Review: Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte

agnesgreyThis a good example of a novel where things happen around the main character instead of the main character actively making things happen. Essentially, Agnes Grey becomes a governess because her family is in dire financial straits and being a woman, her options are pretty limited. The novel follows her experience with spoiled children and unbearable parents (it’s not just a modern phenomenon, as it turns out).

There’s speculation that this novel is based on Anne’s experiences as a governess herself since she worked as one for a few years becoming a writer and I definitely see it. Only a person who experiences how terrible children can be can describe it in such a way. If these indeed reflect her experiences, I feel bad for her. The first set of children Agnes had to teach was particularly ugly and I have no idea how anyone could stand it.

In any case, I like it less than Wuthering Heights but scores more than Jane Eyre.

★★★☆☆

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Review: The Returned by Jason Mott

azure_53760c7c64fcfbc23bbc09a44775e701This is a very slowly paced book. With that said, I liked it a lot.

The characters were just wonderful and three-dimensional, we get a lovely old couple who have lost their only child in a tragic accident, only to have their son returned to them in their golden years, as if he had never left. The revealing of just how this return affected the two of them differently is just perfect. I loved, loved Harold and how much this experience changed him.

Bellamy and his little side story was also a nice touch, with his mother, and the preacher with his first love. It was a good way of showing the different kind of experiences that people would have.

I also found the idea of keeping the dead in prisons very realistic and very likely what would have happened, and I was pleased to see it explored as much as it was.

The ending was a little heartbreaking, though.

★★★★☆

this review was originally posted on my Booklikes.

Review: Rape: A Love Story by Joyce Carol Oates

rapealovestoryHow does one rate a book like this? Because its terrifying, horrifying and all to real. This is the nightmare that all of us women have together.

It was a good book, I think in that it shows that society can really be crueler than you think. Two of the rapists were brothers and even their father thought they had raped Teena, yet he hires a lawyer to get them off with no punishment. No one will even talk to Bethie at school and call her a liar for telling what happened to her mother. Essentially, the whole town, the whole justice system, turns against them and to me, this was the most well done part of the book. The hatred and dismissal of the town people and a justice system that doesn’t care about truth really highlights why people often don’t report their rape–they’re afraid of exactly this.

I didn’t like that their rescue came in the form of a man who murders for them though. It’s my opinion that this softens the message, plus gives no hope for the rest of us. We can’t all go around killing people all the time. This becomes the relief for Teena and Bethie, and I didn’t really see any sort of emotional journey that they went through, just “they’re dead so now we’re safe and continue our lives.”

I also didn’t find it as engaging as I would have liked. It took me a really long time to read this tiny book.

★★★☆☆

15 Books I Read as a Kid and LOVED!

atreegrowsinbrooklynA Tree Grows in Brooklyn By Betty Smith
The beloved American classic about a young girl’s coming-of-age at the turn of the century, Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a poignant and moving tale filled with compassion and cruelty, laughter and heartache, crowded with life and people and incident. The story of young, sensitive, and idealistic Francie Nolan and her bittersweet formative years in the slums of Williamsburg has enchanted and inspired millions of readers for more than sixty years. By turns overwhelming, sublime, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the daily experiences of the unforgettable Nolans are raw with honesty and tenderly threaded with family connectedness — in a work of literary art that brilliantly captures a unique time and place as well as incredibly rich moments of universal experience.

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrauthecityofember
Many hundreds of years ago, the city of Ember was created by the Builders to contain everything needed for human survival. It worked…but now the storerooms are almost out of food, crops are blighted, corruption is spreading through the city and worst of all—the lights are failing. Soon Ember could be engulfed by darkness… But when two children, Lina and Doon, discover fragments of an ancient parchment, they begin to wonder if there could be a way out of Ember. Can they decipher the words from long ago and find a new future for everyone? Will the people of Ember listen to them?

thedollpeopleThe Doll People by Ann M. Martin & Laura Godwin
Annabelle Doll is eight years old-she has been for more than a hundred years. Not a lot has happened to her, cooped up in the dollhouse, with the same doll family, day after day, year after year. . . until one day the Funcrafts move in.

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryanesperanzarising
Esperanza thought she’d always live with her family on their ranch in Mexico–she’d always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home, and servants. But a sudden tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California during the Great Depression, and to settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn’t ready for the hard labor, financial struggles, or lack of acceptance she now faces. When their new life is threatened, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances–Mama’s life, and her own, depend on it.

fever1793Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
It’s late summer 1793, and the streets of Philadelphia are abuzz with mosquitoes and rumors of fever. Down near the docks, many have taken ill, and the fatalities are mounting. Now they include Polly, the serving girl at the Cook Coffeehouse. But fourteen-year-old Mattie Cook doesn’t get a moment to mourn the passing of her childhood playmate. New customers have overrun her family’s coffee shop, located far from the mosquito-infested river, and Mattie’s concerns of fever are all but overshadowed by dreams of growing her family’s small business into a thriving enterprise. But when the fever begins to strike closer to home, Mattie’s struggle to build a new life must give way to a new fight-the fight to stay alive.

Green Rider by Kirsten Britain
On her long journey home from school after a fight which will surely lead to her expulsion, greenriderKarigan G’ladheon ponders her future as she trudges through the immense forest called Green Cloak. But her thoughts are interrupted by the clattering of hooves as a galloping horse bursts from the woods, the rider slumped over his mount’s neck, impaled by two black-shafted arrows. As the young man lies dying on the road, he tells Karigan that he is a Green Rider, one of the legendary messengers of the king, and that he bears a “life and death” message for King Zachary. He begs Karigan to carry his message, warning her not to read it, and when she reluctantly agrees, he makes her swear on his sword to complete his mission “for love of country.” As he bestows upon her the golden winged-horse brooch which is the symbol of his office, he whispers on his dying breath, “Beware the shadow man…”  Karigan’s promise changes her life forever. Pursued by unknown assassins, following a path only her horse seems to know, and accompanied by the silent specter of the original messenger, she herself becomes a legendary Green Rider. Caught up in a world of deadly danger and complex magic, compelled by forces she cannot understand, Karigan is hounded by dark beings bent on seeing that the mharrypotteressage, and its reluctant carrier, never reach their destination.

Harry Potter by JK Rowling
Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy. He lives with his Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and cousin Dudley, who are mean to him and make him sleep in a cupboard under the stairs. (Dudley, however, has two bedrooms, one to sleep in and one for all his toys and games.) Then Harry starts receiving mysterious letters and his life is changed forever. He is whisked away by a beetle-eyed giant of a man and enrolled at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The reason: Harry Potter is a wizard!

Inkheart by Cornelia Funkeinkheart
Twelve-year-old Meggie learns that her father, who repairs and binds books for a living, can “read” fictional characters to life when one of those characters abducts them and tries to force him into service. Characters from books literally leap off the page in this engrossing fantasy. Meggie has had her father to herself since her mother went away when she was young. Mo taught her to read when she was five, and the two share a mutual love of books. He can “read” characters out of books. When she was three, he read aloud from a book called Inkheart and released characters into the real world. At the same time, Meggie’s mother disappeared into the story.

nancydrewNancy Drew by Carolyn Keene
There are many, many Nancy Drew books. I used to have a ton of them in those yellow hardbacks and I read them over and over. Nancy Drew, sometimes along with her two best friends, encounter various mysteries that Nancy is always able to solve just in time!

silverwing
Silverwing by Kenneth Oppel
Shade is a young Silverwing bat, the runt of his colony. But he’s determined to prove himself on the long, dangerous winter migration to Hibernaculum, millions of wingbeats to the south. During a fierce storm, he loses the others and soon faces the most incredible journey of his young life. Desperately searching for a way to rejoin his flock, Shade meets a remarkable cast of characters: Marina, a Brightwing bat with a strange metal band on her leg; Zephyr, a mystical albino bat with a strange gift; and Goth, a gigantic carnivorous vampire bat. But which ones are friends and which ones are enemies? In this epic story of adventure and suspense, Shade is going to need all the help he can find — if he hopes to ever see his family again.

thethieflordThe Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke
“Do you sometimes wish you were grown-up?” Venice. Autumn.
Rich Aunt Esther wants only angelic orphan Boniface 5, not serious Prospero 12. She hires PI Victor Getz. Thief Lord Scipo brings loot, clothes, to runaways in abandoned theatre Stella. Hornet adds brothers to gang with tall Mosca and scrawny Riccio. But Scipio hides a secret. And old Conte from a cursed isle wants a wooden wing, from grown orphan photographer Ida Spaveno, for his magic merry-go-round that changes ages. Interior illustrations by author.

Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsentouchingspiritbear
Within Cole Matthews lie anger, rage and hate. Cole has been stealing and fighting for years. This time he caught Peter Driscal in the parking lot and smashed his head against the sidewalk. Now, Peter may have permanent brain damage and Cole is in the biggest trouble of his life. Cole is offered Circle Justice: a system based on Native American traditions that attempts to provide healing for the criminal offender, the victim and the, community. With prison as his only alternative, Cole plays along. He says he wants to repent, but in his heart Cole blames his alcoholic mom his, abusive dad, wimpy Alex–everyone but himself for his situation. Cole receives a one-year banishment to a remote Alaskan island. There, he is mauled by Mysterious white bear of Native American legend. Hideously injured, Cole waits for his death His thoughts shift from from Anger to humility. To survive, he must stop blaming others and take responsibility for his life. Rescuers arrive to save Cole’s but it is the attack of the Spirit Bear that may save his soul.

thetwoprincessesofbamarreThe Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine
Twelve-year-old Addie admires her older sister Meryl, who aspires to rid the kingdom of Bamarre of gryphons, specters, and ogres. Addie, on the other hand, is fearful even of spiders and depends on Meryl for courage and protection. Waving her sword Bloodbiter, the older girl declaims in the garden from the heroic epic of Drualt to a thrilled audience of Addie, their governess, and the young sorcerer Rhys. But when Meryl falls ill with the dreaded Gray Death, Addie must gather her courage and set off alone on a quest to find the cure and save her beloved sister. Addie takes the seven-league boots and magic spyglass left to her by her mother and the enchanted tablecloth and cloak given to her by Rhys – along with a shy declaration of his love. She prevails in encounters with tricky specters (spiders too) and outwits a wickedly personable dragon in adventures touched with romance and a bittersweet ending.

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskinthewestinggame
A bizarre chain of events begins when sixteen unlikely people gather for the reading of Samuel W. Westing’s will. And though no one knows why the eccentric, game-loving millionaire has chosen a virtual stranger – and a possible murderer – to inherit his vast fortune, one thing’s for sure: Sam Westing may be dead… but that won’t stop him from playing one last game!

10 Awesome Books Written By Women!

therobberbrideThe Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood
“Set in contemporary Toronto, the novel revolves around the lives of three fascinating women. Classmates from university, Roz, Charis, and Tony all shared the seductive and destructive experience of a past friendship with the flashy, sensuous, smart, irresistible Zenia. As the novel opens, they are twenty years past their college days and have met at Zenia’s funeral. At lunch, after the funeral, they spot Zenia — not dead at all and up to no good.”

The Luminaries by Eleanor Cattontheluminaries
“It is 1866, and young Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On the stormy night of his arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men who have men in secret to discuss a series of unexplained events: A wealthy man has vanished, a prostitute has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely ornate as the night sky.”

thedispossessedThe Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
“Shevek, a brilliant physicist, decides to take action. He will seek answers, question the unquestionable, and attempt to tear down the walls of hatred that have isolated his planet of anarchists from the rest of the civilized universe. To do this dangerous task will mean giving up his family and possibly his life. Shevek must make the unprecedented journey to the utopian mother planet, Anarres, to challenge the complex structures of life and living, and ignite the fires of change.”stlucyshomeforgirls

St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell
“In the collection’s title story, a pack of girls raised by wolves are painstakingly reeducated by nuns. In “Haunting Olivia,” two young boys make midnight trips to a boat graveyard in search of their dead sister, who set sail in the exoskeleton of a giant crab. In “Z.Z.’s Sleepaway Camp for Disordered Dreamers,” a boy whose dreams foretell implacable tragedies is sent to a summer camp for troubled sleepers (Cabin 1, Narcoleptics; Cabin 2, Sleep Apneics; Cabin 3, Somnambulists . . . ). And “Ava Wrestles the Alligator” introduces the remarkable Bigtree Wrestling Dynasty–Grandpa Sawtooth, Chief Bigtree, and twelve-year-old Ava–proprietors of Swamplandia!, the island’s #1 Gator Theme Park and Cafe.”

thenightircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called “Le Cirque des Reves,” and it is only open at night. But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway–a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love–a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.”

When She Woke by Hillary Jordanwhenshewoke
“Bellwether Prize winner Hillary Jordan s provocative new novel, “When She Woke,” tells the story of a stigmatized woman struggling to navigate an America of a not-too-distant future, where the line between church and state has been eradicated and convicted felons are no longer imprisoned and rehabilitated but chromed their skin color is genetically altered to match the class of their crimes and then released back into the population to survive as best they can. Hannah is a Red; her crime is murder. In seeking a path to safety in an alien and hostile world, Hannah unknowingly embarks on a path of self-discovery that forces her to question the values she once held true and the righteousness of a country that politicizes faith.”

grotesqueGrotesque by Natsuo Kirino
“In her riveting new novel “Grotesque,” Kirino once again depicts a barely known Japan. This is the story of three Japanese women and the interconnectedness of beauty and cruelty, sex and violence, ugliness and ambition in their lives. Tokyo prostitutes Yuriko and Kazue have been brutally murdered, their deaths leaving a wake of unanswered questions about who they were, who their murderer is, and how their lives came to this end. As their stories unfurl in an ingeniously layered narrative, coolly mediated by Yuriko’s older sister, we are taken back to their time in a prestigious girls’ high school–where a strict social hierarchy decided their fates–and follow them through the years as they struggle against rigid societal conventions.”

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolverthepoisonwoodbible
“The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it — from garden seeds to Scripture — is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.”

thelakeofdeadlanguagesThe Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman
“Twenty years ago, Jane Hudson left the Heart Lake School for Girls in the Adirondacks after a terrible tragedy. Now she has returned to the placid, isolated shores of the lakeside school as a Latin teacher, recently separated and hoping to make a fresh start with her young daughter. But ominous messages from the past dredge up forgotten memories that will become a living nightmare.”

The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oatestheaccursed
“Princeton, New Jersey, at the turn of the twentieth century: a tranquil place to raise a family, a genteel town for genteel souls. But something dark and dangerous lurks at the edges of the town, corrupting and infecting its residents. Vampires and ghosts haunt the dreams of the innocent. A powerful curse besets the elite families of Princeton; their daughters begin disappearing. A young bride on the verge of the altar is seduced and abducted by a dangerously compelling man-a shape-shifting, vaguely European prince who might just be the devil, and who spreads his curse upon a richly deserving community of white Anglo-Saxon privilege. And in the Pine Barrens that border the town, a lush and terrifying underworld opens up.”

Putting together this list made me think that I really need to focus on reading some modern female authors–it was really hard for me to not include writers from the 19th century! Which books written by women are are your favorite?

Review: Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

parableofthesowerBlurb: “When unattended environmental and economic crises lead to social chaos, not even gated communities are safe. In a night of fire and death Lauren Olamina, a minister’s young daughter, loses her family and home and ventures out into the unprotected American landscape. But what begins as a flight for survival soon leads to something much more: a startling vision of human destiny… and the birth of a new faith.

This is a good book. I was little wary going in because I tend to not enjoy anything that ha a strong religious theme, but fortunately this was not overly preachy or in my opinion, trying to make a religious statement. In Parable of the Sower, Lauren essentially creates a religion that she hopes to spread across her dying world and calls it Earthseed. However, most of the book is actually a fight for survival.

After the fire that destroys her gated community and kills the rest of her family (which I might mention, occurs almost a quarter of the way through the book, so you really do get a feeling for not only the kind of world that is behind the gate community but what Lauren lost the night of the fire) she and two survivors of her town make their way across the highways. Densely populated, yet a wasteland, they encounter and adopt various people into their group to defend themselves against a world that has gone insane.

The only real criticism I have of the book is the fact that I never connected or cared about any of the characters. When they died I didn’t feel all that shocked, even if they were unexpected, and I don’t feel as Lauren got into any particular situation which I even remotely thought she might not get out.

★★★★☆

10 Books I am DYING to Re-Read

theluminariesThe Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
Winner of the 2013 Man-Booker Prize, this book is amazingly complex and I can’t help but feel that it would only be enhanced by a second read through. I think it is my favorite book that has been written recently and I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes a modern classic.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgensternthenightircus
I love this book because not only is it a National Novel Writing Month novel and I’m always eager to support the program that has allowed me to finish two novels of my own. Also, The Night Circus is really a book where the scenery is the impressive part, just stunning and fantastical imagery. It may be telling of a common complaint of this book, but I want to re-read it as well because I can’t for the life of me remember what the plot was supposed to be. Not to mention there is a rumor going around that there will be a movie and I definitely want to re-read it before then.

oryxandcrakeOryx & Crake by Margaret Atwood
Besides The Handmaid’s Tale I think the MaddAddam trilogy must be her most well known work. I feel as though Oryx & Crake may be improved after reading second and third book.

The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moersthecityofdreamingbooks
This might be the most fun book I’ve ever read and I desperately want to dip into its pages again. This is really so fun and so bookish, I’ve never come across another book which I would even label as similar! I also want to get my hands on the two sequels, The Labyrinth of Dreaming Books and The Castle of Dreaming Books the latter of which has not yet been released.

thecoldestgirlincoldtownThe Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
Possibly my favorite young adult to date, I look back on it and I definitely want to know if it stands up to my memory. I’ve always wanted a sequel, but Holly Black has been pretty firm on the fact that its going to remain a stand alone. Normally I prefer stand alones, but in this case I’m dying for a sequel! You aren’t quite satisfied at the end.

The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut thesirensoftitan
This and Galapagos are my two top Kurt Vonnegut books, but The Sirens of Titan is definitely something else. I would love to re-read it and catch the nuances.

thegargoyleThe Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
It has been many years since I read this book, but it always sticks out in my mind as a beautiful and tragic book. The imagery is still really strong in my mind and its something that I wish I could re-experience for the first time.

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevskytheidiot
I read The Idiot a few years back (after The Brothers Karamazov and before Crime & Punishment) and its the book the solidified my love for Dostoevsky.

gameofthronesGame of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
This one is kind of a cheat since I recently started re-reading it, but I think the ASOIF books are far too long and far too complex to absorb everything if you only read it once. I was not prepared though, for how much knowing the future books would make Game of Thrones rather heartbreaking. I knew about Ned Stark before reading it the first time, but I didn’t know about anything like the Red Wedding, Purple Wedding, Renly, Theon/Reek etc etc. Reading the interactions between Jon Snow and Robb Stark was especially heartbreaking–by the time you get around to the Red Wedding you have forgotten really that Jon and Rob were close. And Sansa– it is so strange to see Sansa so light-hearted and worry-free and it kind of breaks your heart to think of the hell she’s going to go through in the next few books.

Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvistlettherightonein
To date the original Swedish film is my favorite movie, and this is definitely in my top 10 favorite books. This book is just so cold and creepy in so many facets, I think its worth the re-read to see what I might have missed the first time around and see if its still the great book I remember it as.