Saturday, July 30, 2016

Five Magic Bookmarks -- Winners

Congratulations to the five winners! They are:

Cowboy -- Carissa H.
Horse -- Lynn L.
Castle -- Rayleigh G.
Dragon -- Hayden W.
Moon -- Ally M.

Please check your email for a message from me asking for your mailing address so I can get these sent off.

And to all of you, whether you won or not -- I'm holding another giveaway on my Hamlette's Soliloquy blog starting Monday to celebrate Legends of Western Cinema Week! Check back then to see what I'm giving away :-)

Friday, July 29, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 20

First off, DON'T FORGET that today is the LAST DAY to enter my GIVEAWAY for Five Magic Spindles-themed bookmarks!

Now, this chapter has two parts to it, really.  First, Jane spending a terrifying night tending the injured Mason up in the creepy third floor with only a door between her and untold horrors.  Second, Jane and Rochester walking around the garden as he alllllllmost declares his love for her, and then infuriatingly doesn't.  Dreadful man!  I stamp my foot at him in annoyance.

So Much To Talk About Today!

How come Jane hasn't heard any weird sounds from the room above hers before this?  And what was Mrs. Fairfax thinking, giving her a room directly under The Room Upstairs Where Deadly Struggles Break Out???  Was it the only nice room in the servants' wing, or particularly close to Adele, or what?  I find this So Suspicious that I'm capitalizing Random Words. 

Jane is not an easy person to rattle, is she?  Horror shakes all her limbs, but she gets up and puts on clothes in case she's needed.  Once again, her mind and will control her body.  And after Mr. Rochester calms his disturbed guests, she goes back in her room, gets dressed "to be ready for emergencies" (p. 245), and sits up for over an hour before Rochester comes to see her help.

Why doesn't Mr. Rochester have her bring her sponge and smelling salts in the first place?  Is he first testing her to see if she'll really patter off alone with him in the middle of the night to the "fateful third story" (p. 246)?  Or is he so agitated he didn't think of them?

And Jane gets locked in a scary room again.  As a child, she got locked in one that was only scary in her mind, but now she's locked in one with a bleeding, fainting man next door to a fiend.  There's such a theme of locking women up in this book -- Jane here, Jane as a child, the person on the other side of that second locked door.  And you could argue that, at first, Lowood was basically a prison.  There are a lot of feminist readings of Jane Eyre that draw on this locking up of women, especially powerful, passionate, independent women.  Google for them and you'll find oodles.  I don't feel like going into that deeply right now, though I'll come back to this later in the book.

I don't feel like going into it because I want to talk about the second half of the chapter.  Rochester speaks in riddles and metaphors to Jane still, but he begins to tell her a bit more truth about himself than he's ever done before.  He tells her he has committed "a capital error" in his youth -- not a crime, not a sin, but an error.  Later, he became "wandering and sinful," but is now "rest-seeking and repentant" (p. 257).  By which I take it he's repenting, not of that original error, but of his sinful wandering in search of pleasure to forget his plight.  Don't you think?  He's repentant over what he's done SINCE that error, not of being duped into the error itself.  And he's clearly seeking her help in this, though he won't quite say it outright.

I LOVE how Jane answers him.  She insists that "a wanderer's repose or a sinner's reformation should never depend on a fellow-creature" (p. 257).  Not only is she correct, but it tells us so much about Jane and Rochester, doesn't it?  Jane has a strong moral fiber, a very stern conscience, and an almost superhuman strength of will.  (That strong will is what initially drew me to her when I read this as a teen -- I have struggled with my strong will all my life.)  Rochester is the opposite -- he can be duped, he can be misled by others and by himself, and he really requires someone to set down rules and guides for him.  Left to himself, he wanders.  

If we want to wax theological for a minute, we could even say that Rochester, throughout the book, is the very picture of the Old Adam, of an unsaved person lost to original sin.  And Jane is the image of the New Adam, guided and preserved by the grace of God and knowledge of his truth.  Bronte doesn't quite go this far, but it's an interpretation I think works fairly well.  Sinful mankind needs rules and guides imposed by others; saved mankind has them inside them now.

Anyway, I want to kick Rochester for pretending he's been talking about Blanche Ingram this whole time.  But I always snort a little over his description of her:  "A strapper -- a real strapper, Jane; big, brown and buxom" (p. 258).  Not exactly a loving suitor, is he.  He's calling her "unusually large or robust" and speaks only of her physical appearance, not of who she is and what she is like, emphasizing her physical "superiority" to Jane, of course.  Sigh.  Rochester, Rochester, you and your charades.  Just get to the good part where you tell Jane you love her, already!

Favorite Lines:

"I want you," he said (p. 246).  (Mostly I love this because it's referenced memorably in The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde.)

What crime was this, that lived incarnate in this sequestered mansion, and could neither be expelled nor subdued by the owner?  What mystery, that broke out, now in the fire and now in the blood, at the deadest hours of the night?  What creature was it, that, masked in an ordinary woman's face and shape, uttered the voice, now of a mocking demon, and anon of a carrion-seeking bird of prey? (p. 248).

Possible Discussion Questions:

I asked a lot of questions above, so here I'll only ask this:  How come Jane and Mr. Mason both refer to Mr. Rochester as "Fairfax" in the middle of this chapter?  His first name is Edward!  I can understand Mason calling him by that name, as maybe Rochester used to go by it instead.  But Jane knows perfectly well what his first name is, and yet she thinks about "the resolute spirit and... vigorous frame of Fairfax Rochester" (p. 249) BEFORE she hears Mr. Mason call him that.  Hmm.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

"The Last Kind Words Saloon" by Larry McMurtry

After Emma Jane reviewed this on her blog a couple weeks ago, I got it from the library because it's been a long time since I ready anything by Larry McMurtry -- like probably 15 years.  I read a couple of his books in college because one of my apartmentmates sophomore year gave me a copy of Dead Man's Walk for my birthday, and then I read another one of his books after that, I think Comanche Moon.  Been a long time, and I disremember exactly what it was.

I did enjoy The Last Kind Words Saloon somewhat, but not entirely.  I'd forgotten how casually dirty his books can be sometimes, and sometimes that did bother me.  However, what kept me from really digging this book was a highly personal, subjective matter of taste:  I don't like books and movies about "the end of the old west."  I don't want to see the wild west pass away and get replaced by modern life.  This is a huge part of why I don't like The Wild Bunch (1969) AT ALL.  Kind Words is gentler and less depressing than that, but still... just not something I like.

The Last Kind Words Saloon is a fictional fable about Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday and all the folks that get tangled up with them in various towns across the west, ending in Tombstone.  It is by turns funny, profane, riotous, melancholy, and scandalizing.

I had fun trying to decide which of the movie Wyatts and Docs I've seen would best match these, and I've concluded that probably James Garner and Jason Robards from Hour of the Gun (1967) would work the best, though their Wyatt and Doc in that film are FAR different from those portrayed here.  Still, they have the same weariness, at least.


I thought I was going to save this book for reviewing for Legends of Western Cinema Week, which begins on Monday, but since I didn't like it gobs and gobs, I decided to go ahead and toss it here.  I DO have another book review in store for that week, though!

Particularly Good Bits:

"Now, Doc, don't be yanking teeth out of tourists," Wyatt said, turning pale again at the mere suggestion of dentistry (p. 5).

San Saba herself was looking at nothing; and certainly, on the vast windy plain, there was plenty of nothing to be looked at (p. 29).

Wyatt didn't answer.  Nine out of ten statements Doc made were nonsense, but it was dangerous to stop listening because the tenth statement might be really smart (p. 119).

If This Was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  R.  Lots of sexual references and mature scenes, quite a bit of non-explicit violence, and a sometimes astonishing amount of bad language.  I may, when I've considered it longer, be a bit disappointed in myself for reading all of it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 19

We're halfway through the book!  Yay us.

This is one of my favorite chapters.  I love this scene in the 1983 movie version (so much so that I blogged about it here a while back).  I like how smart Jane is here -- right from the beginning, she suspects this is no "sibyl," and she answers mysterious questions with snappy, intelligent rejoinders.  Throughout, she is, as Rochester says, "very correct, very careful, very sensible" (p. 240).  But isn't she always?  We expect nothing less from Jane Eyre, and yet who among us would have such aplomb, especially at the age of 18?  Remarkable girl.

Mr. Rochester knows her well, too, doesn't he?  He knows she needs self-respect, that she uses reason to govern her passionate nature, and that she is obedient to her conscience.  If only he were the same, eh?

By the end of the chapter, Jane tells him she could dare censure "for the sake of any friend who deserved my adherence" (p. 242), which reminds me so much of that moment back in chapter 8 when Helen Burns told her, "If all the world hated you, and believed you wicked, while your own conscience approved you, and absolved you from guilt, you would not be without friends" (p. 83).  Helen, of course, meant that Jane's conscience would be her friend, but Jane is ready to put that idea into more palpable action here, willing to stand by Rochester if he deserved it, if her conscience approved of him as well, as it were.  

Which, of course, he doesn't and it won't.  But we'll get there.

Favorite Lines:

"...what is in a palm?  Destiny is not written there" (p. 234)

"'I can live alone, if self-respect and circumstances require me so to do.  I need not sell my soul to buy bliss.  I have an inward treasure, born with me, which can keep me alive if all extraneous delights should be withheld, or offered only at a price I cannot afford to give'" (p. 238).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Jane here says that the little romances among Mr. Rochester's guests "promise to end in the same catastrophe -- marriage" (p. 235).  Do you think she really sees marriage as a catastrophe?  Or only such marriages as they will make?  Or is she just messing with the "gypsy" when she says this?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

"Greenwillow" by B. J. Chute

She's done it again!  Heidi Peterson has convinced me to read a book I'd never heard of before, and now I've found a new favorite.  This happened with The Blue Castle last year, and again with Greenwillow this summer.  Thank you again and again, Heidi!

This is a quiet, gentle story of people living in an idyllic patch of England's countryside a hundred years ago or so.  Mainly, it concerns a young girl named Dorrie, who is a live-in maid-of-all-work for two sweet, elderly sisters (think a little bit Miss Matty and Miss Deborah in Cranford, and their servant Martha).  She befriends a large family who live on a farm outside town -- their father is a travelling man, which means he wanders around and only comes home every few years, generally leaving his wife pregnant again when he goes away once more.  It's a call, he says, and he insists his oldest son, Gideon, will have the call too.  Dorrie and Gideon begin to fall in love, but he insists he'll never marry so he can end this everlasting chain of men who leave their families behind.

Because you can't fight your call.

The story also involves two ministers, Reverend Lapp and Reverend Birdsong, both of whom also feel calls.  Lapp feels called to preach hellfire and brimstone sermons and drive the Devil out of Greenwillow's environs whenever he finds the chance.  Birdsong feels called to spread peace and harmony and love.  The two try to work together, they really do.  But... you can't fight your call.

The bulk of the book wafts gently but steadily on, like a spring breeze that has places to go, but is enjoying stopping to touch every flower and leaf and grass blade while it goes.  This is a book that brought joy and sunshine to me while I read it, and if I didn't need to read the next Anne book to keep up with my challenge, I would very likely just begin this all over again right now.  It's charming and refreshing and satisfying, and I cannot recommend it enough.

Particularly Good Bits:

Unfortunately, on the preceding Thursday (a bad day, Thursday, falling as it does nowhere in the week at all) the Reverend Lapp had been seized by another vision (p. 11).

"Pigs don't kneel," said Miss Maidy, coming into the kitchen and flapping her white apron at Micah and Jabez as if they had been chickens in her garden.  "They fall over sideways sometimes with their feet sticking out."
"Blessed be your Christmas, ma'am," said Micah.  "That's true, they do fall over" (p. 109).

If This Was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for quite a number of references to babies being conceived (with phrases such as "he left a baby in her belly," not anything explicit), a scary scene with a little boy lost in the woods, and a difficult (but again, not explicit) childbirth.  Not racy, and no bad language or violence, but not exactly for children either.

So, I'm counting this for the Classics Club because it was published in 1956 (more than 50 years ago) and because even though it's not well-known, it should be.  It's well-written enough that I believe it merits classification as a classic.  So this is my 43rd book read and reviewed for the Classics Club!

And B. J. Chute was a woman, so hey, it's my 12th book for the Women's Classic Literature Event too.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Women's Classic Literature Event: Group Check-In 3

The question for the third group check-in is:

Describe the writing style of your favorite author for the event so far. 

My favorite author for the event thus far has been Eleanor Pruitt Stewart, whose Letters of a Woman Homesteader was the very first book I read for it.  I hope to read her second volume, Letters on an Elk Hunt, before the event ends.  Her books are nonfiction collections of letters she wrote while homesteading in Wyoming in the early 1900s.  What particularly entranced me about her writing was how much humor she could find in a life that most of us today would consider harsh and unpleasant.  At one point she says, "I am a firm believer in laughter" (p. 61), and her letters bear that out.  She is always finding ways to show the absurdity of a situation, or look on the bright side of it at the very least.  Even when she's writing about something very dangerous, or describing something mundane. 

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 18

I'm sorry this read-along has kind of gotten bogged down lately.  Totally my fault -- my summer has been way too busy, with more company, more travelling, and more projects than I had anticipated.  We are probably not going to finish this book by the end of August.  However, I'd like to have it polished off by mid-September, so here's hoping I can carve out more time for reading and posting in August than I did in July.

Back to the story!  Jane seems to equate activity with happiness, doesn't she?  She says at the beginning of the chapter that "All sad feelings seemed now driven from the house, all gloomy associations forgotten; there was life everywhere, movement all day long" (p. 215).  But it has to be the right kind of activity -- later she finds fault with Blanche Ingram for always being busy trying to win Mr. Rochester.   Jane thinks that "she might, by merely sitting quietly at his side, saying little and looking less, get nigher his heart" (p. 221).  So I guess it has to be useful activity, not pointless or activity for the sake of activity.

Although Mr. Rochester is doing everything he can to arouse Jane's interest and jealousy, he's not being entirely cruel this time -- he lets her sit and watch the charades instead of insisting she take part, which he obviously knows would embarrass and mortify her.  That was kind.

But let's talk about the charades.  (I know I don't mark spoilers usually, but there are spoilers in this paragraph and the two following, just so you know.)  Mr. Rochester and his troupe act out two scenes involving marriage, first a wedding and then the Old Testament story of the servant come to find a wife for Jacob and meeting Rebekah at the well.  And stuck together, the two words they act out spell "Bridewell." Now, Bridewell was a prison, so on first glance this is obviously (to readers who know the story) Rochester alluding to the prison he has been living in since he got married.  Or possibly implying that marriage to Blanche Ingram would be a prison.  Or even maybe warning Jane, their audience, that marriage can be a prison.

But I did a little research on the internet and learned that Bridewell was originally a palace.  King Henry VIII built it and made it his chief London residence.  A few decades later, King Edward VI gave it to the city to be a combination orphanage and place to incarcerate prostitutes.  The city turned it into a combination prison, hospital, and workhouse, which is what it was when Jane Eyre was written.

What an interesting metaphor for Rochester's first marriage, or for Thornfield itself!  For his marriage began well, but soon he learned his wife was given to debauchery and losing her mind, and his marriage became a prison.  Likewise, Thornfield was once obviously a fine house, like a palace, but now it has become a combination orphanage for Adele; an asylum for a madwoman (who Rochester implies had been promiscuous; a prison of sorts to Rochester, who punishes himself for past wrongs by taking care of those in his care even though he doesn't care for them; and workhouse of sorts for Jane, who earns her living there doing a job that all the fine people around her disdain.

Man alive, Bronte doesn't miss anything, does she?

Okay, spoilage over.

So I was going to go into how Jane's decided she can't unlove Mr. Rochester even though he no longer pays attention to her, how she's not jealous of Miss Ingram because Blanche is so beneath her, and how she thinks that "his wife might, I verily believe, be the very happiest woman the sun shines on" (p. 221).  And the fact that she's stopped seeing Mr. Rochester's faults and likes everything about him.  But this post is long.  And Mr. Mason just arrived, the gypsy is here telling fortunes, and I just want to get to the next chapter already.  So if you want to discuss those things in the comments, I'm more than willing to do so, but for now, enough of this post.

Favorite Lines:

I have told you, reader, that I had learned to love Mr. Rochester.  I could not unlove him now, merely because I found that he had ceased to notice me (p. 219).

"I am not in the least afraid."  Nor was I; but I was a good deal interested and excited (p. 231).

Possible Discussion Questions:

What is up with Blanche and her obsession with highwaymen, bandits, and pirates?

Do you think Jane might be a little too curious about things for her own good?

Friday, July 22, 2016

Five Magic Bookmarks -- A Giveaway

Today's the day!  Five Magic Spindles gets officially released today!  Yes, I'm quite giddy.  Again.  I've gotten giddy many times during this long, fun experience, starting the day I found out "The Man on the Buckskin Horse" won the contest.  But today, at last, I can hold a book with my name on the cover in my own hands.  This is dream-like and glorious.

And I want to share the joy.  So I've created five bookmarks, one for each of these really fun Sleeping Beauty retellings.  Five of YOU will each win one.  Does that make you a bit giddy too?  Here they are, paired with the title page of the appropriate story that inspired them:

This giveaway runs through Friday, July 29.  I will draw five winners on Saturday, July 30, and post the names of the winners that day, as well a notify them by email.

I can only send these to US addresses because of shipping being so expensive these days. Of course, if you live outside the US, but have a friend who lives in the US that is willing to have it shipped to them for you, that's fine.  But I can't send them internationally.

PLEASE make sure your information for the giveaway widget includes your current email address so that if you win a prize, you'll get the email informing you that you won! If you don't reply to my email within one week, I will choose another winner and award your prize to them instead.

The first way to enter, as you see, asks you to leave a comment telling me your top two prize choices. I do my best to match winners with their choice of prizes, but that doesn't always work out.  I will do my best.  You can leave that comment right in the widget this time.

So enter via this widget:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I'm running this giveaway on this blog, Hamlette's Soliloquy, and my Facebook author page -- you can enter at any or all of those places.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 17

So this is the chapter where I get annoyed with Mr. Rochester.  I mean, I know what he's up to, but dude... cruel.  It's really mean to purposely try to make someone jealous, no matter what your motives are.

Meanwhile, Jane's still very suspicious of Grace Poole.  I was surprised to read that she's not yet 40.  I always think of her as being much older than me, but... I was like 16 when I first read this, so I guess that just lodged in my brain.  Now I'm 36.  Soon, I'll be older than Grace Poole :-o

Oh, don't know if your edition mentions this, but Mr. Rochester's horse Mesrour is named after an executioner in The Arabian Nights.  Intriguing choice, both by Mr. Rochester as a character and Charlotte Bronte as an author.

Once again, Jane hides with a book in a window-seat.  She hid that way from a tormentor, John Reed, when we first met her.  Now she's hiding from another tormentor, Mr. Rochester, though she doesn't realize yet that he's purposely distressing her.  I think this is a definite Clue from Bronte to first-time readers that Mr. Rochester is messing with Jane.  (Um, spoiler alert:  Mr. Rochester is messing with Jane.)

Jane thought she had succeeded in getting over Mr. Rochester with her little exercise in self-subjugation.  Yeah, that didn't work, huh?  Goes along with the theme throughout the book of just how much or how little our minds can control our hearts, and vice versa.  Jane says, "Every good, true, vigorous feeling I have, gathers impulsively round him" (p. 208).  Her love for him is a feeling and an impulse, in other words, not a choice.  Conscious choice is not involved here.  Mr. Rochester "is not of their kind, I believe he is of mine; I am sure he is -- I feel akin to him" (p. 208), and thus she is drawn to him even though reason and logic would say that there's no way a rich gentleman could ever love or want to marry his ward's poor governess.

However, I personally want to slap Mr. Rochester in this chapter when he eggs his guests into saying horrible things about their own former governesses.  Provoking man!  Grrrr.  I love him as a fictional character, but I would probably not want anything to do with him in real life.  I hate being teased.

Except, of course, for that final page between him and Jane.  He's been noticing her after all -- in fact, he's observed her closely.  He's still toying with her a bit, pretending he doesn't know what's going on with her, but he slips at the end and almost calls her by a term of endearment, and somehow that one line feels less calculated, more like him betraying his true sentiments.  So... yeah, I still have to love him.

Favorite Lines:

"He is not of your order; keep to your caste; and be too self respecting to lavish the love of the whole heart, soul, and strength, where such a gift is not wanted and would be despised" (p. 193).

He made me love him without looking at me (p. 207).

Possible Discussion Questions:

The servants are conspiring to keep Jane from finding out what goes on up on the third floor.  When did this start, do you think?  When Mr. Rochester told Mrs. Fairfax to hire a governess, did he say, "Make sure she never finds out what Grace Poole is up to," or did Mrs. Fairfax deem it best that an outsider not be admitted into the house's mysteries?  Or was it just sort of an accidental omission until Mr. Rochester met Jane and started to fall in love with her?  I have no idea, I'm just curious and wondering what other people think.  Please discuss!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 16

And just when we were getting used to him, off he goes.  And he doesn't even have the courtesy to tell Jane he's leaving.  Perhaps, as much as she "wanted to hear his voice again, yet feared to meet his eye" (p. 182), so he was also worried about how to react to her the next morning?  He as good as told her he's falling in love with her, and maybe now he's worrying about what will happen next.  Still, as a devotee of plans, I find his zipping around on a whim to be both inconsiderate and incomprehensible.

Jane's pretty spunky in that whole interview with Grace Poole, huh?  I mean, she suspects this is a potential murderess, and she gets all snippy and almost accusatory toward her.  

And remember how vexed Jane was with Mrs. Fairfax for not knowing how to describe Mr. Rochester?  That worthy lady has no such problem describing Blanche Ingram as she appeared six or seven years ago.  Either Mrs. Fairfax pays WAY more attention to frippery and finery, or this is just a super convenient way for Bronte to make Miss Ingram sound ultra-desirable before she ever arrives on the scene.  I must admit I lean toward the latter.

Favorite Lines:

I knew the pleasure of vexing and soothing him by turns; it was one I chiefly delighted in, and a sure instinct always prevented me from going too far (p. 187).

"Order!  No snivel!  no sentiment!  no regret!  I will endure only sense and resolution (p. 191).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Those of you who are also familiar with Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, do you think Jane Eyre and Elinor Dashwood would get along well?

What do you think of Jane's little plan to use artwork to convince herself of the unsuitability of falling in love with Mr. Rochester?  Is it plausible that it works so well for her?

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 15

One of the things I dislike about Mr. Rochester in this section of the book is his tendency to think of himself as a victim.  "Oh, poor me, I was wronged by my mistress," (never mind that having a mistress is a sin) "and my father tricked me into a terrible mistake when I was young," (never mind that he's been using that as an excuse to behave badly ever since) "and now I'm just going to pity myself to the end of my days, or I was, until I had this great idea of how to be happy," (which is also bad) "and when that goes all wrong too, it will be the fault of the people who messed up my plans, not mine for making bad plans to begin with."  

The man has a lot to learn.  But I've said that already, haven't I?

So anyway, here we learn the long, detailed story of how Mr. Rochester's grande passion for Celine Varens died when he found her in the arms of another man.  And then he casually mentions he fought a duel with the other guy and wounded him in the arm, la la la.  That part goes by much too quickly for my taste, whereas we have to spend absolute pages on him hanging out on the balcony smoking and eating chocolate (mmm, chocolate) and eavesdropping.  So I always have to spend a bit of time imagining out the duel, complete with hazy dawn mists and lots of stoic resolve on Mr. Rochester's face.

Anyway.  I had totally forgotten that by the time Mr. Rochester broke with Celine, Adele was six months old!  Huh.  Though he denies his paternity of her, I do still like him for pitying her and taking her in, though it seems he did it out of stern English conviction that France is slimy and England is pure.  Hmm. 

But enough of all that!  Because the second half of the chapter is so much more interesting.  Creepy, demonic laughing in the night, a candle left unattended in the hallway, and then Mr. Rochester in Deadly Peril!  And Jane having the great presence of mind to douse the fire herself!  Movie versions always seem to have Mr. Rochester wake up and finish putting out the fire, but nope, Jane does it all in the book.  And then I have to grin and chuckle over how Mr. Rochester just doesn't want her to leave.  He almost confesses he loves her there, that he has loved her since he first beheld her, but instead he says she "strike[s] delight to my very inmost heart" (p. 180), which I think is one of the sweetest, most romantic things he could have said anyway.

Lastly, I love it when Jane muses that she "grieved for his grief, whatever it was, and would have given much to assuage it" (p. 176).  That's a lot of what draws me to Byronic Heroes -- their sadness makes me sad, and I want to cheer them up.

Okay, not really lastly.  Jane has that dream at the end that is full of Portents of Things to Come.  She floats on a sea "where billows of trouble rolled under surges of joy" (p. 181), and she can't quite get where she wants to go.  How Very Prophetic.

Favorite Lines:

My thin-crescent-destiny seemed to enlarge; the blanks of existence were filled up; my bodily health improved; I gathered flesh and strength (p. 175).

Gratitude, and many associations, all pleasurable and genial, made his face the object I best liked to see.  His presence in a room was more cheering than the brightest fire (p. 175).

"My cherished preserver, good-night!" (p. 180).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Mr. Rochester says that his ideas, no matter how twisted or wrong, cannot harm Jane's pure and healthy mind, that in fact, "while I cannot blight you, you may refresh me" (p. 172).  Do you think he's right?

It seems fairly obvious that Jane is falling in love with Mr. Rochester, and he with her.  Do you think Mrs. Fairfax has noticed yet?

Friday, July 8, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 14

For days, Jane has little to do with Mr. Rochester.  Sometimes they pass each other, and she learns that he has very changeable moods.  Then he calls for her company again, along with Adele and Mrs. Fairfax, and thus begins a most extraordinary conversation.

I don't blame Jane for being a bit confused by him, do you?  I've read this book and know most of what he's talking about, alluding to, and planning, and I still get dizzy trying to keep up with his "deep and rather sarcastic voice" (p. 155).

So if you've never read this before, and you're a little lost and trying to figure out what he's talking about, don't despair!  He's talking to hear himself think, at some points.  And Jane may be right -- he may have had a bit more wine with supper than he ought to have, who knows.

But anyway, I'm heartily amused by the early parts of their discussion, when Jane tells him she doesn't think he's handsome, then tries to apologize for her truthfulness, and he won't let her.  He obviously likes her so much for being unconventional.  This was a great comfort to me when I was an unconventional teen!  Maybe I would be stuck with a man whose past was filled with dark secrets, but at least I wouldn't have to be alone forever just because I found so many conventions irksome.

And who can help but love Mr. Rochester for insisting on not treating Jane as his inferior just because he inherited his money and she earns hers?  Though he's not especially kind to Adele.  Still, it's so decent of him to keep and raise her, even if it is "rather on the Roman Catholic principle of expiating numerous sins, great or small, by one good work" (p. 167).  As I recall, this is about as close as he comes to accepting paternity of Adele.

But Jane, of course, is correct that an idea is not right and good just because it is attractive.  Sigh.  Mr. Rochester, you have a lot to learn.  Good thing there's lots of book left for you to learn it in!

Favorite Lines:

"Confound these civilities!  I continually forget them" (p. 155).

Instead of speaking, I smiled; and not a very complaisant or submissive smile either (p. 159).

"I am sure, sir, I should never mistake informality for insolence; one, I rather like; the other, nothing free-born would submit to, even for a salary" (p. 161).

"I mentally shake hands with you for your answer" (p. 161).

"Dread remorse when you are tempted to err, Miss Eyre; remorse is the poison of life" (p. 163).

"Your language is enigmatical, sir; but though I am bewildered, I am certainly not afraid" (p. 165).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Rochester and Jane disagree as to whether repentance or reformation is the cure for remorse.  What is your opinion?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

"Girl Waits with Gun" by Amy Stewart

So... I didn't like this book as much as I was expecting to.  I liked it so much more!!!  I had read something about it somewhere a while ago (gee, can I vague that up for you a little?), and when I saw it at the bookstore last week, I said, "Aha!  That sounded good, I think," and bought it on a whim.  I almost never buy brand new books on a whim (you know what a cautious fellow I am), but I had a coupon...

Anyway.  Great book!  Really, really fun.  It concerns the three unmarried Kopp ladies, Constance, Norma, and Fleurette, who live on an isolated farm in New Jersey in the 1910s.  They have a literal run-in with a dreadful man named Henry Kaufman when his motorcar smashes up their buggy.  Instead of paying to have their buggy repaired like he obviously ought to, he starts harassing the women with drive-by taunts, bricks through windows, threatening notes, and eventually more.  Constance and Norma Kopp learn to shoot pistols and have a series of adventures that involve not only Henry Kaufman, but also an unwed mother whose baby boy has disappeared.  

And it's based on a true story.  Did I mention that?  Yes!  The Kopps were real people -- there's even a photograph of Constance at the back of the book.  The title comes from the headline of a real-life newspaper article written about their efforts to protect themselves from Kaufman and his associates.  

But all that isn't why I loved the book.  I loved it, of course, because of the characters.  Constance Kopp is precisely the sort of resourceful, level-headed, determined woman I have always striven to be.  Had I been in her situation, I would have armed myself and set out to protect my family much like she did.  Her sister Norma is a homing pigeon fanatic, but equally sensible and down-to-earth -- in some ways, she reminded me a great deal of my best friend.  Fleurette... at first, Fleurette did annoy me.  She's just a teenager, while Constance and Norma are in their 30s, and she's flighty and frolicsome and fashion-obsessed.  But she grew on me, with her frog-catching and -cooking, her knack for sewing, and her calm confidence in Constance and Norma's abilities to save her from being kidnapped and sold into white slavery.

And then there's Sheriff Heath.  Oh, Sheriff Heath, with his mustache and his eyes, and that name that makes me think of a certain Barkley Boy.  He wasn't exactly a love interest, but he did provide some nice manly scenery.

A sequel, Lady Cop Makes Trouble, is getting released this fall, and you can bet I'll be buying that one too -- and not on any whim!

Particularly Good Bits:

I worried that I was destined to die in the same bed my mother had died in, leaving behind nothing but a cellar full of parsnips and uneven rows of stitches along cuffs and collars that nobody even remembered me making (p. 27).

In my mind, Henry Kaufman existed only in those moments when I had seen him, and the rest of the time he was still and quiet, like a marionette hung backstage by his strings, motionless until someone took him up and sent him skittering back to life (p. 83).

The granite courthouse behind us, the rows of brick offices and shops across the street, and the trolleys running along their tracks, all seemed to speak of a crisp and orderly world in which people could walk the streets in peace (p. 404).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13.  There are two unwed mothers in this story, and while there are NO detailed scenes of how they came to be that way, there are oblique and veiled references to such things, and to white slavery as well.  There is some violence, including gunplay and arson.  There are some very tense moments, and not a small amount of danger.  However, there is almost no bad language -- only one curse word as far as I can recall.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 13

When Jane says, "for my part, I liked it better" (p. 141) regarding Thornfield with its master at home, I muttered a hearty, "Hear, hear!"  Because my goodness, did this book just get FUN!  Almost this entire chapter is spent in spirited banter between Jane and Mr. Rochester.  How it delights me.

I do worry a little about Jane and her "heavy, unwelcome thoughts" (p. 142), though.  There's that little thread of depression or trauma or whatever, popping up again.  Hooray for the arrival of Mr. Rochester to liven up her world, and of Mrs. Fairfax to call her out of her solitude.  Oh, this new change in her world is going to be so good for Jane!

(Yes, it is too!  Shh, now.)

Rochester and Jane amuse me so much.  The margins of this chapter are full of little notations, like "hee hee" and little hearts and stars and smiley faces.  And a smiley heart or two at especially delightful spots.  I love how Jane finds his abrasive manner freeing rather than stifling.  She says that "I could not have returned or repaid it by answering grace and elegance on my part.  But harsh caprice laid me under no obligation" (p. 144).  In the previous chapter, she reacted similarly, saying that "the frown, the roughness of the traveller, set me at my ease" (p. 135).  Aren't she and Rochester admirably suited to each other from the first?  

And Rochester accusing her of being a fairy is completely adorable.  Almost as adorable as her answering him quite seriously.  Love it, love it, love it.

We also end with a some delightful hints about Mr. Rochester's Sad and Mysterious Past.  Oh, how tantalizing!

Favorite Lines:  "A present has many faces to it, has it not? and one should consider all before pronouncing an opinion as to its nature" (p. 145).

"Arithmetic, you see, is useful; without its aid I should hardly have been able to guess your age" (p. 148).

"As to the thoughts, they are elfish" (p. 151).

Possible Discussion Questions:

This is the second time we've gotten detailed descriptions of unusual artwork.  This time, it's by Jane's own hand.  Do you think these foreshadow coming events the way the ones she saw in a book at the beginning appeared to?

Mrs. Fairfax claims she "never clearly knew" (p. 152) about Mr. Rochester's past, but has only conjectured a few things.  Do you think she is telling the truth?

Top Ten Tuesday: Numbers Game

This week, The Broke and the Bookish have chosen the topic "Top Ten Books I Enjoyed That Have Under 2000 Ratings On Goodreads."  So, I consulted my (by no means comprehensive) Goodreads list and came up with these, which I'm arranging alphabetically by author (because I can!):

Jane Austen's England by Roy and Lesley Adkins -- a thorough look at life in England during the time of Jane Austen.

Vendetta for the Saint by Leslie Charteris -- the first full-length Saint adventure I read, and so much fun. 

An Unexpected Cookbook by Rachael Chris-Oseland -- a delightful, delicious cookbook.

And Now Tomorrow by Rachel Field -- a heart-warming, inspiring story of a woman struggling to figure out who she is and what she wants.

Corral Nocturne by Elisabeth Grace Foley -- a charming western re-telling of the Cinderella story.

Henry Tilney's Diary by Amanda Grange -- a delightful retelling of Northanger Abbey!

Keeping Watch by Laurie R. King -- a thriller, which I liked sooo much better than the book it follows, Folly.

Bring Me a Unicorn by Anne Morrow Lindbergh -- a consuming collection of letters and diary entries that detail the author's adolescence and the beginnings of her romance with famous aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh.

A Skeleton in God's Closet by Paul L. Maier -- a fictional story of a startling archaeological mystery.

A Family Affair by Rex Stout -- my absolute favorite Nero Wolfe mystery.

What about you?  Do you have favorite books that don't seem to be as popular as they ought to be?  Have you read any of these?

Monday, July 4, 2016

"Anne of Ingleside" by L. M. Montgomery

Erm.  So, my memory of this series just gradually becoming less and less enjoyable is kind of true when it comes to this book.  Not that it was bad, or completely boring.  It was just kind of... flat.  Some of Anne's many kids have adventures (her daughter Diana has basically the same adventure twice), but none of them are as winsome as Anne.  They're more like each one embodies a small piece of Anne's personality, and what makes me love Anne so much is that she's complex.  But the kids aren't all that complex.  Sigh.  Also, way too much gossip.  So many chapters (or it felt like so many, anyway) of old women telling what are supposed to be humorous tales of weird things their neighbors or relations have done.  Felt like filler.

However, the last 3 chapters, where Anne suddenly succumbs to melancholia and convinces herself that Gilbert no longer loves her -- that part was intensely awesome.  She and Gilbert have been married for 15 years, and Cowboy and I just celebrated our 14th anniversary, and... I have no fears about my husband having ceased to love me, but I know there are days where everything just grates on me, or where he's tired from working overtime and doesn't say much, and... if several days like that piled up, I could totally see something like this being possible.  That last section was far more believable and emotionally engaging than the rest of the book combined.  And... it centered on Anne.  Not on her kids.  If Montgomery hadn't relegated Anne to being a side character in her own series, this book might have touched me a great deal more than it did.

And then there was Aunt Mary Maria.  But the less said about her, the better.

Not looking hugely forward to Rainbow Valley, I must admit.  Though I did always get a big kick out of the minister's children and their graveyard picnics.  So I'll survive it.

Particularly Good Bits:

Her heart sang all the way because she was going home to a joyous house... a house where every one who crossed its threshold knew it was a home... a house that was filled all the time with laughter and silver mugs and snapshots ans babies... precious things with curls and chubby knees... and rooms that would welcome her... where the chairs waited patiently and the dresses in her closet were expecting her... where little anniversaries were always being celebrated and little secrets were always being whispered (p. 14).

She would hold all the threads of the Ingleside life in her hands again to weave into a tapestry of beauty (p. 55).

"I have never altogether liked cats myself, Miss Dew, but I maintain they have a right to wave their own tails" (p. 60).

Walter was again sitting on the steps with eyes full of dreams.  Dusk had fallen.  Where, he wondered, had it fallen from?  Did some great spirit with bat-like wings pour it all over the world from a purple jar? (p. 213).

"An imagination is a wonderful thing to have... but like every gift we must possess it and not let it possess us.  You take your imaginings a wee bit too seriously.  Oh, it's delightful... I know that rapture.  But you must learn to keep on this side of the borderline between the real and the unreal.  Then the power to escape at will into a beautiful world of your own will help you amazingly through the hard places of life.  I can always solve a problem more easily after I've had a voyage or two in the Island of Enchantment" (p. 244).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  G for good and clean, if not particularly delicious.

This is my 42nd book read and reviewed for the Classics Club!  And my 11th for the Women's Classic Literature Event.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 12

Jane settles nicely into her calm, comfortable life... and gets bored.  So very bored.  Jane, honey, it's not like you've had a calm and comfy life up to now -- why are you bored so quickly?  Is it just so weird and different?  No one's beating you or humiliating you or starving you, so life is now too dull?


However, here to rescue Jane from domestic dullness, and us from a suddenly whiny narrator, we have Mr. Rochester.  At last.  Finally.  My goodness, the man takes forever to show up!

Sorry.  Jane's whining is probably rubbing off on me.

It's just that... I love Mr. Rochester.  A lot.  He was my first Really Major Literary Crush as a teen.  I have horrible taste, I know.  He's damaged goods.  He's barely nice, even when he wants to be.  I don't care.  I fell for him when I first read this, when I was probably 16 (I really should look back through my records and journals and see if I can figure out when I did first read it), and I read Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier soon after, and between Edward Rochester and Maxim de Winter, I was hooked on Byronic Heroes but good.  Have been ever since.  Fictional ones, of course.  In real life I'd probably be very annoyed with them and tell them to get a grip already.  But fictionally, I can't resist them.  They're so sad!  So tortured!  So desperately in need of a good hug, of someone to love them despite their flaws.  They need someone to help them be happy again.

That's all I want, really.  I want my Byronic Boys to be happy again.  Is that so much to ask?

Um, yeah, sorry.  Rochester has barely shown up, and I'm rhapsodizing already.  Let's talk about Jane's great little feminist manifesto for a minute, shall we?  
"Women are supposed to be very calm generally; but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing the piano and embroidering bags.  It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them; if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex" (p 130-131).
Well, amen, sister-friend!  I don't generally consider myself a "feminist," simply because that title seems to involve all sorts of man-bashing these days.  But although I myself love knitting and playing the piano, I also enjoy writing novels and not having to publish them under a male pseudonym because they won't be taken seriously if I don't.  I'm anti-stagnation for anyone, regardless of their gender, and want my daughters to grow up knowing that if they want to become farmers or lawyers, they can, even if there once was a time that those professions were relegated to the males of the world.  Similarly, I want my son to grow up knowing that if he wants to knit or embroider, make puddings or play the piano, he can, even thought there was a time when they were considered only for females.

I'm not saying men and women are interchangeable.  I firmly believe they are not.  But I also firmly believe that most activities in this world are perfectly acceptable for either gender to enjoy, practice, or learn.  Which, I think, is what Charlotte Bronte is saying here.  What do you think she means?  Is she an "early feminist," as people these days often claim?  Those can be our Possible Discussion Questions for the day.

Also, randomly, I love that it's Rochester's gruff frowniness that sets Jane at her ease and makes her insist on helping him.  She reminds me of myself there, and my oldest daughter.  

Favorite Lines:

It is vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquillity; they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it (p. 130).

In those days I was young, and all sorts of fancies, bright and dark, tenanted my mind (p. 133).

My help had been needed and claimed; I had given it; I was pleased to have done something; trivial, transitory though the deed was, it was yet an active thing, and I was weary of an existence all passive (p. 137).

Another Possible Discussion Question:

Did the whole idea of the "Gytrash" remind anyone else of the "Grim" from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban?