Posts tagged book review

Mansfield Park

Book #1 of 2009 – Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen

I went into this book expecting not to care for it much.  I’d read half of it before for a college course, but I’d entered the class late and was behind on the reading, so I never finished it, and what I had read had all been done in a very overview kind of way.  All I really gleaned from it was how unhappy Fanny was as a child, and how selflessly she loved Edmund, who may or may not have deserved it.

Now that I’ve finished it “for real,” as it feels, I don’t know how much extra wisdom I can add, but since I’ve already made my case for Henry Crawford, I thought it only fair I let Edmund Bertram have his moment.

As much as I have a soft spot for him (thanks in large to Jonny Lee Miller) I found it hard to believe that the end of the book would convince me that Edmund really loved Fanny in the way she would have liked him to love her, when even through the penultimate chapter he is talking and sighing over the sparkling eyes of Mary Crawford, who he so fully loved, or at the very least believed himself to love.  Anything else could only be settling, right?

But I’m not so sure.  Once his eyes are opened to her true nature, he realizes that he’s been in love with something built out of his own imagination, not Miss Crawford herself, and as much as I was expecting to, I can’t fault him for that.  After all, Edmund has lived a fairly sheltered life, both thanks to his father’s severities and also thanks to his own nature.  His brother Tom, in comparison, who has lived a bit more loosely (to understate it), is never particularly struck with Mary.  Edmund, on the other hand, has very little experience with such worldly women, and he can’t help but be blindsided.  If we take Edmund at his word, and believe that he didn’t really love Mary Crawford as much as the Mary Crawford he imagined, it’s not too much of a stretch for him to then realize the woman who has always stood by him, counseled with him, and done her best to make him happy.

Still, I don’t know that if the Crawfords hadn’t come into their lives, if Edmund and Fanny ever would have found each other, romantically.  It took Mary to make Edmund want to love, and Henry’s attention to make Fanny believe that she could be loved.  If the Crawfords had never broken up the tranquility of Mansfield Park, it might never have changed.  Edmund and Fanny each in their own way are so good that they had to have been taken by force to move them to action, and ultimately to each other.

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Top Reads of 2008

All in all, 2008 wasn’t the most inspiring book-reading year I’ve ever had, busy though it was. These were (in no particular order) my favorite non-rereads, though, and I can’t recommend them highly enough:

Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague by Brandon Mull

Best book in the Fablehaven series yet, with the worst title, and worst cover. But this series continues to completely satisfy every Children’s fantasy leanings I could have, without it reading too young, which is a huge bonus.

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Okay, the woman is insane and I freely grant that. And the first ten chapters of this are still crap. But the rest of it was weirdly addictive, and not in the why-did-I-just-read-that way that Twilight is. If there was a sequel, I’d read it. (Oh let’s be honest here, if there was another Twilight book, I’d probably read that too.)

The Life Murder of Bindy Mackenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty.

Fun, with a completely wonderfully neurotic main character, and a storyline that kept me guessing right up to the explanation, which is really how it always is. Moriarty is fantastic with handling different POV’s and manipulating the narrative by how accurate or trustworthy their accounts are, which I love.

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor

Possibly my favorite because I wasn’t expecting it to like it at all, and it turned out to be utterly fantastic. A fantastic homage entirely flipped on its head. I’m very much looking forward to reading the sequel.

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Somehow I’d only read halfway through this book before, so this read through was very nice in that I was able to pick up on some things that I’d assumed from the films and gotten wrong. I will ever be a fan of Colonel Brandon, even if his and Marianne’s love is a little brushed together at the end.

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The Tail of Emily Windsnap

Nothing like a good old-fashioned mermaid story to break up the Austen, hm?

I admit, I’ve been eyeing The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler for some time now. Mostly because… well, it’s such a pretty book. It’s middle-grade, and I wasn’t expecting to be wowed by the storyline, but it was an altogether enjoyable book. Partially, again, because it is so very pretty. It’s not just the cover that’s pretty, but there are little black-and-white underwater vignette watercolors all through the book, in between chapters and sections of chapters alike, and it gives the book an all-around motif that’s really enjoyable. While it’s true that the best of stories can be read scrolling through a no-frills .html document, this book is a prime example of how influential packaging really can be.

Not to say that it’s a bad book by its own standards—Emily is a pretty delightful character, and her mermaid friend Shona even more so. The story is a little wackier than I expected, and the kid-parent relationship is a little thin (really, what parent never takes their kid’s view into account, even if it feels that way?) but all in all it was a lot of fun to read, and had a nice ending. There are two more books so far in the Emily Windsnap series, and I’m definitely interested enough to keep reading, and the descriptive parts about undersea life and surroundings were very well done.

This makes book #48 of 2008. I don’t know at this rate that I can finish two more in two and a half days (or rather, I’m 99% sure I can’t) but it easily beats the 31 I managed to read in 2008. In a couple days I’ll post my whole list, slightly annotated. It’s not too impressive, but it’ll do. Despite my failure, I’ve tentatively made a slightly higher goal of 52 books in 52 weeks next year. What can I say, I aim for improvement. 😉

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Dramarama by E. Lockhart

Dramarama by E. Lockhart

I’m on a 50 Books in ’08 mission, and getting so close… finished 46 and 47 in the past few days. 47 was Something Rotten in Jasper Fforde’s fantastic Thursday Next series, and 46 was E. Lockhart’s Dramarama.

This is my second Lockhart (after the wonderful The Boyfriend List), and mostly great, but a bit too poppy and sparkly. I get that it’s a drama camp, but every character doesn’t have to call every other character “darling” the entire time. That got old fast. There was some really poignant great stuff in this, especially the character who feels like a “trick pony” for her parents, and the main character’s getting jealous over her gay best friend, even though she doesn’t love him in that way, etc.

The thing I didn’t like was that there was an obvious solid, satisfying ending that was hinted at and built-up towards, but then the story stopped short before the reader gets to see the main character have her epiphany moment, so it’s kind of a downer towards the end. (There’s a chance there’s a sequel in the work that I don’t know about… but from the Epilogue, I didn’t get that feeling.)

Also… Lockhart didn’t know half the Broadway she really should have to write this book, and it was all obvious stuff. Repeated references to some ten plays got a bit tiresome… but probably wouldn’t be as noticeable to someone who hadn’t grown up living and breathing musicals?

That being said, I’m passing it on to my friend Isabelle the first chance I get, because I think she’ll get a kick out of it, and it’s definitely enjoyable and worth the read.

On a Broadway-aholic note, I will say that she knocks Jekyll & Hyde a bit too much. If all she knows is the Hasselhoff interpretation, I can’t blame the poor woman, but that was a Colm Wilkenson role first, and Colm is not to be knocked.

And on an audiophile note, I got Roisín Murphy’s “Ramalama” stuck in my head every time I picked this up. It was impossible not to. Consonance does that to me.

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