Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Literary Christmas 2016

In the Bookcase is hosting A Literary Christmas reading challenge, and since I have a couple of Christmasy books I'm hoping to read in December, I thought it would be fun to join.  I'm planning/hoping to read Letters from Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien and A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, but we'll see if anything else turns up.  If you're interested in joining the challenge too, click the link above!  Oh, and there's a giveaway, too...

Saturday, November 26, 2016

"A Portrait of Emily Price" by Katherine Reay

While I've enjoyed Reay's first three books a great deal, especially Dear Mr. Knightley, this book... I loved.

In fact, I loved it so much, I'm having trouble coming up with words to review it.  Maybe it's just that this hit more sweet spots for me -- it has a mixed-culture family, characters proving themselves, and a very helpful heroine.  Her helping doesn't always truly help, but she tries.  And tries.

Emily Price restores damaged art.  Not fine art, usually, not museum artwork, but stuff people have in their house that gets damaged by fires or floods and so on.  While in Atlanta on an assignment, she meets Ben, an Italian chef visiting family there as well.  He spends two weeks wooing her, they get married, they go back to Italy to live with his family, and that's where it gets really good.  The bulk of the book is Emily trying to figure out how to fit in with Ben's family, how to help his various family members with their problems (whether they want her help or not), and most of all, coming to terms with who she is.

I feel like Reay's first four books were well-written, but they lacked an emotional something.  Vulnerability?  Depth?  Punch?  I don't know -- like I said, having trouble with words.  But whatever it is, this book has it and then some.  I didn't get tears in my eyes while reading this book, I had to put the book down several times because I was crying too much to read.  It has taken me basically a week to process the book after finishing it before I could write even this review, and this is not as coherent as I would like.  This book touched me -- not just because I did identify with Emily's need to help, but because Ben's whole family was so, well, real.  I am buying my own copy of this book, it's that special to me.

(Also, I love her analysis of The Taming of the Shrew, which plays a part in this, because it's pretty close to my own.  See page 222 -- I'm not typing the whole thing out, sorry.)

Particularly Good Bits:

If I let myself go, forgot the boundaries, forgot the rules I myself fashioned and imposed, what could happen? (p. 91).

Planning a surprise for no reason other than to bring another person delight was, in fact, romantic (p. 110).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for discussions of unwed pregnancy.

Monday, November 21, 2016

"The Blythes are Quoted" by L. M. Montgomery

Until earlier this year, I didn't know The Blythes are Quoted existed.  I had heard of The Road to Yesterday, which a lot of people who loved the Anne books didn't like, so I never bothered to read it.  But I didn't know until recently that The Road to Yesterday is actually an abridged, altered form of Montgomery's final book, The Blythes are Quoted.

I say "book" and not "novel" because this is not a novel.  It's a collection of short stories and poems framed as things that happened around Ingleside to people who know the Blythes, and as poems written by Anne and Walter that Anne reads aloud in the evenings.  The Blythes don't appear in the stories, but they comment on the poetry, either in words or thoughts.

The stories are an interesting mix -- many of them had been previous published, but Montgomery reworked them to include mentions of the Blythes.  My favorite was "A Dream Comes True," and it was possibly the most straight-forwardly happy story in the lot.  Most of the stories have happy endings of one sort or another, but many of them also delve into the ideas of disillusionment, despair, regret, spite, and the constant misunderstandings between generations.  

But I liked the stories better than the poetry, overall.  Some of the poems, I skimmed.  Some, I read more than once.  My favorite was probably "Come, Let Us Go."  But again, the tone of the poetry overall was one of regret and loss, a wishful look back at a happier time.

This is not a cheerful book.  It's an interesting book to study -- I enjoyed thinking about what Montgomery must have been trying to say with the collection, and I'm glad I read the book.  But overall it has a feel of disenchantment that did not appeal to me.  

If This Was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for discussions of marital infidelity (NOT Anne or Gilbert, stop freaking out!), illegitimate children, and war.

This is my last book read and reviewed for the Anne of Green Gables Reading Challenge, and closes out My Year With Anne.  I'm so glad I re-read this series and discovered the ninth book.  My thanks to Elyssa for hosting the challenge!  It's been fun sharing thoughts on the books with others.

This is my fifty-first book read and reviewed for the Classics Club, and my nineteenth for the Women's Classic Literature Event.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

And the Winners are...

Hooray!  Hooray!  Today's the day!  The Rafflecopter widget has spoken, and we have winners for the Jane Eyre giveaway.  Here they be:

Tiny Brontë book -- Elaina
Pencil bag -- Eva
Bookmark 1 -- Natalie
Bookmark 2 -- Sue
Bookmark 3 -- The Elf
Bookmark 4 -- John Smith
Bookmark 5 -- Emily Ann
Bookmark 6 -- Lexi
Bookmark 7 -- MovieCritic
Bookmark 8 -- Birdie

There we have it :-)  Winners, I will be emailing you today to ask for your mailing addresses so I can send you your prizes!  Remember, if you don't reply to my email by next Sunday, November 27, you will be disqualified and I will choose someone else to get that prize.  

Friday, November 18, 2016

In Which I Complete My Classics Club Quest, and Begin Another

I joined the Classics Club in January of 2014, having seen so many bloggers enjoy participating in it and deciding I should just go ahead and try it.  Slightly less than three years later, I have completed my fiftieth book, which most fittingly was my favorite book of all time, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë.  

Because I feel like celebrating, I'm sharing my completed list here :-)

  1. Anne of Avonlea* by Lucy Maud Montgomery (Finished 2-26-16)
  2. Anne of Green Gables* by Lucy Maud Montgomery (Finished 1-23-16)
  3. Anne of Ingleside* by Lucy Maud Montgomery (Finished 7-2-16)
  4. Anne of the Island* by Lucy Maud Montgomery (Finished 3-17-16)
  5. Anne of Windy Poplars* by Lucy Maud Montgomery (Finished 4-28-16)
  6. Anne's House of Dreams* by Lucy Maud Montgomery (Finished 6-2-16)
  7. Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace (Finished 10-1-14)
  8. The Black Moth by Georgette Heyer (Finished 4-6-16)
  9. The Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery (Finished 9-10-15)
  10. The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes* by A. Conan Doyle (Finished 2-7-14)
  11. Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster (Finished 11-25-14)
  12. Dear Enemy by Jean Webster (Finished 9-3-15)
  13. Flappers and Philosophers by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Finished 3-6-14)
  14. The Further Adventures of Zorro by Johnston McCulley (Finished 3-2-16)
  15. Greenwillow by B. J. Chute (Finished 7-24-16)
  16. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark* by William Shakespeare (Finished 12-22-15)
  17. The High Window* by Raymond Chandler (Finished 4-20-16)
  18. His Last Bow* by A. Conan Doyle (Finished 1-10-14)
  19. The Hobbit* by J.R.R. Tolkien (Finished 2-10-14) 
  20. The Hound of the Baskervilles* by A. Conan Doyle (Finished 11-18-14)
  21. Jane Eyre* by Charlotte Bronte (Finished 11-12-16)
  22. A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich (Finished 6-13-16)
  23. Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart (Finished 12-06-15)
  24. Letters on an Elk Hunt by Elinore Pruitt Stewart (Finished 11-3-16)
  25. The Light in the Forest* by Conrad Richter (Finished 9-30-16)
  26. The Light of Western Stars by Zane Grey (Finished 2-5-15)
  27. Little Women* by Louisa May Alcott (Finished 6-9-15)
  28. The Lord of the Rings* by J.R.R. Tolkien (Finished 7-1-14)
  29. The Mark of Zorro by Johnston McCulley (Finished 5-27-14)
  30. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle (Finished 8-12-15)
  31. Middlemarch by George Eliot (Finished 7-3-15)
  32. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (Finished 5-18-15)
  33. And Now Tomorrow by Rachel Field (Finished 5-16-16)
  34. Of Mice and Men* by John Steinbeck (Finished 8-21-15)
  35. The Old Man and the Sea* by Ernest Hemingway (Finished 7-21-14)
  36. The Outsiders* by S. E. Hinton (Finished 9-21-16)
  37. Persuasion* by Jane Austen (Finished 2-27-15)
  38. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (Finished 3-9-14)
  39. The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes by Vincent Starrett (Finished 6-26-14)
  40. The Quiet Little Woman by Louisa May Alcott (Finished 12-11-15)
  41. Rainbow Valley* by Lucy Maud Montgomery (Finished 8-19-16)
  42. Rilla of Ingleside* by Lucy Maud Montgomery (Finished 10-1-16)
  43. Shane* by Jack Schaefer (Finished 2-16-15)
  44. The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien (Finished 10-16-15)
  45. Spiderweb for Two* by Elizabeth Enright (Finished 12-15-14)
  46. The Sun Also Rises* by Ernest Hemingway (Finished 4-30-14)
  47. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (Finished 3-30-14)
  48. Tales of the Jazz Age by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Finished 3-23-14)
  49. Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck (Finished 7-15-14)
  50. The Witch of Blackbird Pond* by Elizabeth George Speare (Finished 8-28-16)
And because this really was a good incentive for me to read more of the classics I've always intended to read, I am reenlisting, as it were, and starting over.  So here is what I currently have on my "new" Classics Club list, to read before December of 2021:
  1. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  2. Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte
  3. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  4. The Blythes are Quoted by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  5. By-Line:  Ernest Hemingway
  6. Camille by Alexandre Dumas fils
  7. Chronicles of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  8. Coriolanus by William Shakespeare
  9. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
  10. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  11. Death Comes to the Archbishop by Willa Cather
  12. The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper
  13. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
  14. The Door into Summer by Robert Heinlein
  15. Drums Along the Mohawk by Walter D. Edmonds
  16. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
  17. Evelina by Frances Burney
  18. Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
  19. Further Chronicles of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  20. Good-bye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton
  21. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  22. The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
  23. House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
  24. Howard's End by E.M. Forster
  25. Ivanhoe* by Sir Walter Scott
  26. The Lady of the Lake by Sir Walter Scott
  27. The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
  28. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
  29. Lost Horizon by James Hilton
  30. A Man Called Peter by Catherine Marshall
  31. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell
  32. The Merchant of Venice* by William Shakespeare
  33. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
  34. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  35. Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
  36. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
  37. The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
  38. The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne
  39. The Once and Future King by T. H. White
  40. The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
  41. The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain
  42. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emma Orczy
  43. The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis
  44. Silas Marner* by George Eliot
  45. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carre
  46. Tales of India by Rudyard Kipling
  47. A Tale of Two Cities* by Charles Dickens
  48. The Taming of the Shrew* by William Shakespeare
  49. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
  50. Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  51. Tess of the D'Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy
  52. To Kill a Mockingbird* by Harper Lee
  53. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  54. Twice-Told Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  55. Under the Deodars by Rudyard Kipling
  56. Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy
  57. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
Basically, my original list had grown to 107 books by the time I read my 50th book, so those extra books I hadn't gotten to are my "new" list.

My thanks to the creators and sustainers of the club!  I've met some cool bloggers through it, and it's always fun to go read other people's thoughts on a book after I've finished it, which is so easy thanks to their list of clubbers' reviews.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

"Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte -- Final Thoughts

I can still remember my first encounter with Jane Eyre.  It wasn't with the book, it was with the 1983 BBC miniseries starring Zelah Clarke and Timothy Dalton.  My mom got it from the library when I was probably thirteen or fourteen, and we watched it together.  I fell in love.  With the story, with Jane, with Rochester, the whole shebang.  I didn't read the book until I was a few years older, but when I did, it quickly rose to the ranks of my favorite books.  A couple of years ago, I realized that it had at last eclipsed the book that had long held the #1 spot in my affections, and become my absolute favorite book.

I've read the whole book six or seven times, but there are some chapters I've read far, far more often than that.  Sometimes I dip in for a visit when I need a pick-me-up; other times, I've skimmed the beginning and much of the later part, and just relished my favorite sections.  

What is it about this melodramatic, implausible, highly emotional story that draws me so fiercely?  The plot -- poor girl becomes a governess, falls in love with her employer, flees from him when she learns his secret, finds new friends, returns to her one true love when he is free -- is basically a Cinderella retelling, and while I'm very drawn to Cinderella stories, there aren't any others that have earned this level of devotion from me.  

When I was a teen, and into my twenties, I would have said I loved this book because I loved Mr. Rochester.  And he's still a huge part of my affection for this story, no question.  When it comes to movie adaptations, it's Rochester who makes or breaks them for me -- I will put up with a less-than-great Jane, but if Rochester feels off to me, I'm going to dislike the entire production.  But I realized, when I reread the entire book around the age of 30, that it's Jane herself that makes me love this book.

Jane Eyre, outwardly plain and powerless, is inwardly a pillar of strength.  That juxtaposition of one's outer and inner selves fascinates me, and Jane's absolute resolution fills me with awe.  Leading this read-along has confirmed my admiration of her.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for discussions of Rochester's possible fathering of an illegitimate child, scary situations, and cruel treatment of a child.

I'm not going to share favorite lines here today, as I've shared them already in individual chapter posts.  I just wanted to share these final thoughts on this book, especially since it is my 50th book read and reviewed for The Classics Club!!!  I have finished the challenge I set for myself at the beginning of 2014 -- I wanted to read 50 classics in 5 years, and I accomplished that in slightly less than 3.  More about that in another post.

This was also the 18th book I've read and reviewed for the Women's Classic Literature Event.  I'm aiming for 20 by the end of the year, so here's hoping I can finish reading two more classics written by women in the next 6 weeks!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Movie Time

I do lists of ten favorite movies of various genres all the time over on my other blog, Hamlette's Soliloquy.  But today, I'm doing one here, for Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week is a movie-related freebie, so I'm doing My Top Ten Favorite Movies Based on Classic Novels.  I've put them in alphabetical order because why not :-)  I'm sticking with books I've read, by the way.  And these are my favorite adaptations, not necessarily the best -- just the ones I personally love best, okay?

Anne of Green Gables (1985)  A quirky, imaginative orphan (Megan Follows) gets accidentally adopted by a middle-aged brother and sister (Richard Farnsworth and Colleen Dewhurst) and turns their lives around.  Based on the book by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Ben-Hur (1959)  A wealthy Jewish man (Charlton Heston) is betrayed by his best friend (Stephen Boyd), sent to the galleys, then rises to power again, and seeks revenge on his erstwhile friend.  Based on the book by Lew Wallace.

The Count of Monte Cristo (1975)  Simple, honest sailor Edmund Dantes (Richard Chamberlain) is betrayed by his supposed friends and sent to prison on false charges.  He escapes, gains staggering wealth, and seeks vengeance against his enemies.  Based on the book by Alexandre Dumas

Emma (1996)  Meddlesome young Emma (Gwenyth Paltrow) tries her best to make matches for all her friends and acquaintances, then falls in love herself.  Based on the book by Jane Austen.

Jane Eyre (1983)  Strong-spirited governess Jane Eyre (Zelah Clarke) falls in love with her wealthy, secretive employer (Timothy Dalton).  Based on the book by Charlotte Bronte.

The Lord of the Rings (2001-03)  Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) sets out to destroy the One Ring, and everyone has heaping helpings of adventures.  (YES, I know this is three movies and three books, but it's all one story, so I'm counting it as one.)  Based on the books by J. R. R. Tolkien.

North & South (2004)  Margaret Hale (Daniela Denby-Ashe) moves from pastoral southern England to industrial northern England and does not fall in love with factory owner John Thornton (Richard Armitage) for a long time.  Based on the book by Elizabeth Gaskell.

The Outsiders (1983)  Ponyboy Curtis (C. Thomas Howell) and his friend Johnny (Ralph Macchio) try to run away from their problems, including a murder charge, only to find more trouble and possible redemption.  Based on the book by S. E. Hinton.

Pride & Prejudice (2005)  Elizabeth Bennet (Keira Knightley) and Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen) can't fall in love with each other until they both come to understand themselves first.  Based on the book by Jane Austen.

The Three Musketeers (1993)  D'Artagnan (Chris O'Donnell) wants to be a Musketeer, but first he has to help three other Musketeers save the king and queen.  Based on the book by Alexandre Dumas.

There you have it!  Do you like these?  Did you post a Top Ten Tuesday list this week yourself?  Please share!

Please, let's not get into a big argument over P&P05 vs. P&P95.  I like the '95 version a lot too, and even own a copy.  

Monday, November 14, 2016

What My Kids are Reading #7

I feel like sharing what my kids have been reading lately, so I'm starting this series up again :-)

Sam (9)

The Carpet People by Terry Pratchett -- He enjoyed The Dragons of Crumbling Castle so much, I got him this, and he's now read it probably six or seven times.  It makes him laugh.

Physics:  Why Matter Matters! by Dan Green -- We're studying basic physics in third grade science this year, and he's relaly been enjoying seeing various concepts from school pop up in this book.

Queen Red Riding Hood's Guide to Royalty by Chris Colfer -- I've been wanting to try the Land of Stories series for a while now, and Sam enjoyed this spin-off book so much, I'm pretty sure we'll be getting the first book in the series soon.

Sarah (6) and Eggnog (4) (Eggnog used to call herself Tootie, but she's renamed herself Eggnog, and also says she's a middle-aged man who is uncle to her toy cat, because that's what life is like when you're four.  One minute a little girl, next a cat's uncle.)

Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban -- Young badger Frances likes to eat bread and jam, and not much else.  So her parents let her eat all the bread and jam she wants, until she tires of it.  We love the whole Frances series!

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein -- This is such a funny book.  I giggle every time I read it.  A daddy rooster tries to read bedtime stories to his little chicken, but the chicken keeps interrupting and messing up the stories.

The Plot Chickens by Mary Jane and Herm Auch -- a chicken who loves to read tries to write a book herself, with eggciting results :-)

Aloud to All of Them

Knight's Castle by Edward Eager -- I read Half Magic to them earlier this year, and they adored it, so we're delving into Eager's second book now.  It's so whimsical and fun -- who wouldn't want to get magically transported to the world of Ivanhoe, right?  And I love all the little references to classic literature.  Lines like, "Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery" make me laugh and not them, just because I know it's Austen.  Trust me, this is a not-to-be-missed delight.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The "Jane Eyre" Giveaway

We have finished Jane Eyre!  Hurrah!  The book I thought would take three months to get through took almost 6, but that is entirely my fault, as I got much busier than I had anticipated.  Thank you so much for your patience!  And for all the wonderful discussions we've had -- I've very much enjoyed sharing my favorite book with you.  (And if you haven't quite finished it, no big deal. I'm happy to keep discussing it as long as you'd like.) 

To celebrate, I'm hosting a giveaway, as is my wont at the end of read-alongs.  PLEASE NOTE: This is open to everyone, world-wide!  Not just participants of the read-along :-)

Here are details on the stuff I'm giving away!  First, a tiny book containing a brief history of the Bronte sisters and abridged versions of all their novels.  And by "tiny" I mean it is 3.25" x 2.75."  

Eight beautiful bookmarks that I bought from Etsy shop Jane Eyre Collection.  (I admit it:  I bought all ten of their bookmarks and kept two myself!  They're wonderful.)  These are a great size, a little over 7" long and 2.5" wide, and they each come in a protective plastic sleeve.  Each bookmark pairs a quotation from the book with detail from an illustration, and on the back it shows the full illustration and tells the artist's name and the date it was painted/drawn.  If you click on the images here, you should be able to see them with enough detail to read the quotations.

And lastly, a pencil bag!  This is pale blue fabric with a black zipper at the top, and measures 9.75" by 6.5".  

This giveaway runs through the end of Saturday, November 19.  I will draw the winners on Sunday, November 20 and post the names of the winners that day, as well a notify them by email.

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 by Sunday, November 27, I will choose another winner and award your prize to them instead.

This giveaway is open worldwide!  

Enter via this widget:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 38

And they all lived happily ever after :-)

Isn't it interesting that St. John Rivers gets the last word?  He writes a last, dying letter to Jane, and his final words are what Jane leaves us with.  I'm not sure what to make of that -- there's probably something profound in the fact that here, at the end, she and St. John are of one accord, but if there is, I'm missing it.

But anyway, we've finished the book :-)  Jane and Rochester are married, happy together, happy being parents of at least one child, and there we leave them.  I do find it interesting that the most famous line in this book is "Reader, I married him" (p. 520).  Not "he married me" or "we married," but "I married him."  The perfect phrasing for strong, independent, glorious Jane, isn't it?  This was her decision, her choice, her will.  She makes it clear that it was equally Rochester's, but he did not make this decision for her, he did not exercise his will over hers.  Theirs is a marriage of equals, which it would not have been if they'd married when they originally intended to.  Now, they can be happy, because now they are free and equal.

Thank you for reading this book with me!  It's been a rather protracted read-along, but I hope you've enjoyed it even at this leisurely pace.  I know I have.

Time for a giveaway!  You can enter it here :-)

Favorite Lines:

I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth (p. 522).

I am my husband's life as fully as he is mine (p. 522).

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 37

O delicious chapter!  If I could only read one chapter of Jane Eyre for the rest of my life, I would read you.

I have approximately three zillion things underlined in this chapter, with stars and hearts and smiles alllll over the place.  There's no way I can share all my thoughts, but I'll do my best to hit the important ones.

I love so much that when Jane first enters the room, before Rochester knows her, she says, "Down, Pilot!" (p. 501).  Because way back in chapter 12, Rochester said that exact phrase when Jane was helping him after he'd been thrown by Mesrour.  Oh, that gives me goosebumps -- that she's remembering that first meeting and reminding him oh-so-subtly of it.  (Yeah, I'm sure that people said, "Down, Pilot!" a lot to the dog, but those are the only two times the phrase crops up in the book, so it must be significant.) 

And I love how Rochester just can't believe it's really her, not for a long time.  She has come back to him when, to his mind, there is absolutely no reason she ever should or would.  She fled him when he was well and whole, and surely she will flee him again now that he is impaired.  Most people would.  But not Jane Eyre.  Jane Eyre is not most people.  I laugh aloud when its her practical and real announcement of exactly how much money she has that makes him finally accept it is she, because it reminds me of that flirty little argument they had over him paying her wages so she could go see her aunt long ago.

And then we hit a very significant line:  "I am my own mistress" (p. 503).  We, the readers, know that Jane has always, always been mistress of her own self, though subservient to others outwardly.  Now her outward circumstances match her inner self, and everyone can see her for the independent woman she has always been.  And it's as this spiritually, physically, socially, and economically independent woman that she comes back to Mr. Rochester, choosing him fully and freely.  She's not rescued by a man, she's not made whole by a man, she's not raised from obscurity by a man -- truly a modern heroine. 

Okay, so now it's time to discuss Mr. Rochester.  HAS he changed?  He learns in this chapter that Jane loves him for who he is, not what he is, because she doesn't care that he's maimed and blinded.  In fact, she says she's "in danger of loving you too well for all this, and making too much of you" (p. 505).  And, eventually, he realizes that he knows Jane suits him, but he needs to know if he suits her (p. 516).  Becoming self-aware, certainly!  But it's not that which convinces me he's changed, grown, and become a better person.  It's this passage:
"Of late, Jane -- only of late -- I began to see and acknowledge the hand of God in my doom.  I began to experience remorse, repentance; the wish for reconcilement to my Maker.  I began sometimes to pray, very brief prayers they were, but very sincere" (p. 517).
That gets left out of the movie versions.  And it's only a couple of sentences, so easy to overlook when reading the book.  But that repentance, that budding faith is what makes this ending possible.  Because it is after he repented and sought God and began to pray that the miracle happened.  He prayed "in anguish and humility" (p. 517) that he could not bear much more of his despair, and asked God for help.  And that's when he called out, "Jane!  Jane!  Jane!"  And you'll recall that at that exact moment, Jane herself was calling out for God's to show her whether she should marry St. John or not.  Neither of them were relying on themselves anymore.  Both of them were helpless, calling on God for deliverance.  And God answered them simultaneously by letting one hear the cries of the other. 

And how does this chapter end?  With Rochester saying, "I humbly entreat my Redeemer to give me strength to lead henceforth a purer life than I have done hitherto!" (p. 519).  Is he repentant?  Is he changed?  I say absolutely.

Favorite Lines:

"What sweet madness has seized me?" (p. 502).

"...with him I was at perfect ease, because I knew I suited him... in his presence, I thoroughly lived, and he lived in mine" (p. 506).

"All my heart is yours, sir; it belongs to you; and with you it would remain, were fate to exile the rest of me from your presence forever" (p. 514).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Are you convinced that Mr. Rochester's change of heart is sincere?  That he is no longer the same selfish, self-serving man he was through the rest of the book?

This Weekend, We Will Finish This Read-Along and Have a Giveaway!!!!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Recent Additions

This week's TTT topic from The Broke and the Bookish is "books I've added to my to-read list lately."  Here goes!

The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz -- I think it was Dale's review at Mirror w/Clouds that made me put this on my list.

Echoes of Sherlock Holmes ed. by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger -- I've loved the two previous collections of Holmes-inspired stories edited by King and Klinger, so this is at the top of my Christmas wish list right now.

How to be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis -- No idea anymore where I heard about this, but it looks really fun!

I'd Die for You and Other Lost Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald -- Hanna at Book Geeks Anonymous linked to this article and I didn't even finish reading the article before adding this collection of never-published Fitzgerald stories to my list.

Looking for Anne of Green Gables by Irene Gammel -- I don't remember where I heard about this, but now that I'm almost finished with Anne book #9, I'm interested in learning more about L. M. Montgomery herself.

Montana Rides! by Evan Evans (Max Brand) -- The Alan Ladd western Branded (1950) is based on this book, and I quite love the movie, so time to try the book! 

My Dear Bessie:  A Love Story in Letters by Chris Barker & Bessie Moore -- Jennifer at Holds Upon Happiness reviewed this recently, and I put it on my TBR immediately. 

The Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay -- Evvvvvvvverybody is buzzing about this book right now!  I've got a hold request in for it at the library, and hope to get it soon soon soon!

The Story People by Heather Kaufman -- Nobody at all has recommended this to me, but it's about a guy who runs a bookstore and a children's book author, and looks really sweet.

Their Eyes were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston -- Dale at Mirror w/Clouds reviewed this recently and I promptly added it to my TBR list.

That's my ten for this week, folks!  Have you read any of these?  Did you do a TTT list this week?  Please share!

And if you live in the USA, don't forget to vote!


Monday, November 7, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 36

I was about three pages into the next chapter when I realized I was supposed to stop and write about this one.

What I'm saying is, this may not be a long and thorough post.  I WANT TO READ THE REST OF THE BOOK RIGHT NOW.

St. John can't stand not having the last word, can he?  Creeping around the house with his little notes.

Wow, it's been a whole year since Jane left Rochester.  That went fast.

I love how "grass and weed grew here and there between the stones and fallen rafters" (p. 492) of Thornfield's ruins.  Life and hope returning amid the wreckage of the house, a picture of what's about to happen to the wreckage of its master.  Getting chills here!

We talked long ago about Bertha setting fire to Rochester's bed because it was a symbol of marriage.  I think the same might have been going through her head here when it says she lit Jane's old bed on fire too, don't you?  Bertha saw Jane in her wedding dress with Rochester when everyone visited her.  Being mad, she may not have realized the wedding was off -- I think she lit Jane's empty bed out of vengeance because Jane was no longer in it, which, to Bertha, meant Jane was now in Rochester's bed.  What do you think?

And Bertha finally found a permanent way out of her confinement.  And Rochester nearly lost his life trying to save hers.  Oh, Rochester, how that makes me love you!

Favorite Lines:

"My spirit," I answered mentally, "is willing to do what is right; and my flesh, I hope, is strong enough to accomplish the will of Heaven, when once that will is distinctly known to me" (p. 487).

To prolong doubt was to prolong hope (p. 490).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Do you think we can just finish this book off this week, once and for all?

Sunday, November 6, 2016

"Letters on an Elk Hunt by a Woman Homesteader" by Elinore Pruitt Stewart

Do you remember just about a year ago when I read Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart and went kinda ga-ga over it?

Yeah, there's a sequel.  And I'm ga-ga again.

I was a little worried, going in, that this wouldn't be as good as the first book, for several reasons.  One was that reviews I'd read of them both had been much less enthusiastic about this book than the first.  The other is that I knew that, while the letters in the first book weren't intended for publication when Pruitt wrote them, these were.  She wrote them to the same friend who collected up the first bunch and insisted Pruitt let her publish them.  They were so popular that Pruitt wrote these letters with the idea that they could make a second book.  And one of the things I loved so much about the first book was how natural and unaffected Pruitt's writing was.  Her letters in it are chummy and relaxed.  I worried these wouldn't be.

And the first couple did feel to me like she was writing with the idea, "These will be published" kind of restraining her writing.  They aren't exactly stiff, but they're not delightful either.  Happily, after the first couple of letters, Pruitt settled back into the same convivial style as before, and I found myself chortling with glee.  I also simply could not put this book down, and finished it in about a day.

While the first book discussed Pruitt's adventures homesteading, this one is all about an elk hunt she and her husband go on with some of their friends.  They encounter all kinds of interesting people, help some folks out, get helped out by others, and generally enjoy being out in the wide world.  I found it enthralling.  Not quite as wonderful as Letters from a Woman Homesteader, but nearly so.

Particularly Good Bits:

We saw many deserted homes.  Hope's skeletons they are, with their yawning doors and windows like eyeless sockets (p. 25).

The trunks of the quaking aspens shone silvery in the early sunlight, and their leaves were shimmering gold.  And the stately pines kept whispering and murmuring; it almost seemed as if they were chiding the quaking aspens for being frivolous (p. 82).

This is why cowboys are such well-loved figures of romance is fact.  "Greater love hath no man than this:  that he lay down his life for his brother."  They knew nothing about us only that we were defenseless.  They rode boldly on their stanch little horses flanking the frenzied steers (p. 148, about being rescued from a stampede).

I had not expected to encounter so many people or to get the little inside glimpses that I've had, but wherever there are human beings there are little histories (p. 161).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for descriptions of people facing hardships and danger that might overwhelm young readers.

This is my 49th book read and reviewed for The Classics Club!!!  One more, and I'll have completed my goal of 50 books!  Pretty sure I'll finish at least one by the end of the year, so I'm looking at finishing the challenge in three years instead of five.  Wow.

This is also my 17th book for the Women's Classic Literature Event.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 35

I think this is such a telling sentence, regarding St. John Rivers:  "To me, he was in reality become no longer flesh, but marble" (p. 475).  That is one cold, unyielding dude.  Jane isn't being mean there -- she also says that he did not have "a spirit of unchristian vindictiveness" (p. 475).  But he is so inflexible and untouchable as to be inhuman.

And yet, Jane does not hate or fear him.  She still values his friendship, even wishes she could recover it.  So she speaks to him again, and we learn what I think is really the reason St. John is displeased with Jane:  she's unfeminine.  When Jane says that his coldness is killing her, he says her words are "violent, unfeminine, and untrue" (p. 477).  When she tells him she would be his curate, but not his wife, he says, "With me, then, it seems you cannot go" (p. 478).  Women were not curates.  Jane's desire to serve the way a man would and not as his wife really seems to me to be a big problem for St. John.  Not simply that she has refused to marry him, but that she has refused to behave the way he thinks a female should.  I don't know, do you think I'm off base here?  That can be our Possible Discussion Question.

Anyway, I LOVE how Jane answers him:  "God did not give me my life to throw away" (p. 479).  We're not talking about dying a martyr's death here, we're talking about someone who has not been called to be a missionary trying to assume those duties, someone who knows she is unsuited to them.  But St. John won't see it -- he basically says that by rejecting him, she's rejecting God.

The insufferable conceit!

And then he goes on, a bit later, to equate marrying him with salvation.  If she refuses to marry him, he insists she will be damned.  

Whatever, dude.  You're not God.  Marrying you won't get Jane into heaven.  Refusing you won't send her to hell.  I get that you're devoted to spreading... something.  I don't hear any Gospel from you, but you're devoted to serving God as you believe will be best, and I do respect that determination.  

I, like Jane, have little suitability for mission work, but my father-in-law is a missionary, and I respect and admire that kind of devotion and sacrifice.  So please don't think that I am down on St. John because he is zealous.  Not at all.  It's because he has decided he is not just supposed to spread God's word, he's supposed to decide who gets saved and who doesn't.  And God doesn't work that way.

Happily, Jane knows that.  And she prays that God would show her the right path.  What is her answer only moments later?  She hears Rochester's voice calling her name.  And when she hears that, she doesn't cry out, "Oh, Edward!"  She cries out, "Oh, God!" (p. 485).  She sees this as a direct answer to her prayer for guidance in this whole matter, so we readers should too.  Once before, waaaaaay back in Chapter 21, Jane discussed presentiments, sympathies, and signs that she said were "the sympathies of nature with man" (p. 259).  Now she says that this summons is not witchcraft, but "the work of nature" (p. 485), earthly things serving God to answer Jane's prayer, I think.

Anyway, whew.  Glad we're through with this St.-John-thinks-he's-God-on-earth business.  We'll be with Rochester again soon, and you know, he is starting to seem downright well-adjusted and cuddly by comparison, isn't he?

Favorite Lines:

Reader, do you know, as I do, what terror those cold people can put into the ice of their questions?  How much of the fall of the avalanche is in their anger? of the breaking up of the frozen sea in their displeasure? (p. 477).