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 348: In Youth Is Pleasure & I Left My Grandfather’s House – Denton Welch

Welch, Denton - In Youth is Pleasure & I Left My Grandfather's HouseThe publisher, Open Road Integrated Media, reached out to me with this book as I’d previously read Jane Bowles’ Two Serious Ladies, and she is even mentioned in this work.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hesitant at first as Bowles’ work was very well written but I just didn’t like the characters. Thankfully, Welch’s characters were a bit more accessible for me. This is two shorter stories (Amazon link) so I’ve separated my response into two parts. The publisher provided a copy of this book and I received no compensation for my honest opinion.

The one over-arching them the two pieces have in common is the idea of sexuality, specifically homosexuality, before it was commonly talked about and/or accepted. I tried (aka did a brief google search) to find out about Welch’s sexuality, but again this was a long time ago before our out and proud mantras of today. Welch died young, he was only 33, and there is only speculation outside of his written works which in today’s society seem pretty explicit. Regardless, I enjoyed both of these snippets of the past for completely different reasons.

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Book 341: Funny Girl – Nick Hornby

Hornby, Nick - Funny GirlThe only other Hornby I’ve read is High Fidelity (the film adaptation was meh). And I loved the film adaptation of About A Boy, so I wasn’t sure where this novel would go. I hadn’t planned on reading it, but one of my favorite podcasts, Pop Culture Happy Hour, announced they were going to do an episode a few months ago so I put it on hold and timed it almost perfectly to listen! (I missed the exact episode by a little less than week.)

I think the podcast hit the nail on the head when they talked about the story (Amazon link) being more focused on “the show [Barabara (and Jim)] rather than the funny girl of the title, Barbara/Sophie. But what Hornby didn’t do, was show us the show; he only ever referred to specific gags, situations or dialogue. Someone on PCHH said it should’ve been called “The Show” and I can’t agree more. It would be a better title and I would definitely have chosen to read it if that were the title too!

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Book 336: A Cold Legacy (The Madman’s Daughter #3) – Megan Shepherd

Shepherd, Megan - A Cold LegacyI’m still torn on this novel. It’s been almost a week since I finished it. The response was delayed due to not knowing how to respond to the novel, but also my having to fly down to NC for family matters. On the plus side I got to visit Highland Books again, which the author’s parents own and run. If you check out the website, you can see her signing books in the shop.

I found it frustrating and satisfying. Most of this had nothing to do with the novel itself, but with the time between this novel and Her Dark Curiosity. I loved it and The Madman’s Daughter when I first read them, but I couldn’t remember enough of the details to truly enjoy this novel. Maybe this just means I’m getting old, but I’ve avoided starting any new series until it is either completely finished or it’s a long enough series I can re-read.

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Book 333: The Bitterweed Path – Thomas Hal Phillips

Phillips, Thomas Hal - The Bitterweed PathThis response is a bit scattered. It’s as close to stream-of-consciousness as I will ever get so enjoy it.

I jumped this book up my list because someone was getting antsy. For some reason, he didn’t think I wanted to read anything he suggested, or that I didn’t like his last recommendation, Last Summer, so I’ve made a deal with him that I’ll read a book at least every other month from him (talk about dictating!). Thankfully I’ve really enjoyed both books he’s recommended so far. His next recommendation is Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour and these recommendations don’t even include the ones of his that I WANT to read!

I was a little torn on John Howard’s introduction as it felt a bit misleading, but it did provide an excellent history of Phillips life and the setting of the novel. Howard wrote about his own experience as an LGBT academic and activist, and the self-serving nature of getting this book re-published for its early LGBT themes. He mentioned Phillips lack of acknowledgement about his own sexuality, which was interesting, and noted that none of his other books did as well as The Bitterweed Path and didn’t contain LGBT themes.

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Book 330: Waiting for the Flood – Alexis Hall

Hall, Alexis - Waiting for the FloodIf I didn’t know better I’d say one of my good friends from high school (cough *Alexandra* cough) was writing under a pseudonym, “Alexis Hall” – HA! But that aside, I requested a copy of this novella from the publisher as the synopsis (Publisher’s website) caught my attention. I received a copy from the publisher and below is my honest response.

This is the story of Edwin and how he’s finally ready to get over his 10 year relationship which ended, not on bad terms, but on terms that he wasn’t able to comprehend. Having never been in a 10 year relationship (holy shit that’s 1/3 of my life – and Edwin’s!) I can’t really relate, but I can relate to coming out of a relationship not knowing what happened because it ended in a way that didn’t make sense and we apparently both thought and had different feelings on where things were and were going.

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Book 325: Breaking Dawn (Twilight Saga #4) – Stephenie Meyer

Meyer, Stephenie - Twilight Saga 4 - Breaking DawnAnd I’m done. Eight days after I started Twilight,and over 2,600 pages later I’ve completed the four novels and the novella. First gut response: it’s not as bad as I thought it would be and I actually enjoyed myself as I read it. There is a major caveat, but that’ll come later. I’m glad I read them and now know what everyone was in such a fuss about a few years ago. I still prefer Harry Potter, but this was a fun side road.

I mentioned my caveat above and that’s the first thing I want to talk about. Meyer is an excellent story-teller and she definitely found small details to expand into a grand story. That in mind, her writing in the first novels left much to be desired. I mentioned it in Twilight and I only bring it up here because I’m torn between whether it was the writing or Bella’s character that caused me to temper my enthusiasm for the books. I know for that first book it was definitely both, but in the last book it was most certainly neither. In the three years it took her to write and publish the four novels (and even the extra two years to the release of the novella The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner) Meyer’s writing and characterization improved 10 fold.

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