Category Archives: Books and Literature

Those things I love to read …

Book Reviews of November 2018

I got a Kindle for my birthday and recently signed up for NetGalley, which is a site where teachers and librarians can get advanced copies of book in exchange for feedback and reviews. Jokes on them since I don’t need to be asked for my opinion of books, I give it regardless! Anyway, between that and being home way too much this semester I’ve been stepping up my leisure reading game this month. Mostly that’s because I pretty much only read ‘serious’ literature for work, plus (thanks to ten years in grad school) I’m kind of a literature snob. Now I’m trying to find my leisure reading legs, so to speak, all while trying to figure out my new-fangled Kindle. Without further ado, here’s all the books I read in November …

Manga Classics Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Manga Classics Pride and PrejudiceI’ve recently been working my way through a pretty serious book purge and I realized that I have not one, but two copies of the Manga Classics edition of Pride and Prejudice. In December I’m going to see the play, Christmas at Pemberley, with my family, so I wanted to re-read the novel before we go. I thought that this edition would be a fun way to quickly review Austen’s book before I saw the play, and that it was. I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I was going to, and now I want to read their versions of Emma and Sense and Sensibility. There are, of course, some inaccuracies, like some modern colloquialisms, Mr. Darcy’s open shirt, and Wickham trying to sexually assault Elizabeth after he’s married to Lydia (which is just an odd scene). All that aside I think it would be a really great way to get younger kids interested in the classics, and I’ve heard of teachers having great success with these editions. Jane and Elizabeth are still great, and the way Mrs. Bennett is illustrated is pretty fabulous. As much as I was prepared to dislike it, I couldn’t put it down, and ended up reading the whole thing in one afternoon.

Marigolds and Murder by London Lovett

Marigolds and Murder by London LovettA few months back a friend recommended a genre to me that I had never heard of before: the cozy mystery. Apparently, they are Murder She Wrote style murder mystery novels, generally set in a small town, that are free of graphic violence and sex (and since I’m an old lady trapped in lousy young lady body I steer clear of such vulgarities). Marigolds and Murder is the first book in the Port Danby series and I got it for free through my Kindle for some reason (I think it was through Kindle Owners Lending Library, but I can’t return it so maybe it was just free). I’m suffering through a bout of medicine induced insomnia where, once or twice a week, I wake up in the middle of the night and cannot fall back asleep for hours, and this book was my companion through those nights. It was as advertised and was a pretty straightforward story with a surprising amount of literary allusions (Pride and Prejudice and Poe’s “The Raven”). The murderer wasn’t even a little surprising, but it was fun to read. I still don’t know if the genre, or series, is for me, but I’m interested in reading the next book in the series regardless. If you have any recommendations in this genre please leave me a comment.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables by LM MontgomeryI received the Sweet Cherry Publishing edition released in September 2018 from NetGalley for this classic. It’s a Canadian children’s classic from the turn of the century and it’s absolutely adorable. I read voraciously as a child, and, while I read every single Amelia Bedelia book, I never read Anne of Green Gables. I absolutely love the title character, she’s deeply imaginative, kind, forgiving, and very intelligent. I’m kind of taken aback by how much I love her, and it makes me incredibly happy that she’s super competitive in school. I also really like that Anne is both extremely emotional and extremely intelligent at the same time; usually female characters are one or the other, and Anne is wonderful because she has both depth of feeling and thinking. Imagination is something that children have less and less, so I think this book would be perfect for late elementary to early middle school children because it shows how children can imagine the world around them. There’s some old timey slang and vocabulary, but not enough to obscure meaning. The only thing I wish for with this novel is that I had read it as a little girl.

What Makes Girls Sick and Tired by Lucille De Pesloüan

What Makes Girls Sick and Tired by Lucille De PesloüanI received an advance copy of What Makes Girls Sick and Tired by Lucille De Pesloüan and illustrated by Geneviève Darling through NetGalley in exchange for a review; this title will be released by Second Story Press in March 2019. As a zinster from way back, I love that this book started out as a zine. It’s an illustrated list of things that girls and women around the globe are “sick and tired” of dealing with. Every statement is illustrated with simple yet expressive line drawings to emphasize the message. It’s not graphic or needlessly upsetting, but it doesn’t shy away from the issues that women and girls face around the world, and it supports them with statistics that are cited. I would recommend the book to High School teachers who want to introduce feminism into the curriculum without it being misunderstood. It’s also a good way to introduce feminism to young women and men. When my son asks why he should care about feminism, I’d like to hand him this before we start talking. As the book itself states, it’s a conversation starter, and because it’s illustrated many students would be more receptive to it. I also think it’s important that the title specifically uses the world ‘girls’ even though women, of course, don’t want to be infantilized, because the book is addressing a younger audience. Women will not be surprised by anything in the book, but girls may.

Manga Classics The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Manga Classics Count of Monte CristoI received a digital edition of the Manga Classics The Count of Monte Cristo from Udon Entertainment via NetGalley. This is a classic novel, but one that I didn’t know much about. I used this adaptation as a sort of toe-in-the-water to see if I would be interested in the novel by Alexandre Dumas. I didn’t know what to expect, but I absolutely loved it. The story itself is a classic and satisfying revenge story; the count is wrongly imprisoned as a young man, and, after a daring escape from the dungeon, punishes those who betrayed him. It’s a gripping read and I loved every part of it; the vengeance was quite satisfying. The adaptation itself was great, the framing and illustrations added a lot to the story, and I supremely enjoyed it (even more than the edition of Pride and Prejudice I also read this month). The story has so many layers that were represented by this adaptation, and it have left me wanting to read the novel itself. I’m quickly falling in love with this series.

Manga Classics Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Manga Classics Sense and SensibilityI received a digital edition of the Manga Classics Sense and Sensibility from Udon Entertainment via NetGalley. Unfortunately, of the three Manga Classics I’ve read this month, this one is my least favorite. Maybe it’s because this is my favorite Jane Austen novel and no adaptation can make me happy, but the plot is so complex that I felt a lot of nuance got lost here. Also, the illustrations just don’t work for these characters; Marianne is a mass of curls, and Col. Brandon looks weathered, Edward looks too young and pretty, while Eleanor doesn’t look as dignified as she should. There’s so much cut out, which I’m sure was necessary, that the character’s actions barely make sense after the edits. The Steeles were pretty well done, in all their awfulness, but whole characters were chopped out of the plot. Maybe it’s the novel that doesn’t work for this format; perhaps Emma will have to be grounds for my final verdict.

Book Reviews of March 2018

Two short book reviews for March since in March I went on a pretty epic re-reading jag, and then didn’t write reviews for most of them. These two made it through though, so I hope you enjoy!

Fairy Tale (The New Critical Idiom Series) by Andrew Teverson

Fairy Tale by Andrew TeversonLately I’ve felt a renewed interest in doing more ‘serious’ scholarly work, so I decided to add some more serious reading to the rotation. I’ve been interested in fairy tale research for some time and have a respectable start to a fairy tale research library, but before I go into Zipes and Bettelheim, I thought a re-introduction to the genre would be in order. The New Critical Idiom series seems to be Routledge’s answer to Oxford’s A Very Short Introduction, but instead of brief, much more in-depth. That’s not the best explanation, but it’s early and I’m tired. Fairy Tale by Andrew Teverson discusses the schools of fairy tale creation, both the presumptive oral tradition, and the 19th century fairy tale creation wave, as well as major critical schools. There is a relatively low-level of engagement with the Disney machine, which I personally appreciated, since I do not respect their adaptations. The book is relatively light on the the feminist and revisionist schools, but focuses more of its attention on psychoanalytic and Marxist approaches. Biographical criticism, which I feel is much more important for ‘recent’ fairy tales like “The Little Mermaid,” is mentioned, but almost discounted. Still, it’s a dense-yet-engaging read, which is not an easy balance, and I definitely feel like it helped prepare me for tackling more fairy tale criticism.

Benito Cereno by Herman Melville

Benito Cereno by Herman MelvilleI am re-reading this novella for, I believe, the second time since my first reading in 2013. After reading the dense text (above) I wanted to read something short that moved quickly, and I picked Melville’s anxiety-producing novella Benito Cereno, of course. My copy is bundled with Bartleby, the Scrivener which I cannot believe I haven’t written about already. Right now, since I’m dealing with adjunct hell and general meh-ness, I thought Bartleby might push me over the stay-in-bed-all-day edge, so Benito Cereno it was. The story is amazingly well-written (ah, Melville) and extremely stressful to read. The strangest part is that there’s a lot of Amasa Delano’s thoughts, then just random violence out of nowhere, but it’s so brief I wasn’t sure if I had read it right. Like I guess someone lost all their fingers? I felt bad about it! I should probably mention what the novella is about. It follows the charming Amasa Delano, American captain of the ship Bachelor’s Delight, that has come upon a ship in distress. Almost all of the Spanish crew has died, except for Benito Cereno and a handful of others, but around 160 slaves are roaming free on the ship. Because Delano is super nice he cannot figure out that the slaves had a revolt and killed everyone, that Cereno is a prisoner, and that the slave Babo (pictured on the cover above) is behind it all. Everything sort of works out in the end though, basically, except for the people who died. Note: the same cover image is used for an edition of Blake, or the Huts of America, which I find interesting, though the image doesn’t make a ton of sense for Blake.

Books Reviews of 2006

File this post under blasts from the past(s). As my 10 years blogiversary approached last year, I was feeling nostalgic about my old, hand-coded website, so of course I looked it up on the Wayback Machine. I was braced for something really amazing, and instead I found a website with roughly ten book reviews and three recipes on it. Below you will find the un-edited book reviews from 2006 aka most of my website back then (spoiler alert: they’re kind of pretentious). I hope someone on the internet finds them useful someday.

The highlight of this set of review, I believe, is that it contains my first reading of Breakfast at Tiffany’s as well as my hilariously waffling on Science Fiction, which I now love. Part one of this series is Book Review of 2003, if you finish this yet crave more, and I also added my annotated bibliography on James’s The American to the site. These are all the book reviews that the vault holds, so I hope you enjoyed them!

A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid

Jamaica Kincaid A Small PlacePublished in 1988 Kincaid’s A Small Place is an unflinchingly angry portrayal of post-colonial, post-slavery life on the island of Antigua. To put it simply: Kincaid is as mad as hell, and she’s not going to take it anymore. If you’re white and can shelve your defensiveness for a moment this book is actually really enjoyable, it’s written in first person and directed at “you,” the British colonizer and/or the fat white tourist.

Kincaid’s sense of humor is wonderfully dark, and there are a lot of moments of humor, if you keep an open mind. Still, at the heart of the matter is the story of Antigua’s decay, left to rot by the British colonizers, with a population that doesn’t vote openly corrupt officials out of office. She openly points out the irony of the celebration of emancipation and the valorization of the Hotel Training School, which teaches the residents of the island to be servants.

In the end, Kincaid concludes that no one is to blame, that after slavery the masters are no longer evil and the slaves are no longer “noble,” but that everyone is merely human. She problematizes the matter, but offers no solutions, which might irritate those concrete sequentials among us. Also, she refers to Columbus, and the explorers in general, so adored in American culture, as “human rubbish” on multiple occasions. You might not agree with Kincaid, but this is one topic someone should be pissed off about, and her unapologetic narrative is about as honest as you can get.

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Persuasion by Jane Austen, a Re-Read

Persuasion by Jane AustenAfter spending a great deal of my recent free time reading non-fiction, I found myself in the mood for something more immersive. I re-read both Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice in 2017 thanks to a local hurricane, but I never connected as much with Austen’s other novels. I decided, however, to give Persuasion another chance, and I’m very glad I did. Looking back at my old review, I read the book at the exact same time of year, which is an interesting coincidence.

I don’t remember liking the book much, but reading it again, I definitely enjoyed it more the second time through. I sympathize a lot more with Anne Elliot’s plight than I did the first time. I had forgotten, really, that she has such an unlikable family; Sir Walter is vain, Elizabeth is a snob, and Mary won’t stop pretending to be sick. Anne’s mother dies before the text begins, and it’s implied that she would have kept her daughters from growing up to be so foolish (sort of a reverse Mrs. Bennet). Anne is almost the Pride & Prejudice Mary of the text, except she gets to fall in love, which I really appreciate, because I feel a bit bad for P&P Mary. (Also, what did Austen have against people named Mary?) Anne is underrated by her family, but has her late mother’s friend, Lady Russell, looking out for her. Unfortunately, Lady Russell looks out for her a touch too much, and persuades (get it?) her to back out of an engagement, which Anne regrets. Anne is trying to ‘do the right thing’ in the time before the novel, and when the novel starts, she is very much the worse for wear thanks to it. Lesson: Always look out for number one, ladies!

Anne’s family is pushed into financial troubles by Sir Walter’s incompetence; he is forced to rent his estate, and Anne get casually pushed out of the household in the process. This ends up being great for her because, as it turns out, two walks on the beach and spending time with anyone nice is all is takes to restore her beauty. It also lands her in much better company in general, and her ex-fiance, Wentworth, shows up, too. He tries to fall in love with Louisa Musgrove, but she throws herself down a flight of stairs like a dingus, and falls on her head. Since Wentworth was too charming near her, he is obliged to marry her, even though she’s the type of person who will just leap into the air expecting to be caught. Immodest! Facing a real predicament, Wentworth is saved by Louisa herself, who falls in love with a brooding young man whose wife had just died like six months ago. Move on faster, why don’t you? Everyone agrees that the poor, deceased young woman deserved better, but also that the bump on the head made Louisa a much better person, so that’s good enough.

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