Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Tropes

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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August 20: Favorite Tropes (a trope is a commonly used theme or plot device) (submitted by Andrea @ Books for Muse)

1. Mysterious school

2. Slow burn romance

3. Small towns

4. Missing/Absent parents

5. Family secrets

6. Gothic

7. Neo-Victorian

8. Time Travel / Time Slips

9. Dual Timelines

10. Fairy Tale retellings

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Top Ten Tuesday: Gothic Romance

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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February 26: Places Mentioned In Books That I’d Like to Visit (submitted by Georgia @justreadthemm)

I wasn’t really inspired by this week’s topic because I felt like I’ve done something similar in the past (see here and here) so I figured I’d do my own thing. I’m currently reading Nine Coaches Waiting By Mary Stewart and it’s reminding me how much I love a good Gothic. Think big creepy houses, a mystery waiting to be solved, a hero who is somehow tangled up in the mystery… I actually came across this little page about the commonalities of the cover designs in the genre.  Anyway, here are some of my favorites.

51k3i-j1fl-_ac_us218_1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte-  I doubt that anyone is surprised to see this one here! The British governess who goes to the mysterious Thornfield Hall, falls in love with the master, and gets caught up  the question of what’s going on in the attic is definitely sort of prototypical for the genre. But I also love it for Jane’s complexity as a character. It makes her seem very real in a way that not all Gothic heroines are.

 

41ufepph-wl-_ac_us218_2. Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier– Like Jane Eyre, this novel seems to bookend the genre. The commonalities in terms of plot have led some to call Rebecca a retelling. I’d actually argue that a bit, but that’s not really the point here. In this case we have a young woman who marries the wealthy widower Maxim De Winter and moves with him to his imposing family home, Manderley, where Maxim’s late wife, Rebecca, still seems like the mistress of the house.

91n4fz7r-xl._ac_ul436_3. Dragonwyck by Anya Seton– When Miranda is given the chance to be the companion to the child of a distant cousin she leaps at the chance. So she goes to Dragonwyck in the Hudson Valley. Here she meets Nicholas Van Rynn, and his wife, Johanna. Miranda is  entranced with the elegant mansion, and the aristocratic master. So when Johanna dies, it just makes sense to marry Nicholas. But as time passes, Miranda comes to realize that her new husband has dark secrets that threaten everything that she holds dear.

51onssuljil._ac_ul436_4. Mistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt- When Martha gets a job as governess to Connan TreMellyn’s young daughter she goes to live with them in their Cornish mansion. Alvean, Martha’s charge, is a notoriously difficult child, as her three previous governess’ can attest. But Martha thinks that Alvean is acting out due to the loss of her mother, Alice. She wants to help the girl. As she learns about the family (and naturally, falls in love with Connan…) she discovers that secrets from the past may have led to Alice’s death, and may threaten her future.

51xd7qx0o7l-_ac_us218_5. A Long Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott– Rosamond Vivian meets  Phillip Tempest and is pretty quickly swept off her feet. They run away together to marry, and everything is more or less perfect until Rosamond realizes that Phillip has been lying to her from the beginning. She flees from Phillip thus beginning a “love chase” that is both “long” and “fatal” (see what I did there?) This was first published in 1996, because it was too sensational for publication when it was originally written in 1866.

51hzkq6uiel-_ac_us218_6. Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart- This is my current read, so its hard to say too much about it, since I want to avoid spoilers. But I will say that I’m surprised I manged to go this long without having read it, since I like the genre and the author. Unlike many other books in the genre this takes place in a French chateau rather than an English mansion. Our heroine, Linda Martin, is a governess (quelle surprise!), for Phillipe, a young orphan. Phillipe’s guardian,  his uncle, Leon de Valmy seems charming, but for some reason the young boy is terrified of him…

51y8le-aoal-_ac_us218_7.  Silence For the Dead by Simone St. James– In 1919, Kitty Weeks, falsifies her background to obtain a nursing position at Portis House. Portis House is a remote hospital for soldiers left shell shocked after WWI. Kitty has her reasons for wanting to disappear. But when she arrives at Portis House she learns it was once a private home until the owners left abruptly. Did it have something to do with the nightmare that all the patients at Portis House seem to share? Something that’s so terrifying they won’t speak of it? Kitty’s ally is Jack Yates. He’s a war hero, and inmate, and possibly a madman.

51gkwlv5zql._ac_ul436_8. The Woman In White by Wilkie Collins– Walter Hartwright is an artist who has been engaged as a drawing master to Laura and Marian Fairlie. On his way to Limmeridge House, where the orphaned Fairlie sisters live, he encounters a mysterious woman in white who begs him for help and then disappears. When he arrives at Limmeridge House, he discovers that Laura Fairlie bears an uncanny resemblance to the mysterious woman. Walter soon falls in love with Laura who is facing an arranged marriage to Sir Percival Glyde. That marriage will bring her, Walter, and Marian into contact with Glyde’s mysterious friend Count Fosco, as well as a fortune and a lot of secrets.

51mn5td6ql._ac_ul436_9. The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley- Archaeologist Verity Grey is sent to the Scottish Borderlands because her boss is convinced that it is the resting place of the lost Ninth Roman Legion. His reasoning is based on the fact that a local boy has seen a ghostly soldier wandering the fields, and the owner of a remote manor house is convinced that his property contains the bones of the lost legion. So Verity is a bit skeptical when she arrives but she is joined in the excavation by a number of colleagues, including the handsome David… But as they investigate the Ninth Legion they learn that some secrets may be buried for a good reason…

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Literary Rebels

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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December 11: Freebie (Make up your own topic, or use a previous TTT topic you might have missed.)

This week I decided to go with an old topic. These are some of my favorite rebellious characters in books.

1. Randal Patrick McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey– I’ve actually started to feel differently about McMurphy in recent years. When I first read this book, I was in high school and my sympathies were 100% with McMurphy as he tried to upset the routine in a  mental hospital, rallying the patients to demand better treatment. But since I started teaching, I saw how important routine is when managing large groups- especially groups of people who are vulnerable to upset and need consistency to feel safe. I started to see Nurse Rached’s reasons for wanting to run her ward the way she does, and McMurphy’s tricks (running a card game, sneaking in prostitutes) seemed like less an admirable attempt to think outside the box and more of a dangerous upset to a vulnerable population. 

2. Offred in The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood– It’s ironic that Offred’s rebellion against role that she’s been forced into as a woman, initially involves reading fashion magazines and sneaking cosmetics. Usually we see those things as part of the role into which out society pushes women. But when the basics of bodily autonomy are denied, when one’s clothing is no longer one’s choice and reading is forbidden, then secretly indulging in these ways of claiming your own identity are acts of rebellion. From these initial rebellions, Offered goes further, embarking on affair with a mean who also longs to escape Gilead. In doing so, Offred asserts her right to make choices about what she does with her mind and her body.  

3. Matilda Wormwood in Matilda by Roald Dahl– I love that this rebel us a five year old girl, who stands up to the adults who don’t live up to their responsibility to protect and care for her. In doing so she also “frees” her teacher, an adult who has been cowed by cruelty. Matilda is someone who has been told she’s powerless by everyone in her life, but flat out refuses to accept that. As a kid, I was very jealous of her ability to take power into her own hands!

4. Jane Eyre in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte– Jane is a rebel early on, with her Aunt Reed and at Lowood. But it’s really at Thornfield that she refuses to violate her principles, even when a part of her wants to. She’s given the opportunity to spend her life with the man she loves. He’s a rich man and she’ll live a life of luxury. Yes he’s secretly already married to a crazy lady, but no one has to know that. But Jane knows, and she knows that in trying to marry her anyway, without telling her, he tried to make her into something she’s not. So she leaves, even though it breaks her heart to do so. Rebelling against your own desires is one of the hardest things to do. 

5. Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell– Scarlett initially seems like a perfect southern belle. And she is, until she doesn’t get what she wants! When she’s widowed a sixteen year old Scarlett refuses to live the quiet, dignified life that society dictates for her. Instead she goes dancing. And stops wearing black. And gets remarried. Her rebellions continue as she insists on living on her own terms in spite of a world that tries to dictate the terms. But she discovers that pursuing what she thinks she wants, may cost her what she truly does want. Actually I see Melanie Wilkes as a rebel too. When society turns its back on Scarlett and condemns her, Melanie remains a steadfast friend. 

41ocx2m77yl-_ac_us218_6. Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyoevsky– Sometimes rebelling against the status quo doesn’t lead characters to do “the right thing.” In this case, Raskolnikov  rebels against conventional morality by murdering a woman whom he believes the world would be better without. Regardless of his victim’s moral character, this act of rebellion has ripples that Raskolnikov never could have predicted, and he learns that sometimes when society says something (like murder) is wrong, we should just listen!

517zcqxmvll-_ac_us218_7. Valancy Stirling in The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery– Valancy isn’t a rebel initially. She’s a 29 year old spinster who lives under the thumb of her domineering family. But when a devastating medical diagnosis gives her an expiration date that’s a lot sooner than she’d like, Valancy gets the courage to rebel, to live the way that she wants to, with the person she wants to. She’s definitely not what we tend to think of when we think of rebels. But she defies her surroundings and her inhibitions to live the life that she wants. IMO that makes her a rebel. 

31mezqr7t8l-_ac_us218_8. Pamela O’Flaherty in Exit Unicorns by Cindy Brandner– Again this is a seemingly odd choice in a book that’s essentially about rebels. Other characters are more overt about leading political rebellion. But for other characters, that rebellion is something that they were born into. For Pamela isn’t not. Pamela is an Irish American. She grew up far away from any conflicts between British and Irish, Protestant and Catholic. Her rebellion started in her very choice to leave behind that distance and throw herself headfirst into the conflict. 

51zdmvpgfgl-_ac_us218_Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery– A lot of critics see Becky Sharp as the inspiration for Scarlett O’Hara. Whether or not that’s true, only Margaret Mitchell can say, but Becky is a character who doesn’t have many advantages in terms of the world she was born into. She makes a place for herself in it by seeing the flaws in people- the way they see the world and the way that they see themselves- and exploiting those flaws. Vanity Fair is subtitled A Novel Without A Hero, and while that’s perhaps true, it does have a compelling, rebellious protagonist. 

519rvznz89l-_ac_us218_10. Satan in Paradise Lost by John Milton– When he announces “Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heaven” Milton’s Satan tells us that he’s a rebel who won’t be beholden to anyone. He’s literally happy to be in the worst place imaginable, as long as he gets to do what he wants. According the William Blake, Milton (whether or not it was intentional), glamorized Satan making him an epic, almost heroic figure. “‘The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels and God, and at liberty when of Devils and Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devil’s party without knowing it.” So if you believe that, Milton was a bit of a rebel too. 

 

 

Fairy Tales, Princesses, Gothic Witches, & Popular Fiction

First, just to clarify: in this post, I won’t be discussing fairy tale retellings (books that set out to retell a specific fairy tale in a different way) but rather fairy tale inspired works.

If you look at many of my favorite books from Jane Eyre, to Rebecca, to Wuthering Heights, to We Have Always Lived in the Castle, you’ll see a lot of similar elements. Big houses, family secrets, and other gothic trappings. But there’s another element that’s consistent in them: fairy tales. Jane Eyre and Rebecca are both Bluebeard stories: A young woman becomes romantically involved with a wealthy man with a big house. It would seem to be a Cinderella story, but there’s a secret involving the man’s previous wife. In both cases, the man bears some degree of culpability. In Wuthering Heights, we see Heathcliff continuously compared to a beast; called “wolfish” with “sharp, cannibal teeth.” But unlike the traditional fairytale romantic beast, his actions are as beastly as the rest of him. While the love between Beauty and the Beast sets the Beast’s castle free of an enchantment, the love between Cathy and Heathcliff imprisons them and their families for a generation. We see a more traditional Beauty and the Beast story play out later with their children. Hareton is the Beast made in his father’s image, and Catherine is the Beauty who “tames” him. In We Have Always Lived in the Castle, we see the fairytale castle before it became an enchanted ruin. We learn about the crime that made Witches of normal women.

But the fairy tale influence isn’t just limited to classics.  As a pre-teen, I was, like many, obsessed with VC Andrews. My favorite of her books was Flowers in the Attic. I haven’t reread it in years and I don’t 51qf7-d2cl-_ac_us218_want to. I have the sense that it’s not the kind of book that will hold up well. But the fairy tale influences are strong throughout. When their father dies, four children are brought to Grandmother’s House by their mother. In this case, Grandmother’s House happens to be a mansion and the children are locked in the attic because if  Grandfather finds out they exist, Mom won’t get her inheritance.  They’re told they won’t be up there long. Grandfather is old and dying. And Mom will try to tell him about them eventually. They’ll be in the attic maybe a week tops.  They’re up there for three years. We have two “witches” here. Grandmother has a bible verse for every occasion, a wide definition of sin, and a ready whip. But even more frightening is Mom, who seems a helpless, beautiful Princess at first. Caught in a bad situation she just wants to do what’s best for her family. But by degrees, she becomes convinced that keeping the kids locked up is the best thing for them. Then she realizes it’s the best thing for her and stops caring about them.  The narrator, Cathy, is twelve when the book begins, and fifteen when it ends. In many ways, she’s literally the Princess locked away in a tower. But she’s also got a bit of a Witch in her (explored more in the sequel, Petals on the Wind) in that like most teenage girls, she’s selfish, cynical, and can see things as pretty bleak. Also, in her family, the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. She comes from a long line of Witches. A lot of the tension in the series deals with who she ultimately becomes: Princess or Witch?

A few years ago, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl became a major bestseller. We saw some of that Witch/Princess emerge in the character of Amy. She’s beautiful, in danger, and (for a time) locked away. But she also has some fairly witchy characteristics. Unlike Cathy, in Flowers in the Attic, who is always straddling the Princess/Witch divide, Amy definitely falls on one side more than the other. I won’t say which, to avoid spoilers. But Gone Girl wasn’t the only fairy tale inspired work that Gillian Flynn has in her oeuvre. Its success made her other two novels best sellers. Sharp Objects was just turned into a TV miniseries. In it, we have a clear Witch and a Princess/Witch. Camille is a  troubled journalist who returns to her hometown to investigate a double murder. We also meet her mother, Adora, is a manipulative narcissist. In her essay, “I Was Not A Nice Little Girl” Flynn discusses her intention to write about a Princess raised by a Witch.  Would Rapunzel, raised in a tower by a Witch, be a good woman? Or would she turn into a Witch herself?

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Top Ten Tuesday: Page To Screen Adaptations

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

July 10: Best Books I’ve Read In 2018 (So Far) (This prompt was originally going to be a TTT throwback, but I know how much people love the bi-annual top ten books of the year and I forgot to add it to the list! Feel free to do a throwback instead if you want!)

Since I did a mid-year book post not too long ago, I figured I’d do a throwback this week.  I went with the Top Ten Book To Movie Adaptations.  But since I’m including TV/miniseries I’m just going with “page to screen”.

1. Pride and Prejudice (BBC 1995) I know that the 2005 film has its fans, and it has its good points. But for me, Colin Firth is Darcy. Jennifer Ehle is Elizabeth. That’s just all there is to it. Perfect casting. Beautiful adaptation.

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2. Jane Eyre (BBC 2006) There are several great adaptations of Jane Eyre, but I’ve always been partial to this one because it’s got a spirit of fun to it. Yes, Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens are probably better looking than the Jane and Mr. Rochester described in the book might be,  but they seem to love their characters. I read a review once saying this didn’t add any new colors to the story but it brought all of the existing colors to their full glory (or something along those lines). To me that says it pretty well.

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3. Little Women (1994) I think I saw this film for the first time not too long after I first read the novel. Maybe that’s why these actors seem fused to their characters. Or maybe it’s just really well cast! The film adds some outright feminism and political commentary that doesn’t feel extraneous at all. It also manages the tough plot points well. For example, whenever I watch it, I want to see Jo end up with Professor Bhaer rather than Laurie. And it doesn’t even bother me much when Amy is played by a different actress halfway through.

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4. Anne of Green Gables (1985 miniseries) I’ve seen a few screen Annes (including the most recent “Anne With An ‘E'”) but to me, none of them have approached Megan Follows, who just is Anne to me.  This is another example of something I saw for the first time around the same time that I read the book, which may explain why it’s so definitive for me. I also just really like Jonathan Crombie as Gilbert.

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5. Gone With the Wind (1939) It’s almost impossible to picture Scarlett O’Hara as anyone other than Vivian Leigh. Likewise, it’s hard to picture Rhett Butler not looking like Clark Gable. And yes, occasionally I picture the antebellum American South in something like old Hollywood technicolor, though I’m aware that plantation life was hardly as pretty as the film makes it look. Perhaps its a testament to a good film that I can forget about the ugly reality for a few hours as I watch it, and believe in the fantasy.

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6. Rebecca (1940) This is an example of a film that changes some important plot points from its source material but still works as an adaptation because it maintains the mood and atmosphere of the book. Hitchcock made a wise move refusing to cast Vivian Leigh as the unnamed narrator. The same qualities that made her perfect for Scarlett O’Hara would have made her all wrong for this role. Also, whoever cast Judith Anderson as Mrs. Danvers really knew what they were doing!

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7. The Age of Innocence (1993) I felt like the narration of this film did it a great service, which is rare, because in many films I find the device overbearing. We see the characters go about their lives, but in the book the weight of social norms and expectations as they did this was tremendous. In the film, we might not even be aware of this if not for the narration that lets us know about it at important points. It could have been done in a clunky way, but it wasn’t. For the most part, it works.

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8. The Princess Bride (1987) This is an example of an adaptation that could have gone all wrong. William Goldman’s novel indulged in tropes that it simultaneously satirized. That’s the kind of thing that is really hard to translate to screen.  It’s done just right. Instead of presenting it as an abridgment of the novel by S. Morgenstern with “commentary” from Goldman, we’re given a frame story of a grandfather reading the book to his sick grandson. It might not have translated at all, but it does.

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9. Matilda (1996) This film relocates the action of Roald Dahl’s tale from the UK to the US. Usually, that’s not a move that I’m a fan of with adaptations. But in this case, it doesn’t hurt the material. Casting wise, Mara Wilson was a lovely Matilda. The character needs to come off as smart and sweet without crossing too far into the precocious and annoying territory. Wilson finds just the right balance. Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman are just the right amount of loathsome as the Wormwoods.

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10. Bleak House (BBC 2005) I never thought a story about a legal battle over an estate would capture my interest, but Charles Dickens pulled it off in this book. I didn’t think a book with so many plotlines and characters could be done well as a TV miniseries, but this miniseries proved that wrong too. Most of the plotlines do make it into the series, and the ones that were omitted were the right ones. Plus it’s hard to go wrong with a cast that includes Gillian Anderson, Charles Dance, Carey Mulligan, Alun Armstrong, Anna Maxwell Martin and Denis Lawson.

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What do you think? Did I miss any?

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Character Names

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

May 22: Best Character Names (make this as narrow/broad as you’d like)

51k3i-j1fl-_ac_us218_1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte– I don’t know which came first, the character or the expression “plain Jane.” But either way, they’re sort of inseparable. Plus, the Eyre sounds like “air” or “heir.” Which is consistent with both the bird imagery used by the character and what we later learn about her.

 

 

51hmsqsiztl-_ac_us218_2. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren– Actually that’s Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Ephraim’s Daughter Longstocking. Not every character can pull off a name like that.

 

 

 

51vxh2jgv8l-_ac_us218_3. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell– Apparently in early drafts of the novel, Mitchell referred to her heroine as “Pansy.” All I can say is thank goodness for whoever made her change it! “Scarlett” is perfect for a character who causes tongues to wag wherever she goes.

 

 

51f6ex2-vul-_ac_us218_4. Precious Bane by Mary WebbPrudence Sarn is a great name for the heroine of this novel. Like the character, it’s strong and practical rather than delicate and pretty.

 

 

 

51hrmnxgool-_ac_us218_5. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray– Like her name, Becky Sharp is a teensy bit of cuteness surrounded by harsh edges that might cut you, if you’re not careful. Becky, of course, short for Rebecca, which means “captivating” which describes the character well. But beware of being too captivated…

 

 

 

41xt3sg-yl-_ac_us218_6. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle– The “Sh” in the beginning makes it sound like a secret. It also indicated someone asking for quiet to allow for thought. And the “lock” suggests something hidden or locked away. Overall a perfect name for a detective.

 

 

51tt9v9vjl-_ac_us218_7. Wuthering Heights by Emily BronteHeathcliff is a great name for the anti-hero-yet-somehow-not-quite-villain of this book. Dictionary.com defines a heath as “a tract of open and uncultivated land; wasteland overgrown with shrubs.” As a foundling, who was largely neglected following his adoption, Heathcliff can certainly be described as “uncultivated.” The addition of the “cliff” at the end of the name suggests danger. It’s consistent with a character who is untamed, vengeful, and unforgiving. 

417ccdcfnel-_ac_us218_8. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde- Etymologically, the name Dorian is linked to  “gold” or “golden” (think El Dorado”) which is consistent with the character’s appearance. But the “Gray” implies some kind of ambiguity, a suggestion that Dorian isn’t as perfect as his initial appearance suggests.

 

 

41gwjpjhljl-_ac_us218_9. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy- Gabriel Oak is a fitting name for the hero of this novel. “Gabriel” comes from the Hebrew meaning “God is my strength” and “Oak” of course suggests a very strong tree. Gabriel Oak is the loyal, steady, moral center of the novel. He draws strength of character, and integrity from the hardships that he endures.

 

51ycpilxgcl-_ac_us218_10. A Chrismas Carol by Charles Dickens- Ebenezer Scrooge‘s very name suggests his most notable character trait. The “nezer” hints at the word “miser” without being too on the nose. The last name also suggests “screw” as in he screws people over. I doubt that was intentional on Dickens’ part since I don’t know if the word screw was used in that way when the book was written, but it’s a nice touch now.

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters With Whom I’ve Identified

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

April 3: Characters I liked That Were In Non-Favorite/Disliked Books

I wasn’t really feeling this topic, because usually if I don’t like a book I don’t like/relate to/identify with the characters.  So I just decided to look at characters with whom I’ve identified over the course of my life. I think that my ability to identify with the characters that I read about is one reason I fell in love with reading in the first place. These are some characters that I’ve seen a bit of myself in:

51dxbewzuil-_ac_us218_1. Anne Shirley from LM Montgomery’s Anne series- I’ve posted about my love for Anne before. She was imaginative, creative, she spoke her mind and tried to make the best of bad situations. Yes, she sometimes made mistakes and accidentally dyed her hair green, or got her friends drunk, but who hasn’t?

 

 

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2. Emily Starr from LM Montgomery’s Emily series- I relate to Emily in a different way from Anne. In some ways, I think I have more in common with her as I grow up. She’s a writer. Like Anne, she tries to look on the bright side, but she needs the support of fiction to help her. In that way, I’m similar.

 

 

51srrilel-_ac_us218_3. Jo March from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women– I think most readers of Little Women identify strongly with Jo. I do identify with the other March girls in different ways at different points, but Jo was the one with whom I identified on the most consistent basis. Even when she made decisions that weren’t popular with other readers (like turning down Laurie) I always understood where she was coming from and why.

 

51fm3ylbgvl-_ac_us218_4. Francie Nolan from Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn– I think I was about thirteen when I first “met” Francie Nolan. She and I had a lot in common. Our names were practically the same. For Francie “the world was hers for the reading” and I could relate to that sentiment. Francie was sensitive and creative in a world that often seemed harsh and brutal. In retrospect, my life was far less harsh than hers was, but I related regardless.

 

51k3i-j1fl-_ac_us218_5. Jane Eyre from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre– Unlike Jane, I’m not “poor, obscure, plain and little.” Yes, a few of those words could apply to me at different points in my life, but it’s not generally how I see myself. In spite of her words, I don’t think that’s how Jane sees herself either. Regardless of the value (or lack thereof) on which society places her, Jane is always secure in her own self-worth. That’s always been a quality to which I aspire.

 

51igzsbi-ul-_ac_us218_6. Matilda Wormwood from Roald Dahl’s Matilda– Matilda was always a sort of superhero to me. She was lonely, unappreciated, and frightened, and I’ve certainly felt that way at times. But she was also a fighter with a keen sense of justice, a genius IQ and the ability to defy the laws of physics using only her mind. How can you not love a girl like that!?

 

51egwhdscl-_ac_us218_7. Cassandra Mortmain from Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle– Cassandra is one of those characters that I carry with me as I read other things. I’ll see another character’s actions and think “Cassandra wouldn’t have made that mistake,” or “Cassandra would do that better.” That’s not to say Cassandra had everything in her life together. Far from it, she was just as confused as anyone else much of the time, but her ability to record everything in her journal gave her a chance to give thought to those moments that most people let pass and forget about.

61wniu1hbzl-_ac_us218_8. Ramona Quimby from Beverley Cleary’s Ramona series- Ramona spoke to the part of me that I often wished I could let free. She wasn’t afraid to be annoying occasionally because she understood that sometimes it’s the only way that you can be heard. She wasn’t afraid to get messy if it looked like fun. I’ve always been a “good girl,” that’s just who I am naturally, but Ramona let my inner rebel run free.

 

61yilvqhjhl-_ac_us218_9.  Sara Crewe from A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett- Like me, Sara was addicted to stories. Thankfully I never suffered anything as traumatic as Sara did when I was a child, but I think that much like her, I’ve used imagination and stories as a way of coping with bad times. I also hope that I have some qualities that she shows in this book: resilience, generosity, kindness…

 

51jb19dy-ul-_ac_us218_10. Bridget Jones from Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding- This is one character who I hope that I’m not too much like. She’s too ridiculous for me to want that! But she also represents the parts of me that are just trying to keep all the different areas of life together. She’s the part that knows that some days just call for chocolate and that sometimes you need to sing into your hairbrush, loudly and off-key.

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Book Quotes

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

March 6: Favorite Book Quotes

I don’t know if this list is 100% accurate. But these were the top ten that I thought of.

51hq1svllxl-_ac_us218_1. “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”

-From Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Because some things are just so true.

 

 

51z5jz2frjl-_ac_us218_2. “The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.” —From Peter Pan by JM Barrie

I think this applies to a lot more than just flying. It’s really about taking risks. If we stop and think about all the things that could go wrong, we’d never do anything. Sometimes you have to just put all that out of your mind, and take a (metaphorical) leap.

 

51qphks8hyl-_ac_us218_3“…. my mother gave me a brown paper bag which I filled with caught butterflies so that by the time we were ready to go and the sun was ready to set in that Florentine filmy amber it gets down there at about 6 in the summer, I had caught a lot.

I’d wait until the car was all paced and we were just driving off and then I’d open the window, tear the bag quickly and watch the silent explosion of color fly out. “I’ll always remember this,” I thought, “forever.”

Then we’d go home and eat dinner I suppose, I don’t really remember.”

-From Eve’s Hollywood by Eve Babitz

I just read this book recently, and I marked this passage because it really stood out to me. I think that the language shows just how vivid the memory of the butterflies is, compared to whatever happened afterward. It’s how I often remember childhood. Certain memories are very clear, and others just fade away.

51aznmcwg9l-_ac_us218_4. “We tell ourselves stories in order to live…We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices.”

I think that this is very true. It is for me, at least. When terrible things happen I have this need to impose some sort of narrative as a way to give them meaning. If I can’t see the meaning at the moment, it just means that the story’s arc isn’t complete yet.

51-np75sehl-_ac_ul320_sr218320_5. “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” – From Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery

 This is something that I try to think about. Often I’ll wake up in the morning and still be mad at myself for some mistake I made yesterday. I think it’s healthy for me to try to remember Anne’s words and regard each day as a fresh start.
51iyq4ny4ol-_ac_us218_6. “A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”

-From The Twits by Roald Dahl

In my experience this is true. That’s not to say that a kind person who isn’t conventionally attractive will start to look like a movie star to me, but I notice the less attractive elements far less. Likewise, if someone isn’t very nice, then no matter how beautiful they may be, after a while I won’t see them that way.

 

51fkpmqzdyl-_ac_us218_7. “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.” -From Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Something about Jane Eyre when she gets going, makes me want to scream “you go, girl!” I mean she’s not a character who you would expect to be able to assert herself that way or have that kind of self-confidence. It’s the Victorian era where women weren’t regarded as people in their own right. Jane less so than most, because she’s “poor, obscure, plain, and little.” She’s got no financial advantages, no connections in the right places, but she’s still able to stand up for herself and demand respect.

 

61ugxeeqibl-_ac_us218_8. “What I’m not sure about, is if our lives have been so different from the lives of the people we save. We all complete. Maybe none of us really understand what we’ve lived through, or feel we’ve had enough time.” -From Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

 

I think that ultimately this speaks to how privilege matters and how little it really means. One person may be regarded as better or “more” than another, and that brings real advantages. But ultimately, we’re all just feeling our way around the world. We all have limited understanding, and we all want something more.

51qe5e8fmtl-_ac_us160_9. “I tried on Claire’s double strand of pearls in the mirror, ran the smooth, lustrous beads through my fingers, touched the coral rose of the clasp. The pearls weren’t really white, they were a warm oyster beige, with little knots in between so if they broke, you only lost one. I wished my life could be like that, knotted up so that even if something broke, the whole thing wouldn’t come apart.” – From White Oleander by Janet Fitch

The necklace with the knotted pearls is a great image and it definitely seems to serve the metaphor for one’s life. To me, it seems that when something goes wrong in my life, it can be like a chain reaction. My attention goes to whatever went wrong, and then because I wasn’t paying attention to something else, that goes wrong. Obviously, it’s easier to knot beads than it is to compartmentalize in the same way.

51vp6vchi4l-_ac_us218_10. “He had looked at Jude, then, and had felt that same sensation he sometimes did when he thought, really thought of Jude and what his life had been: a sadness, he might have called it, but it wasn’t a pitying sadness; it was a larger sadness, one that seemed to encompass all the poor striving people, the billions he didn’t know, all living their lives, a sadness that mingled with a wonder and awe at how hard humans everywhere tried to live, even when their days were so very difficult, even when their circumstances were so wretched. Life is so sad, he would think in those moments. It’s so sad, and yet we all do it.” -From A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

I think that this is a beautiful expression of the human condition really. Life is tough. Everyone has struggles and problems. But we all keep pushing through regardless. It can be seen as sad, yes. But I think also beautiful.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Could Re-read Forever

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

February 27: Books I Could Re-read Forever

I’m usually not a huge re-reader. I have a whole list of books that want to re-read, but my TBR so big that I rarely spend time on stuff I’ve already read. But even so, there are some books that I’ve revisited over the years. A lot of them tend to be books I read at some point during my childhood, because I was more of a rereader then. But making this list has definitely inspired me to do more re-reads!

51tt9v9vjl-_ac_us218_1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte- I wrote a bit about my journey with this book a while back. I read it for the first time in high school and was sort of shocked by the disparity between its reputation as a tragic romance, and the actual content of the book. I felt like the various narrative frames kept me at a distance and that there was some kind of elusive content that I was just missing. Those very qualities have made it an interesting re-read. I understand it differently each time I read it. At different points, it’s Freudian, feminist, sadomasochistic, gothic, and subversive.

51fkpmqzdyl-_ac_us218_2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte- The first time I read this, also in high school, I loved it. I thought it was a lovely romance with a happy ending and a heroine I could root for. When I re-read it in college I realized that while it was all those things, it was also a lot more. There was a subtext that I’d completely missed on my first read through; regarding colonialism, gender relations, religion, morality, and autonomy. There were parallels that had gone over my head the first time. For example, Jane and Bertha are presented as two sides of the same coin. Jane is depicted as impulsive, willful and even violent as a child (see her behavior with the Reeds, the red room etc) she eventually masters these traits in a way that Bertha isn’t able to.

51dxbewzuil-_ac_us218_3. The work of LM Montgomery- Maybe this is cheating but I can’t pick just one book here. As I kid I wanted to be Anne Shirley. As a slightly older kid, I wanted to be Emily Starr. As a teen, I discovered The Blue Castle for the first time. They’re all books that I find myself wanting to revisit at different points. There’s something comforting about them.Maybe it’s the landscape of Prince Edward Island that I’m attracted to, or maybe the smart female characters appeal to me.  Maybe I like different things at different points.

51ozv7qacul-_sx260_4. The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon- The first time reading through this series I read for plot. They’re pretty densely plotted books, and because I was invested in the characters I wanted to see what happened to them. I’ve re-read parts now that the TV series is airing and I’m sort of shocked at how much I missed on those initial read thoughts. A lot of character development happened that I wasn’t aware of because I was focused elsewhere! I missed a lot of subtle cues, foreshadowing, and even sub-plots. I suppose that there’s only so much you can focus on in one read through.

51iosghk0l-_ac_us218_5. The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling- I suppose in this way I’m a true product of my generation. I haven’t read them all the way through multiple times though. Like the Outlander series, my re-reads have been in bits and pieces. I’ve read parts of several later books more times that several earlier books, for example, though as I read later books I revisited earlier ones to refresh my memory of what happened. It seems to be the later four books or so that I’ve revisited the most. Maybe that’s because there was more happening in them than in the first three.

51srrilel-_ac_us218_6. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott- The first time I read this, I was obsessed with Jo. I wanted to be Jo. I still love her, but on later read-throughs, I focused on the journeys of the other characters. For example, it’s easy to overlook Meg and Beth the first time through. They’re not as attention-grabbing as Jo and Amy. I definitely dismissed them as “the boring one” and “the tragic one” until I re-read it and realized that they were just as compelling in their own ways as Jo and Amy were.

51uvxo85zl-_ac_us218_7. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell- This may be cheating because I haven’t reread it in a long time, but there was a point in my childhood where I would read this book, finish it, and then just start reading again! I should probably reread it at some point if only to understand why I was so obsessed with it at one point. Maybe the isolation of the main character appealed to me. Maybe it was the fact that she bravely faced a situation that would probably leave me a quivering lump of fear. Maybe it’s the fact that her ordeal didn’t end when she was “rescued”. It could have been the fact that this is based on a true story. Or it could be that different things appealed to me different times.

511prxozevl-_ac_us218_8. Here’s to You Rachel Robinson by Judy Blume- When I was about ten or eleven I was obsessed with this book. Maybe it was the main character who appealed to me. Maybe it was the dynamic between her and her family and her friends. Or maybe it was Jeremy Dragon, who was my first book boyfriend. In retrospect, I don’t even know why he appealed to me as much as he did. He wasn’t even a major character. But I suppose the element of wish fulfillment in a guy you have a crush on actually liking you, was something that appealed to me at the time.

614tt378kel-_ac_us218_9. The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson- I’m not sure how old I was the first time I read this book. Maybe nine or ten? Like in Harry Potter, this book features a platform at King’s Cross Station in London, which leads to a magical world. But this platform only opens once every nine years, so when the prince of this magical world is stolen, the magical creatures have nine years to plan the rescue. Of course, that doesn’t mean that anything actually goes according to plan. I think that along with Harry Potter this appealed to the part of me that longed for something magic hidden alongside the mundane.

51cbwb1nmql-_ac_us218_10. Fairy Tales– I know that this is more of a genre/category than a book, but fairy tales were like a religious experience for me as a kid. I would read them compulsively. Before I could read myself, I had others read them to me over and over again. I sought out different versions of fairy tales. I was possibly the only four year old who could explain how the Disney version of Snow White differed from the Brother’s Grimm! Even now, fairy tales inspire a lot of my own writing.

 

A to Z Reading Survey

I found this on Gin & Lemonade‘s blog and thought it looked like fun:

Author you’ve read the most books from:

It’s hard to say. Some are more prolific than others so I’ve read more from them even if they’re not my “favorite” authors. According to Goodreads I’ve read 19 books by LM Montgomery, 18 by Juliet Marillier, 17 by Lisa Gardener, 15 by Mercedes Lackey, 15 by Marian Keyes, 15 by Phillippa Gregory

But I wouldn’t say that they’re my favorite authors. Just that they’ve written more than a lot of other authors that I read.

Best Sequel Ever:

Hmmm… This one is hard! I’m thinking of book two in my favorite series… Often the second books aren’t my favorites! My initial instinct is to say Anne of Avonlea but I don’t want to be too predictable, so I’ll say Emily Climbs. It’s the sequel to Emily of New Moon and it’s by the same author.

Currently Reading:

Just started Marlena by Julie Buntin. So far it’s good but I’ve only read the first few chapters so far.

Drink of Choice While Reading:

Tea. Iced in warm weather, hot in the cold.

E-reader or Physical Book?

I’ll read an ebook on occasion but I far prefer physical books. If I read something as an ebook I feel less like I’ve read it. Does that make sense? Probably not!

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated In High School:

51kc21bqngl-_ac_us218_Hmm… This is surprisingly tough because most of the guys in YA aren’t guys I’d want to date, and most of the guys in adult fiction are too old for high school me to date (have I been giving this too much thought?) Maybe Gilbert Blythe when he was high school age. He was always a sweetie!

Glad You Gave This Book A Chance:

Hmm… I remember when I read Crime and Punishment my senior year of high school. I didn’t think I’d hate it but given previous experiences with Russian literature I didn’t think I’d end up liking it. But I did. I don’t know if it qualifies as me “giving it a chance” since I had to read it for school. But we ended up talking about it in class at the same time that I was reading Donna Tartt’s The Secret History at home. Since Tartt’s novel alludes to Crime and Punishment quite a bit, the class discussions ended up enriching both books for me.

Hidden Gem Book:

Time and Chance by Alan Brennert- I actually just remembered the title and author of this one after only remembering the plot for a long time!

Important Moment in your Reading Life:

Probably the first time I fell in love with a book. The “problem” is that I’ve fallen in love with a lot of books from an early age.

Just Finished:

Touch by Courtney Maum

Kinds of Books You Won’t Read:

Non-fiction about topics that hold no interest for me.

Erotica

Graphic/gory horror

Longest Book You’ve Read:

According to Goodreads, it’s Clarissa by Samuel Richardson at 1,534 pages. I read it in college. Though I read a different edition from the one on there. I think my edition was probably a few hundred pages less. Mostly likely due to bonus material like introductions, footnotes etc.

Major book hangover because of:

517p1odjdbl-_ac_us218_51vp6vchi4l-_ac_us218_I suppose it depends on what we mean by “book hangover”. If we mean a book that stayed with me emotionally for a long time after I read it, The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barberry and A Little Life by Hana Yanagihara, are probably the most recent ones. I’ve read other great books since then but these lingered under my skin in some way.

Number of Bookcases You Own:

2. But my books are not limited to bookcases.

One Book You Have Read Multiple Times:

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. I think in college I was sort of obsessed with it. I did my senior project on it and discuss it a bit in this post.

Preferred Place To Read:

My bed. I can also go for a hot bathtub. I want to get a really comfy oversized chair just for reading.

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read:

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be 51tz5m0vibl-_ac_us218_intolerably stupid.” Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (because sometimes a quote just a true thought perfectly into words)

“If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day, so I never have to live without you.” – A.A. Milne, Winnie The Pooh (just simple and lovely)

“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables (something I try to remember!)

Reading Regret:

You mean like a book I’ve never finished? Or one I wish I hadn’t read? I don’t understand…

Series You Started And Need To Finish(all books are out in series):

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher- I don’t actually know if it’s complete but I’ve only read the first 6 and I think there are like 15 in all.

Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

Tarien Soul by CL Wilson

The Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear- Again, I don’t know if it’s complete but I’ve only read the first 3 and there are many more out there.

The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett

Three of your All-Time Favorite Books:

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

It is insanely hard for me to limit this to just three books!!!

Unapologetic Fangirl For:

Outlander. I started reading the books over a decade ago. When the TV series started I revisited them and got hooked all over again.

Very Excited For This Release More Than All The Others:

At the moment I’m looking forward to Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley

Worst Bookish Habit

Planning to read more than I can get to.

Dog-earring pages.

X Marks The Spot: Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book:

Well, it doesn’t say which bookshelf, but I picked one at random. The 27th book is The Collector by John Fowles

Your latest book purchase:

I bought these at a used bookshop at the same time:

Messenger of Truth by Jacqueline Winspear

Dust and Shadow by Lyndsay Faye

The Night Watch by Sara Waters

A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

61xeuwoxcl-_ac_us218_ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late):

Probably Night Film by Marisha Pessl. I think that’s the last time I remember thinking “I should go to sleep. But I need to know what happens next!”