March Book Haul

The “original” meme (I don’t know if this was the very first one – thus the quotation marks), In My Mailbox, was created by The Story Siren and Pop Culture Junkie. Right now Kristi from The Story Siren is hosting In My Mailbox, plus other bloggers are hosting similar memes with different names. I don’t know who’s hosting Book Haul, though, or who started it.

Please do excuse the clutter, I’m in the middle of moving (which proves to be a lot more work due to the many many books I own!)

March Book Haul 2014

I never meant to get as many as these this month (and more are arriving in the mail – three, I think.)

  • The first book I got in the month was Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler. I’d waited for this book to come out as U.S. paperback edition (because the author is from the U.S.), and it just came out earlier this month! It has deckle edges, something I usually don’t like, but I think I can live with it. I’ve been interested in this book ever since reading Elena’s review over at Books and Reviews and I think I’ll have a good time reading it.
  • The next book I bought was Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger, Book One in Finishing School series. After rummaging through Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series, I started missing Alexia and her world something fierce. Although Alexia is not in it, Etiquette & Espionage made, after the first 50 pages or so, a delightful read. It has a very different age-group, setting, tone, and characters than PP, but WOW. Fun, fun, fun.
  • Then The Best Short Stories by Guy de Maupassant and The Castle of Otranto / Vathek / Nightmare Abbeyby Horace Walpole, William Beckford and Thomas Love Peacock, respectively, arrived in the mail, both published by Wordsworth Editions. The second one contains three Gothic novels, or some variation thereof, and was an impulse buy.
  • Marmee & Louisaby Eve LaPlante is a biography of both Louisa May Alcott and her mother, Abigail May. Interesting fact: the author is a direct descendant of Abigail May’s brother, Samuel Joseph May. She’s like his great-great-great-granddaughter or something. Anyway, at first there are so many names and people and events, but I got used to it soon enough (and to its deckle edges, too). It’s really fascinating. Abigail May is someone who is only remembered as “Marmee” from the Little Women books, but the young Abigail May we first meet in Marmee & Louisa is ambitious, intelligent and thirsty for knowledge and education that are not available to women of her time. She’s also quite sick of marriage and kids (second-hand experiences) but when she’s twenty-six or -seven, she meets A. Bronson Alcott. I’m only 50 pages in, but it’s very enjoyable & insightful so far.
    I’d quite forgotten that I’d ordered this book until it arrived – it’s a hardcover edition, in a very good condition and for now without dust jacket because it’s in my new apartment with all the other dust jackets. I also got it for less than 6 EUR, even though it was shipped from America.
  • The last book to arrive this month is a part of my birthday presents for myself (ha, it’s really just a justification): The Wordsworth Collection of Classic Short Stories. It is 1400+ pages long, and contains many, many short stories. *happy sigh* Can’t wait to dive into them. Some of the authors include: Elizabeth Gaskell, Arnold Bennett, Virginia Woolf, Wilkie Collins, Stephen Crane, Thomas Hardy, D. H. Lawrence, Henry James, Edith Wharton, and more.

That’s it! What wonderful books have you acquired in the month of March 2014? Let me know in the comments!

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Read The Books You Buy (1)

I am sure many of you readers out there are familiar with the feeling of wanting to read a certain book immediately, and you are so psyched about it when it finally arrives in the mailbox – and then! You don’t read the book. You can’t explain why. You are still kinda sorta excited about the book, but you want to read other books too, or you are not in the right mood for the book, or _________, etc.
But this doesn’t happen with one book a month. Oh, no. It’s three, five, seven, ten, fifteen, twenty books a month! If you belong to the latter categories, you probably read three or four out of those ten, fifteen or twenty.
Now, what happens to the other six or eleven or sixteen?

I am quite familiar with the symptoms, too. So I’m introducing my fail-proof plan! Read The Books You Buy, or RTBYB! Oh no, it’s not an acronym! Never mind!

So here is how it’s going to work:
1. The Optimal Case
1.1 I buy ___ books in a month.
1.2 I read all those books in the next month.
1.3 See 1.1

2. The Hey-it’s-Life Case
1.1 I buy ___ books in month 1.
1.2 I do not read all of those in month 2.
1.3 I still buy ___ books in month 2.
1.4 In month 3, I finish all the books I’ve bought in month 1.
1.5 Basically, it’s okay as long as I finish the load in two months’ time, ’cause life happens. Sometimes you’re busier than other times. The same goes for the books bought in month 2.

3. The Sh*t-it’s-Not-Working Case
1.1 I buy ___ books in month 1.
1.2 I do not read all of those in month 2.
1.3 I buy / not buy (not relevant) books in month 2.
1.4 By the end of month 3, I still have not finished books from month 1.
1.5 I can’t buy any more books until I have finished all books from month 1.
1.6 Basically, if I don’t finish the load in two months’ time, my permit on book-buying freezes until I do.

 

Let’s leave the boring theories behind and become practical!

I have five unread books from March Book Haul (which will be posted soon!):

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
The Castle of Otranto/Vathek/Nightmare Abbey
Best Short Stories by Guy de Maupassant
Marmee and Louisa
The Wordsworth Collection of Classic Short Stories

—-> So these are due May 31st 2014. And if I haven’t finish them by then? No books for me in the following months until I do. Woot-woot! So let’s get started!

Classics Club Challenge #2: Emma

Emma (Wordsworth previous edition)Emma by Jane Austen
originally published in December 1815 in three volumes by John Murray (which is now owned by Hachette UK)
dedicated to the Prince Regent, by his own suggestion

I bought Emma in the summer of 2009 – on August 28th, to be exact, as my scrawl shows. I was fifteen and stupid, and this book was collecting dust until last year.
I started reading Emma around December 2013; I made it past Chapter 10 and a couple more until I set it down. I picked it up and started where I’d left off on March 11th 2014. I finished it eleven days later, on March 22nd.

Like Pride and Prejudice, I have watched a movie adaptation of Emma (some years ago) before reading the book, so I knew vaguely the most important plot points. Because of this, I was never really surprised, but I don’t think it has robbed me of the first-time reading experience, either. In fact, knowing the story beforehand has enhanced it. I couldn’t tell you how or why; I’m puzzled myself.

Emma is about a young woman named Emma Woodhouse (20), who has wealth as well as social rank, and the events that happen in her village, Highbury (which has three big estates – Hartfield, Donwell Abbey and Randalls): there are weddings (in the beginning, middle and end); new people enter the village and cause excitement; Emma makes a new friend in Harriet Smith, an illegitimate daughter of someone and who was abandoned as a baby or small child; Emma acquires a taste for match-making that causes some disastrous results.

Emma is intelligent but lacks the discipline or avid interest to develop her intellect further. She is independently wealthy and since her mother’s death (when she was an infant), she has been acting as the mistress of Hartfield. Emma has an elder sister, Isabella, who has married John Knightley of Donwell Abbey, which makes his older brother, Mr George Knightley, and Emma brother- and sister-in-laws. George Knightley is considerably (17 years, Wikipedia says) older than Emma, and is her friend, confidant and critic.
Emma cares for her old father who is a bit of a hypochondriac, but in a very sweet way. He worries about the health of others, saying that it is too cold or too warm, that people shouldn’t eat so much sweet stuff or drink too much wine, etc. Mr. Woodhouse can be a little bit annoying sometimes, but he was very endearing to me, the way he didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings and worrying too much. Emma is extremely fond of him, and she and George Knightley are the ones who usually smooth over his worries.

Emma is different from the other Austen heroines I’ve encountered so far (who are Elizabeth Bennet, Elinor Dashwood, Marianne Dashwood, Fanny Price, and Catherine Morland). Emma’s a rich heiress, as opposed to the poor (especially Fanny’s situation is dire) or impoverished (Lizzie’s family is just hanging on) situations the other heroines find themselves in. Emma is also the character that Austen has pronounced that no one will like but herself, and it’s easy (for me, at least) to see why. Lizzie is witty and sarcastic, prejudiced but quick to redeem herself; Elinor is a very steady character, the kind of calm woman you look for when in distress; Marianne lives passionately, the kind of burning fire that quite some of us experience in youth; Fanny might be “boring” but she draws a clear line between right and wrong, and sticks to it, which I appreciate; Catherine is naive, but endearingly so.

And Emma?  Emma clearly assumes an air of superiority that comes as much from her heritage as from her pride for her witty, clever self. She meddles with other people’s affairs and thinks she can pierce through their soul to see their feelings. Once she decides she doesn’t like someone, she’s quite definite about it, although maybe not as much as Lizzie.
Her opinion of Harriet Smith also switches back and forth as it suits her. At first she pronounces Harriet to be a beautiful young woman (albeit not especially bright-minded or clever), and she’s flattered by Harriet’s naivety and her female, friendly worship of Emma. She advises Harriet to decline Mr. Martin the farmer’s proposal, saying she can do much better. Then Emma proceeds to play the match-maker between Harriet and Mr. Elton, the vicar, which turns out to be a very bad idea. Still, Emma keeps telling herself and Harriet that Mr. Elton is not the man they thought he was (which is true). And then, when Harriet starts looking up to Mr. Knightley and sets her eyes on him, Emma swiftly announces that action as imprudent and calls her vain. She says something to the effect of How dare she set her eyes on the wealthy, kind, and superior in mind, generosity and intellect gentleman! She’s only an orphan, and an illegitimate daughter of who-knows-whom! And quite stupid. Oh no, I have encouraged her vanity! That’s kind of a double standard. When Emma ruins the marriage prospect between Mr Martin and Harriet, Mr Knightley is at first furious, saying that with Harriet’s status, Mr Martin would have been a very good match for her. Emma argues that it isn’t so; She say that Harriet is still a gentlewoman although her origins are not clear, and that she shouldn’t settle so low. Now Emma’s at despair because Harriet wants to marry a rich, nice and kind man. Well, I’m at loss. I get that Emma has just realized that she’s in love with Mr Knightley herself, so that must have gotten her churned up.
But still, this is the only aspect of the novel I genuinely disliked. Harriet Smith, who is an individual with thoughts and feelings, is tossed around by the characters as it suits them. Instead of guarding her innocence and trying to guide her into developing her own sense of mind so someday she will be able to depend on herself, she is either the sweetest person ever or a fifth wheel. Yes, she sometimes says stupid things. But if everyone who says stupid things should be married to a farmer because of that, the world would need a whole lotta more farmers.

All this aside, I have to say that I did enjoy Emma as a whole and also Emma herself. Yes, she’s sometimes carelessly mean just because she wants to be witty. Yes, she just tolerates “lowly” genteel people because she’s the star of Highbury, a position she wants to keep.
I like Emma, but not because she redeems herself a bit towards the end. No, I grew to like her even before that because she’s human. So full of life and funny, and so petty and ugly sometimes. Isn’t that how we all are? We have agreeable days on which we manage to be compassionate, quick to help others, have a spring in steps, prone to smiles. Then there are other days on which we are irritable, impatient and feeling just a little bit cruel. Some of us regret after lashing out on others. Some probably don’t. Emma never particularly used to regret thinking ill of someone until the Box Hill picnic day. And that’s okay. We weren’t born self-criticizing and regretting our actions. Either we learned to do it gradually, or we had a catalyst like Emma.
So yeah, I like her.

There are other individuals I’d like to briefly touch upon: Miss Bates, Jane Fairfax (I won’t waste my words on Frank Churchill), the Eltons.

Miss Bates is an older lady and a chatterbox. Not in a gossip-y way, but she is a running monologue-holder whose narration exclaims every little detail. Mr. Woodhouse is quite fond of the Bates, and he and Mr Knightley might be the only ones outside the family who listen to her patiently and with interest. Miss Bates used to be quite well off and in a good social standing but now she lives in a small house with her old mother. Yet Miss Bates (who is in her 40s or 50s herself, I think) is never resentful about her situation. She’s quite grateful for what she’s got, and for the people who visit her and her mother. She probably hasn’t been trying much of my patience because her page-long monologues were mentioned only three or four times; but I still admire her cheerful, I-see-only-the-good kind of quality.

Jane Fairfax, niece to Miss Bates, is quite the opposite of Emma. After her parents’ death, she grew up with her father’s friend, the Campbells. But she has no fortune, so she resolves to work as a governess after the summer spend in Highbury. Jane is quiet and reserved, and quite patient with everyone, even with that Mrs Elton. Emma assumes an instant dislike to Jane even before the novel starts (because Jane is no newcomer to Highbury) but the quiet introverted me didn’t mind Jane one bit. Maybe it’s because I knew the reason behind her cold-shoulderedness to Emma.

Now we come to the Eltons, whom I dislike as much as I do Mr Collins from Pride and Prejudice. They are all three so full of themselves, but Mr Collins has the misfortune of being stupid, too. So he has no idea how he sounds when he says egoistic, condescending or stupid (very often all three at the same time) things. The Eltons, however, or conscious of their social surroundings, and adjust their self-compliments and digs at others accordingly. So while I did not have to endure comments as inane as Mr Collins’, knowing what they were actually thinking made me more mad at them. Of all the self-interested, vulgar women he could have married! Really, Mr Elton, your smarmy self has never appealed to me, but after your marriage you got even worse. A lot worse.

Before I put an end to my long, long rambling (and thus your agony of reading it, if you actually have made it so far), I’d like to mention a tiny scene from Chapter 10. It’s when Emma and Harriet go visit the poor people.

“Emma was very compassionate; and the distresses of the poor were as sure of relief from her personal attention and kindness, her counsel and her patience, as from her purse. She understood their ways, could allow for their ignorance their temptations, had no romantic expectations of extraordinary virtue from those for whom education had done so little […]. In the present instance, it was sickness and poverty together which she came to visit; and […] she quitted the cottage with such an impression of the scene as made her say to Harriet, as they walked away, ‘These are the sights, Harriet, to do one good. How trifling they make every thing else appear! I feel now as if I could think of nothing but these poor creatures all the rest of the day; and yet, who can say how soon it may all vanish from my mind? (Chapter 10 of Emma, or p. 69 out of 390)'”

This scene can be interpreted in many ways, I suppose. It could be Austen’s way of showing Emma’s kind and compassionate side. It could be a subtle criticism at rich people that their problems are indeed small and mundane ones compared to the ones of the poor. Or it could be a criticism aimed at Emma herself that while she vows she should never forget these sights (those lines follow the paragraph above), she very soon does. But then again, maybe Austen used Emma as a personification for the careless wealthy, which would in turn be a Criticism #2…
There are many ways for intepretation, I reckon, but for me it was – and is – a personal hit as well.

Spring Equinox / Ostara

It’s dark outside. The sun is probably setting, or already set.

Hi, everyone! Today is Spring Equinox, also called Ostara as a pagan holiday, and today the length of the day and night is perfectly balanced – right down in the middle.

So we are finally in the middle of the Spring, and as if to demonstrate the fact, today the sun shone brightly and cheerfully. But we are also just leaving behind the dark half of the year, and as if to emphasize that point, it has gotten really chilly outside (heater on, pullover over t-shirt and everything).

I always feel more alert during the Spring months than any other months of the year. My favorite season probably remains autumn but I do enjoy the sunny days of spring and summer.

Today I learned that my paternal grandmother might have cancer.

She – I do not particularly wish to speak ill of the ill (please excuse the pun) but I do want to be honest – is not a beloved figure in my household; She rather is perceived as a petty and moody person who has a very sharp tongue that she uses (especially!) against her family. I say “perceived” because you never know what’s going on inside a person’s mind, and I haven’t seen her in four years. But she probably hasn’t changed much.
My paternal grandmother used to be a constant presence in my life until the move to Germany, but I have never felt any love from her. Oh, she was fond of me and my sister, I assume, in her own way. She tolerated us, she gave us the plainest dishes (rice and kimchi), she got mad at us for no reasons until we ran away crying (we were still in primary school, just to give an age context), she never remembers any of our birthdays and gets angry while demanding we memorize her age. We never really had any meaningful conversations. She never comforted us when we were sad. She was – is? – proud of us in her own way. The thing is, my grandmother was born in a hard time, and even though she was good at school, she never received secondary and tertiary education because her father thought as a girl she doesn’t need any.
There are generation gaps between us, and a mutual disinterest, but not as far as in each other’s health. I am worried about my grandmother, less because she might die (she is an old lady, after all, almost reaching 90s), but more because I’m afraid her last days won’t be spent in comfort. How can you be surrounded by your loved ones if no one really loves you? It sounds cruel, but that’s the heart-breaking truth (an expression which makes me sound like a hypocrite, a fact of which I am well aware). She’s old and sick, but no one wants to comfort her. Not because we – the whole family with aunts and uncles and cousins – are afraid of her reaction or anything, but because we are not interested.
Some of my family members will tell me not to feel bad, because there was no bond between my grandmother and me. My grandmother sometimes said hateful things, and expected to be treated well even though her treatment of others was rather bad.
I still feel like a bad person and a bad granddaughter for not loving my Grandmother.

Grandma, I’m sorry. Maybe you never meant to be a good person, but I am still sorry that you have to die alone. But will you stay alive till summer so I can go to Korea and hold your hand for the last time? You will probably abuse me verbally, or just ignore me after the excitement of seeing a granddaughter after four years of absence wears off (which means after couple of hours). I will probably want to escape your room and feel suffocated by your presence.
But please, Grandmother, let me do my last duty to you.

Bright Young Things

Oh, fiddlesticks. What a ridiculous series!

*contains spoilers for Bright Young Things (#1) and The Lucky Ones (#3) by Anna Godbersen.
*contains also spoilers for Rumors (Luxe #2) by Anna Godbersen.

I always thought this would be Cordelia. It turns out it's Astrid Donal!
I always thought this would be Cordelia. It turns out it’s Astrid Donal!

It starts out well enough: Two young girls from middle of nowhere in Ohio escape to NYC during the heights of Prohibition – Cordelia Grey (who just got married to her country “sweetheart”) and Letty Haubstadt/Larkspur, who has a beautiful voice but not the confidence to match.

Yay, fun! Parties, pretty things, lots of booze as if Prohibition don’t mean a thing. Well, yes, it’s all that… and almost nothing else.

I got bored quite easily. The three girls start out separately after Cordelia and Letty fight over petty things. Once Cordelia finds her long-lost father she’d never known Darius Grey, who is now a famous bootlegger (aka illegal alcohol provider during Prohibition), she eases herself into the glittery – and bloody – life of the bootlegger’s daughter. There she meets Astrid Donal, the third girl of the series and who is supposed to look like the girl on the cover (<-). She’s also the sweetheart of Cordelia’s half-brother, Charlie.
At the end of the book all three girls get chummy and not just Cordelia-Astrid or former Cordelia-Letty.

Astrid: party, booze, napping till noon, doing whatever young rich people do, making lovey-dovey eyes at Charlie, getting mad at Charlie, running away from Charlie, being mollified by Charlie’s attempts to woo her back.

Cordelia: party, alcohol here and there, napping till noon, getting to know her father, being wary of her half-brother Charlie, hanging out with Astrid, falling for “Romeo”, feeling guilty about it and resolving to cut all ties to “Romeo”, giving in to “Romeo’s” advances again.

Letty: working as a cigarette girl, blushing, resenting Cordelia every now and then, feeling shy, working, singing, blushing, being innocent.

The girls were quite tedious. None of them interested me although I mostly had fun reading the book. The plot only picked up at the end when Darius Grey gets assassinated. I flipped through Beautiful Days and The Lucky Ones, and it seems Cordelia meets a new young man, with whom she possibly commits a double-suicide at the end of the series; Astrid finally realizes Charlie has head-problems and runs away with her other true love; Letty singing and being adored and being taken advantage of her naiveté, only to elope with her real love to California and becoming famous.

In the prologue in Bright Young Things, the narrator (who turns out to be Billie Marsh) says that “one would be married, one would be famous and one would be dead” referring to these three girls. It’s as I thought – Cordelia’s the dead one, Letty’s the famous one, and Astrid’s the married one; although all three of them were married, actually. Cordelia to John Field, Letty to Grady and Astrid first to Charlie and then to Victor.

This series, compared to Godbersen’s Luxe series, is a lot more bloody. I mean, Will gets shot (speaking of which, there’s a guard called “Keller” – hope his last name is not “Cutting”!) in Rumors and that old man dies at the end of Splendor but other than that, relatively bloodless. Ah ah ah, we are dealing with gangstas in BYT series – and there’ll be more blood than necessary because Charlie is a raging lunatic.

So the conclusion to the series was pretty dramatic but the story dragged its feet like petulant child (or so it feels, even though I’ve only flipped through the pages of the second and third books); I don’t give a damn about the characters, with the possible exception of  Darius Grey, who is dead already by the end of the first book; the romances were insipid. I know it’s not fair, but I kept comparing the characters with care-free and brave Diana, wary and romantic Lizzie, cunning and seductive (yet unscrupulous) Penelope, and even with jealous and petty Carolina.

Ah!!! FRUSTRATION!

EDIT (3/12/2014): I feel the need to add something. I knew that “bright young things” was a term that actually existed, but it wasn’t until today that Wikipedia told me that they were “young aristocrats and socialites who threw fancy dress parties, went on elaborate treasure hunts, were seen in all the trendy venues, and were well covered by the gossip columns of the London tabloids” because apparently they were young people of England! I didn’t know that.
ANYWAY so maybe Anna Godbersen was right in portraying the whole people and scenery as she did – you know, excessive amount of parties, glamour, showing off of wealth, speakeasies and drinking and all that. Maybe the plot was meant to be boring, to put us into the right atmosphere… Eh. Okay, probably not.
So maybe I have read Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald first, after all. I could have gotten to know the whole era in a more memoir-ish manner (although Z is a historical fiction) before jumping into pure fiction. So what I’m saying is that I’m willing to give the whole trilogy another shot… in far away future.

Classics Club Challenge (3)

I’ve thought about doing “reviews in chapters” thing for Emma for quite some time before ultimately rejecting the idea, so that’s why my latest update on Classics Club challenge is later than expected.

News #1: I finally finished Little Men! (Click here for review.) I say “finally” because I’ve been up and down with this book for more than a year. Originally started on my Kindle – since it was a free ebook and all -, which was the worst idea ever, then I bought a physical copy to finish off the last one-fourth… which I did, only half a year later.
Anyway, I’m glad I read Little Men, even though it’s so very different from Little Women. I did have mostly good time reading this, only I don’t like its preach-y tone. And its many saint-like adults. It’s ALL ABOUT IDEALISM. Ack. I wish I had read this as a child. I’M TOO DISILLUSIONED FOR THIS.

News #2: I’ve made some progress with Measure for Measure since my last update. I’m at the point during which the Duke and Isabella cook up the scheme to disguise rich-girl-turned-poor-and-spurned-by-her-fiancé as Isabella to fulfill her (Isabella’s) end of the bargain of sleeping with the corrupt Angelo aka said greedy ex-fiancé so he will spare Isabella’s brother’s life for sleeping with his fiancée before marriage (which only came to light because he got her pregnant). Yep. At this point the plot is becoming really ridiculous, although I guess that’s what plays are supposed to do.

News #3: I’ve made little progress on the other front as well: Emma by Jane Austen. I just (okay, a week or two ago) finished Chapter 15, at the end of which Emma and Mr. Elton part their ways angrily because Emma just found that she has been wrong about Elton being in love with Harriet who was just pretending to pay attention to poor Harriet because he actually wants the well-off Emma, not orphaned Harriet. Think about it: Emma must be realizing that her ability as a matchmaker was actually bogus (this time) and that she teared Harriet and Mr. Martin (a farmer who Emma thought was “not good enough” for her new friend) for no reason at all! And she had made Harriet be all hopeful, although I must admit that Harriet is a bit too easily influenced by Emma to make up her own mind. I wager she won’t be crushed too much.
Emma’s character has Lizzy’s wit but less of her playfulness (especially making fun of herself), and she’s intelligent but too lazy to educate herself further. She grew up without a mother, which has made her into a loving and protective but spoiled daughter to her fretting father. The only opinion Emma cares about is Mr. Knightley’s, but not in the I’m-mooning-about-him-and-want-to-do-only-what-he-thinks-is-good way. Mr. Knightley – that is, the elder one – is kind and firm, disciplined and intellectual yet wry and likes a good argument. The younger Knightley, John, who married Emma’s older sister Isabella (ha, another Isabella) is quite full of himself, actually. And opinionated towards his father-in-law when really, he [John Knightley] ought to let things slide to a certain extent since the poor old one is doing no harm (except for being annoying sometimes) and is anyway too old to change himself. Isabella is much of a mother hen whose worries are largely directed towards her own children. And she follows her husband’s opinions, not much intentionally as being too busy/not interested to form her own opinion.
I actually know the general plot, having watched an adaptation (with Gwyneth Paltrow) before. So it was really funny to see Mr. Elton’s awkward courtship and Emma interpreting it as she wants to and thinking things like, He really must be in love with our Harriet if he thinks she is witty!

EDIT: Fiddlesticks, I totally forgot about News #4: JO’S BOYS by Louisa May Alcott
After finishingLittle Men, the curiosity got the better of me and I started reading about what has happened to all the Marches and Bhaers and Laurences and Brooks and surrogate-Bhaers aka Nan, Dan, Nat, Tom (Tommy Bangs), etc.
I am currently at chapter 5, and it seems Nan and Tom are studying Medicine, the former out of burning passion and the latter to stay close to the former, who won’t settle down for anyone. Nat is going to go to Germany for a while to learn music and is still hopelessly in love with Daisy with her mother (Meg) firmly saying “no”. Dan has always had restless feet, and now he’s seen quite a bit of the world, it seems. And Dan being Dan, it was done in simple, wild style. Must be his Indian [Native American] blood, Mrs Jo thinks. Now that the youngest kids from Little Men are in their teens, we get to see more of Josie Brooks, Bess Lawrence and Teddy Bhaer (Ha. Punny name.). Oh, and Jo has become famous for writing stories for children and there is a chapter in which she tries to dodge reporters and fans. It was quite hilarious. I wonder whether that part is semi-autobiographical as well?

Classics Club Challenge #1: Little Men

Little MenLittle Men
by Louisa May Alcott
originally published in 1871 by Robert Brothers, later bought by Little, Brown
(thus the caption “From the Original Publisher”)

It took me a few weeks or a year to read this book, depending on how you count. I started Little Men about a year ago on my Kindle. I finished it on March 7th this year. I made it through about three-fourth of the book before switching to the paperback edition – a wise decision, too. I just don’t like the font type of my Kindle.

I didn’t go into Little Men expecting it to be like Little Women. In Little Women, and to a certain extent also in Good Wives, Part II of Little Women, we meet the March girls as they go from young, creative, blundering girls to mature women who go their own path – although many grumble that the separate ways all led back to marital bliss. In the back of my edition of Little Women, there is an essay about how Louisa May Alcott didn’t want to write a sequel and thus “married [them] off in a very stupid style”.

Little Men is about Jo and Fritz Bhaer’s school for boys (and a few girls) in Plumfield that the readers saw as established at the end of Little Women (or Good Wives, if you have separate editions of these two). We meet a bunch of new characters, some more important and some less so. They study, play and learn to be amiable and good. Sometimes it’s very touching, often cozy and every now and then rather dull.

My only(?) complaint was that Little Men was so set on making good men out of these little lads that the adults around them who acted as inspiration were just too good. Too saint-like. Not at all realistic. Mother and Father Bhaer, as they are called, had a bottomless well of patience and pocketful of second chances. They knew just what to say, or do, to make the boys realize their mistakes, and ingrain the lessons with love.
Same goes for all the other adults whose teenagerhood we had watched in the previous book(s): Meg and John Brooke, Amy and Laurie. I grew up reading and re-reading about their struggles to overcome, or at least deal with, their faults: Meg with her vanity, Amy with her primness, Laurie with his laziness, and Jo with her temper. Now they were adults with no faults at all, which made me sad because they weren’t real anymore. They had become robots who say the right thing at the right time.
Especially Laurie and Amy just fell flat, flat, flat. They are sponsors for young, struggling artists but other than that they have no remarkable characteristics.
Meg was serene and a dutiful mother, wife, woman and Christian. Her husband’s more so – he is like the most disciplined man in the world. He didn’t make much money but he saved all he had, without indulging himself in any way except for the charity (which is an indulgence per se), so he could pay back all the debts he had and secure an independent future for his wife and children should he die early (which he did). And Meg takes all this quite calmly – no dramatic heaving fits, no despair over the loss of her beloved husband. No, it’s more like: He’s at a better place now. We should all be happy for him. Ugh.

That’s another point that bothered me – the whole Christian lecture in every chapter. It’s not like a Bible study, or even preach-y. In Little Women Marmee told her girls to be good and how to overcome their ego and be helpful, all the while leaning on the Christian values. It’s similarly done in Little Men, but amplified by times ten.
I don’t have anything against Christianity as a religion (what some people do in the name of Christianity – or any other religion – is another thing), and I accept Christian values as something people should remind themselves of, or even aspire to be. But I draw a line at remaining realistic, and being true to yourself and your nature.
I’m no Hobbes, I don’t believe humans are doomed from the moment of birth, but I do see that most of them (the humans) grow up to be rather self-centered and greedy. Greedy for love, material goods, attention, you name it. Maybe Louisa May Alcott was trying to beat these tendencies down at the young age, but to me Plumfield was a utopia.
The boys themselves are no angels. They make mistakes, they are sometimes spiteful, they tease each other. They are children still – carefree and childish, full of excitement. Especially the new characters – Nat and Dan, bless them both – had trouble adapting to Plumfield. But the way how they all came to understand the morals of the events in the end of the chapters was just too good to be true.

Here is what I did like: the boys. Jo’s boys with their foolish jokes and tender hearts, ignorant remarks and helpful hands. Especially Dan, Demi, Nat and Tommy Bangs took to my heart in all different ways. I also appreciated the character of Nan, who is a tomboy, loud and opinionated, but also a free spirit and aspiring to become a doctor. Her character represented a part of the female population whose ambition isn’t to settle down and live in domestic bliss (there is nothing wrong with it if you do). Later in Jo’s Boys she is studying Medicine and I just really like Nan’s independence and her way of thinking.

Louisa May Alcott also values the nature greatly – or at least Mr and Mrs Bhaer do, anyway. For them, growing up and learning don’t mean studying textbooks only. It also means going out, taking walks, learning the cycle and system of the nature. Being a bookworm like Demi isn’t always a good thing according to them. It was a different perspective compared to the time period and culture I grew up in.

Should you read Little Men?
Only if you 1) have read Little Women, 2) like reading stories about children, and 3) wish to go back to a childhood you didn’t have.
But please do not expect the same atmosphere as Little Women. You are bound to be disappointed if you do. Little Men is part charming and part frustrating all on its own way.

February Wrap-Up & March TBR

I’m on vacation!

In the month of February I read:

  • Jewels of the Sun, Tears of the Moon, Heart of the Sea (Gallaghers of Ardmore #1 – 3) by Nora Roberts – magical, soothing reads (or re-reads, to be accurate)
  • Waking the Witch (re-read), Spell Bound, Thirteen (Women of the Otherworld #11 – 13) by Kelley Armstrong – a rather limp conclusion to the otherwise stunning series
  • Just Listen by Sarah Dessen (re-read) – because I find myself relating more and more to Annabel as years go on. This is my tenth re-read or something. Probably.

For the month of March I want to read:

I have all these started-but-not-finished classics lying around! I recently picked up Emma again, and review/first impression of the first fifteen chapters should follow soon. So here are my goals:

  • Emma by Jane Austen
  • Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare
  • Little Men by Louisa May Alcott (I’ve started this a year ago! Jeez!)
  • Bright Young Things (BYT #1) by Anna Godbersen because I started reading this one yesterday and it reminded me why I love her Luxe series so much!

A note for February Book Haul:

There will be none because I didn’t buy any book in February 2014! It’s the first time since July 2010. Woo-hoo!

The Beautiful and the Damned

*The Beautiful and the Damned is a spin-off to the Hollow trilogy (The Hollow, The Haunted, The Hidden).
**contains spoilers for the Hollow trilogy & The Beautiful and the Damned

Cyn is not sure what exactly happened at the Sleepy Hollow cemetery. She has a vague memory of a girl called Abbey, but she’s been dead for months. But Cyn has a bigger problem than her screwed-up memories or the fact that other beings seem to live inside her: When she woke up next to her boyfriend, Hunter, he was very definitely dead and her hands were full of blood. Has she killed him during one of her black-outs? Horrified and scared out of her wits, Cyn runs away – to New Hampshire. (She didn’t really run. She escaped with a car. Or two?) The Beautiful and the Damned
Avian aka Thirteen is the only off-spring between two original Revenants (Crash course: In the beginning, before the Shades took over the jobs, six pairs (one angel, one demon) of Revenants took care of the souls and played Reapers. Avian’s parents, well, hooked-up and now Avian is kind of the thirteenth “original” Revenant.) and has inherited powers from both sides. But mostly he is odd man out. When he sees Cyn, he realizes she’s an Echo. Because of his past with Echoes, he really doesn’t want to help her.

Anyway, The Beautiful and the Damned is more like a novella to the Hollow series in length and plot. Both could have been more fleshed out and expanded onto. I would have LOVED to read a 600-page book for this story!!! For example, there was this f***** Vincent who had escaped to Cyn when he was banished in The Hidden. What did he do? In the end nothing but terrorizing Cyn, which wouldn’t be the first time. Or the psycho-brother would have made a great villain (he was, but he could have played the role a bit longer). And the thing between Cyn and Avian – they share one kiss! One. Kiss. After the shocks I’ve gotten from The Hidden, I was subconsciously wanting for more than one kiss. But it was a good one, though. The rest between them was great, even the oh-so-frustrating ending. Cyn’s sense of independence/being on her own wars with her fight for survival, and Avian’s I-don’t-care-attitude aside, he’s irritated every time Cyn gets into trouble. Will they work out some sort of friendship-relationship in New Orleans? I hope so. Even though he’s immortal and she’s… not. Maybe that’s why the author left the ending wide open? Because pulling off another The Hidden-ending would be repetitive and take the magic out of The Hidden?
I really wouldn’t have minded if Jessica Verday had concepted The Beautiful and the Damned as the first of a new trilogy, but she apparently didn’t, and to continue now like this would be very very awkward anyway. Instead I’ll look forward to her new book coming out this fall, Of Monsters and Madness!!

P.S.: What was that tiny cameo of Abbey and Caspian in the end??! Caspian’s so funny and a-do-ra-ble <3 And wasn’t it clever of the author to include that leather-pants-wearer reference from The Hidden?

Charade

The night was blurry. The edges blended in with each other. I was alone… but I really wasn’t. My face wasn’t mine, but I felt stronger in it. Protected, somehow. Sophisticated, independent? Maybe. But how foolish. Yet somehow, I didn’t want to give it up.
The colors were just big, bright dots. Nobody noticed that I didn’t really see. I preferred it that way. The reality didn’t seem as harsh when everything was out of focus. I had packed them in my bag, of course, just in case. But I didn’t put it on because I didn’t really want to see. It was bearable, even pleasant this way. You couldn’t see anyone like this, so you didn’t have to worry whether they were looking at you.
It was a charade. But I’ve never felt so safe until I was the one behind the mask.