Saturday, December 31, 2016

"A Wreath of Snow" by Liz Curtis Higgs

Jamie at Books and Beverages recommended this to me earlier this month, and I'm so happy she did!  Thanks, Jamie!  This was a much meatier story than I'd anticipated, with characters facing up to past sins and misdeeds, reaching out to right wrongs, and learning that the truth can set you free.  It's also got a bit of romance, but really just the beginning of one, which is a neat change from what I rather expected -- usually Romantic Christian Historical Fiction takes us all the way to engagement or wedding, but as this takes place over only a few days, that would have felt unrealistic, and I like that Higgs didn't go that route.

Margaret Campbell returns home to Stirling, Scotland, to share Christmas with her family and crippled brother.  Along the way, she meets a handsome stranger, who turns out to be Gordon Shaw, the man who accidentally crippled her brother many years ago.  There's a violent snowstorm, stopped trains, surprise revelations, and lots of great details about life in Victorian Scotland.  I hope to read more by Higgs, as I really liked her style.

If This Was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  G.  Nothing whatsoever objectionable here.

This is my fourth and final book read and reviewed for the Literary Christmas Challenge.  Thanks so much for hosting it, Tarissa!  I hope to participate again next year, if you hold this again :-)

Friday, December 30, 2016

"Where Treetops Glisten" by Tricia Goyer, Cara Putman, and Sarah Sundin

This is a trio of novellas telling intertwined stories.  The three Turner siblings each find love at Christmastime during World War Two, on three successive Christmases.  

In "White Christmas" by Cara Putman, it's 1942 when college student Abigail Turner meets factory worker Jackson Lucas accidentally.  She offers her father's lawyering services to help save the Lucas farm, and as she and Jackson meet up over and over, they become friends, then fall in love.

In "I'll be Home for Christmas" by Sarah Sundin, it's 1943, and Air Force ace Pete Turner is home on furlough in time for Christmas.  He gets reacquainted with widow Grace Kessler when her little daughter Linnie decides he's the answer to her prayer asking God for a new daddy.  

In "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" by Tricia Goyer, it's 1944, and Meredith "Merry" Turner is working as a nurse in a field hospital in the newly liberated Netherlands when she encounters the man she had loved years previously, but had suspected of being a Nazi spy.

All three stories are sweet and fun, and they were the perfect sort of light reading I like during the busy end of December.  Each one had a nice message of trusting God, with characters growing and learning in believable ways.  If you're a fan of Christian fiction, holiday stories, clean romance stories, or simply the WWII setting, you'll probably get a kick out of these.  I read it as an e-book with my Kindle app, but I wouldn't mind owning a paperback copy.

Particularly Good Bits:

"I guarantee no woman has ever fallen in love with me after one kiss.  It takes at least twenty.  I happen to be quite resistible."  (from "I'll be Home for Christmas")

"The thing about love," Nancy said, more serious now, "is that it's slow to fade.  It's not a bad thing.  Love is meant to last."  (from "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas")

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for war-related things like talk about concentration camps, hiding Jewish people to protect them, people being killed, and some surgical and medical situations in the final story especially.  The romances do involve kissing, but nothing more.

This is my third book read and reviewed for the Literary Christmas Challenge hosted by In the Bookcase.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

My Ten Favorite Books of 2016

For the past two years, I've one a list of my ten favorite reads for the year -- you can read 2014's list here, and 2015's list here.  This time, I'm linking up with Top Ten Tuesday at The Broke and the Bookish, since their topic today is Top Ten Best Books of 2016.

I read and reviewed 48 books this year (plus a handful I read but never reviewed, and a couple I'm reading right now but haven't finished yet), which seems to be about my usual number.  Like before, I'm breaking these down into new-to-me books and re-reads.

New To Me

A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay -- I read all four of Reay's books this year, and this one I loved so much I had to buy my own copy as soon as I'd finished it.  It's a heartfelt look at the meaning of family, love, and belonging.

Greenwillow by B. J. Chute -- Cute and charming and funny and sweet.

I, Claudia by Charity Bishop -- A brilliantly imagined look at what life as Pontius Pilate's wife might have been like.

Lady Cop Makes Trouble by Amy Stewart -- Second in a series based on the real experiences of one of the first woman police officers in the United States.  Much funnier and more rambunctious than it sounds.

Letters from Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien -- A beautiful labor of love from a highly creative father for his four children.

And Now Tomorrow by Rachel Field -- A moving, rich exploration of a woman's search for meaning and identity.


Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë -- Simply my favorite book of all time, that's all.

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton -- I consider this the ultimate coming-of-age story.

Shane by Jack Schaefer -- A beautiful picture of how one person can impact the lives of others.

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery -- Another example of how a person can impact others.

How about you?  What were the best books you read this year?

Thursday, December 22, 2016

2017 Reading Plans

You know I usually have some kind of reading goal for the year.  For 2016, it was My Year with Anne, where I wanted to read all the Anne of Green Gables books.  Went pretty fabulously.  In 2015, it was My Year with Robin Hood.  Kinda crashed and burned.  It happens.  

I've been tossing around a few ideas for 2017, and nothing really felt right until I found that one of my newer blogging acquaintances, Risa, is planning a very relaxed re-read of The Lord of the Rings.  I haven't reread that since I led my very first read-along, which was three years ago.  Gack!  I need to read it again!  So I'm doing that with her.  Calling it My Year in Middle Earth, as I hope to read a couple other things set there as well, like those short stories I've never read yet (such as "Farmer Giles of Ham").  Never know, I might even try some of the History of Middle Earth books or reread The Hobbit as well.

And also, my TBR shelves are scary right now.  So I'm going to do the Mount TBR Challenge (hosted by My Reader's Block) again in 2017.  I did it back in 2014 and really liked how it helped me get through some of the books I already owned, so I'm signing up again!  I'm aiming for Pike's Peak, which means reading 12 books already on my TBR shelves before January 1, 2017.  Not making a list for this, just reading as the book vibes move me, as usual.  Who knows -- I might get ambitious and aim for Mount Blanc and 24 books instead!  We shall see.

I think that's enough reading challenges and plans for me for 2017.  Besides my Classics Club list, of course.  Do you have any goals in mind already?  Or are you not a fan of challenges and so on?

This might be my last post before Christmas, so just in case it is... Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

"Letters from Father Christmas" by J. R. R. Tolkien

Awwwwwwww.  This is a beautiful labor of love from a father for his children.  In fact, what I loved most about this book was imagining Tolkien working on these amazing letters and pictures in secret, laboring on these for hours, sometimes probably days.  

The letters start out fairly simply, just a nice message to Tolkien's three-year-old son, John, who had asked Tolkien about Father Christmas and where he lived.  The letter came with a full-color drawing of Father Christmas himself, and of his home near the North Pole.  It seems John was delighted, because for more than twenty years, Tolkien continued the tradition, until his youngest child was in her teens.  In a way, he became Father Christmas himself, don't you think?

At first the letters are fairly simple, but as the children got older, Tolkien created a whole mythology around Father Christmas and his helpers -- can't you imagine him doing that?  The creator of Middle Earth would not be content with just one old guy in a red suit and some elves.  He gives Father Christmas a helper named North Polar Bear, then an elf secretary named Ilbereth, a gardener named the Snow Man, nephews for North Polar Bear, and so on.  He introduces goblins that keep messing up Father Christmas' storehouses of toys and books and fireworks, and there are whole battles between them.  North Polar Bear gets into lots of mischief, and also likes to add little notes to the letters in the margins.

Overall, this is the most delightful book imaginable, and I will treasure my copy always.  Here are a few of the illustrations (which I totally found on the internet and didn't scan in myself because I didn't want to break the binding on my book to lay it flat):

The first letter, 1920

North Polar Bear causing problems, 1928

Goblin attack!  1933

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  G.  Good for everyone of all ages.

This is my second book read and reviewed for the Literary Christmas Reading Challenge hosted at In the Bookcase, and my fifty-fifth for the Classics Club.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Santa, Please Pause Here!

This week's Top Ten Tuesday subject from The Broke and the Bookish is "Ten Book-Related Items I'd Like Santa to Bring Me".  Here we go!

This t-shirt that mashes Hamlet and Holmes together
from Etsy shop SillyTees

A Fantastic Beasts bookmark
from Etsy shop Bookmarky

A print of this gorgeous painting of Boromir
from Etsy shop MattStewart

This Harry Potter quotation on a tote bag
from Etsy shop OnePunkyMama

My favorite Jane Eyre quotation on a shirt
from Etsy shop Boredwalk

Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy cookie cutters
from Etsy shop Printmeneer

Four mugs with hand-painted LOTR quotations
from Etsy shop TheRingandtheLion

This Hamlet scarf with the "To be or not to be" soliloquy on it
from Etsy shop LiteratiClub

An Austenite tote bag (love the yellow!)
from Redbubble artist BookishWonder

This Robin Hood mug
from Redbubble artist Mandie Monzano
(Hush, now!  Robin Hood is in books too.)

There you have it, ten book-related things in not particular order at all that I would love to get for Christmas.  Or my birthday.  Or for no reason at all.  

Monday, December 19, 2016

"True Grit" by Charles Portis

The only good thing about having a bad cold is it gives me an excuse to just sit down and read.  I've polished off five books in five days, which is really making me feel so much more sane about my reading load heading into Christmas :-)

I've read this once before, back around the time the new movie version came out, so like five years ago.  I love so many things about it -- the flavor, Mattie herself, the way it's basically a classic myth set in the Old West.  Mattie Ross is such a determined, intelligent, and yet believable fourteen-year-old, and I love her.  She sets out to capture her father's murderer, enlisting the meanest Federal Marshal she can find, Rooster Cogburn.  She doesn't want Texas Ranger LaBeouf to come along, but can't prevent him, and by the end of the adventure, she's glad he was there.  There's a lot of danger and excitement here, and just a little tragedy.

When I think of this book, though, what I usually think of first is the unique flavor, especially of the narration.  Portis gives Mattie a very blunt, yet old-fashioned voice that somehow manages not to be stilted even though it is rather formal at times.  The other characters speak similarly as well.  There aren't a lot of contractions.  And it amuses me to no end.  I laugh a lot during this book, both over the delightful style and the odd things that happen.  There are a few examples below.

Particularly Good Bits:

If Papa had a failing it was his kindly disposition.  People would use him.  I did not get my mean streak from him (p. 13).

At the city police station we found two officers but they were having a fist fight and were not available for inquiries (p. 21).

Mattie... you are a pearl of great price to me, but there are times when you are an almighty trial to those who love you (p. 87).

"I was born game, sis, and hope to die in that condition" (p. 94).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for some bad language, scary situations, violence, and gore.

Although this book is only 48 years old right now, I am counting it for my Classics Club challenge anyway because it is otherwise very classic, and I am sure people will be valuing it for generations to come.  So this is my 54th book read and reviewed for the Classics Club.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

"A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens

It's been quite some time since I actually read A Christmas Carol.  Maybe as much as twenty years -- I'm not sure I've read it since high school.  I was curious to see how close my memories of it, and knowledge of it from movie adaptations, were to the original.  It turns out, they were remarkably close!  And this is entirely due to the excellent 1999 made-for-TV adaptation that stars Patrick Stewart.  Stewart had previously read and performed the story as a one-man show on Broadway, and his comfort with inhabiting the role of Scrooge testifies to his close knowledge of the text, I think.  The 1999 version is very faithful to the book, down to much of the dialog, so rereading this story felt very familiar indeed.

I think what I like best about this story is how believable Scrooge is.  Yes, there's a lot of fantasy in all the ghost stuff, but Scrooge himself -- so realistic.  I can easily understand a person turning from lonely to selfish to greedy to isolated.  I think most of us can see a little of ourselves in Scrooge, and a little of Scrooge in us.  And we fear becoming like Scrooge, so we root for him to learn and change and grow.  Because if he can be redeemed, so can we, if need be.

Of course, Charles Dickens entirely neglects to include any mention of where eternal redemption comes from.  Scrooge's ideas and emotions have thawed, but being nice on Christmas (and throughout the year) will not earn him a place in heaven.  And Dickens doesn't imply that it will, does he?  He wants Scrooge -- and through him, the audience -- to focus on the earthly sufferings around us, to do whatever is in our power to help our fellow humans.  But while heartwarming and inspirational, A Christmas Carol is ultimately just a nice story.  Do I like it?  Yes.  Does it reflect the true meaning of Christmas?  No.  It's a Christmas carol, not a Christmas hymn, after all.

Particularly Good Bits:  It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good-humour (p. 77-78).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  G.  Utterly clean, and the ghosts really aren't that scary when you're reading the book and not seeing them on screen.

This is my 53rd book read and reviewed for the Classics Club.  And it's my first book for the Literary Christmas reading challenge.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Women's Classic Literature Event: Final Group Check-In

Here's the question for the last group check-in for this event:

If you could meet any of the authors you read for this event, which one would you meet, and why? What would you ask her?

I would love to meet Elinore Pruitt Stewart -- she's so intrepid and good-humored, and I think she would be such fun to hang out with.  I would ask her to tell me anything at all she felt like sharing, as I'm sure it would be wonderfully interesting.  And then I'd ask her if we could correspond, because I love her letters so much, I want to read more of them!

(Elinore Pruitt Stewart)

I enjoyed this article from about Stewart, which filled in a few details about her life I didn't learn from her books.

This is my last post for this event, though I'll leave my page for it up for a bit yet.  I read twenty books for it!  Pretty pleased about that.  It's been interesting to make reading choices based on the author's gender, which is not something I tend to do ordinarily.  

Thursday, December 15, 2016

"Ethan Frome" by Edith Wharton

I have a head cold.  Not a terrible one, but still, enough to make me want to sit and rest a lot these last couple of days.  Cowboy had today off from work, and he built us a lovely fire this afternoon.  I made everyone hot chocolate (mine in one of my favorite mugs from The Ring and the Lion -- it says "Forth now, and fear no darkness" in Elvish) and settled down with a book I've been meaning to read for over a year:  Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton.  

Way back when I started the Women's Classic Literature Event last December, I said that Edith Wharton was the author I was most excited to read for the event.  Well, I've finally managed to read a book by her, my very last for the event.  

I did not love this book.  It's not a book one loves, I think.  It's a book one reads and ponders and learns from, a hard look at hard people living a hard life.  And yet, not a bitter book, somehow.  Tragic, sad, and poignant, but not bitter, which is astonishing to me.

Ethan Frome ekes out a bare living for himself and his ailing wife from their Massachusetts farm and mill.  He married his wife Zenobia out of duty and gratitude for the way she nursed his mother before she died.  Zenobia then turned into an invalid herself, the kind that delights in her many ailments and the importance it gives her.  The sort of character I want to slap.  Ethan trudges on through life until his wife's poor relation, Mattie, comes to stay and help.  Ethan comes to care for Mattie, and she for him, but they both come to realize they can never be together.  They make a desperate bid for freedom, tragedy strikes, and their lives are ruined forever.  All this told with a kind of emotionless detachment that never judges them or their behavior, but simply presents it as a story to experience and perhaps learn from.

While I didn't enjoy this book so much as find it interesting, I do want to read more of Wharton's novels!  I could probably say more intelligent things about it if I wasn't doped up on Advil Cold & Sinus, but I want to write about this while it's fresh in my head, so I'll just leave it at that.

Particularly Good Bits:

He seemed a part of the mute melancholy landscape, an incarnation of its frozen woe, with all that was warm and sentient in him fast bound below the surface; but there was nothing unfriendly in his silence (p. 14).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  G.  There's no cussing, no violence, no adult situations.  A bit of kissing between unmarried people, but nothing lurid.

This has been my twentieth book read and reviewed for the Women's Classic Literature Event, and my fifty-second for the Classics Club.

Friday, December 9, 2016

"Once" by Elisabeth Grace Foley, Rachel Heffington, J. Grace Pennington, Emily Ann Putzke, Suzannah Rowntree, and Hayden Wand

The idea behind Once is pretty genius:  six authors who enjoy writing historical fiction and fantasy band together to self-publish a collection of fairy tale retellings in various historical (and imaginary) settings.  And if you like fairy tale retellings, or are already a fan of any of these authors, you're most likely going to enjoy this collection.

I've already read something by several of these authors, whether it's been a story in one of the Rooglewood Press collections, Five Glass Slippers and Five Enchanted Roses or something they've self-published elsewhere.  And as a whole, Once reminded me a lot of those collections -- fun and imaginative and not trying to be Serious Literature, but just here to entertain.

I was especially interested in reading "The Mountain of the Wolf" because I've really liked the other westerns I've read by Elisabeth Grace Foley, especially her western Cinderella, "Corral Nocturne."  In this retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood tale, a handsome stranger meets a lonely woman living on the edge of the wilderness.  Little by little, he learns the reason for her seclusion:  she wants to find and kill the man who murdered her brother.  By the time I finished reading "The Mountain of the Wolf," I was sure it would be my favorite story in the collection.

And then I read "She But Sleepeth" by Rachel Heffington, and was like, "Oh, nope, THIS is going to be my favorite."  You'd think I'd be a little tired of the Sleeping Beauty story after writing my own retelling, "The Man on the Buckskin Horse" and then reading and re-reading the other four stories from Five Magic Spindles too, but "She But Sleepeth" was a very, very different take from any of those.  In it, a movie set designer and her handsome intern traveled to Romania to research a castle for an upcoming movie.  There, they unexpectedly time-travel back a hundred years and learn that the intern is actually a princess, lost to her parents through the machinations of an angry Gypsy.  I really like fish-out-of-water stories, and the two people from today trying to navigate life a hundred years in the past tickled my fancy.

But then I read "Rumpled" by J. Grace Pennington, a steampunk retelling of the Rumplestiltskin story.  It so happens that Rumplestiltskin has always fascinated me in a repellent sort of way -- when I was a kid, it was one I read over and over.  This is the most straight-forward retelling, in that there's still a poor girl, a king who wants what she supposedly can create, and an ugly little man who helps her in exchange for the promise of her firstborn child.  The addition of all kinds of technology to the story gave it a fresh vibe, but it was the characters that made me decide this was my favorite story -- I found both girl and king very realistic and sweet.

However, when I read "Sweet Remembrance," Emily Ann Putzke's retelling of Hans Christian Anderson's "The Little Match Girl," and I knew it was actually my favorite.  Set in a Jewish ghetto during WWII, the story of two young people who found and then gradually lost each other, their world, and then their whole lives made me cry more than once.  It was achingly beautiful, and the fact that people like these really did live through horrors like that made it even more poignant.  I love learning about WWII, both from non-fiction and from fiction -- that time period fascinates me endlessly, and this story was obviously well researched, which I appreciated.

I had to put this book down for a day after finishing "Sweet Remembrance" so I could process my feelings about it.  But then I read "Death Be Not Proud" by Suzannah Rowntree, a lively retelling of Snow White set in New Zealand during the Roaring Twenties, and I had to change my mind AGAIN because it was obviously my favorite.  You know I love F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, and I've become increasingly interested in the 1920s of late, so the setting definitely drew me in.  But it was the murder mystery at the heart of the story that made me love it, and the way the Snow White elements were not staggeringly obvious, but instead were woven subtly throughout.  

You're probably expecting this, but when I reached the end of the collection and read Hayden Wand's "With Blossoms Gold," I knew I had finally found my true favorite story of the six.  This is a Rapunzel retelling with some amazing twists.  For one, the girl hasn't been imprisoned in a tower, she's staying there for her own safety.   And for another, it tackles head-on what it's like to live with panic attacks.  I have friends who suffer from panic attacks, anxiety, and depression in one form or another, and I absolutely loved the way Hayden Wand compassionately described how debilitating these can be, what a real problem they are, how they are not just imaginary things people could "get over" if they tried hard enough.  Also, both of the main characters had wonderful character arcs and truly grew as people over the course of the story, facing fears, sacrificing things for each other, and ultimately learning to understand both each other and themselves so beautifully.  

I don't know if there are plans to release this collection in paperback format at some point, but I hope that does happen, because I want Once on my real bookshelf, not just my Kindle carousel.  

Just so you know, I did receive an ARC of this book in exchange for me promising to review it honestly. 

If This Was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for violence, some suspenseful moments, mildly scary scenes, and a couple instances of mild bad language.  There's also some kissing, alcohol use, and discussion of people being married in name only.  Fine for teens, but I'm not going to let my 9-year-old read it until he's older.

Monday, December 5, 2016

"Becoming Holmes" by Shane Peacock

I'm a bit irked with this book, I'm afraid.  I started reading this series three years ago because the title of this, the final book, sounded so enticing.  I worked my way through them slowly, because there were only six books in the series, and I didn't want them to get to this one too quickly.  I liked the series better and better as it progressed, and so I'm afraid I set myself up for a bit of a let-down, as I did have pretty high expectations for Becoming Holmes.  

It's not that this is a bad book.  I felt like it meandered a bit in the middle before figuring out where it was going, but that didn't bug me much.  I did greatly dislike one thing, though, a thing I found terribly out of character, and I'm going to say it here and it's going to be spoily, so if you are thinking of reading this book or series and don't want spoilage, just skip to the next paragraph and you'll be fine.  The thing I disliked was that Sherlock Holmes deliberately killed a villain, then lied about it, pinned it on another villain, and was not particularly bothered by this behavior.  And while the canon Holmes does sometimes take the law into his own hands, it is never in this lying, conniving way.  This felt beneath him.  Understandable for the character Peacock has written, but, in the end, not for someone who is becoming Sherlock Holmes.

Up until the final chapter, when the above was revealed, I was not enchanted with this book, but I wasn't irked with it the way I am now.  Now I'm pursing my lips and glaring at it out of the corners of my narrowed eyes, and that's just not how I wanted to feel about this book.

Still, the series as a whole has been entertaining and inventive.  I'm glad I've read them, but I don't think I'll ever feel the urge to reread them.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for disturbing images, violence, death, and some creepiness.  

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Literary Christmas 2016

In the Bookcase is hosting A Literary Christmas reading challenge, and since I have a couple of Christmasy books I'm hoping to read in December, I thought it would be fun to join.  I'm planning/hoping to read Letters from Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien and A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, but we'll see if anything else turns up.  If you're interested in joining the challenge too, click the link above!  Oh, and there's a giveaway, too...

Saturday, November 26, 2016

"A Portrait of Emily Price" by Katherine Reay

While I've enjoyed Reay's first three books a great deal, especially Dear Mr. Knightley, this book... I loved.

In fact, I loved it so much, I'm having trouble coming up with words to review it.  Maybe it's just that this hit more sweet spots for me -- it has a mixed-culture family, characters proving themselves, and a very helpful heroine.  Her helping doesn't always truly help, but she tries.  And tries.

Emily Price restores damaged art.  Not fine art, usually, not museum artwork, but stuff people have in their house that gets damaged by fires or floods and so on.  While in Atlanta on an assignment, she meets Ben, an Italian chef visiting family there as well.  He spends two weeks wooing her, they get married, they go back to Italy to live with his family, and that's where it gets really good.  The bulk of the book is Emily trying to figure out how to fit in with Ben's family, how to help his various family members with their problems (whether they want her help or not), and most of all, coming to terms with who she is.

I feel like Reay's first four books were well-written, but they lacked an emotional something.  Vulnerability?  Depth?  Punch?  I don't know -- like I said, having trouble with words.  But whatever it is, this book has it and then some.  I didn't get tears in my eyes while reading this book, I had to put the book down several times because I was crying too much to read.  It has taken me basically a week to process the book after finishing it before I could write even this review, and this is not as coherent as I would like.  This book touched me -- not just because I did identify with Emily's need to help, but because Ben's whole family was so, well, real.  I am buying my own copy of this book, it's that special to me.

(Also, I love her analysis of The Taming of the Shrew, which plays a part in this, because it's pretty close to my own.  See page 222 -- I'm not typing the whole thing out, sorry.)

Particularly Good Bits:

If I let myself go, forgot the boundaries, forgot the rules I myself fashioned and imposed, what could happen? (p. 91).

Planning a surprise for no reason other than to bring another person delight was, in fact, romantic (p. 110).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for discussions of unwed pregnancy.

Monday, November 21, 2016

"The Blythes are Quoted" by L. M. Montgomery

Until earlier this year, I didn't know The Blythes are Quoted existed.  I had heard of The Road to Yesterday, which a lot of people who loved the Anne books didn't like, so I never bothered to read it.  But I didn't know until recently that The Road to Yesterday is actually an abridged, altered form of Montgomery's final book, The Blythes are Quoted.

I say "book" and not "novel" because this is not a novel.  It's a collection of short stories and poems framed as things that happened around Ingleside to people who know the Blythes, and as poems written by Anne and Walter that Anne reads aloud in the evenings.  The Blythes don't appear in the stories, but they comment on the poetry, either in words or thoughts.

The stories are an interesting mix -- many of them had been previous published, but Montgomery reworked them to include mentions of the Blythes.  My favorite was "A Dream Comes True," and it was possibly the most straight-forwardly happy story in the lot.  Most of the stories have happy endings of one sort or another, but many of them also delve into the ideas of disillusionment, despair, regret, spite, and the constant misunderstandings between generations.  

But I liked the stories better than the poetry, overall.  Some of the poems, I skimmed.  Some, I read more than once.  My favorite was probably "Come, Let Us Go."  But again, the tone of the poetry overall was one of regret and loss, a wishful look back at a happier time.

This is not a cheerful book.  It's an interesting book to study -- I enjoyed thinking about what Montgomery must have been trying to say with the collection, and I'm glad I read the book.  But overall it has a feel of disenchantment that did not appeal to me.  

If This Was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for discussions of marital infidelity (NOT Anne or Gilbert, stop freaking out!), illegitimate children, and war.

This is my last book read and reviewed for the Anne of Green Gables Reading Challenge, and closes out My Year With Anne.  I'm so glad I re-read this series and discovered the ninth book.  My thanks to Elyssa for hosting the challenge!  It's been fun sharing thoughts on the books with others.

This is my fifty-first book read and reviewed for the Classics Club, and my nineteenth for the Women's Classic Literature Event.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

And the Winners are...

Hooray!  Hooray!  Today's the day!  The Rafflecopter widget has spoken, and we have winners for the Jane Eyre giveaway.  Here they be:

Tiny Brontë book -- Elaina
Pencil bag -- Eva
Bookmark 1 -- Natalie
Bookmark 2 -- Sue
Bookmark 3 -- The Elf
Bookmark 4 -- John Smith
Bookmark 5 -- Emily Ann
Bookmark 6 -- Lexi
Bookmark 7 -- MovieCritic
Bookmark 8 -- Birdie

There we have it :-)  Winners, I will be emailing you today to ask for your mailing addresses so I can send you your prizes!  Remember, if you don't reply to my email by next Sunday, November 27, you will be disqualified and I will choose someone else to get that prize.  

Friday, November 18, 2016

In Which I Complete My Classics Club Quest, and Begin Another

I joined the Classics Club in January of 2014, having seen so many bloggers enjoy participating in it and deciding I should just go ahead and try it.  Slightly less than three years later, I have completed my fiftieth book, which most fittingly was my favorite book of all time, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë.  

Because I feel like celebrating, I'm sharing my completed list here :-)

  1. Anne of Avonlea* by Lucy Maud Montgomery (Finished 2-26-16)
  2. Anne of Green Gables* by Lucy Maud Montgomery (Finished 1-23-16)
  3. Anne of Ingleside* by Lucy Maud Montgomery (Finished 7-2-16)
  4. Anne of the Island* by Lucy Maud Montgomery (Finished 3-17-16)
  5. Anne of Windy Poplars* by Lucy Maud Montgomery (Finished 4-28-16)
  6. Anne's House of Dreams* by Lucy Maud Montgomery (Finished 6-2-16)
  7. Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace (Finished 10-1-14)
  8. The Black Moth by Georgette Heyer (Finished 4-6-16)
  9. The Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery (Finished 9-10-15)
  10. The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes* by A. Conan Doyle (Finished 2-7-14)
  11. Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster (Finished 11-25-14)
  12. Dear Enemy by Jean Webster (Finished 9-3-15)
  13. Flappers and Philosophers by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Finished 3-6-14)
  14. The Further Adventures of Zorro by Johnston McCulley (Finished 3-2-16)
  15. Greenwillow by B. J. Chute (Finished 7-24-16)
  16. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark* by William Shakespeare (Finished 12-22-15)
  17. The High Window* by Raymond Chandler (Finished 4-20-16)
  18. His Last Bow* by A. Conan Doyle (Finished 1-10-14)
  19. The Hobbit* by J.R.R. Tolkien (Finished 2-10-14) 
  20. The Hound of the Baskervilles* by A. Conan Doyle (Finished 11-18-14)
  21. Jane Eyre* by Charlotte Bronte (Finished 11-12-16)
  22. A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich (Finished 6-13-16)
  23. Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart (Finished 12-06-15)
  24. Letters on an Elk Hunt by Elinore Pruitt Stewart (Finished 11-3-16)
  25. The Light in the Forest* by Conrad Richter (Finished 9-30-16)
  26. The Light of Western Stars by Zane Grey (Finished 2-5-15)
  27. Little Women* by Louisa May Alcott (Finished 6-9-15)
  28. The Lord of the Rings* by J.R.R. Tolkien (Finished 7-1-14)
  29. The Mark of Zorro by Johnston McCulley (Finished 5-27-14)
  30. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle (Finished 8-12-15)
  31. Middlemarch by George Eliot (Finished 7-3-15)
  32. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (Finished 5-18-15)
  33. And Now Tomorrow by Rachel Field (Finished 5-16-16)
  34. Of Mice and Men* by John Steinbeck (Finished 8-21-15)
  35. The Old Man and the Sea* by Ernest Hemingway (Finished 7-21-14)
  36. The Outsiders* by S. E. Hinton (Finished 9-21-16)
  37. Persuasion* by Jane Austen (Finished 2-27-15)
  38. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (Finished 3-9-14)
  39. The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes by Vincent Starrett (Finished 6-26-14)
  40. The Quiet Little Woman by Louisa May Alcott (Finished 12-11-15)
  41. Rainbow Valley* by Lucy Maud Montgomery (Finished 8-19-16)
  42. Rilla of Ingleside* by Lucy Maud Montgomery (Finished 10-1-16)
  43. Shane* by Jack Schaefer (Finished 2-16-15)
  44. The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien (Finished 10-16-15)
  45. Spiderweb for Two* by Elizabeth Enright (Finished 12-15-14)
  46. The Sun Also Rises* by Ernest Hemingway (Finished 4-30-14)
  47. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (Finished 3-30-14)
  48. Tales of the Jazz Age by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Finished 3-23-14)
  49. Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck (Finished 7-15-14)
  50. The Witch of Blackbird Pond* by Elizabeth George Speare (Finished 8-28-16)
And because this really was a good incentive for me to read more of the classics I've always intended to read, I am reenlisting, as it were, and starting over.  So here is what I currently have on my "new" Classics Club list, to read before December of 2021:
  1. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  2. Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte
  3. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  4. The Blythes are Quoted by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  5. By-Line:  Ernest Hemingway
  6. Camille by Alexandre Dumas fils
  7. Chronicles of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  8. Coriolanus by William Shakespeare
  9. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
  10. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  11. Death Comes to the Archbishop by Willa Cather
  12. The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper
  13. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
  14. The Door into Summer by Robert Heinlein
  15. Drums Along the Mohawk by Walter D. Edmonds
  16. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
  17. Evelina by Frances Burney
  18. Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
  19. Further Chronicles of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  20. Good-bye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton
  21. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  22. The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
  23. House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
  24. Howard's End by E.M. Forster
  25. Ivanhoe* by Sir Walter Scott
  26. The Lady of the Lake by Sir Walter Scott
  27. The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
  28. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
  29. Lost Horizon by James Hilton
  30. A Man Called Peter by Catherine Marshall
  31. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell
  32. The Merchant of Venice* by William Shakespeare
  33. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
  34. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  35. Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
  36. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
  37. The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
  38. The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne
  39. The Once and Future King by T. H. White
  40. The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
  41. The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain
  42. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emma Orczy
  43. The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis
  44. Silas Marner* by George Eliot
  45. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carre
  46. Tales of India by Rudyard Kipling
  47. A Tale of Two Cities* by Charles Dickens
  48. The Taming of the Shrew* by William Shakespeare
  49. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
  50. Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  51. Tess of the D'Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy
  52. To Kill a Mockingbird* by Harper Lee
  53. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  54. Twice-Told Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  55. Under the Deodars by Rudyard Kipling
  56. Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy
  57. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
Basically, my original list had grown to 107 books by the time I read my 50th book, so those extra books I hadn't gotten to are my "new" list.

My thanks to the creators and sustainers of the club!  I've met some cool bloggers through it, and it's always fun to go read other people's thoughts on a book after I've finished it, which is so easy thanks to their list of clubbers' reviews.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

"Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte -- Final Thoughts

I can still remember my first encounter with Jane Eyre.  It wasn't with the book, it was with the 1983 BBC miniseries starring Zelah Clarke and Timothy Dalton.  My mom got it from the library when I was probably thirteen or fourteen, and we watched it together.  I fell in love.  With the story, with Jane, with Rochester, the whole shebang.  I didn't read the book until I was a few years older, but when I did, it quickly rose to the ranks of my favorite books.  A couple of years ago, I realized that it had at last eclipsed the book that had long held the #1 spot in my affections, and become my absolute favorite book.

I've read the whole book six or seven times, but there are some chapters I've read far, far more often than that.  Sometimes I dip in for a visit when I need a pick-me-up; other times, I've skimmed the beginning and much of the later part, and just relished my favorite sections.  

What is it about this melodramatic, implausible, highly emotional story that draws me so fiercely?  The plot -- poor girl becomes a governess, falls in love with her employer, flees from him when she learns his secret, finds new friends, returns to her one true love when he is free -- is basically a Cinderella retelling, and while I'm very drawn to Cinderella stories, there aren't any others that have earned this level of devotion from me.  

When I was a teen, and into my twenties, I would have said I loved this book because I loved Mr. Rochester.  And he's still a huge part of my affection for this story, no question.  When it comes to movie adaptations, it's Rochester who makes or breaks them for me -- I will put up with a less-than-great Jane, but if Rochester feels off to me, I'm going to dislike the entire production.  But I realized, when I reread the entire book around the age of 30, that it's Jane herself that makes me love this book.

Jane Eyre, outwardly plain and powerless, is inwardly a pillar of strength.  That juxtaposition of one's outer and inner selves fascinates me, and Jane's absolute resolution fills me with awe.  Leading this read-along has confirmed my admiration of her.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for discussions of Rochester's possible fathering of an illegitimate child, scary situations, and cruel treatment of a child.

I'm not going to share favorite lines here today, as I've shared them already in individual chapter posts.  I just wanted to share these final thoughts on this book, especially since it is my 50th book read and reviewed for The Classics Club!!!  I have finished the challenge I set for myself at the beginning of 2014 -- I wanted to read 50 classics in 5 years, and I accomplished that in slightly less than 3.  More about that in another post.

This was also the 18th book I've read and reviewed for the Women's Classic Literature Event.  I'm aiming for 20 by the end of the year, so here's hoping I can finish reading two more classics written by women in the next 6 weeks!