Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte by Syrie James

The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte is a remarkable novel told from the viewpoint of the author of Jane Eyre, Villette and other tomes. I was wary of reading this as I was afraid that it would be cheesy or poorly written or just plain ridiculous. However, I was treated to a fantastically written and fascinating story. The novel is narrated by Charlotte and details not only her life at Haworth with her parson father, sisters Emily and Anne and brother Branwell, but her two years in Belgium. I had known a bit about the Brontes before I read this, but I discovered through this novel just how hard their lives were yet also how resilient the family was and what literary genius they possessed. Charlotte's story is not a truly happy one, though she did have moments of pleasure in her life. I found myself really admiring this amazingly talented woman and author and sobbing over her terrible losses. Jane Eyre is one of the best novels ever written, in my opinion, and Charlotte deserves accolades for this feat alone. If you are a Bronte fan or want to learn more about this extraordinary family, I highly recommend this brilliant novel . Syrie James has done a wonderful job of portraying life from Charlotte's viewpoint and I am looking forward to reading her first novel, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Shiver was one of the most talked about teen books this year. An intriguing story about a girl who is in love with a werewolf, this novel was a challenging read for me.
At 7, Grace was dragged into the woods by wolves and nearly killed. She's only alive because one of the wolves saved her. Since that day, she's watched the wolf every winter and he's watched her. She's always felt a connection with him. When circumstances in her town become perilous for the wolves she, in turn, saves her special wolf, but he's not a wolf anymore; he's a human. Sam has been shot and has changed into a man. Now a teen, Grace takes him in and they begin an intense and dangerous romance.
I liked nearly everything about this book except for the romance aspect! The author created an action-filled plot that takes some surprising twists and turns. Her explanation of werewolves and how they change and live is captivating and her character development is admirable. However, I sometimes felt that this was just another unrealistic and annoying teen romance a la Twilight. I fear for the teen girls who read these novels and hope that they realize that relationships are not really this intense or drama-filled. I know that real relationships do not make for good literature, but I really cringe reading about these obsessive connections. I almost gave up on this book about 2/3 of the way in, but I feel the author did a good job of pulling back from the "staring into each other's eyes" moments and amped up the action. The ending was good and I would like to see where the sequel takes us.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

My Favorite Books of 2009

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrow and Mary Ann Shaffer

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt

Coventry by Helen Humphreys

Delicate, Edible Birds by Lauren Groff

Columbine by Dave Cullen

The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte by Syrie James (Post coming soon)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

This Week's Purchases

These are all Christmas gifts to myself!

Persuasion by Jane Austen

The Sister by Poppy Adams

The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym
The Solitary Summer by Elizabeth von Armin

March by Geraldine Brooks.

Merry Christmas to me!

“Even when reading is impossible, the presence of books acquired produces such an ecstasy that the buying of more books than one can read is nothing less than the soul reaching towards infinity… we cherish books even if unread, their mere presence exudes comfort, their ready access, reassurance.”
- A.E. Newton

Friday, December 18, 2009

Yes, My Darling Daughter by Margaret Leroy

While perusing the new books shelf at work the other day I came across this interesting title and remembered that it had been on Oprah's summer book list. After rereading the synopsis I decided this would be the perfect book to wedge in between my current Bronte binge. A very suspenseful tale of reincarnation and murder, I devoured it in 2 days.
Grace is a single parent to Sylvie, a daughter she conceived with a much older, married man who is no longer around. Sylvie is 4 and is causing Grace no end of embarrassment and trouble. She screams without stop whenever she is near water, even if it is just splashed on her, she is strangely mean to her best playmate. and often throws fits at her nursery school. Her behavior alienates Grace's friends and dates and gets her expelled from school. More disturbing, she longs for her "real family", only draws pictures of a lonely looking cottage, and when she encounters a picture of a town in Ireland she sleeps with it under her pillow and begs Grace to take her there.
At wit's end, Grace reads an article in the local paper about a professor who researches reincarnation,especially in children. Adam Winters is an attractive man who agrees to study Sylvie. He urges Grace to take Sylvie to Coldharbour, the town she loves in Ireland, in order to free Sylvie from her nightmares and memories. They end up going together, with Sylvie, to Ireland and step into a murder mystery.
I really enjoyed the first half of the novel when the author details Sylvie's problems and Grace's frustration with her. The author does a nice job of developing Grace's anger, sadness and bewilderment. When they get to Ireland, however, the plot focuses more on the murder mystery and the character development gets lost. Adam is a very two-dimensional character and I think the author even loses sight of him at times. The mystery is neatly solved and there are great moments of suspense, but in the end I thought this book was just okay.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I Bought More Books

I went shopping with Niesa today and picked up four new books:

Charlotte Bronte by Elizabeth Gaskell
Shirley by Charlotte Bronte
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
Emma by Jane Austen

These were all bought at Half Price Books so I feel that it was okay because I spent less than $20 whereas at Barnes & Noble I would have shelled out closer to $50 for all four.
You can see that 3 of my four selections have Bronte associated with them - I will write about my current Bronte obsession in a future post.
The Emma I bought is a nice, clean copy with largish print. I already own a version of Emma, but the print is so tiny that it makes reading it a chore (I think it may be time to get my eyes checked) and I want to read this novel before it is shown on Masterpiece Classic in January.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Book Buying Binge

You would think that because I work in a library that I would never need to purchase books, right? WRONG. I have a serious problem at the moment. I have been going to Barnes & Noble every other day and just in the past week I have bought:

The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James
The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte by Syrie James
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Excellent Women by Barbara Pym

and a book each for Olivia and Bella.

There are also a few others that I've contemplated purchasing, but they either weren't available or didn't speak to me when I actually held them in my hands.
I never used to buy books, but in the past year I've bought quite a few. I have a huge stack (ask Niesa) of unread books that won't fit in my book case.
I have also begun an expensive MAC makeup habit, but that's a whole different story...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

2010 Masterpiece Classic

I'm very excited about the new year's Masterpiece Classic series. The schedule was recently posted online. It is starting in December this year with a repeat of Cranford and goes directly into Return to Cranford. There are also repeats of Northanger Abbey (quite good) and Persuasion (hideous). There are some interesting selections this year, including The Diary of Anne Frank. I'm most looking forward to Return to Cranford and the new version of Emma (to the left), which will start at the end of January.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sacred Scars

I read the second installment in the Resurrection of Magic series while I was in Pueblo (thanks to their lovely library inventory). When I read reviews people complained about it being slow, and it's often the complaint with a middle book in a series, but I thought it was an excellent book. It left me even more anxious for the third book in the series. After trying to escape with the kidnapped street boys, Sadima wakes up in the slums of a city with hair that will only grown the length of eyelashes, an inability to cross the boundaries of the slums, and no memory of who she is or how she got there. And one other thing: she never gets any older. After many years of cycling between hiding and running a cheese shop, she becomes part of an anti-magic movement known as the Errideans (sp?). Hahp and Gerrard are still surviving the rigors of the wizard school with their tentative pact, but things are getting harder. Hahp soon realizes he will have to involve all the students if they are to succeed in destroying Somas and his wizard school. A dangerous thought because one of the students can't be trusted. As it was only the 2nd book, it left a lot of questions unanswered, but I found it enjoyable and can't wait for the 3rd book.