Saturday, October 29, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 34

NOW I remember why I don't like St. John Rivers much.  It's this chapter.  It starts well enough, with all the Christmasyness, and did you catch that Jane's school had sixty girls now?  WOW!  (Also, I got this big kick out of the bit about how British peasants are better than other peasants.)  

But then St. John decided to skulk around being grim and gruff and positively unpleasant.  Here's the thing:  I hate being forced to do things, even if they're good things, or things I would otherwise want to do.  Tell me I must do them, and I won't.  Or I'll do them only under bitter protest.  Similarly, I detest it when people try to force others to do things.  No, and no, and no.  And when someone tries to change another person to suit their own needs or desires, I get angry.  So nope, turns out I do not like St. John better this time through.  I tried to like him, I started to like him a little, but nope, not gonna happen.  He's too much of what I dislike.

Besides, this chapter is creepy!  "By degrees, he acquired a certain influence over me that took away my liberty of mind... I fell under a freezing spell" (p. 461).  Oh my goodness.  Danger, Will Robinson!  That is creepy and controlling and awful.  St. John is forcing Jane to change because he wants her to change, and the fact that he shows no sexual interest in her does not make it better, it makes it weirder.  To me, anyway.  

We've brought up the idea of Jane being caged a few times.  It's here again, I think, when she says, "my mind is at this moment like a rayless dungeon" (p. 467).  And St. John refuses to accept that she is not what he wants her to be, and that he cannot force her to become what she is not.  Jane insists, "I have no vocation" (p. 466), and I believe her.  'Vocation' doesn't just mean 'occupation' in this sense, but 'calling.'  Properly understood, the idea of Christian Vocation is that anything we do that serves God and our neighbor is a good vocation.  Mothering, teaching, nursing, cooking, stocking shelves, fixing cars -- these are all worthy vocations for Christians.  Jane realizes that homemaking provides opportunities to serve God and others, just as mission work does.  St. John doesn't.  He's too focused on earning his way to heaven with sweeping acts of piety and sacrifice, and can't believe anything else is worth doing.  Hard, stubborn, wrong-headed man.  Blech.

Favorite Lines:

"I am disposed to be as content as a queen, and you try to stir me up to restlessness" (p. 453).

I would always rather be happy than dignified (p. 474) (Of late, this has been my favorite line in the whole book.)

Possible Discussion Questions:

Why do you think that understanding St. John gives Jane the power to refuse him?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Women's Classic Literature Event: Group Check-In 4

The question for the fourth group check-in is this:

Share the most memorable scene from one of your reads for this event.

There was one scene from Rilla of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery that I have remembered clearly for decades.  As a teen, it was my favorite moment in the book because it was the part I laughed hardest over.  While rereading it this fall for the first time in probably twenty years, I kept wondering when that scene would crop up.  As I neared the end of the book, I began to wonder if I'd confused some other book with this, because I still hadn't gotten to it!  But finally, on page 260, there it was:

     "Mother and I went into Charlottetown yesterday to see the moving picture, 'Hearts of the World.'  I made an awful goose of myself -- father will never stop teasing me about it for the rest of my life.  but it all seemed so horribly real -- and I was so intensely interested that I forgot everything but the scenes I saw enacted before my eyes.  And then, quite near the last came a terribly exciting one.  The heroine was struggling with a horrible German soldier who was trying to drag her away.  I knew she had a knife -- I had seen her hide it, to have it in readiness -- and I couldn't understand why she didn't produce it and finish the brute.  I thought she must have forgotten it, and just at the tensest moment of the scene I lost my head altogether.  I just stood right up on my feet in that crowded house and shrieked at the top of my voice -- 'The knife is in your stocking -- the knife is in your stocking!'
     "I created a sensation!  The funny part was, that just as I said it, the girl did snatch out the knife and stab the soldier with it!
     "Everybody in the house laughed.  I came to my senses and fell back in my seat, overcome with mortification.  Mother was shaking with laughter.  I could have shaken her.  Why hadn't she pulled me down and choked me before I had made such an idiot of myself.  She protests that there wasn't time.
     "Fortunately the house was dark, and I don't believe there was anybody there who knew me.  And I thought I was becoming sensible and self-controlled and womanly!  It is plain I have some distance to go yet before I attain that devoutly desired consummation."

Those few paragraphs are still among my favorite in the book, and I chuckled over them while typing them up just now.  Also, I like that she somewhat references Hamlet with that last line, echoing his "'tis a consummation devoutly to be wished."

So far, I have read 16 books for this event, all listed on this page.  I aim to read 4 more by the end of December, to make it a nice, round 20.  We'll see if I get there!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Feels Like Fall

Today's topic from The Broke and the Bookish is a fall freebie, so I'm listing off my Top Ten Books That Remind Me of Fall.  Some of them take place partly or entirely in autumn, and some just feel like they ought to be read when leaves are turning colors and the air is crisp and invigorating.  Here they are, with titles linked to my reviews when possible:

1.  The Hound of the Baskervilles by A. Conan Doyle takes place in October, and every October for over a decade, I have felt the urge to either read the book or at least watch a film version of it.  I re-read it earlier this month (but didn't review it again because I just did a read-along of it two years ago, and I don't have any new thoughts on it yet).  It was the first non-abridged Sherlock Holmes book I read, when I was 13 or 14, and I've loved the characters of Holmes and Watson ever since.

2.  Anne of Windy Poplars by L. M. Montgomery covers several years, but I envision Anne walking through fallen leaves when I think of this book, so here it is.  Could be because the cover above is the one my copy has, and it has a somewhat autumnal feel, to me.

3.  The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien has a lot of scenes set in autumn, and much of the movie does as well.  Since I watched the movies before I read the books, that definitely swayed my feelings.

4.  The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton does take place in fall, doesn't it?  All that stuff up at the abandoned church, with piles of dead leaves and so on.  

5.  The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler takes place in the fall and definitely feels like it -- the whole book is permeated with an atmosphere of decay, ending, dying.  I'm suddenly in the mood to reread this now.

6.  Bloodlines by Jan Burke might not take place in autumn -- it might be winter instead, I'm not sure.  But I have the impression of days getting colder, lots of dead leaves, but no snow, so there you go.  

7.  The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd has lots of stuff about graveyards and ghosts in it, which makes me think of fall, though there's lots of stuff about flowers and growing plants that also gives it a springtime feel.  Kind of a mix, I guess.

8.  Middlemarch by George Eliot probably doesn't have much to do with fall, but I started reading it in September a couple of years ago, so it will always remind me of this season.

9.  Samantha Learns a Lesson by Susan S. Adler takes place during the fall, when Samantha goes back to school.  I read this series over and over and over as a kid -- back when Samantha, Kirsten, and Molly were the only American Girls!  I remember when the Felicity books were released -- I went to a release party at my library :-o  And got a free poster!  But anyway, yeah, this was one of my favorite Samantha books because I love how she learns to care for those less fortunate than herself.

10.  Little Men by Louisa May Alcott reminds me of fall, just like Little Women reminds me of spring.  No clear idea why, it just does.  Especially Dan and Nat -- something about them just says "fall" to me.

So there's my list for this week.  What books remind you of fall?  Did you do TTT this week, and if so, what topic did you choose?

Monday, October 24, 2016

"The Enemy" by Lee Child

I have a book hangover.  The worst book hangover I have had in a looooooooong time.  The kind where my brain is still gallivanting around inside a fictional world, and the rest of me is trying to navigate real life without it.

In other words, wow.  Now this was a well-written book.

I'm not going to call it a "good" book because it was about bad stuff.  Murders and conspiracies and gay-bashing and all sorts of wrong -- and, of course, one wonderful, not-so-white knight wading into the mess to try his hand at cleaning it up.  It was a modern mystery-thriller, in other words, and probably part of the reason it sucked me in so thoroughly was that it is so different from the other things I've been reading lately that it was like eating your first potato chip after having nothing but marshmallows for months.

This is the first Jack Reacher book I've ever read.  Earlier this month, I watched the 2012 film Jack Reacher for the first time, and it wowed me so completely that I put a library hold on this book immediately.  And went to see the new film, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back this weekend.  So yeah... kind of becoming a fan, it seems.

The Enemy is not the first Jack Reacher book published, but it's the first in chronological order of the series.  In it, Major Reacher is an elite member of the US Army's Military Police, and he investigates a string of seemingly unrelated murders that turn out to be part of a larger conspiracy high up in the military.  One of the things I got a big kick out of was how many scenes took place around where I live -- they talked about driving up I-95 to Washington, DC a lot, and I don't live all that far from I-95, so I could picture sections of the countryside they passed very clearly :-)  Plus, I've been to Fort Belvoir and I know where a bunch of other military bases and such around here are, so... yeah, that was neat.

I'm guessing that, for people who were already fans of this series, reading this book about what Reacher was like when he was in the military was all kinds of super-exciting fan-happy goodness.  For me, since I'm just venturing into this series, it was a cool way to start, but I probably missed a jolt of joy I would have gotten if I'd read these in the order they were written.  However, I like to read about things in the order they happen, for the most part, which is why I decided to begin with this book.

Particularly Good Bits:

"I'm French," she said.  "You're American.  There's a world of difference.  An American gets sick, she's outraged.  How dare that happen to her?  She must have the fault corrected immediately, at once.  But French people understand that first you live, and then you die.  It's not an outrage" (p. 96).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: R for violence, sexual content, and language.  This was not the most graphic murder mystery I've ever read, which I was thankful for.  I've read a couple of books that were so graphic I either stopped midway through, or decided after reading them that I would not be reading any more by that author.  This had a lot of violence in it, but not such that I got grossed out or worried about my emotional health.  It was a lot like the Robert Ludlum books I read a lot of for a while, content-wise.  Some cussing (mostly obscenities and not profanity) and adult content, including very glossed-over sexual activity, which is the kind I handle best.  None of this moment-by-moment description, just a vague paragraph that lets you know that, yup, these two people had sex.  However, there was a lot of discussion of homosexuality and other sinful behavior that will make many people uncomfortable.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 33

A few chapters ago, I mentioned that the tendency for books of this era to rely on coincidence and convenience can be hard to accept.  We've come to the huge coincidence:  Jane just happened to land on the doorstep of her only living relatives in all of England.What're the odds?  Pretty slim, I would think.

However, I love this book anyway  You couldn't write it today without people calling you far-fetched, so I guess we can all be glad it was written when it was!

Don't you love how, when St. John tells Jane that she's being sought by a lawyer, she doesn't care a smidge why he's looking for her -- she only wants to know how Mr. Rochester is.  That is her single-minded inquiry, again and again until she is sure St. John can't tell her anything.  And, when St. John piously declares Rochester to be "a bad man" (p. 442), she insists on defending him.  Oh, steadfast Jane.

And I also love her generous nature.  She doesn't want to be an heiress anymore, with money to attract a Rochester.  She wants a family, and if she can buy one by sharing her fortune, she will consider the money well spent.

Favorite Lines:

"As you hope ever to be forgiven, Mr. Rivers, the high crime and misdemeanor of spoiling a sanded kitchen, tell me what I wish to know" (p. 445).

This was wealth indeed! -- wealth to the heart! -- a mine of pure, genial affections (p. 446).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Jane says "I don't want to marry, and never shall marry... I know I what I feel, and how averse are my inclinations to the bare thought of marriage" (p. 449).  If events had not transpired the way they do, do you think she would ever have married someone else?  Or would she have stuck to this and remained single?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 32

You're not going to believe this, but I'm starting to change my opinion of St. John Rivers.  Just a bit.  I didn't remember this chapter much at all -- to be honest, several of the times I've read this, I skimmed through this whole part of the book.  I've always been irked with him for his seemingly high-handed rejection of Miss Oliver and insistence that being a missionary is holier than being a parish minister.  I still disagree with the latter, but his decision not to pursue Miss Oliver makes a lot more sense to me this time through.

And I've had a thought.  Do you think that St. John and Miss Oliver are foils for Jane and Mr. Rochester?  This thought occurred to me when I was reading the description Jane gives of Miss Oliver's character:  "she was coquettish, but not heartless -- exacting, but not worthlessly selfish.  She had been indulged from her birth, but was not absolutely spoiled" (p. 426).  That struck me as very similar to Rochester.  And Miss Oliver herself says Jane is like Mr. Rivers.

St. John is handsome, and Jane is not.  Miss Oliver is beautiful, and Mr. Rochester is not.    Both St. John and Jane are poor, while Miss Oliver and Mr. Rochester are rich.  Like all good foils, they have just enough similarities to illuminate their differences and show off the main characters' good and bad points.

St. John had an iron resolve, like Jane.  Miss Oliver wants him to stay and marry her, and he believes he should not, just like Jane believes she should not stay and marry Rochester.  But unlike Jane, who is morally right in her decision, St. John is merely stubborn.  And unlike Rochester, who is intelligent and a good match for Jane in the ways that matter to them, Miss Oliver is St. John's mental and emotional inferior.

So, anyway, I don't quite dislike St. John like I always did before.  I still agree with his self-assessment that he is "a cold, hard, ambitious man" (p. 434), and I don't think I will ever truly like him.  But I think I understand and pity him more now.

Favorite Lines:

To live amid general regard, though it be but the regard of working-people, is like "sitting in sunshine, calm and sweet;" serene inward feelings bud and bloom under the ray (p. 425).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Jane says, "Reserved people often really need the frank discussion of their sentiments and griefs more than the expansive" (p. 431).  Do you find that to be true?

Have you changed your opinion of any characters during this read-along so far?

Friday, October 14, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 31

And so Jane begins her newest adventure, teaching poor young girls.  I do like her attitude that "the germs of native excellence, refinement, intelligence, kind feeling, are as likely to exist in their hearts as in those of the best-born" (p. 415).  Yet, she feels as if she's sunk to a lower place in society than she previously possessed, which I'm sure she has -- schoolmarm to a bunch of commoners must be a lower station than private governess to a gentleman's ward.  What I love best here is that Jane points out that she should not hate or despise herself for feeling this because she knows it is wrong to feel herself degraded.  Recognizing herself as being petty and weak is a great step forward.  Way to go, Jane!

I also love how worried she still is about Mr. Rochester.  She worries that he will be driven to "desperate grief and fatal fury" (p. 417) by her disappearance.  

And then here's St. John, kindly inquiring as to whether Jane likes her cottage and job.  I do like him for that.  But then Miss Oliver turns up, and he gets all flower-crushing and distant.  St. John, St. John, you're such a stubborn fellow, but not in the good way, I fear.

Favorite Lines:

God directed me to a correct choice.  I thank His providence for the guidance! (p. 416)

Possible Discussion Questions:

Jane says of Miss Oliver possessing both beauty and fortune, "What happy combination of the planets presided over her birth, I wonder?" (p. 421)  Do you think she's being tongue-in-cheek here, or does Jane believe in astrology?  

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

"Lady Cop Makes Trouble" by Amy Stewart

You might remember how much I ooohed and ahhhed over Girl Waits With Gun this summer.  I snatched up a copy of the sequel while I was on vacation, but didn't have time to read it until we got home.  However, once I was in it, I was really in it, and I think I liked it even better than the first book!  Girl dragged a little in places, as the Kopps waited and waited to catch Henry Kauffman.  But Lady never felt draggy at all.  Yay!

Once again, what I liked best was Constance Kopp herself, the lady cop -- or at least, she wants to be a lady cop, but there's some confusion as to whether ladies are allowed to be cops yet, this being the early 20th century.  But she's still the sort of resourceful, level-headed, determined woman I have always striven to be, and I quite admire her.  The fictional her, I mean -- I have no idea how close the personality of the character is to the real Constance Kopp, but whatever.

In this book, Constance kinda sorta accidentally lets a prisoner escape, gets removed from her tentative post as deputy, and sets out unofficially tracking the prisoner down.  Because she's awesome.  Norma and Fleurette are back again as well, and of course, Sheriff Heath.  Poor Sheriff Heath, he's beset from all sides in this, and I felt quite sorry for him at times.

Particularly Good Bits:

I carried a gun and handcuffs.  I could make an arrest, just like any deputy.  I earned a man's salary.  People did find it shocking and I didn't mind that one bit (p. 13).

It occurred to me that there was something admirable about a man in his late thirties.  He was old enough to know his own mind and still young enough to do something about it (p. 46).

"Yes, well, he's a man of limited intellect, and if he had more than one idea at a time they'd die from overcrowding" (p. 71).

How often would I have to run to get away from my own mistakes? (p. 174)

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 again, for some hints and allusions to unsavory behavior, violence, and suspense.  Little or no bad language, and astonishingly clean overall.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I've Read Thanks to You

Today's topic from The Broke and the Bookish is "Ten Books I've Read Because of Another Blogger."  I have gotten so many wonderful recommendations from other bloggers, even before I started a book-dedicated blog.  Here are ten I've loved, with the titles linked to my reviews of them:

The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery -- I read several rave reviews of this over the course of a year or two, and finally got it from the library.  And promptly cursed my reticence to read it, because wow... it's now one of my absolute favorite books, and I plan to re-read it this winter.

Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster -- another one that lots and lots of people told me I should read, so I finally tried it, not expecting to love it, and then I couldn't put it down.  It makes me laugh and laugh, and I dearly love to laugh over a good book.

Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay -- Reay's books have been alllllll over the corner of the blogosphere I inhabit, and with good cause.  She smooshes classic plots, a love of books, and modern problems together to make beautiful stories.

Greenwillow by B. J. Chute -- my friend Heidi gave me a copy of this because she knew I would love it.  She was right!  It is utterly charming, and another book that made me chuckle.

I, Claudia by Charity Bishop -- funny story:  One day, I suddenly realized that the Charity who wrote the book I, Claudia that I kept reading reviews of, the Charity who edited that Femnista magazine I liked to read, and the Charity who ran my favorite MBTI typing site were all the same person.  The day I realized that was the day I applied to become a writer for Femnista.  But I didn't actually manage to read this book until a couple months ago -- in fact, my mom had read it before I did!  Crazy, huh?

Middlemarch by George Eliot -- I read this because I participated in a watch-along of the BBC movie version hosted by Birdie, loved the film, made my best friend watch the film, she loved it too, and we decided to read the book together.  It's one of the deepest and most profound works of fiction I've ever read.

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell -- oodles of blogging friends kept insisting I needed to watch the BBC miniseries and read the book.  But until my best friend watched it and basically ordered me to see it, I just never quite got around to it.  And I fell so much in love, I gave copies of the miniseries away for Christmas and then read the book.  Delicious.

Sixteen Brides by Stephanie Grace Whitson -- one of the best bits of western Christian fiction I've ever read, and I never would have known it existed if I hadn't read about it on a blog!

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd -- Kara raved and raved and raved about this book, so when I spotted it at the library, I gave it a try.  Both my son and I loved it so much we had to buy our own copy, which is pretty well-worn by now.

Tales of the Jazz Age by F. Scott Fitzgerald -- book blogger Dale reviewed a story from this that sounded so funny, I had to go get the book and read it myself.  So happy I did!  In fact, I discovered that, for the most part, I like Fitzgerald's short stories better than his novels.

What books have you read because of a review on a blog or GoodReads?  Please share!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 30

One of the things I have had the hardest time reconciling myself with, when I read books from the 1800s, is how often they rely on coincidence and convenience.  Faint with hunger and desperation, Jane just happens to fall in with people she likes!  And not just likes, but with whom she shares "perfect congeniality of tastes, sentiments, and principles" (p. 405).  I'm happy for her, but wow, how convenient, huh?  And the coincidence will come into play in a couple of chapters, but we'll get to that later.

The one thing that makes the happy, instant, blissful life for Jane at least a bit believable is exasperating, restless St. John, with his "reserved... abstracted, and even brooding nature" (p. 407).  I've been trying to figure out why I don't like St. John as much as Rochester, because really, he's a much better person.  Maybe it's that lack of "mental serenity" and "inward content" (p. 407) -- he seems to enjoy being discontented.  And he's so, I don't know, bound up and closed off, like he's closed and locked himself and tied himself all up so no one can ever get close to him.  It's not a healthy way to be, certainly, and it makes me tired just thinking about what being around him would be like.  I have a great need to make people happy, to help them out of unhappiness, but when someone like St. John steadfastly insists on being miserable, then my instincts are thwarted, I get annoyed, and eventually I give up on them.  And I think that's what makes me not simply like St. John Rivers less than Rochester, but actively dislike him at times.

And then there's the lack of Gospel in his sermon.  And in his life!  He's all Law, insisting on denying himself everything so he can earn his way to heaven.  Not how it works, buddy.

Plus, dude, what even are you trying to do by taking page upon page to tell Jane you've got a teaching job for her?  It smacks of teasing.

Possible Discussion Questions:

Why does Jane say, "compared with that of a governess in a rich house, it was independent; and the fear of servitude with strangers entered my soul like iron" (p. 411)?  When she left Lowood, she was more than happy to take a position as governess working for strangers.  What has changed?

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Anne of Green Gables Week Tag

How perfect is this for my Year With Anne?  I just discovered, via Naomi Sarah, that a blogger named Miss Evie is hosting an Anne of Green Gables blog week!  Looks like I finished reading the original series just in time, eh?

To kick things off, she's provided a nice tag for anyone to fill out if they're so inclined.  I'm so inclined!  Here we go.

1. How did you get introduced to Anne of Green Gables?

When I was around 7 years old, a friend of my parents happened to have a copy of one of the books tucked in her diaper bag or purse when she came visiting one day.  My mom had never read the books, and her friend gushed over them to the point that my mom promised to get them from the library.  She did.  She read the first one aloud to us as a family, probably in the car on random jaunts while my dad drove.  We loved it, and so she read us the next, and the next...

2. Are you more like Anne or Diana? Why?

I'm not sure.  I'm highly imaginative like Anne, and I'm also a writer, like her.  But I'm more sensible, like Diana, and also not so likely to get carried away with my emotions.  And I've got dimpled elbows, hee.  So I guess I'm a mix.

3. If Rachel Lynde called your hair as red as carrots how would you react?

Laugh.  My hair actually IS red at the moment -- I dyed it back in late July.  It's not really a carrot color (and yes, people, red carrots do exist), but anyway, I've never been especially sensitive about my appearance, so even if she called my (natural color) hair "as brown as sticks" or "mousy brown," I probably would be like, "Yeah, it kinda is."

Not carrot-like at all.  Really more cherry-like, when I first dyed it...

4. Gilbert or Morgan Harris?

Gilbert, all the way.  Morgan Harris isn't even in the books.  But even if he was, I would still choose Gilbert over him because Gilbert is a brick, and Morgan Harris is a dictatorial grump.  I also choose Gilbert over that Royal Gardner dude from the books, though he was much nicer than Morgan Harris. 

I could easily spend the rest of my life married to Gilbert Blythe.  (Plus, Gilbert is an ISFJ like me, so of course he's my second-favorite character in the series!  ISFJs pretty much always are.)

5. Honest opinion on the third Anne film.

I actually haven't watched it yet.  It came out when I was in college, and I got kind of snotty about how it wasn't based on the books at all, so why would I watch it?  But, having just finished rereading the books, I'm kind of interested to see it now, which surprises me.

6. Have you seen the New Anne film?

Um... I... wait, what?  New Anne film?  ::Scoots over to  Oh my!  Martin Sheen, huh?  Well, obviously, no, I have not seen it.  But I might like to.  As my sidebar says:

7. What in your own words is a Kindred Spirit?

Someone who intuitively sympathizes with another person even if they don't know them very well.

8. Movie Gilbert or Green Gables Fables Gilbert?

I haven't watched "Green Gables Fables" at all yet, but I do want to try it out.  I'm going to sound old and crotchety, but I must admit I have not really gotten into the whole web series retelling thing.  I keep trying different ones, but none of them have interested me enough to get me to watch more than 2 or 3 eps.  

So, obviously, Movie Gilbert!  I was so sad to hear of Jonathon Crombie's passing last year.

Jonathon Crombie, not as Gilbert, but honestly, it could be Gilbert.

9. Does anyone know where we can watch Road to Avonlea online?

Not at the moment, but the website says it will have full episodes available on a new streaming site starting in November.

10. Favourite book cover?

There are so many gorgeous ones!  I think I like this one best, though:

11. The Films or The Books?

Both!  I love the first five books, but the last three kind of dwindle down into me being disappointed and a bit grumpy.  But the first two films from the '80s don't do that to me at all.  However, they're far too short, so... I love both.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 29

We now enter the section where my chapter posts become radically shorter because I have much less to say about the book, and you all breathe great, gasping sighs of relief.

So, Jane is recovering.  She's finding new friends.  She's going by an assumed name.  Things are looking up after the last, horrible chapter.  Whew.

Aren't the Rivers siblings an interesting contrast to Jane's Reed cousins that she grew up with?  Again, there are two girls and a boy.  But while the Reeds were spoiled and idle as children, and grew either dissipated or austere as the case maybe, the Riverses grew up in a family where intelligence and learning were valued, and are hard-working, sensible people.  Hannah "did not know where there was such a family for being united" (p. 398), while the Reeds couldn't stand each other.

And I like Diana Rivers very much indeed, especially when she tweaks St. John about being crusty.  He is!  So gruff and grim and crusty.  Nope, still not a fan.

Favorite Lines:

"She looks sensible, but not at all handsome" (p. 394).  (This reminds me of myself.)

It is my way -- it always was my way by instinct -- ever to meet the brief with brevity, the direct with plainness (p. 400).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Which of the Rivers siblings do you like best?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

"The Light in the Forest" by Conrad Richter

This book -- ohhhh, this book.  I hadn't read it in many years, but boy howdy, once I got into the first chapter, I had a tough time putting it down.  In fact, I read it in little over a day, and have just been trying to find time to blog about it since then.

True Son was adopted by the Lenne Lenapi tribe when he was four years old.  He's grown up as an Indian, and considers himself to be such.  But, thanks to a new treaty, all white captives must be returned to their blood relatives, including True Son.  He hates his white family and their ways, and sullenly takes a long time to behave even a little the way they want him to.  But he does start to assimilate at last, until his best friend, Half Arrow, comes to visit.

Disney made a movie version in 1958 that starred James MacArthur as True Son, with supporting turns by Fess Parker, Joanne Dru, Jessica Tandy, and Joseph Calleia.  When I was a little kid, I would look at the VHS cover of the movie at the library and wish I could watch the movie, but my parents never checked it out for some reason -- possibly because my mom was usually the one who went to the library with us, and she didn't share my enthusiasm for stories of Indians and frontiersmen.  So I didn't see it until after I was married, and I liked it a great deal, though I recall that it differed quite a bit from the book, especially the ending.  I haven't seen it for a long time, but I just got it on DVD this past week and look forward to rewatching it now that I've read the book again.  I'll probably review it on Hamlette's Soliloquy when I do.

I've long been fascinated by stories of people getting captured by American Indians.  But most such stories usually focus on the capture, and then whether or not the captive escapes or decides to join the Indians.  The Light in the Forest is very different because it instead deals with what happens when someone does assimilate and then is parted from their adopted family.  Richter seems to favor the Indian way of life, but he does a good job of portraying both whites and Indians as humans, capable of goodness and evil both.  This isn't one of those "all the Indians are noble and the whites are greedy" stories, nor is it the "all the Indians are savages and the whites are pure and innocent" kind either.

Particularly Good Bits:

The boy stared with loathing at the pants and jacket.  They were symbols of all the lies, thefts, and murders by the white man.  Now he was asked to wear them.  You might as well ask a deer to dress itself in the hide of its enemy, the wolf (p. 35).

How could life mean anything to you if already your people had killed you in their minds? (p. 112)

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for non-detailed descriptions of violence and for a really great discussion where an Indian explains to a white man why the phrase "God damn" is senseless from his point of view.

This is my 48th book read and reviewed for the Classics Club.  I think I will finish my 50-book challenge by the end of the year!!!

Monday, October 3, 2016

"Rilla of Ingleside" by L. M. Montgomery

When I was a teen, this was one of my less-favorite Anne books.  I liked it better than Rainbow Valley and Anne of Ingleside, and I still do.  But overall, I don't like it nearly as much as the first five Anne books.

However, I actually think this might be one of the best-written books in the series.  It has a well-developed character arc for Rilla, it doesn't wander around on a lot of tangents, and the whole story is quite cohesive.

But I still only like it okay.  And it's totally because I don't care much for the characters.  Rilla is nice, and she does improve over the course of the book, but nothing about her really interests me.  I don't know that we would be friends, if we met -- aside from the fact we don't like babies much, we don't have a ton in common.  And I really don't like her teacher friend, Gertrude Oliver, at all.  She's gloomy and morbid and deliberately unpleasant sometimes.  She's like a warmed-over redo of Katherine Brooke from Anne of Windy Poplars, only without Katherine's salty charm and mostly concealed niceness.

I would have loved to read a book focusing on Jem instead, because he's my favorite of Anne and Gilbert's children, but he's not around much and only gets bits of page time here and there.  The whole saga of Dog Monday waiting for Jem to return is my favorite part of this book, and made me cry several times.

Random silly thing:  I first heard this book read aloud by my mom when I was like 9 years old, and I didn't know what a soup tureen was, so I decided it was a big bowl made out of an empty turtle shell.  And to this day, that's what I imagine first when I hear or read the word "tureen," and then I have to remind myself it's a big bowl thing on a stand with a lid.

Particularly Good Bits:

It does not do to laugh at the pangs of youth.  They are very terrible because youth has not yet learned that "this, too, will pass away" (p. 34).

If This Was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  G.  Good, but not something I love.  There's a bit of mysticism in this that some people might object to.

This is my 47th book read and reviewed for the Classics Club, and my 16th for the Women's Classic Literature Event.

And now it's time for Elyssa's questions for this book:

Q:  What do you think of Rilla? Is she like her parents? How is she different?

A:  As I said above, I don't relate to Rilla much, or even like her very well.  She starts out vain and flighty, and although she becomes solid and dependable eventually, she is still much more interested in fashions and people's opinions of herself than I am.  She's not as imaginative or enthusiastic as her mother, or as impetuously caring as her father.  But she does have her mother's stubbornness and her father's ability to love steadfastly.

Q:  After returning to Ingleside, Jem tells Rilla that Walter wasn’t scared at the front. Even though Walter was sickened by the thought of war, Jem said that he turned out to be a courageous hero. Why do you think that was? Anticipating a situation and actually being in the moment can be totally different experiences and sometimes bring out surprising reactions. Can you remember a time when this has happened to you?

A:  Just because you don't like something, or find it distasteful, that doesn't mean you can't or won't do it.  I don't enjoy cleaning up vomit, but I do it quite a bit now that I have three kids.

And yeah, a lot of times something I think is going to be hard or unpleasant ends up being less horrid than I'd anticipated.  Imaginations are pesky that way.  Childbirth, for instance, was not nearly as awful as I was expecting it to be.  Not something I'd want to do every day, but I've gone through natural childbirth three times and would gladly do so again.  But so many people talk about it as the worst pain possible, when for me, breaking both bones in my arm was far worse.

Q:  There wasn’t much to Rilla’s relationship with Kenneth Ford in terms of time spent together. How do we know that their relationship is going to last?

A:  I think they did get to know each other through the letters they exchanged during the war, and that's one of the best ways to truly come to understand another person, at least in my experience.  I fell in love with my husband while emailing him over the course of a summer.  I think that, plus the fact that they both remained constant over all that time and distance gives them a good chance of remaining together and happy.

Thank you for hosting this event, Elyssa!  I am planning to read at least one more Montgomery book this year -- in fact, I've already started it!  I might manage another as well, we'll see.  But with Elyssa's encouragement, I've completed my original quest, to read all 8 Anne books in 2016.  Hooray!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 28

Poor, poor Jane.  She's at a literal crossroads at the beginning of this chapter, and that's one of the most memorable images from this book, for me.  One of those moments that instantly spring to mind when I think of this book, especially the second half of it.

I'd forgotten how Romantic this chapter is.  Romantic as in the Romantic Era, not as in lovey-dovey.  I knew it was considered a Romantic novel as well as a Gothic one, but I'd forgotten how very into "nature is pure; people are corrupted" it got, and how Jane felt that you could see and feel God when you were out in nature.

I don't have a lot to say about this chapter because I don't like it much at all.  It's one of those chapters I have to just slog through to get to better stuff.  I do really like these two sisters, Mary and Diana -- they're sweet.  And there's some foreshadowing here regarding them too -- Jane felt as though she was "intimate with every lineament" of their faces, and don't they sound familiar to you?  She "cannot call them handsome -- they were too pale and grave for the word" (p. 386).  Hmmmmmm... now who does that sound like?

Possible Discussion Questions:

Random speculation here, but do you think the faithful servant Hannah in Little Women might be named after the Hannah here?  They rather remind me of each other, and both have dialog that gets written in dialect.