and Lee - for nearly a year, never speaking to her or even acknowledging her existence. This only serves to send Lee's tenuous self-esteem into a nosedive. Even when she finally manages to make one good friend, she continues to hide her constant unhappiness and feelings of ostracism from her family and everyone else around her. But Lee and Cross's story isn't over; he unexpectedly makes a reappearance in her life and, from that point on, nothing is ever the same.

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld comes across as a college scenario in a high school mindset - a combination that doesn't really work. Lee's lack of self-esteem and surplus of angst is a stereotypical caricature of a teenager that, while it may be true of a handful, is by no means the norm. Her lack of self-respect and the unfortunate events she allows to transpire are horribly frustrating. While she does have her relatable moments, for the most part I found myself wanting to shake her by the shoulders till she came to her senses. It was hard to sympathize with a character who lets herself be walked upon by virtually everyone. The microcosmic universe of Ault School is almost as major a character in the story as Lee herself, and it is not any more appealing than the young heroine. The school is full of snobbery and superficiality; both the students and teachers would be right at home on a show like "Gossip Girl" (not praise in my world). Undertones of racism, sexism and classism run rampant throughout the pages of this novel. It seems that Sittenfeld is attempting some kind of social commentary, but she falls short of the mark. Perhaps if Lee had perceived the unworthy views espoused by her classmates, but personally abhorred them, it might have worked. But Lee accepts sexism and racism as though they are unavoidable facts of life, which essentially ends any sympathy one might have felt for her. Granted, there are moments when the veil is lifted and readers get a brief glimpse of the intended social commentary, but these fleeting moments are not frequent enough to counteract the rest of the novel. Despite all this, however, it was hard to put the book down - I wanted to know how the story played out. I think I was hoping that Lee would have some sort of redeeming revelation and the narrative arc would change course, leading in a more desirable direction. Alas, this never happened, and I walked away from this novel dissatisfied and even a little disgusted.

Note: This novel is not for very young readers. It's definitely Young Adult - I would say for readers 16 and older.

Rating:
Premise: 2/5
Plot: 2/5
Characters: 2.5/5
Writing: 4/5
Setting: 2.5/5
Overall: 2.6/5

This novel can be purchased here.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Review: The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Lily Bart was always destined for great things in The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. Born to affluence in New York City at the turn of the 20th century, Lily possessed the kind of beauty and grace that caused passersby to stop dead in their tracks. From the beginning, her mother pinned all her hopes on Lily's unearthly beauty and taught her to disdain dinginess and adore glamor and frivolity. Lily learned her lesson well, and as a result became one of the most powerful players on the game board of courtship. However, the fact that she repeatedly lets prized catches slip through her grasp calls into question whether her heart's really in it, or if it already belongs to someone else.

Unfortunately, Lily's world is pulled out from under her in the wake of her father's ruin, an event that ultimately leads to the death of both him and his wife, Lily's mother. In this pitiable state, Lily is taken in by her aunt and continues to live in the limelight on the coattails of her independent friends, because it's the only life she's ever known. However,under her new circumstances, the stakes are much greater in her search for a rich and malleable husband. Lily manages to get several prime candidates within her grasp, but each time her carefully planned strategy is derailed by the sudden appearance of Lawrence Selden, an old friend who is on the fringes of high society by virtue of his lack of wealth but surfeit of intelligence. This human-form Achilles' heel of Lily's repeatedly diverts her path, and forces her to contrive new methods of financial support - some of which are of a shady nature and have the potential to lead to her ultimate downfall.

In The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton paints a vivid portrait of the Gilded Age of New York, full of elaborate metaphors and quirky characters. The novel is full of clear social commentary, carefully constructed around an eclectic cast of characters. Most of the characters in this novel are rounded and fully shaded, making each one distinctly memorable, despite the homogeneous milieu within which they're placed. True to life, there are no archetypal villains or heroes, everyone has a mix of dark and light residing within their soul and the suspense of the plot is which side will ultimately take control. Lily is by no means an entirely virtuous heroine, and readers are likely to love her all the more for it. Her complex character, highlighted by her constant internal struggle between her conflicting desires, is fascinating to follow regardless of whether one is shaking their head in exasperation or cheering her on when it seems as though she might manage to make the right choice for once. Selden is equally as enchanting as Lily, even down to the frustratingly realistic vacillations of mind. Their twisted love story will capture readers' hearts and their final fate will leave readers' heads spinning. Wharton unfolds her plot with pure ingenuity, and though probably surprising, the novel's conclusion is poignant brilliance.

Rating: 

Click here to purchase The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Rector's Daughter by F.M. Mayor

Mary Jocelyn's life is not what one would call exciting by any standard. In The Rector's Daughter by F.M. Mayor, Mary lives a quiet country life caring for her disabled sister and aging father, the county rector. Canon Jocelyn was a handsome man in his day, not to mention brilliant, and still retains vestiges of his younger appearance and every shred of his mental faculties. Mary, on the other hand, has always been plain. As a middle-aged spinster, this is more true than ever. She did inherit her father's intelligence, but could not sharpen her wits to the same degree because of the lack of an established women's education system. Still, her smarts are enough to set her up as a oddity to the villagers surrounding her. Her father is by no means an affectionate man and her mother died when she was very young - as a result, Mary's always been alone. However, she's never really minded solitude. She passes her days in a kind of empty contentment, and she's perfectly fine with it. All of that changes, though, when the new parson moves to town. Robert Herbert was an attractive man in his day, but has devolved into plainness with age. To make up for this, nature has blessed him with a heavy helping of brains, and he's just the man to befriend the finicky Canon Jocelyn. Along the way, he gets to know the reserved Mary, and sees something in her that no one has ever noticed before - a certain spark of fiery passion that burns deep within her eyes. Unfortunately, just as the two begin to fall into a love worthy of the ages, fate and human stupidity intervene, sending their love story down an unexpected path filled with roller coaster vignettes of greatest ecstasy and lowest despair.

The writing style of this novel is clearly a throwback to the greats of the female literary tradition - Jane Austen and the Brontës. The story even alludes to their great heroes, such as Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre. However, in plot, this story is really nothing like those that came before it, with the possible exception of Wuthering Heights. Readers will definitely pity and sympathize with Mary, but the extent to which she allows herself to be walked on is sometimes frustrating, and Mr. Herbert is by no definition a second coming of Mr. Darcy. He is an inconstant man, unworthy of the kind and gentle heroine. For readers desiring the classic love story, this is not the place to look. However, this novel has much to offer in other areas. Mary's relationship with her father, the inscrutable Canon Jocelyn, is fascinatingly complex. The highs and lows of their life together is sometimes wonderful and sometimes beautifully painful to watch. Mary's solo adventures are also masterfully developed, evoking both the uncertainty of coming into one's own and the change in the world order that was taking place at the time - a movement from old world morality to modern liberty, two worlds which Mary finds herself trying to navigate simultaneously. Even her strange relationship with Mr. Herbert lends to this effect. The passion he stirs within her previously dormant breast changes her and her life forever, in some ways for the better, in some ways for the worse. This novel is a study in human nature and will often take readers by surprise with its unexpected twists and turns. It sometimes feels as though the reader is being held at arm's length, but this style works well towards rousing the same murky feelings in the reader that reside within Mary's own heart.

Rating:
Premise: 4/5
Plot: 4.5/5
Characters: 4/5
Writing: 5/5
Setting: 3/5
Cover: 3.5/5
Title: 3.5/5

This novel can be purchased here.

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