Monday, July 25, 2016

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Title: Jane Eyre
Author: Charlotte Bronte
Read by: Anna Bentinck
Publisher: Dreamscape
Length: 23 hours and 7 minutes (19 discs)
Source: Review Copy from Audiobook Jukebox – Thanks!

Jane Eyre is a timeless tale that I find something new to intrigue me each time I reread it.  I’ve read the physical book several times through my life and have also listened to a couple different audiobook versions.  If you’ve never read it before, what are you waiting for?

Jane Eyre had a sad upbringing. Orphaned as an infant, she was brought home to be raised by her Uncle Reed and his family.  At his untimely death, Uncle Reed beseeched her Aunt to continue to care for Jane.  She did, but the care seemed to be only that she is feed and clothed, with no love entering into the mix.  She is continually reminded that she is a burden on the family and unloved.  She is punished when her young cousin, Jack, abuses her and she fights back.  She realizes she would be loved more if she had beauty, money, or a loving nature herself.   I found myself wondering, where do you learn to have a loving nature when you are treated with such unkindness?  I wondered where Bronte got the inspiration for the horrid children that were Jane’s young cousins.  Was she ever the governess to such children?

Her Aunt soon sends her to Lowood School.  Lowood School is a horrible place where children are treated unkindly and barely feed. I also love the realism of Jane’s time at Lowood School.  It’s disturbing to think that Charlotte Bronte had her own real life Lowood, a school in which her elder sisters were taken ill and died.  It gives the Helen Burns scene an entirely new dimension.  Jane graduates and becomes a teacher.  She sends out an advertisement for a governess position and soon receives one at Thornfield Hall

At Thornfield Hall, Jane is enchanted by her young charge Adele and friends with the housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax.  After a time working there, she finally meets the mysterious owner, Mr. Rochester.  The two strike up an unlikely friendship that soon leads to deeper feelings.

I have to wonder about Mr. Rochester.  Why is he all about mind games?  In particular, the scene where he dresses up as the old gypsy women and tells everyone their horoscopes.  He has Blanche at the house party and has been basically giving her hopes that she is being courted, but he tests her by tell her as the gypsy that he has no money.   He also continually keeps telling Jane that he is going to marry Blanche to see how she will react.  He basically is always testing Jane to see if she will do his bidding no matter what he asks.  When I read this as a teenager, I thought Mr. Rochester was so romantic, but now as a 38-year old I have my doubts.  I know Mr. Rochester does not want to marry someone that only wants him for his money, but he is a smart man and has already figured this out.  Why does he feel the need to play mind games and lead people on?

Jane and Mr. Rochester become engaged and are soon to be married, but a secret that Mr. Rochester has hidden literally in the attic comes out and destroys their chance at happiness.

The mad woman in the attic has become a cliché in society and novels, but it all started with Jane Eyre.  I’ve read The Wide Sargasso Sea and it gave me an entirely new perspective.  I still wonder about Bertha Rochester.  What was really wrong with her?  Could she have been helped at all in her mental woes?  Was the fact that she was locked in the attic part of why she was insane?  I always felt bad that Mr. Rochester couldn’t find companionship and love as he was saddled with a “mad” wife, but what about Bertha?  She was basically married off to Mr. Rochester because HE was the one marrying someone for their wealth.  When Bertha went insane, he locked her in the attic with a caretaker and then went off to France to have a dalliance with a French dancer and spend all of the money on fripperies for her.  Does anyone else wonder about Mr. Rochester?

Jane Eyre flees from Thornfield Hall and finds herself without money, friends, or home.  She collapse outside the home of a vicar and is taken in by him and his two sisters.  She gets her health back and becomes a school mistress.  After a surprising revelation, Jane Eyre finds herself an independent woman.  She also receives a proposal from the vicar, but can’t help but still think about Mr. Rochester.  Will these two star crossed lovers find a way to be together?

The novel goes to some lengths to describe both Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester as plain people that are not attractive.  It’s interesting that in most TV or feature films made of Jane Eyre, there are always very attractive people playing these parts.  Is there an “honest” Jane Eyre out there made with plain folks?

I loved listening to the audiobook.  It’s a great way to visit a novel that you love in a new format.  Anna Bentinck was a good narrator, although I will admit to being a little sad that she didn’t have a British accent.  She was easy to understand.

My favorite Jane Eyre quote,
“I am no bird; no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will.”

Overall, Jane Eyre is a classic novel not to be missed that is enhanced by listening to it via audiobook.  Have you read it?  Do you think it is a classic novel not to be missed?  What classic novel to do you think everyone should read?

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Title: Matilda
Author: Roald Dahl
Read by:  Kate Winslet
Publisher: Penguin
Length: Approximately 4 Hours, 18 minutes (4 CDs)
Source:  Review Copy from Penguin Thanks!

Matilda is a bright child that is able to navigate the world as a very young girl and find her own way to the library.  I instantly knew she was my kind of girl.  This is a good thing as her parents pay her no mind and leave her alone constantly.  She does not agree with her used car salesman father’s crooked ways so she plays a few tricks on him to teach him a lesson. 

Much to her excitement, Matilda finally starts school, but her excitement is short lived when she meets her terrible and cruel headmistress, Miss Trunchbull.  Luckily, she has a wonderful teacher, Miss Honey.  Matilda discovers at this time that she has a secret power and she works to develop it.  Will Miss Trunchbull get the comeuppance she deserves?  What is Miss Honey’s secret?

Matilda was an imaginative and unique story that our entire family enjoyed on a recent trip.  Matilda has feelings that she does not belong in her family and she discovers a new world through books.  She takes her future in her own hands and carves out a new life.    

We watched the movie as a family as well.  The kids enjoyed the audiobook more than the movie as the movie added an intense sequence in the end that scared the kids that is not in the actual novel.  Penelope in particular (5 years old) was enthralled and couldn’t wait to turn it on each time we got into the car.  Kile and Daniel summed it up by saying, “It was good.”

Kate Winslet was an inspired and enjoyable narrator.  She did a suburb job and made it enjoyable for the entire family to listen to.  One problem we did have with the audiobook as it varied a lot in volume.  You couldn’t hear some sections (whispering) and then it would be shouting and blowing out our ears.  I don’t know how you keep it more even throughout.

Overall, Matilda is wonderful and unique story and a fabulous audiobook for the family.

Have you ever had to change your life for the better?  Has reading changed your life?  Did you read Matilda as a kid and love it? 

Winner of The Last Woman Standing by Thelma Adams

The lucky winner of The Last Woman Standing by Thelma Adams is petite.  Congrats!  Petite has been notified by email and has one week to respond with her mailing address.  She was selected as the winner using

Thank-you to all who entered the giveaway, TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be on the tour and also for allowing me to host this giveaway. 

To read more about this intriguing new novel, check out my review.

Winner of The One you Really Want by Jill Mansell

The lucky winner of The One You Really Want by Jill Mansell is Caryn who commented on the post on July 13, 2016.  Congrats to Caryn!  Caryn has been notified via email and has one week to respond with her mailing address before a new winner is chosen.

Caryn was selected as a winner using the power of  Thankyou to all that entered this great giveaway and to Sourcebooks for allowing me to host this giveaway.  To learn more about Jill Mansell's new book, You and Me Always, check out this great excerpt!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Young Pioneers by Rose Wilder Lane

Young Pioneers is the tale of a brave young couple, Molly and David, who travel west to find a homestead of their home after their marriage.  They are only 18 and 16 years old at the time.  Molly in particular is a brave young woman who not only gives birth on the prairie with only her husband in attendance, but also manages to live alone and keep the homestead when David has to get work out east after a grasshopper plague.  “In the daylight she saw the devastated country more clearly.  There was nothing but bare earth to the rim of the sky.”    I was amazed by her pluck and determination against all odds.

Lane gives great characterization and setting.  You feel through Molly’s eyes what it would be like to be alone on the prairie and the courage required by pioneers. I loved this description:

“This was a cloud ineffably beautiful, soft as moonbeams, iridescent as mother of pearl.  It covered the sun, and the sun shone through it gently with kindness.”

Lane also talks a lot about the gumption of the pioneers.  The pioneers who made it were tough and had that gumption, those that didn’t make it, lacked it.

“Suddenly she was happy, because she understood why he hadn’t come to her for comfort.  It was his pride- his pride in taking care of her and the baby.  She would love him just as much if he couldn’t take care of her.  But she wouldn’t love him at all without the pride; he wouldn’t be David without it.”

This was about a neighbor of Molly and David:
“It was not only this quarter section of land that Mr. Svenson was giving up; it was a year of his life, a year’s work and hope.  Molly doubted that Mr. Svenson would ever be more than a hired man.”

Rose Wilder Lane was a famous author before her mother, Laura Ingalls Wilder.  She greatly helped her mother with her works, but also took the material to write her own stories including this novel.  It had many elements similar to On the Banks of Plum Creek and The Long Winter.

I wonder how Rose Wilder Lane would feel now that her books are marketed as “by Rose Wilder Lane, The Daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder.”  I know the two had an at times contentious relationship.  Fame is fickle; it’s hard to believe that the once famous writer, Rose Wilder Lane, is now only remembered for her association with her mother.  Personally I think this is because Laura Ingalls Wilder’s stories were written from the heart and of her own experiences, while Rose Wilder Lane’s books that I’ve read are mining the same material without the personal touch.  The name of this novel was also changed from the original “Let the Hurricane Roar” to Young Pioneers probably to market to the Laura Ingalls Wilder crowd. 

Young Pioneers was a bit scattered at the beginning and not as detailed as I would have like to really set up the story. It got much better with more description as the book went on until it got to the point that I was enthralled by the story and read through it quickly to see how it ended.  Overall, it is a good story for those interested in history, especially of the pioneer era.  It is also an interesting book for Little House fans to read as well.

Can you see yourself able to live alone on the prairie with only an infant through a winter of blizzards?

Book Source:  I purchased this novel at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Walnut Grove Minnesota.  Stay tuned for a blog post about my journey!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Last Woman Standing by Thelma Adams Review and GIVEAWAY! (TLC Book Tours)

At the end of the day in Tombstone, who will be the last woman standing with Wyatt Earp?  Josephine Marcus is a young Jewish teenager in San Francisco when she runs off with a traveling show.  While on tour, she meets Johnny Behan and falls in love before returning to San Francisco.  One year later, Johnny has sent an escort with an engagement ring, Kitty, to bring Josephine back to Tombstone to become his bride.  Once in Tombstone, Josephine discovers that Johnny isn’t all that he seems.  Despite promises of marriage, he seems unwilling to actually take her to the court house and sign the papers.  She stands by her man waiting, but feels a growing attraction to the handsome, fearless and married lawmaker Wyatt Earp.  Will Johnny ever take Josephine to the alter?  Where will her feelings for Wyatt lead her and are they returned?  What is life like for a Jewish teenager in the outlaw west?  How will the rivalry between the top two lawmen in town play out with Josephine in the middle?

I had never heard of Josephine Marcus before and was fascinated by her story.  I watched Tombstone and read about it twenty years ago when I was a teenager and I haven’t really delved into the history of it since then.  I thought she was a fascinating character on many counts.  I thought it was intriguing that she was able to capture the love of two prominent men in the history of the Wild West.  I also was intrigued that she was Jewish making her way alone as a teenager in the Wild West.  I looked her up on Google when I finished the book and was intrigued to see how much is known and not known about Josephine Marcus.  Author Thelma Adams mostly took the high road and told the story that Josephine Marcus chose to tell at the end of her life, although she probably wouldn’t want it to be mentioned that she bedded anyone before marriage.  Josephine may have also been a soiled dove, but history will never know at this point for sure.

I’ll admit I was shocked by the first page and how bold Josephine was with her sexuality.  As I read through the book, I understood that it was because that was the power that Josephine had.  Why were all of these men attracted to her?  It was all because she was the most beautiful woman in town and exuded a lively sexuality. She was able to make her way independently in the world with this power, but it also provided times that she was in trouble as well. The story seemed to turn more about Wyatt Earp toward the end of the novel instead of Josephine.  I wish that it would have gone on longer and really told the story of Wyatt Earp and Josephine’s amazing life together after they finally ended up together.

My favorite quotes: 
“Let’s face it:  aging is a bitch for everybody.”

“Fox eyes flashed.  An owl hooted.  I gazed at the stars, gradually making out the Big Dipper, the plants Venus and Mars, fat Orion’s belt.  I awaited a wishing star, only to realize that this was my wish:  serenity – without Kitty’s chatter or Mama’s judgements or the pressures of an arranged marriage – was what I desired.”

“When I think back, I know I didn’t run away from home.  I ran to Wyatt.  He caught me, not because I was some lost sheep but because he needed who I was as much as I needed him.  When the smoke cleared in Tombstone – he ran to me.”

Overall, The Last Woman Standing is a unique and interesting look into the fascinating life of Josephine Marcus, and the rowdy outlaw new town of Tombstone.

Book Source:  Review Copy for being a part of the TLC Book Tours.

Monday, June 27th: WV Stitcher
Tuesday, June 28th: A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, June 29th: The Magic All Around Us
Thursday, June 30th: Open Book Society
Friday, July 1st: Lavish Bookshelf
Tuesday, July 5th: A. Holland Reads
Wednesday, July 6th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Thursday, July 7th: Just One More Chapter
Monday, July 11th: Books Without Any Pictures
Monday, July 11th: FictionZeal
Wednesday, July 13th: Laura’s Reviews
Thursday, July 14th: Reading is My Superpower
Friday, July 15th: Write Read Life
Monday, July 18th: A Bookaholic Swede
Tuesday, July 19th: Books and Bindings
Wednesday, July 20th: West Metro Mommy Reads
Friday, July 22nd: Worth Getting in Bed For
Monday, July 25th: Just Commonly
Wednesday, July 27th: Mom in Love with Fiction

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One lucky winner will receive a copy of  The Last Woman Standing by Thelma Adams.  If you would like to win The Last Woman Standing, please leave a comment on why it sounds interesting.
As part of your comment, you must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner. 
For an additional entry, blog about this giveaway or post it on your sidebar. Provide a link to this post in your comment.

I will be using (or a Monte Carlo simulation in excel) to pick the winners from the comments. 
This contest is only open to addresses in the United States
The deadline for entry is midnight on Friday July 22nd!
Please make sure to check the week of July 25th to see if you are a winner. I send emails to the winner, but lately I've been put in their "junk mail" folder instead of their inbox.
Good luck!