12 Days of Giveaways – Day 3 – The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

twiwwcFor the classic literature/mystery lover, day 3 in the 12 Days of Giveaways is for you! Today’s book is Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White, a classic gothic mystery novel from the mid 1800s.  Fun Fact: Collins was a close friend and collaborator of Charles Dickens! Instructions on how you can win a copy follow the book and author blurbs below. Good luck!

From Goodreads:

One of the greatest mystery thrillers ever written, Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White was a phenomenal bestseller in the 1860s, achieving even greater success than works by Dickens, Collins’s friend and mentor. Full of surprise, intrigue, and suspense, this vastly entertaining novel continues to enthrall readers today.

The story begins with an eerie midnight encounter between artist Walter Hartright and a ghostly woman dressed all in white who seems desperate to share a dark secret. The next day Hartright, engaged as a drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie and her half sister, tells his pupils about the strange events of the previous evening. Determined to learn all they can about the mysterious woman in white, the three soon find themselves drawn into a chilling vortex of crime, poison, kidnapping, and international intrigue.

Masterfully constructed, The Woman in White is dominated by two of the finest creations in all Victorian fiction—Marion Halcombe, dark, mannish, yet irresistibly fascinating, and Count Fosco, the sinister and flamboyant “Napoleon of Crime.”

About the Author:

Wilkie Collins was a close friend of Charles Dickens’ from their meeting in March 1851 until Dickens’ death in June 1870. Collins was one of the best known, best loved, and, for a time, best paid of Victorian fiction writers. But after his death, his reputation declined as Dickens’ bloomed. Now, Collins is being given more critical and popular attention than he has received for fifty years. Most of his books are in print, and all are now in e-text. He is studied widely; new film, television, and radio versions of some of his books have been made; and all of his letters have been published. However, there is still much to be discovered about this superstar of Victorian fiction. (From Goodreads)

Giveaway

One lucky winner will have the opportunity to win a paperback copy of The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins!  For your chance to win simply leave a comment below.  Comments will be accepted through midnight on Wednesday, December 31, 2014.  Winner will be picked at random and announced on Thursday, January 1, 2015.  Open to US residents only.  Good luck!

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#43 A Review of The Canterbury Tales (Graphic Novel) by Geoffrey Chaucer and Seymour Chwast

If I remember correctly, the first time I was introduced to The Canterbury Tales was in high school.  I remember instantly falling in love with Chaucer’s tongue-in-cheek humor and how he infused that humor with parables that left one with a lesson learned.  When I was at the bookstore and found that a graphic novel version existed, I of course needed to buy it and see how creative Seymour Chwast was in his interpretation of Chaucer’s great work.

For those of you not familiar with The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer writes the tale of 30 pilgrims that are making their way to the Canterbury Cathedral.  Chaucer originally intended for each pilgrim to tell a tale to and from the Cathedral, for a total of 60 works.  Unfortunately, he died after completing 24 tales, of which we will never know the true order in which they are meant to be told.  What is complete, however, are the funny, serious, intriguing, intelligent, and overall entertaining tales of these pilgrims.  From the shockingly raunchy and funny tale of the Wife of Bath to the pious tale of the Prioress, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales cover the whole emotional spectrum and evoke both laughter and sorrow from the reader.

One thing that I think makes people frightened to read The Canterbury Tales or any other Medieval literature is the language barrier.  When I first read the tales it was when I was still in school, and was therefore being taught how to translate the text.  Once I was able to understand fully what each tale was about, why certain themes were important, and what made them funny, I developed a love of them.  What’s great about the graphic novel version is that it’s written not in its original text but a hip, modernized version of today’s English language.  Even the illustrations got in the “modern game”, depicting the pilgrims riding motorcycles instead of horses.  In doing this Chwast has opened up The Canterbury Tales to  not only a new generation of readers, but also a whole new audience in general.

My only critique of the graphic novel is that some of the tales’ adaptations weren’t written cohesively.  The Canterbury Tales is a huge undertaking in its normal format, so to squeeze all of that into 144 pages of text and illustrations is definitely not a simple job.  I felt that some of the stories could have used a little more tender loving care in their adaptation.  Despite this, the humor and morality of the tales still shone through well enough for any newcomers to the tales.

4 out of 5 Stars

This is my twelfth completed review for the Around The Stack In How Many Ways Challenge

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer and Seymour Chwast
Bloomsbury USA (2011)
Hardcovers: 144 pages
ISBN: 9781608194872

#21 A Review of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

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I feel the need to start this review off by saying I’ve always been an Austenite.  Knowing that there was a feud between Austen and Charlotte Brontë has always made me distance myself from giving any of the Brontë sisters’ works a chance (horrid of me I know).  I began seeing previews of the new Jane Eyre film and they looked so good that I decided I had to put the feuding aside and give Charlotte a chance.  Never did I think I would have the experience reading Jane Eyre that I did.

Jane Eyre is supposed to be an autobiographical novel told through the eyes of Jane.  She begins her story by telling of her childhood growing up in the house of her aunt and uncle Reed.  After her parents deaths her uncle Reed adopts her and takes her into his household as if she was one of his own children.  Shortly after Jane moves in with the Reed’s her uncle dies, but not before extracting a promise from her aunt that Jane will be raised as one of her own children.  Aunt Reed promises to do so but in reality does nothing of the sort.  Jane is a very passionate child and aunt Reed decides it’s really “wickedness” and punishes Jane often, leaving her in solitude.  Jane’s cousins are horrible to her as well, with her cousin John abusing her both physically and mentally.  During one particular physical altercation Jane fights back against her cousin and is punished by being sent to the room her uncle died in, also known as the red room.  During her time in the room she thinks she sees/hears a ghost and actually faints from fear.  She is found and brought back to her room and a doctor is called.  After speaking with Jane the doctor convinces aunt Reed to send Jane away to school.  Jane is sent to Lowood Institution where she spends the next eight years of her life, six as a student and two as a teacher.  The students at Lowood Institution are mistreated due to the neglect and greed of a Mr. Brocklehurst, the schools treasurer.  After a bad typhus epidemic that kills nearly half the students in the school an investigation is launched and a complete overhaul of the school is completed.  Jane spends the rest of her time there relatively happy, until age 18 when she decides that she would like to leave Lowood and become a governess.  Jane places an ad in the paper which is answered by a Mrs. Fairfax of Thornfield Hall.  Jane accepts the position and heads to Thornfield where her life will unknowingly change forever. 

Shortly after her arrival at Thornfield she meets the master of the house, Mr. Edward Rochester, during one of her walks to the town.  His horse comes out of nowhere in the fog, is startled, and slips on a patch of ice causing Rochester to fall off of his horse.  Jane helps him up and sits with him until he is able to get back on his horse, thus beginning their strange relationship.  I say strange because eerie things begin happening at Thornfield Hall and Jane seems to be there to help out just in the nick of time.  Someone sets fire to Mr. Thornfield’s bed in the middle of the night, a man is attacked, and some of Jane’s clothing is ripped in the middle of the night by an intruder to her bedchamber.  Through all of this Jane falls in love with Mr. Rochester.  Will Mr. Rochester ever find out that Jane loves him as deeply as she does?  Will the strange events prevent a future for the two of them? 

I think my favorite aspect of this novel is that it is totally pro-feminist.  Jane has a horrid life, but she’s never a damsel in distress.  She deals with the shortcomings of her life with grace and piousness.  She doesn’t let the misgivings of her life turn her into a cruel person.  She is forgiving and accepts the life she’s been handed. 

The writing is absolutely exquisite.  I found myself being so moved by certain passages that I had to go find my husband Todd and read them aloud to him.  Brontë knows exactly what she wants to say and uses the most perfect and vivid language possible to convey it.  The scenes I must specifically point out are the fortune-teller scene and the scene with Rochester and Jane in the garden.  The narrative is absolutely breathtaking.

“I tell you I must go!” I retorted, roused to something like passion.  “Do you think I can stay to become nothing to you?  Do you think I am an automaton? a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup?  Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless?  You think wrong! I have as much soul as you, and full as much heart!”

It’s difficult for me to find the words to express how in love I am with this novel.  Brontë takes the reader on an emotional journey that is stunning, vivid, depressing, shocking, romantic, dark, joyous, melancholy, courageous, righteous, and so much more.  Your emotions while reading the novel literally go on a rollercoaster with Jane.  Brontë’s writing allows you to literally become one with Jane and experience everything with Jane as she explains it.  I’ve never felt more in tune with a character than I did with Jane. I laughed and cried with her, felt dejected and happy when she did, was depressed at some times, and overcome with joy at others.   She is filled with a passion that I now see has been lacking in many other novels I’ve read.  This novel has forever changed the eyes I read with. 

I cannot recommend this novel enough.  Upon finishing it I’ve watched two of the mini-series versions of it as well as a film version.  I’ve become utterly obsessed with Jane’s story, and I have a feeling that you will too after reading it.

7 out of 5 Stars

This is my seventh completed review for the Page to Screen Challenge

This is my twelfth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

This is my first completed review for the Chunkster Challenge

Jane Eyre by Charlotte  Brontë
Barnes and Noble Classics (2003)
Paperback 558 pages
ISBN: 9781593080075

#14 A Review of Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Cover ImageJane Austen is a name synonymous with truly amazing novels.  Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abby, and Sense and Sensibility are all considered to be amongst the greatest works of fiction ever written.  Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility, was published 200 years ago this year!  In honor of its bicentennial birthday (and the Sense and Sensibility bicentenary reading challenge), I’ve made sure to make this the year for my re-read. It’s amazing to think that Sense and Sensibility is still so loved and revered today, 200 years after its first publication as “a lady’s” first novel. 
 
Most people are familiar with the plot line of Sense and Sensibility, but for those of you who aren’t, here is a fast run down.  Mrs. Dashwood and her three daughters Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret are left almost penniless when Mr. Dashwood dies.  John Dashwood, half-brother and stepson to the women, becomes the new owner of their home Norland Park due to an entailment on the estate.  John and his wife Fanny move into Norland Park and take over, forcing the women to look for a new home.  During this transition Fanny’s brother Edward comes to visit and begins a close friendship with Elinor.  Mrs. Dashwood and Marianne believe an engagement is upcoming, but a warning from Fanny reveals that Edward is unable to control his own destiny while his mother controls his purse strings.  Insulted, Mrs. Dashwood refuses to stay any longer than necessary in Norland Park and is lucky to find her cousin, Sir John Middleton, offering them a cottage to live in.  They soon set out for their new home, Barton Cottage, and upon arrival meet with their cousin Sir John.  He is a lively man with good manners and a caring heart.  He invites them to dine with his wife, children, and mother-in-law as often as possible.  It is at Barton Park (Sir Middleton’s estate) that they begin a friendship with Sir John’s friend Colonel Brandon, a man who is quiet, reserved, and fascinated by Marianne. 
 
Marianne, a hopeless romantic, is madly in love with Willoughby, a man who rescued her from a fall during one of her walks.  The two share many conversations about life, literature, music, art, and much more.  Everyone believes them to be madly in love and secretly engaged.  Elinor, the sensible one in the family, tries to curb the gossip as she doubts there to actually be an engagement.  Elinor tries to subtly tell Marianne that she needs to begin following social procedures, lest she become a subject of public gossip.  Marianne tries to tell Elinor that there is nothing wrong in her actions, that she need not be false due to social norms and will continue to act how she feels.  Will Marianne’s actions come back to haunt her in the end?  Will Elinor ever tell anyone of her love and yearning for Edward?
 
The above barely touches upon half of the plot of the novel.  It’s one of Austen’s more complex stories in my opinion as there is a large focus on the relationships that the characters have with each other.  The biggest relationship is between Elinor and Marianne.  The two are complete opposites of each other in both temperament and disposition.  Marianne is reckless, romantic, eager, spirited, and not at all worried about how others perceive her.  Elinor on the other hand lives by the rules, is sensible with money, quiet, reserved, and dependent on herself.  Towards the end of the novel you see how much they each learn from each other as sisters, friends, and confidants.  I think of all of Austen’s books the relationship between Elinor and Marianne is the one most beautifully written. 
 
While the relationships between characters is important it’s also the relationships the characters have with themselves that shine.  Most specifically with Elinor.  We watch her struggle throughout the whole novel and she first realizes that she is in love with Edward and then later on comes to realize that she may never have him as her own.  We watch her struggle watching Marianne express herself so simply and easily in a way she knows she is incapable of mimicking.
 
Austen truly shines as a writer with this novel.  It’s no surprise that 200 years later society is still talking about this story.  If you’ve never read it  I heartily encourage you give it a try.  It’s the perfect year to honor it with your first read.
 
5 out of 5 Stars
 

This is my eighth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

This is my first completed review for the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge

This is my fourth completed review for the Page to Screen Challenge

 
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Barnes and Noble (2004)
Hardcover, 324 pages
ISBN: 9781593083366

My Favorite Ten Books of the Year (Part II)

Here is the second half of my favorite books for the year! (Part I here)

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6.) North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell – Todd and I were bored one night and decided to see what movies/mini-series’ we could watch on instant Netflix.  We watched a BBC version of Gaskell’s North and South and I was enthralled by it!  North and South is the story of John Thornton and Margaret Hale, and the goings-on of the working class people of the small urban city they live in.  Thornton, a mill owner, is trying to keep his mill running amidst strike and union talks.  Margaret Hale, the daughter of a curate in the South of England, is forced to move to Thornton’s home town when her father decides to leave his job as a country curate and become a tutor. Thornton becomes a fixture in Margaret’s daily life, as her father becomes his intellectual tutor.  The two are filled with misconceived notions about the other due to their upbringing and constantly argue and throw slurs at each other.  Somehow through it all they come to realize their true feelings for each other and fall in love.  I have often heard Gaskell compared to Jane Austen; while they do share some similarities, it’s their differences that I find interesting.  Austen satirized the life of the upper-class while Gaskell wrote about the plights of the middle and lower classes.  I truly loved this book because of the realism that engulfed it.  Gaskell was a truly superb writer and I cannot recommend this book enough!!

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7.) A Wolf at the Table by Augusten Burroughs – I was already a huge fan of Augusten by the time this book was published, making this book a must buy for me.  I finally got around to reading it recently and was blown away by it.  Augusten writes memoirs that just grip you.  His life is truly fascinating and with the way he writes, you can’t help but become engrossed in his story.  A Wolf at the Table focuses on his early life living with his mother, father, and sometimes present older brother.  (His older brother is John Elder Robison, author Look Me In The Eye)  His early days were strife with an alcoholic father, one who tried to murder him, possibly on more than one occasion.  This memoir is filled with deeply sad and troubling situations, situations I’m sure have scarred Augusten in his later years.  While this memoir is darker than his other ones, it’s one of his best.  It’s a no holds barred account of a childhood most people would wish to forget. For my full review click here.

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8.) Darcy’s Voyage by Kara Louise – So yet another Pride and Prejudice sequel makes my top ten list.  Shocking. HA.  Anyway, this was one of the most original retellings that I’ve had the pleasure of reading.  Darcy and Elizabeth are thrust into each other company aboard Pemberley’s Promise, a ship headed towards America. Elizabeth is off to see her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner and Darcy is picking up Georgiana.  Elizabeth gets sick aboard ship and is struggling to get better below decks with all the other sick passengers.  Darcy realizes that the only way she can get better is to be taken away from the rest of the sick passengers, and that the only spare bed is in his room.  For propriety’s sake he suggests to Elizabeth that the two marry and that once back in England he will file the necessary paperwork for the two to have an annulment, with none the wiser of their fake marriage.  As you can guess the two fall in love with each other but have no idea how the other feels, since most of their marriage is a show for the other passengers.  Upon the ship’s arrival they are separated not sure if they will ever see each other again.  It is on their return to America that Austen’s original plot begins to come into play.  As I stated earlier this retelling was so unique and I truly enjoyed the change of pace that it offered me.  For my full review click here.

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9.) The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory – I re-read this book every single year.  I absolutely LOVE it.  (I’ve even convinced Todd to begin reading it! See here)  When most people hear the name Boleyn thy think of Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII.  Most don’t know she had a sister who supposedly bedded the king before her.  The Other Boleyn Girl follows Mary’s story as she finds love, loses love, becomes a mother, is used by her family, and is betrayed by her own sister.  Philippa Gregory is truly a master at writing historical fiction.  Her novels are fascinating fusions of true history, embellished dialogues, and rich characters.  You love to hate her antagonists!  I truly cannot speak highly enough of this novel.  Even if you are not a fan of history you have to give this novel a try.  Gregory writes history but adds the dramatic flare to it to make it fascinating to read.  Definitely check it out and add this to your to-read list.

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10.) Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin – This was a great, quick, fast-paced book that I really enjoyed reading!  Something Borrowed tells the story about Rachel, her best friend Darcy, and Darcy’s fiancée Dex. Rachel and Darcy have been best friends their entire lives, doing almost everything together.  Growing up next-door to each other in Indiana, they have been in a constant competitive friendship all of their twenty-five years together.  Rachel has learned to put Darcy’s needs and wants before her own to curb the competition.  Darcy on the other hand still feels the need to one-up not only Rachel but everyone she knows.  On Rachel’s thirtieth birthday she drinks too much and winds up in bed with Dex.  Rachel begins to feel guilty knowing what she did to her best friend was wrong. The more and more she thinks about it she starts feeling less and less guilty as she realizes that in fact it’s her who is right for Dex and not Darcy.  Rachel begins thinking back to her history with Dex.  The two went to law school together and became good friends.  They never dated because Rachel never thought she was good enough for him.  She introduced him to Darcy and the rest was history.  Rachel receives a phone call from Dex the day after they slept together and begins to get weird vibes from him.  He is not sorry that they slept together, nor does he feel guilty about it.  The two begin secretly seeing each other and realize that they are absolutely perfect for each other.  Rachel must decide if she is willing to risk her friendship with Darcy to be with the one she loves, or give him up and go back to being the friend in Darcy’s shadow.  Truly enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it as a great beach read!  You can check out my full review here

Well there you have it my readers!  My favorite ten books for the year.  Leave me some comments below and let me know what your favorite books of the year were!

Happy Reading!

#78 A Review of Sense and Sensibility (Graphic Novel) by Nancy Butler and Sonny Liew

Sense & SensibilitySense and Sensibility is a classic story of family, friendship, heartache, love, grief, and sisterly bonds.  This brilliant rendition of Sense and Sensibility turned graphic novel brings Jane Austen’s vibrant words to life through incredible illustrations.

I was very nervous at first about picking up the graphic novel version of Sense and Sensibility because of my thoughts on the Pride and Prejudice graphic novel. (Both are produced by Marvel comics)  I thought that the artist’s rendition of the Pride and Prejudice version was just completely off.  All of the women, to put it frankly, looked like porn stars.  The writing done by Nancy Butler stayed fairly close to the original work, giving it points in my book.   What sold me on the Sense and Sensibility version was a new artist, Sonny Liew. 

Liew’s illustrations are exactly what I pictured Sense and Sensibility looking like.  The clothing looked like the proper pieces women of that time would wear, Norland Park, Barton Park, and the cottage all fit the images that Austen herself created.  The one negative I had with the illustrations was how Elinor was drawn.  Elinor was often shown with an extreme receding hairline, making her seem bald most of the time.

Nancy Butler stayed fairly true to Austen’s original work, adding and subtracting here and there.  As she states in her introduction to the graphic novel,

“while re-reading the book, I realized I was in for some rough going.  Austen had originally written Elinor and Marianne as an epistolary novel, in the form of letters.  Although she eventually changed the format, many key scenes are still conveyed through narrative rather than dialogue.  Not the optimum source material for a graphic novel, let me tell you.  So I hope readers will forgive me for taking some liberties – in the creation of speeches where none existed and the fleshing out of scenes Austen merely hints at in the book…”

Butler does a great job fleshing out those scenes that Austen hints at, and makes sure the important stuff gets into the graphic novel.  I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked this rendition, after Marvel’s Pride and Prejudice debacle.

Marvel has recently announced that a graphic novel version of Emma will be released in the spring.  Marvel has also turned other classic novels into graphic novels: The Wizard of Oz, The Last of the Mohicans, The Three Musketeers, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Treasure Island, The Man in the Iron Mask, The Iliad, The Odyssey, etc.   

I definitely recommend those who are iffy about graphic novels to give them a try. I was introduced to graphic novels in college when I had two as textbooks for a Holocaust history course I took.  I was hesitant at first with how such heavy subject matter would be conveyed via a comic-like interpretation but was blown away. While they aren’t for everyone they certainly can breathe new life into the classics that you love.  This rendition of Sense and Sensibility is a perfect example of that breath of fresh air.

4 out of 5 Stars