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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My Top 10 Heyer Novels

These are the 10 Heyer novels I love the most, however, just in alphabetical order since it was hard enough to pick only ten and there’s no way I’d be able to narrow it down any further.

arabellaArabella
This was the first Heyer hero that I truly fell for. Arabella is determined to take Mr. Beaumaris down a peg–by pretending to be a great heiress under the assumption that she will never meet him again. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) Arabella meets Mr. Beaumaris once again in London, and the dance between them begins. Mr. Beaumaris knows very well that she’s not a heiress at all…

Cotillioncotillion
Since I was not a big fan of The Grand Sophy the first time I read it, this was the second book I read by her and the one that solidified my love for Heyer. I was definitely invested in Kitty Charing’s choice between her two cousins, Jack and Freddy since I hated Jack with a passion and I determined that if Kitty chose Jack I would swear off Georgette Heyer forever. But really, it was a start of an odyssey.

cousinkateCousin Kate
I hear that a lot of Heyer’s fans don’t like this one and I’m not sure why since I find the characters in this book to be the most complex. Its probably the one with the plot line that makes the most sense while being the most creepy of her work. The character of Kate’s cousin, Torquil, is a mentally ill man whom his mother (Kate’s half-aunt, in fact) hopes to marry him off to Kate in the hopes Kate can control him (and stop the estate from falling in the hands of their other cousin, Mr. Phillip Broome, should Torquil die). Unfortunately for her half-aunt, Kate and Mr. Broome discover the plot.

Devil’s Cubdevilscub
Since Vidal is definitely… not a chivalrous suitor to say the least, I definitely think this is the most controversial of Heyer’s work and probably where abusive romance became mainstream, which makes it a difficult book to recommend no matter how much I personally love it. So I do admit that the book is problematic, but there is just something about the book overall that I find so swoon worthy. I guess this is my weakness when it comes to Heyer.

fredericaFrederica
For a long time I think this was my favorite novel by Heyer (now I’d be hard pressed to choose…) since Frederica was an older girl compared to a lot of Heyer’s other works (since then though, I’ve learned she does more work with some older ladies, but this remains my favorite of that group) since I’m older as well and without a romance myself and therefore identify with Frederica more than the other heroines. Not to mention, Alverstoke is a fantastic hero and rates pretty high in my list of swoon worthy heroes.

The Grand Sophythegrandsophy
This was actually the first book I read by her and I don’t remember being very impressed with it at the time. On a re-read this year however, I decided that I was insane and this book was absolutely amazing! Sophy is adorable and infuriating all the same and Charles is not quite the immense bore that I remember. Plus the final scene is all that one would wish it to be no matter how tangled the plot lines get, Heyer always wraps them up in a neat little bow.

thenonesuchThe Nonesuch
Waldo is another one of Heyer’s heroes that are positively swoon worthy. I often wonder if this is the book where the philanthropic hero trope in regency romances comes from. You have to admit that its hard to find a modern regency romance writer that has not featured a philanthropic hero in one of their books. If Waldo is where that started, then everyone else pales in comparison. Waldo’s charity runs in the line of orphans, which is how he meets our heroine, Miss Trent, who is acting as a companion and governess to the children of one of the matrons in the neighborhood of the estate that he inherits and intends to use to house his orphans. Waldo then has to set about the task of convincing Miss Trent that its perfectly okay for him to marry a mere governess.

The Quiet Gentlemanthequietgentleman
I think this is an underrated Heyer work, I don’t see it mentioned much on lists like these, possibly because Gervase is kind of a boring hero compared to some others. But I rather like him for being so kind and gentle as opposed to the steel that you find in the rest of her heroes, pretty much across the board. Plus this is one of the books where the heroine truly gets to save the hero and there’s no more capable heroine than the practical Miss Morville.

regencybuckRegency Buck
This is another one of Heyer’s work that fans seem to not like as much as I think they should. I think this is just a difference of opinion, however, I think people don’t like Judith’s immaturity or they don’t like that Worth tries to boss her around because the infuriating girl keeps acting without propriety. Mostly this book is a mystery with Worth knowing all the answers–but unable to convince Judith of the truth and taking drastic but exciting measures.

Venetiavenetia
If you want a tortured rake, this is the book for you. Venetia has been warned off from Damerel, an infamous rake said to hold orgies and other terrible, terrible things. He falls in with Venetia after mistaking her for a maid and kissing her in his orchard, and then they become best of friends. Venetia and Damerel are definitely my favorite Heyer couple.

Honorable Mentions: The Talisman Ring, April Lady, Charity Girl, Black Sheep, The Convenient Marriage and The Unknown Ajax.

Library Checkouts

parableofthesower Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler: 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.”

I’ve already started reading this one and I have to say it is always interesting to read something that is inherently religious. However, this book comes highly recommended by many people so I’m pushing through it. I’m very excited to give it a shot, actually. I have been meaning to get to Octavia Butler for ages and I have heard many, many great things, so I definitely won’t stop with Parable of the Sower.thecircle

The Circle by Dave Eggers:When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.”

I’m excited to get started on this one because while I have heard about Dave Eggers, I have not yet had a chance to read him yet. I haven’t done much research into the book so other than the summary I’m going in blind. I hope its as good as I’ve been led to expect. I do know however that it seems to be very focused on technology, and that’s not usually the kind of fiction book I like to read, but we will see!

villetteVillette by Charlotte Bronte: Arguably Brontë’s most refined and deeply felt work, Villette draws on her profound loneliness following the deaths of her three siblings. Lucy Snowe, the narrator of Villette,flees from an unhappy past in England to begin a new life as a teacher at a French boarding school in the great cosmopolitan capital of Villette. Soon Lucy’s struggle for independence is overshadowed by both her friendship with a worldly English doctor and her feelings for an autocratic schoolmaster. Brontë’s strikingly modern heroine must decide if there is any man in her society with whom she can live and still be free.”

I picked up this book because I was actually looking for her sister’s book, Agnes Grey. I lost my copy of Agnes Grey mysteriously at my mother’s house and it has yet to resurface and in my opinion, it was just starting to get good when I lost it! Unfortunately, the library doesn’t have a copy, but I’ve been meaning to get to Villette, and now seems like a good time since I’ve gotten over my intense dislike for Jane Eyre. I hope this will be much better though.frenchmancreek

Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier: Jaded by the numbing politeness of Restoration London, Lady Dona St. Columb revolts against high society. She rides into the countryside, guided only by her restlessness and her longing to escape. But when chance leads her to meet a French pirate, hidden within Cornwall’s shadowy forests, Dona discovers that her passions and thirst for adventure have never been more aroused. Together, they embark upon a quest rife with danger and glory, one which bestows upon Dona the ultimate choice: sacrifice her lover to certain death or risk her own life to save him.”

I’ve been meaning to make my way to some more of Daphne du Maurier’s book since I read and liked Rebecca, My Cousin Rachel and Mary Anne. Next on the list would be Jamaica Inn, The House on the Strand, or Hungry Hill.

rapealovestoryRape: A Love Story by Joyce Carol Oates: Haunting and moving, this short but powerful novel explores sexual violence and its aftermath. On her way home from a party, Teena Maguire is beaten, gang raped, and left for dead in the park, all of which is witnessed by her 12-year-old daughter Bethie. Now Teena can only regret that she survived, and Bethie is left to take care of her mother in her fragile state as the investigation and trial unfold. Alternating viewpoints are employed to narrate this horrific story, and redemption is finally offered thanks to a young police officer who knows the meaning of justice and love.”

This is one of the books that has been on my to read list for years, and I can’t say that I’m excited to read it, but it seems like an important piece of work.

All very, very different books! I’m hoping to enjoy them all.

Review: The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

scarletI first heard of The Scarlet Pimpernel when I was in 7th grade. My homeroom teacher read a passage of it aloud and I remember being completely enamored by the book, but for some reason, despite the fact that I thought about it now and again, I never read the book.

Reading it ten years or so later, I don’t remember what passage my teacher had read aloud, but I still like the book. Not as much as I had hoped, I did feel myself getting tired of it in the beginning for a little bit but eventually the story got going along. While I knew it was a swashbuckling tale of adventure, I was not aware of what an awesome love story there was included! Enough to make you swoon.

In the end however, it may have been years of holding it on a pedestal, but it did not fulfill my expectations and I’m left a little disappointed. Despite the grisly backdrop of the French Revolution, perhaps it was just a little too lighthearted for my taste.

4/5 stars.

Review: Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

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“Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses. Its inhabitants are, as the man once said, ‘whores, pimps, gamblers, and sons of bitches,’ by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, ‘Saints and angels and martyrs and holy men,’ and he would have meant the same thing.”

I love Steinbeck, I really do, despite the fact that every time I pick up one of his books I drag my feet to start because in reality they seem like books I wouldn’t like. I’m not really that into American history, and its hard to get much more American than Steinbeck. But even if you aren’t interested in Depression era fiction, Steinbeck has the most beautiful prose that will keep you coming back again and again.

My absolute favorite part of the book is the chapter about the gopher because not only does it sum up the book neatly, it broke my heart over a gopher of all things. If you’re curious, here’s the Sparknotes break down of the chapter, but I really recommend you just read the book because Sparknotes in no way captures the beauty and heartbreak of the chapter.

Cannery Row happens to be my favorite Steinbeck to date (I’ve also read Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men) and the pure beauty of it makes me pretty anxious to get through my nightstand pile to East of Eden which I have been putting off for an eternity now.

5/5 stars.

Review: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

9723667Agatha Christie has been on my list of authors to try for a very long time. Something about the genre “mystery” cuts my enthusiasm for a book by half so I have been putting it off for years. Years! For really no reason at all, since I really enjoyed And Then There Were None. In fact, I read it in just two sittings.

Essentially, in And Then There Were None, ten people are invited to spend time on an isolated island by two people that the ten people vaguely recall knowing or has been tricked into believing that friends or what have you will be staying there as well. Then they’re killed off one by one.

I don’t really know what’s going on with me lately, but I took a really long break from horror novels and movies, not on purpose but I just wasn’t feeling it, and for some reason, I’m now more freaked out than before. First there was The Woman in Black, which I’m sure shouldn’t have given me the amount of heebie-jeebies I got, and then last night at 3am when I finished this book, I was 85% sure I could hear someone in the apartment. Probably to kill me in my bed. Nothing whatsoever to do with And Then There Were None, I’m sure.

Also, I guessed who it was in the beginning, but Agatha Christie did keep me questioning my choice throughout the book so I don’t think it was that predictable, and of course at one point I was forced to change my opinion, so bravo for that.

It was an engaging and enjoyable read.

4/5 stars.