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review 2017-04-28 03:06
Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë,Jessica Hische

Well, I finally did it.  I finally read Jane Eyre.  

 

::bracing myself::

 

It was okay.

 

I know I'm treading on sacred ground here with many, many fans - and I did like it!  I just didn't love it.  Not like I love Austen, the most obvious comparison to be made by classic lit neophytes such as myself.

 

I loved the plotting and the story; I loved reading about the path Jane's life took and how she chose to shape her life in spite of circumstances.  I loved the dialog between Eyre and Rochester and if I'd gone into this book having never known the first thing about it, I'd have been left gasping at the church along with everyone else.  That Charlotte Brontë could write is without question.

 

But the characters....  eeehhhhh....  I'm a character-driven reader, almost to the exclusion of everything else.  Or, at least, I can forgive a lot if I like the characters, but I can't forgive much of characters I don't like.

 

Jane Eyre - You can't dislike Jane, can you?  I mean, she's not a special snowflake, she's well educated, she's willing to work, and she stands up for herself... eventually.  But her need to please, to be loved, her starvation for affection... while they all came from a very understandable place, it was hard to respect her at times.  Eyre (as narrator) makes a very astute observation early in the book when she says, looking back, that her Aunt could not like her because she was so needy.  And yes, that was entirely the Aunt's fault, the witch, but it's one of those dooming, self-sustaining cycles.  I'd have liked Jane more if she'd done something with that moment when, at 10, she breaks the cycle; I'd have liked Jane more if she'd learned from that experience.

 

More to the point, I lost a lot of respect for the book and for Eyre when, after all is revealed, not once does she so much as question Rochester's continual charade and methodical lies.  I don't know what I'd have been more pissed about if I were her; the attempted bigamy or the fact that the man who professed undying love to me systematically lied to me while I lived under his roof about the existence of someone who liked setting beds on fire.

 

Also, I gotta say, the whole "sir" thing got creepy.  Totally to be expected when she was working for him, but after he kissed her?  No, no, no.  Before kiss: sign of respect; After kiss: sign of submission.  Don't care what time period it was, it was creepy.

 

Edward Rochester - I know that over time, Rochester and Heathcliff have become confused in my mind, but I was expecting someone broodier.  Still, I really liked him and understood the appeal, until the scene in the orchard, where he struck me as hopelessly, delusionally (new made up word), romantic and - again, apologies for what's coming - something of a man-child.  His optimism that he'd be able to marry Jane and keep Bertha in the attic indefinitely was ludicrous.

 

Question:  If this man was so outstandingly rich, why didn't he just put Bertha in her own house with a nurse somewhere in the back of beyond?  He says he was going to use his other manor house, but that it was too damp (although not too damp for him, apparently); if that's the case, why not just buy another cottage somewhere else?  There were too many alternatives to this disastrous arrangement for me to fully buy into it.

 

St. John Rivers - What a prat!  I liked him until his proposal, at which point he become one of those religious nuts I particularly loathe; the kind that use faith to manipulate and control.  Brontë flat-out failed here, in my opinion; it seems clear she wanted readers to admire his purity and devotion, but all I really got from him after that scene was an abusive narcissist in the making.

 

Ultimately, I'm glad I read the book and I'll likely re-read it (although I'll probably skim some of the more verbose bits).  That I don't think it the masterpiece of literature I do Austen's work is entirely down to my personal reading preferences and my own personality quirks.

 

I'll end with my favourite quote, which, oddly enough, doesn't come from the text of the story itself, but the preface Brontë wrote for the second edition:

 

"Conventionality is not morality.  Self-rightousness is not religion."

 

 

 

 

Page count: 514

 

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text 2017-04-26 12:13
Some Quotes shared from Schoolgirl
Schoolgirl (Modern Japanese Classics) - Osamu Dazai,Allison Markin Powell

I don't have a full review for Schoolgirl, although I DO have a few sentences and some notes floating around in my head.  It's just a matter of putting them together coherently, though chances are, I might just include it in my June Package Review for all the books I probably won't publish an official review for.

Anyway, in the meantime, here are some quotes I highlighted while reading Schoolgirl that stood out to me for one reason or another.  What I was thinking at the time is questionable, but here you are:


 

 

 


Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2017/04/some-quotes-shared-from-schoolgirl.html
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review 2017-04-24 14:31
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Bram Stoker's Dracula

 

I was holidaying in Whitby when I first realised that Bram Stoker’s Dracula was a surprisingly modern novel. I’d watched the Hammer film versions of the book in my misspent youth and they left with the opinion that the book was a bit of late Victorian gothic horror, no where near good enough for me to need to wade through all that gore. But every Whitby bookshop had a copy of Dracula in its window, and naturally, I soon succumbed, reading it on the top of blowy cliffs and in the shelter of the beaches below. I took it on every walk, along with my butterfly identification book.
 
 
We did a lot of walking that holiday, passing the whaling arch on West Cliff, which Stoker would have passed too, with his family, when he holidayed here in June 1990. He stayed at Royal Crescent and it was there I discovered just how inspiring his time in Whitby must have been. Bram Stoker had found his inspiration. Standing in the crescent, you have a view of the North Sea, past sloping green cliff and grey sands. Across the river estuary are the imposing ruins of the Abbey, which must have been at least as gothic then as it is now.  The churchyard of St Mary lies below, the location of a vampiric attack in the second half of the story. As twilight falls, bats begin to swoop into view.
 
Mina, one of the two young female characters in Dracula, voices Stoker’s thoughts on the town: Right over the town is the ruin of Whitby Abbey, which was sacked by the Danes, and which is the scene of part of "Marmion," where the girl was built up in the wall. It is a most noble ruin, of immense size, and full of beautiful and romantic bits; there is a legend that a white lady is seen in one of the windows…
 
Bram Stoker also spent time at Whitby library – he made notes from 'An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia’, in which he must have seen the name ‘Dracula’ for the first time. The fifteenth-century Vlad Dracula (Vlad the Impaler) was as bloodthirsty as his fictional counterpart, impaling his enemies on long spikes and nailing turbans to the scalps of foreign ambassadors. Stoker gives his reader the historical allusion that Count Dracula is the descendant of Vlad – in his Author’s Note he explains that the documents assembled in the novel are real. Even as I read this, before starting the novel, I was reminded of the hype around The Blair Witch Project, and saw how astute Stoker was as a writer. 
 
He’d called this story The Un-dead for all the time he was writing it. Just before publication, he changed his title to  the wonderfully charged-up name of the antagonis. This  may have changed its destiny, although ‘un-dead’ remains a popular trope today, especially in Young Adult literature.
 
I began my holiday read, and soon found that it was not at all like the Hammer Horror version…or for that matter like Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) which I found almost unwatchably hammed up. Dracula contains elements of the conventions of gothic fiction…dark-shadowed, cobwebby castles juxtaposed with vast remote landscapes and vulnerable, virginal girls threatened by black-coated evil-doers… but Stoker contrasts his Transylvanian castle with parochial Whitby and the bustle of London in the 1990s.
 
Starting with that holiday in Whitby, Stoker used a wide range of research methods and a clear understanding of modern character development to write the story, but a stuck with the traditional gothic novel structure; diary entries, letters and newspaper cuttings etc. It opens with the most famous section of the book, Jonathan Harker's Journal, which recounts his visit to Transylvania as a lawyer helping the count through his London property transaction. Harker falls under the spell of the Brides of Dracula and succumbs to the vampire’s influence. This opening feels like it has an impossible resolution and I turned the pages as fast as any modern thriller, needing to know how he could possibly escape with his life. At that point, I had no idea how many other characters would not escape with theirs. The novel keeps twisting and surprising us, as Dracula, on his way to London aboard a ship (hidden in a coffin) is washed up in Whitby and escapes in the shape of a black dog, and we’re introduced to Renfield, who is incarcerated in  a mental asylum where he lives on a diet of flies and spiders.
 
Stoker's masterpiece was part of a fin-de-siècle literary culture obsessed with crime – this was the time that Jack the Ripper stalked Whitechapel – and sensationalism – these were the original ‘naughties’. The book strips away the layers of late Victorian anxiety such as loss of religious traditions,  colonialism, scientific advancement, plus a growing awareness of female sexuality and a continued fear of homosexuality.  The book is a mirror in which generations of readers have explored their own fantasies. 
 
Maurice Richardson described it as; a kind of incestuous, necrophilious, oral-anal-sadistic all-in wrestling match, and no one could argue with that (or prevent themselves from rushing to read such a book).
 
 
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text 2017-04-22 10:15
Reading progress update: I've read 24 out of 100 pages.
Hero And Leander - Christopher Marlowe

Ceremony (personified) is upset with Leander about the lack of a wedding and Hero is just upset.

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review 2017-04-22 00:09
The Dog Who Was There by Ron Marasco
The Dog Who Was There - Ron Marasco

No one expected Barley to have an encounter with the Messiah. He was homeless, hungry, and struggling to survive in first century Jerusalem. Most surprisingly, he was a dog. But through Barley’s eyes, the story of a teacher from Galilee comes alive in a way we’ve never experienced before. Barley’s story begins in the home of a compassionate woodcarver and his wife who find Barley as an abandoned, nearly-drowned pup. Tales of a special teacher from Galilee are reaching their tiny village, but when life suddenly changes again for Barley, he carries the lessons of forgiveness and love out of the woodcarver’s home and through the dangerous roads of Roman-occupied Judea. On the outskirts of Jerusalem, Barley meets a homeless man and petty criminal named Samid. Together, Barley and his unlikely new master experience fresh struggles and new revelations. Soon Barley is swept up into the current of history, culminating in an unforgettable encounter with the truest master of all as he bears witness to the greatest story ever told.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

In 1st century Jerusalem, a pregnant stray dog gives birth to a litter of pups in a wooded area near the river. The runt of the litter is spotted by Micah, the young son of a wealthy landowner. Micah sneaks away from chores each day to play with the pup, until the day he is found out by his father. The father tries to have the whole litter killed but thanks to the efforts of Duv, a woodcarver, and his wife, Adah, the young pup is saved and named Barley. 

 

It is in the home of the woodcarver that Barley first starts to hear stories of an already near-mythic man from the land of Galilee. That's right, none other than than big man himself, Jesus! For seven years, Barley has a cozy home life full of love and treats. But one regular work day in town leads to tragedy for the woodcarver and his wife, a turn of events that once again puts Barley out on the streets. The scared canine is soon spotted by Samid, a homeless man / petty criminal, and his lady friend Prisca. Though the accomodations are significantly more humble than his previous pad, Barley takes what he can get and soon settles into a moderately comfortable routine with new pal Samid. Barley's life with Samid puts him in close proximity to Jesus, now in Jerusalem, so Barley is there to witness the final days leading up to the Passion of Christ

 

For dogs, no less than for people, firsts matter. They echo long past their point in time, especially in dreams. It's true of the good firsts, and very true of the bad ones. That's why when a dog cries in a dream -- even a full-grown dog, even an old dog -- the cry it cries is the cry of a pup, because that's what it is doing when it sleeps -- reliving a first. 

 

Well, right off, I will say that this is a unique way to breathe fresh new perspective into a tale that's been told a million times over! The writing sometimes struck me as somewhat simplistic but that could just be a natural by-product of the author choosing to tell the story from the inner thoughts of a dog. Perhaps the simplicity is intentional? Regardless, the benefit of a simple voice is that it makes this story perfect for sharing with readers within a wide age range.

 

Note that I was careful not to say "of all ages", because there is material within this novel that may be a little traumatic for the littlest ones in your life, whether they read independently or have you read to them. Barley witnesses (and describes) seeing the bodies of people executed by hanging, there are moments of extreme violence within Barley's own life, moments where he is injured, not to mention Barley relaying the sights of the Crucifixion itself near the end of the novel. The fate of Duv & Adah (the woodcarver and his wife) show just how rough and sometimes lawless this time period could be. So when it comes to the smallest of your story lovers, I'd recommend maybe first doing a read-through to see what you need to gloss over for them. 

 

Much of the story, as far as plot, while solidly enjoyable, lacked that little something extra for me. For the majority of the book, I kept waiting for that extra oomph to kick in. That said, I did enjoy the "voice" of our dog narrator and one of my favorite bits of the whole story was Samid and his friendship / something more? with Prisca. There was a good dose of humor and lively banter between them. I agree with Prisca, Samid outwardly appears rough around the edges, but you get the sense there's a good guy there deep down.

 

"Despair."

 

Samid said the word before she could. Which made them smile at each other, sweetly but sadly. 

 

"Why is our despair such a difficult thing for us to give up?" asked Samid.

 

Prisca replied, "I think despair is so difficult to let go of because it helps us to justify teh worst things inside of us. We think: I lack, so I can steal. I hurt, so I can injure. I failed at one thing, so now watch me destroy my whole life ... But when the despair is gone, we cannot help but change. We simply must."

 

The two were silent for a few moments. 

 

 

What ended up bumping this up to a four star read for me was simply Barley's observations during the Crucifixion. The way author Ron Marasco painted these scenes gave me a whole new visual of this event I've heard told in stories SO many times over. Yet something in the way Marasco illustrates it (in words) made it more real for me than nearly any other piece on the Crucifixion I've ever read. Ever. I physically flinched at what Barley describes himself seeing as the walk up to the cross is taking place. The attention to detail Marasco provides when describing the whippings Jesus is taking from soldiers, the way Barley winces and whimpers and thinks of him (Jesus) as Kind Man. It all just knocks you right in the heart! Beyond the Crucifixion scene, there is a further twist to the ending that I did not entirely see coming! 

 

 

FTC Disclaimer: TNZ Fiction Guild kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book & requested that I check it out and share my thoughts. The opinions above are entirely my own.

 

 

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

 

EXTRAS

 

Author Ron Marasco has a PhD in theater history and is a professor at Loyola University. He also has some acting credits to his name on shows you've likely watched! 

 

 

 

 

A note on promo blurbs & cover design:

 

First off, thumbs up for getting a blurb from Kristin Chenoweth on there. Love her!

 

But regarding the cover, I was one of a select group of bloggers who were asked to give their opinion on the few different design options designed for this title. Still bummed that my pick was not chosen, as I voted strongly AGAINST having to have a cover featuring a dog anus front and center. Particularly when there was one design (the one I voted for) that featured an ADORABLE dog's profile giving a little glance to the reader. I'll let it go though, because this cover dog does look similar to my mother in law's sweet pup. :-)

 

But props to Thomas Nelson Pub. for at least darkening that area to a little less off-putting level lol Also funny to read in the book the dog's coat being described as "off-white fur". I know it's a little hard to tell with the lighting but that cover dog looks as if it'd be pretty distinctly brown with maybe some black highlight areas. A little reading peeve of mine, when it seems like the cover designer didn't read the book they were designing for! 

 

 

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