Review: Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart

Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart, Claire Harman

Published March 1st 2016 by Knopf

Hardcover, 462 pages

Source: Library 

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A groundbreaking biography that places an obsessive, unrequited love at the heart of the writer’s life story, transforming her from the tragic figure we have previously known into a smoldering Jane Eyre.

Famed for her beloved novels, Charlotte Brontë has been known as well for her insular, tragic family life. The genius of this biography is that it delves behind this image to reveal a life in which loss and heartache existed alongside rebellion and fierce ambition. Claire Harman seizes on a crucial moment in the 1840s when Charlotte worked at a girls’ school in Brussels and fell hopelessly in love with the husband of the school’s headmistress. Her torment spawned her first attempts at writing for publication, and the object of her obsession haunts the pages of every one of her novels–he is Rochester in Jane Eyre, Paul Emanuel in Villette. Another unrequited love–for her publisher–paved the way for Charlotte to enter a marriage that ultimately made her happier than she ever imagined. Drawing on correspondence unavailable to previous biographers, Harman establishes Brontë as the heroine of her own story, one as dramatic and triumphant as one of her own novels.

What a short and sad life.  Really what sad and short lives all of the Brontë children had.  So much talent lost to consumption, to a strangely unhealthy family lifestyle and to opium in the case of Charlotte’s brother.  Though this book was about Charlotte it would be impossible to tell her story without the context of her family.  It was fascinating to read about the Brontë siblings writing and sharing as children and how that grew into the three sisters publishing as the Bells.  The letters that Harman accessed for source were moving and gave such thoughtful context to the eventual writing of Jane Eyre.  I suppose as a reader I should be thankful for the unrequited love in Charlotte Brontë’s early life because without that story there would be no Rochester and that would be a loss!    

I might not be raving about this book quite as much as Romantic Outlaws, but it was still fascinating to read about how really revolutionary Charlotte was for her time.  Really though in the end, I was just sad.  I wonder how much happiness Charlotte missed out on with her early death and how many books she might have had left to write.  I am absolutely more inspired now to read Vilette, reread Wuthering Heights to see if I can hate it less and to try Anne Brontë’s Tenant of Wildfell Hall.  Obviously I have to reread Jane Eyre as well.  A Fiery Heart felt long while reading, but despite the depth was really easy to lose myself in the Brontë’s world every morning.

Next nonfiction though will be Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation by Judith Mackrell based on The Paperback Princess’s raves about it.  What biographies are you loving now? 

 

Best Books of 2016 So Far

Today’s Top Ten list really made me think – that is after the top book on my list.  No doubt Sweetbitter has blown everything else I’ve read this year away.  I’m still thinking about it!  Thanks to the Broke and the Bookish for this topic!

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  1. Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
  2. Tender by Brenda McKeon
  3. Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
  4. A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
  5. The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
  6. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
  7. The Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susan
  8. The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian
  9. Chaos Choreography by Seanan McGuire
  10.  Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink

What’s at the top of your list so far?  I think I should make Holly come post her top ten this year soon too!

#WeekofReviews My Lady Jane

My Lady Jane, by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows

Published June 7th 2016 by HarperTeen

Kindle Edition, 512 pages

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The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane gets to be Queen of England.

I’m so torn about what to say about My Lady Jane.  I loved this concept – I loved how these authors turned history on its head and gave Lady Jane Grey a happier story.  I actually liked Jane mostly – I always love a heroine bookworm!  But at the same time this book made me a bit crazy as I was reading.  I wasn’t expecting magic!  The magic was fun, it just threw me for a loop!  This book was really funny at times and yet so silly I couldn’t take it at others.  The romance between Jane and Gifford was just too cheesy for me, too fast and I wanted to slap Gifford every time I read “Call me G.”  

Bottom line, this book was crazy inventive and a really fun idea.  The snark, the feminism – all great!  I am very curious to see if the Lady Janies put their heads together again and if so, what chapter of history will they revise?  I’d definitely read another book from them, but My Lady Jane I don’t need to read again.  Again, I’m finding myself a black sheep on this book so if you like the concept definitely give My Lady Jane a try.  While it is a long book at 500 pgs it flew to read.  I have to say as a teen I think I’d have loved this – maybe I’m getting too old for YA?  Don’t answer that! 

Have you read My Lady Jane?  Did you swoon over G?  Is there a time we get too old for YA?  I weep at the thought! 

Thank you HarperTeen and Edelweiss for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

Review: Girls on Fire #WeekofReviews

Girls on Fire, Robin Wasserman

Published May 17th 2016 by Harper

Hardcover, 368 pages

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Girls on Fire tells the story of Hannah and Lacey and their obsessive teenage female friendship so passionately violent it bloodies the very sunset its protagonists insist on riding into, together, at any cost. Opening with a suicide whose aftermath brings good girl Hannah together with the town’s bad girl, Lacey, the two bring their combined wills to bear on the community in which they live; unconcerned by the mounting discomfort that their lust for chaos and rebellion causes the inhabitants of their parochial small town, they think they are invulnerable.

But Lacey has a secret, about life before her better half, and it’s a secret that will change everything..

Let me just say, I’m among a few black sheep on this book.  I saw Michelle at That’s What She Read raving about this story of unhealthy high school friendships in the 90s and I couldn’t wait to pick it up.  As one who had my share of unhealthy high school friendships in the 90s I thought this description sounded amazing.  But for me, it just wasn’t.  

It isn’t the writing – I thought that was great.  Something about Hannah and Lacey’s story just went too far for me.  It went from feeling real to just shy of ridiculous.  Yes friendships are that intense as Hannah and Lacey’s was – two girls against the world.  Music can be a lifeline as with Lacey’s beloved Kurt Cobain, drugs are there for experimenting and horrible things happen between teenagers.  But all in all it was just too much for me – the drugs, the perception of satanism, the sex, the violence – too much!

Shannon at River City Reading has this post praising The Girls by Emma Cline and Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe both of which I’m dying to get my hands on.  It sounds like maybe these will give me the look back into the teenage girl that I wanted from Girls on Fire.  If I ever get off the library hold list that is!

Thank you Harper and Edelweiss for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion.

Visit Estella’s Revenge for more #WeekofReviews! 

Top Ten Most Anticipated Reads Still To Come This Year

Happy Tuesday! Today the Broke and the Bookish is asking for the Top Ten most anticipated reads for 2016 – as usual my list is kind of random but I’m very excited to get to read all of these!

  1. The Fate of the Tearling by Erica Johansen (basically I’m checking edelweiss  for ARCs of this book every 3 days)
  2. Sarong Party Girls by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan
  3. Lady Cop Makes Trouble by Amy Stewart
  4. Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Y. Dennis-Benn
  5. Rani Patel in Full Effect by Sonia Patel
  6. Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake 
  7. Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge
  8. Gemina by Jay Kristoff and Aime Kaufman 
  9. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo (the pages will have RED edges! Get it in my hands NOW!)
  10. Once Broken Faith by Seanan McGuire 

Bonus book! It Started With Good-bye by Christina June isn’t out until next May but I can’t wait! Her beautiful cover is being revealed today at YA Highway so go check it out!

Review: Mother Tongue

Mother Tongue: My Family’s Globe-Trotting Quest to Dream in Mandarin, Laugh in Arabic, and Sing in Spanish, Christine Gilbert

Hardcover, 336 pages

Published May 17th 2016 by Avery

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Imagine negotiating for a replacement carburetor in rural Mexico with words you’re secretly pulling from a pocket dictionary. Imagine your two-year-old asking for more niunai at dinner—a Mandarin word for milk that even you don’t know yet. Imagine finding out that you’re unexpectedly pregnant while living in war-torn Beirut. With vivid and evocative language, Christine Gilbert takes us along with her into foreign lands, showing us what it’s like to make a life in an unfamiliar world—and in an unfamiliar tongue.

Gilbert was a young mother when she boldly uprooted her family to move around the world, studying Mandarin in China, Arabic in Lebanon, and Spanish in Mexico, with her toddler son and all-American husband along for the ride. Their story takes us from Beijing to Beirut, from Cyprus to Chiang Mai—and also explores recent breakthroughs in bilingual brain mapping and the controversial debates happening in linguistics right now.

Gilbert’s adventures abroad prove just how much language influences culture (and vice versa), and lead her to results she never expected. Mother Tongue is a fascinating and uplifting story about taking big risks for bigger rewards and trying to find meaning and happiness through tireless pursuit—no matter what hurdles may arise. It’s a treat for language enthusiasts and armchair travelers alike.

Welcome to a #WeekofReviews hosted by Andi at Estella’s Revenge.  I’m going to do my best to clean out my long list of books to review starting now!  First is a book that made me want to take off and travel the world.

I love the idea of packing up my family and living somewhere else.  I spent a semester in Rome in college and I loved learning Italian, exploring Roman neighborhoods and finding all the gelato and chianti that I could.  I would pick up and move to Europe if our careers could take us there absolutely!  When I heard about Christine Gilbert chronicling her journey to take her family through three completely different countries while trying to gain language fluency in each I had to read it.  While the countries that Gilbert and her husband chose wouldn’t be mine I was still fascinated by their adventure.

I loved how Gilbert wove her personal story with her research into how we learn languages.  (Shocking – there is no one answer)  She shared the many theories she studied without weighing down the flow of their journey.   As much as I liked reading about her efforts with schools, flashcards and tutors (at a minimum) I thought it was even more fascinating how her young son picked up bits and pieces of Mandarin, Arabic and Spanish each as they moved.  I was really impressed at the level of commitment Gilbert gave to this project.  I can’t imagine hours of language lessons on top of audio recordings, homework and research – all while living in a new culture with a young family.  

I appreciated Gilbert’s honesty even when her choices weren’t the best – when she realized Shanghai was not liveable for her family because of pollution or when she realized she had been too strict with her education plan to really forge a life as an expatriate.  This crazy adventure definitely had moments of great beauty and inspiration –  with learning both news languages and cultures.  

For an added reading bonus – I had a flashback to Hausfrau and to Anna’s language lessons. As much as I loved that book I’m glad Christine’s was a very different kind of story!

Avery has kindly offered two copies for me to giveaway!  Here is a link to a Rafflecopter giveaway so go and enter!  Would you pick up and move to another country?  If so where would you go?

Bon Chance!  US Only, giveaway ends 6/20.  No spam giveaway accounts!

Thank you Avery for this copy in exchange for an honest opinion!

It’s Monday: What Are You Reading?

Happy Monday!  My daughter graduates from pre-Kindergarten tomorrow so I might be crying too much to read the rest of the week.  For today I’m hooking up with The Book Date for what I’m going to attempt to read at least.

I’m still pushing through Charlotte Bronte: A Fiery Heart – which is excellent but oh so long.  I am definitely excited to reread Jane Eyre, try Anne Bronte and maybe even reread Wuthering Heights after reading about the Bronte family.  I didn’t even know they had a brother – and what a poop he was!

I was really excited to start My Lady Jane – an alternate telling of the life of Lady Jane Grey by a trio of YA authors.  This book has been getting a ton of love from other bloggers but mostly I have been thinking it is pretty silly.  I was curious enough to keep reading, so maybe the pay off will be in the end.

I can’t wait to dive into Miranda Beverly-Whittemore’s new book June.  I loved Bittersweet a few years ago and I’m only wishing I was at a pool to do my reading.  After that I have to decide – library book, review books or when to start rereading A Court of Thorns and Roses.  Such decisions!  Maybe Roses  & Rot followed finally by Happy Family?

What are you reading this week?