Book 362: Mansfield Park – Jane Austen

Mansfield Park - Jane AustenLucky for you I’ve re-read this for our Jane Austen Book Club, so you get to hear about it again, almost exactly three years after I last read it.

Following Sense and Sensibility (1811) and Pride and Prejudice (1813) this was Austen’s third published novel in 1814 and it is a clear shift away from the whimsy and light previous novels. I talk about this in my last response, but I wonder if this has to do with feedback from the first two novels or if it’s her own personal experience and maturation as an adult. We already know that when Austen published Emma, her fourth work, in 1815 that she was comfortable with sassing her critics. She openly says at the start of Emma that she’s writing a character NO ONE can dislike, because so many people disliked Fanny, or Fanny’s decisions.

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Book 361: Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

Shelley, Mary - FrankensteinAs with 99% of the Classics I’ve read, I’m wondering what took me so long to read this one! Not only is it under 200 pages, but it’s quick and fascinating read. Add in that Shelley was only 19 when she wrote it and I’m like WHOA. This is my second Classic’s Club book this month, so yay for finally making progress on that again.

As when I read Dracula, I was surprised at how much of Frankenstein’s story (Amazon link) was different from what has become the common perception of Frankenstein and his monster in pop-culture.I am happy to report that my reading of this coincided really well with other books I’ve read that are fan-fiction pieces, like Meghan Shepherd’s A Cold Legacy, and tangentially related books about the authors and their connections like another piece of fan-fiction, like Michael Thomas Ford’s Jane Fairfax Trilogy (Jane Bites Back in particular).

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Book 356: The Witch of Portobello – Paulo Coelho

Coelho, Paulo - The Witch of PortobelloIn a further attempt to get a few more posts up while I’m on vacation I went to my TBR shelf and found I had two more Paulo Coelho novels yet to go so I grabbed them to read. They’re always easily written, well translated and fascinatingly beautiful and The Witch of Portobello (Amazon link), was no exception. I’m actually not sure when I picked up this book as I can’t find a photo of it, so I’m going to assume it was sometime in 2011 right after I read The Alchemist.

Every time I read a book by Coelho, I find myself wondering about and searching for my spirituality. Whether he is talking about the Mother or organized religion (usually not), Coelho has a way of writing incredibly complex ideas and intricate narratives that is so simple and beautiful that it’s almost breath-taking. I do wonder if it is even more beautiful in his native Portuguese, how can it be so incredibly beautiful translated into English and not be beyond beautiful originally. So that being said, some credit must, obviously, be given to Margaret Jull Costa who has translated other works by Coelho including Veronika Decides to Die and Eleven Minutes (my next read) and many works by José Saramago including Seeing.

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Book 355: Jane Vows Vengeance (Jane Fairfax #3) – Michael Thomas Ford

Ford, Michael Thomas - Jane Vows Vengeance ( Jane Fairfax #3)Book three (Amazon link) of the Jane Fairfax trilogy just didn’t live up to Jane Bites Back or Jane Goes Batty. That being said, there were some great moments, but overall it just wasn’t as light or as fun. As an end to the trilogy, it did a decent job wrapping everything up as it should and leaving enough room to keep going if Ford ever decides he wants to write more, but I doubt I’ll read more.

Rather than keeping the story in Upstate New York, Ford takes the traveling circus that is Jane Austen’s new life on the road. From Jane’s best friend, Lucy, to the future mother in law Miriam, everyone who is important either goes along or is named dropped at some point. Ford again introduces a cast of quirky minor characters, but this time they felt lightweight and fluffy. There wasn’t a lot of substance to many of them and I was left wanting.

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Book 352: Persuasion – Jane Austen

Austen, Jane - PersuasionI don’t know how I let myself go so long without re-reading Persuasion (Amazon link), I forgot how much I loved it. I think I last read it in 2008/2009 so almost six years ago! It makes me even happier we’re doing Jane Austen Book Club this year and we chose this as our third installment.

It is difficult to say whether I preferred the unrequited/long-lost love of this story or Austen’s caustic wit more. The story of course revolves around Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth, who were in love and were almost engaged, but do to external factors (rude ass relatives and friends) it wasn’t to be. They meet again eight years later and the story picks up from there, so of course, SWOON. And in competition here were so many great one-liners and zingers (none of which I wrote down) about the aristocracy and the landed gentry that I couldn’t help but be torn between laughing and holding my breath! If I were forced to chose…nope, can’t do it.

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Book 351: Mad About The Boy (Bridget Jones #3) – Helen Fielding

Fielding, Helen - Mad About the Boy (Bridget Jones #3)And done. I’m not sure why so many people had such negative responses to the books. I thought this was an interesting follow-up, almost 15 years later, to Bridget Jones’s Diary and The Edge of Reason. The characters are 15-ish years older and so is everything else: technology, their worries and their troubles. I wasn’t sure how the frazzled frankness of the first two would translate into a different world completely, but I thought it worked.

Unfortunately, I did find out ahead of time what happened in the novel (Amazon link) before I read it so it wasn’t as much of a draw dropping moment as it could have been. In all honesty though, it wasn’t that much of a plot twist when you think of everything that could happen in the span of 15 years! All of this being said, there will be spoilers after the cut so don’t read past the break if you don’t want to know what happens!

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Book 349: The Edge of Reason (Bridget Jones #2) – Helen Fielding

Fielding, Helen - The Edge of Reason (Bridget Jones #2)If possible this one was even funnier than the last, or at least the ending was. There were parts in both books where I could not stop laughing, but this one ended with such a hilarious situation that I could easily find myself in involving wine and Christmas cards. I didn’t read this one quite as fast as the first, but I still read it in only a few sittings.

What I enjoyed most about this novel was the unapologetic sexuality and brashness of Bridget. This was evident in the first novel, but in this novel she takes it to a different level, primarily manifesting through keeping track of the seconds, yes SECONDS, since she last had sex. (It’s up in the tens of millions.) Now this might sound strange, but Fielding writes about issues that affect large sweeps of the population through this quirky character.

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