Sunday, November 22, 2009

Book Review: Rebecca


I have mixed feelings about Rebecca.  It was certainly entertaining, but there were so many frustrating things about it, too.  But then, I'm pretty sure that I was supposed to find those things frustrating.  I guess I can sum it up by saying that du Maurier certainly knows how to evoke certain emotions from her readers.

For those who are not familiar with Rebecca, it is the story of the second Mrs. de Winter.  (The reader never knows her first name.)  She is young, shy, and gauche when she marries Maxim de Winter, a man old enough to be her father, after a whirlwind "romance" in Monte Carlo where they met on vacation.

Things are going well until the newlyweds return to Manderley, Maxim's family home in Cornwall, England.  Maxim's first wife, Rebecca, drowned in a boating accident ten months prior to the second marriage, and the staff there are constantly telling the new wife "Mrs. de Winter did it this way," "Mrs. de Winter did it that way," etc.  It's pretty rude that these servants keep reminding the new wife that she is taking someone else's place.  The housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, is particularly bad, and she takes an immediate dislike to the new wife.

You want to just scream at the new wife to grow a spine and put these rude servants in their place, but she doesn't do it.  It is understandable why she doesn't—she's practically fresh out of the schoolroom, and she has no experience managing a household, etc.  She needs to rely on the servants to tell her how to get stuff done, but all they can do is bring up her husband's dead wife.  And it's not just the servants.  Maxim's sister, his grandmother, and others are constantly bringing up Rebecca.

To make matters worse, Rebecca was everything the new wife is not.  Beautiful, witty, outgoing, etc.  So it's not surprising that the new wife develops a crippling complex.  She worries constantly that people will gossip about her and her marriage.  And she eventually becomes convinced that Maxim will never love her the way he loved Rebecca.

My annoyance with the new wife was hard to overcome at times, but I think that is an integral part of the story.  You really, really want her to stand up for herself, and even she wants to stand up for herself, but she's so terrified of making a false move that she just plays it safe.  I thought it was a very realistic portrayal, as unappealing as it was.

There is an air of mystery to the book, too, but I can't really discuss it without giving too much away.  So warning: SPOILERS AFTER THE JUMP!  (For those of you who are not going to continue reading, just trust me that the story is a very fun read.)

Status Update

Oh my God, ya'll. This book Rebecca just got CRAZY! Crazy good!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Book Reviews: Romance Novels

So now all the smugness I felt about reading Jane Eyre has faded as I reveal that I read four romance novels in between reading the classic. Hey man, it’s midterm time. I have a history of this.

To Desire A Devil by Elizabeth Hoyt
I was pretty disappointed by this book. The hero returns from the dead (actually he just returns from North America where he’d been held captive by Indians for the past seven years but believed dead by those back home) and asserts his right to his family title, which had passed to the heroine’s uncle.

The romance in this was too much too fast. This guy was held captive for seven years and, at some point, tortured. And although he has some mental health issues from the ordeal, they didn’t really seem too bad. He was ready to jump into bed and into love with the heroine. It just felt like a ruse to me. If an author is going to make the readers anticipate a book (this is the final in a four-part series) because of the whole back-from-the-dead ploy, then she’d better be genuine about how she’s going to resolve it. Any real person that went through what the hero went through would be pretty fucked up in the head, and a pretty little Englishwoman would not be a panacea.

This Duchess of Mine by Eloisa James
I quit reading Eloisa James after the first book in this six-part series, Desperate Duchesses. I intensely disliked that book. But after a few years I caved and read her again. Overall I liked this book even though I totally called the ending about a quarter of the way through. I like the hero and heroine, who are a married couple trying to reconcile after a nine year estrangement. (He’s a duke and needs an heir, hence the reconciliation.)

What I didn’t like was what took the couple so freakin’ long! She loves him, he appears to love her, they have open communication, but for at least half the book they’re just circling around each other. It felt forced to me.

A Duke of Her Own by Eloisa James
I liked this one better than its predecessor. It was a pretty standard romance. I don’t recall there being anything that really jumped out at me, good or bad. Oh yeah, except the fact that the hero was a blockhead about a certain matter. The hero has been a fixture in all six books in the series, and even though I’ve only read two of the previous books, it just seemed like his thought processes in this one did not match the man he appeared to be in the earlier books. That felt forced, too.

By Love Undone by Suzanne Enoch
I thought this was a cute little book. I really believed the affection between the hero and heroine, and I believed the conflict that posed a barrier to their happiness. It’s not an earth shattering piece of literature, but it was good enough for me.

I'm back! With 3 books!

I'm back, and with a vengeance. Though I've made my way through 33 books this year so far, (yes, I kept track!), I have to start somewhere, and I'm not going to start at the beginning. Instead, I'll start with the 3 books I've read this week.

1. Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem
This book was by far the best of the 3 I read this week. This is the first Jonathan Lethem book I've read - much to the dismay of one his biggest fans, my lovely husband Aaron. He's been trying to get me to read one of his books for about 5 years. I actually started this book before, but sort of lost interest and abandoned it. But I'm glad I came back.

This is a detective story at heart, but it has much more than a typical who-done-it story line. What made this book so compelling was that the "detective" suffers from Tourette's syndrome, and he is just such an interesting and funny character to follow. Lionel Essrog & several other boys, all orphans, were enlisted by Frank Minna to do various & mysterious jobs around town. They grew up doing this work, and eventually became Minna Men - employed by Minna, but kept in the dark about a lot of his dealings. Minna is killed early on, and Lionel spends the rest of the book discovering his secrets, and tracking down his killer.

The characters are truly compelling, and I think there's a pretty good pay-off in the end without all the plot-twisting cover up look this way while the mystery is that way that you typically find in a mystery story. I am looking forward to reading more of Lethem's books, and I highly recommend this as a great place to start.

2. Envy by Anna Godbersen.
This is the 3rd in a series that I borrowed from Lindsey. I think she's reviewed these before, so I'll keep it short. Basically this is Gossip Girl in the early 1900's. Silly & predictable "scandal". But still somehow enjoyable. I get a kick out of thinking that this was right around the time my great grandma was born. Although, I'm sure "out west" was a very different place than New York in this era, so she probably didn't live anywhere near as scandalous a life. Bummer.

If you feel like a silly fun read that you can finish in a couple of hours, go for it. And don't let your husband's scoffs at the type of books you read deter you.

3. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown.
Like the book above, this is a pretty mindless read. And another one I was made fun of for reading. But oh well. I read it anyway.
This follows pretty much exactly the same path of the last 2 Dan Brown books. Robert Langdon finds himself plucked out of his everyday life and "surprise!" he has precious few hours to reveal a mystery hidden for the last xxx years by the xxx group to save xxx's life. Will he do it! Can he survive!

I usually like Dan Brown's books until the endings, which are all just sort of... there. It's usually a bunch of scandal and surprise at some group being misunderstood and a big reveal as to who the bad guy really is, and this book was just the same.

The story itself was less compelling than The DaVinci code, but that might be because it wasn't set in Europe, which is always more interesting to me. I think that this book is a good fast paced read, which is at times suspensful (predictable or not). I always like puzzles and codes, and the like.

What I find most annoying about Brown's books, though, is the way he uses Langdon to spew his own obnoxious pretentiousness. (is that a word?) Langdon always points out these words that have alternate meanings or clever origins, whatever. I think Brown uses Langdon, though, to try and sound smart & well researched as an author, and that bugs me.

Anyway... Is it worth the read? Maybe. Fast paced mindlessness doesn't bother me, but if it bothers you, you probably already know not to read a Dan Brown book, and you don't need me to tell you that.

So there you have it! My week in books so far. I forgot how terrible I am at reviewing books, but oh well! Who cares! I'll be back with more mindlessness at a later date. ta ta.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Book Review: Jane Eyre

Hooray! I finished Jane Eyre about a decade after I first tried to read it! I don't know about you, but I always feel such smug satisfaction after reading a work of classic literature. I can feel my snobbery increase.

And alas, I must confess that I actually enjoyed Jane Eyre quite a bit. Ten years ago I found the title character to be boring, but I think I quit reading too early. She didn't really win my respect until after Rochester proposes. There were certainly signs of her feisty independence prior to that point, but I was unconvinced. Then she really turned it on:

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! And if God had gifted me with some beauty, and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you.

Poor Jane! You give it to that big, rich oaf you're sure is cruelly teasing you! And what do you know, little Jane Eyre turned out to be quite the budding feminist:

"Oh comply!” [the inner voice] said. “Think of his misery, think of his danger, look at his state when left alone; remember his headlong nature, consider the recklessness following on despair; soothe him, save him, love him; tell him you love him and will be his. Who in the world cares for you? or who will be injured by what you do?

Still indomitable was the reply. “
I care for myself.

Love it. You've got to love Jane, if for no other reason, because she really knows how to stick to her guns. She is not immune to emotion and temptation, but she is a strong enough woman to make her own choices.

After reading Jane Eyre, I feel I am now well-versed in the great romantic literary heroes from the first half of the nineteenth century: Darcy, Heathcliff, and Rochester. (Was Pride and Prejudice written before 1800? Well, let's pretend here that it wasn't.) It seems like I read somewhere that Rochester was voted the most romantic literary hero. I guess I can see that. He's more passionate than Darcy, but less crazy than Heathcliff. Not a bad combo.

Like Jane, Rochester also had to grow on me as the novel progressed. It was very well done of Bronte, I must say. I loved this little description that really seemed up sum up Rochester's feelings towards Jane:

Mr. Rochester had sometimes read my unspoken thoughts with an acumen to me incomprehensible; in the present instance he took no notice of my abrupt vocal response, but smiled at me with a certain smile he had of his own, and which he used but on rare occasions. He seemed to think it too good for common purposes; it was the real sunshine of feeling—he shed it over me now.

It's so romantic! He gives her his special smile! Sure, Rochester has some MAY-JA flaws, but as with Heathcliff, I'm willing to forgive them because I know his history. And poor Rochester! Married to a crazy lady for four years before he finally decides that he deserves to have a life of his own. But he can't escape her, and Thornfield becomes tainted with her presence:

The glamour of inexperience is over your eyes,” he answered; “and you see it through a charmed medium; you cannot discern that the gilding is slime and the silk draperies cobwebs; that the marble is sordid slate, and the polished woods mere refuse chips and scaly bark.

It is so tempting to hate Rochester for what he does to both Bertha and Jane. But I found that I couldn't hate him. In fact, the way he treats his mad wife is actually kind of endearing (once you remind yourself that mental health professionals at that time probably couldn't have done anything more for Bertha):

I could have lodged her safety enough, had not a scruple about the unhealthiness of the situation, in the heart of a wood, made my conscience recoil from the arrangement. Probable those damp walls would soon have eased me of her charge; but to each villain his own vice; and mine is not a tendency to indirect assassination, even of what I most hate.

My favorite passage in the book occurs after Jane and Rochester's wedding is thwarted, when he confesses to her in private. He pours out his heart to her describing the misery he's lived with and the hope that Jane brought into his life. It's so well done that you can easily forgive him for wanting to marry Jane despite the fact that his wife was still alive. He loves Jane so much!

Contrast that with the proposal Jane gets from St. John Rivers. Charlotte Bronte, I bow down to you. If the reader was unconvinced about Rochester's love for Jane, then this sealed the deal. When St. John bumbles his proposal so massively, you start to see how accurately Rochester saw Jane. Unlike St. John, Rochester looked past the exterior to the real person within, and that is who he loved. I was indisputably on Team Rochester at that point. When he said the following to Jane, telling her that he would continue to love her even if she went mad like Bertha, I audibly sighed:

Your mind is my treasure, and if it were broken it would be my treasure still . . . . In your quiet moments you should have no watcher and no nurse but me; and I could hang over you with untiring tenderness, though you gave me no smile in return; and never weary of gazing into your eyes, thought they no longer had a ray of recognition for me.

Is that not the sweetest thing ever? And how ironic that Rochester is so willing to be Jane's nurse, but after he is blinded and maimed he doubts that she would want him in his state.

As far as the writing goes, I think Jane Eyre beats Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice. It is so beautiful and vivid. But as far as the love story goes, I say it comes in third. I don't know; I really enjoyed this book, but I didn't fall in love with it.

BTW, I added the film version to Netflix queue, the one starring the actors in the picture I chose. Is it just me, or are both of them a wee too attractive to be Jane and Rochester? I mean, considering that the book hits us over the head again and again with the fact that they're both ugly? I don't care, I still want to see it. I'll just tell myself that what was ugly back then is seksi now. Kind of like when people used to tell me that I would have been the epitome of beauty two hundred years ago because I'm plump and pale. Gee thanks, that really helps me now in the twenty-first century.

(I really have to get this shirt now.)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Literacy Characters You'd Sleep With?

Some website has compiled a list of 15 Literacy Characters We'd Totally Sleep With. (The list is apparently compiled by women or gay men, because they are all male.) It made me wonder, who are the literary characters you'd sleep with?

I'm trying to think of others who would be on my list. I'm thinking Sidney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities. I don't know what it was about him—certainly not his chronic depression—but I liked him a lot. It must have been that whole redeeming-himself-at-the-end thing.

I read so many romance novels, which are pretty much written around male characters women would want to sleep with, so I'm having trouble limiting it down to specific characters. Ha.

Anyone else want to chime in?

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Twilight Craze Hits Classic Literature

The other day I was browsing through Barnes and Noble when I happened to stop by a display of books with Twilight-inspired book covers. Figuring that someone had decided to capitalize on the Twilight craze, I looked closer and, lo and behold, the books were Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, and Romeo and Juliet. Ah, public domain. Sometimes you're not so great.

Now, I have to admit that I think the Twilight series cover art is quite good. It's simple, but at the same time all a person has to do is see a book cover with an image against a black background to conjure up a Twilight association. (For example, this is the Wuthering Heights cover that tipped me off.) So well done on that account.

But something about this doesn't sit well with me. I googled this phenomenon yesterday, and many people have already chimed in, so I'm not going to repeat a lot of what I've heard. I just thought I'd share my own reaction.

I don't think there's anything wrong with getting turned onto classics through pop culture references. Heck, that's how I learn about most classics. I saw Clueless before I'd ever heard of Emma. I was first introduced to Kate and Bianca through 10 Things I Hate About You. And I enjoy performances of Twelfth Night because I think She's The Man is one of the greatest films ever made.

But those are modern retellings of classic stories--an obvious homage. Wuthering Heights is just a reference in the Twilight series.

If you look closely at the book cover in the link above, you'll see that it advertises Wuthering Heights as "Bella and Edward's Favorite Book." That's going a little too far. That's turning Wuthering Heights into an homage to Twilight, and that's just wrong. Furthermore, I can't imagine that Stephenie Meyer would ever want anyone to think that she's comparing herself to Emily Brönte.

But ultimately I'm uncomfortable with all this because I think it's rather patronizing to the young (and not so young) readers of Twilight. Slap a similar cover on and they'll suddenly want to read it? First of all, the girls reading Twilight are readers, clearly. So they've probably heard of Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, and Romeo and Juliet. If they haven't read them yet, they probably won't be moved to read them by fancy new covers. They know what they are--classics written in centuries-old, sometimes difficult to understand language. Heck, there's a reason they're reading Twilight and not Moby Dick. Similarly, even if Twilight did inspire in them a desire to read Wuthering Heights, Twilight has been out for years now. They have probably picked it up on their own already.

I know I just wasted a lot of energy critiquing the advertising world, because the whole point of its existence is to try to manipulate consumers, but it still pisses me off because I do not fall for that shit. I roll my eyes and groan every time I see some Austen sequel/tribute in the bookstore. Classic literature is, in my opinion, sacred. It shouldn't be used as a gimmick to get us to buy some modern crap. It's even worse in a case like this, where the author of the new work has not brought this upon her/him, but instead some idiot marketing person dreamed it up.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Book Review: Supreme Courtship

I picked this book up from a display at Barnes and Noble and after reading the summary on the back cover, I was hooked.

This is really all you need to know to grasp how fun the plot of this book is:

The President of the United States has dismal approval ratings. He vetoes every spending bill that comes across his desk. Congress has drafted a constitutional amendment limiting presidents to a single term; they hate him that much (even though he's a good guy). When a Supreme Court justice goes bonkers and is forced to retire, the President nominates two eminently qualified judges.

Both are destroyed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by a Senator who wanted (and even asked for!) the nomination himself.

Fed up, the President says "what the hell" and nominates Pepper Cartwright, TV judge along the lines of Judge Judy, to the United States Supreme Court.

I know, right? 'Nuf said. I bought it.

But it gets even better. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court cast the deciding vote in a case that legalized gay marriage across the United States. A few days later, his wife left him for another woman.

Now you know where the "courtship" in Supreme Courtship comes in.

This was a fun and funny book that I read in less than a day. It's a not-so-subtle satire, which was nice because it meant that I got the satire (unlike in On Beauty). I recommend!

Lindsey's Grade: A-

Book Review: Bed of Roses

For me, reading a Nora Roberts book is usually like watching a romantic comedy. I know I’m going to like it, because it follows a specific formula, but I’m probably not going to love it, because it follows a specific formula. And usually, that’s okay with me. I know what I’m getting into.

It’s even easier to tell what you’re getting into with Nora Roberts books because she often writes in trilogies. In this case, it is a quartet based on four friends who run a wedding coordinator (and more) business. First of all, let me just say that I find it highly suspect that childhood friends would each grow up to excel at their own distinct interests that just so happen to be exactly what you would need for a wedding. For instance, Mac is a fantastic photographer, Emma is a fantastic florist, Laurel is a fantastic cake designer, and Parker is a fantastic organizer/planner whose family estate is the perfect wedding venue. There’s just no way this could happen in real life.

Which gets me to my complaints about Bed of Roses, the second book in the quartet. This is Emma’s book. Let’s talk about Emma a bit. She is apparently drop-dead gorgeous. Men ask her out all the time, so much that she can now effortlessly deflect or attract men with skill. She lives in a guest house on her friend Parker’s estate where she has her own studio to do her floral arrangements. Her parents are still madly in love with each other. She went to a posh private academy in Greenwich, Connecticut, where she still lives. She works with her three lifelong best friends every day. Their business is successful beyond their expectations. And her girlfriends will drop everything, no questions asked, to be there when she needs them.

Enter Jack, the hero of the story. He’s a smokin’ hot piece of man meat. Built, blonde, and green-eyed. He’s also smart and successful. He went to Yale, and he has his own architecture firm in Greenwich. And he pretty much wants to have hot sex with Emma whenever she wants it.

Are you seeing my problem here?

EMMA’S LIFE IS FUCKING PERFECT! It seriously is. I can’t really hold it against Emma because she knows it. At one point in the book she tells her friend that she’s the luckiest woman in the world because she kind of is. But I can hold it against Nora Roberts because she should know better! Sure, romance novels are supposed to be fantasy escapism, but I like a little realism in there, too. All of the other women have at least something going on in their lives that makes you think that it wouldn’t be completely awesome to be them. Mac’s mother is a crazy bitch and her father moved on to his second family. Laurel’s father did something to lose all the family money when she was a teenager so she went from rich girl to make-it-on-your-own at a very vulnerable time in her life. Also, she’s in love with a man who sees her as his sister. And Parker owns her awesome family estate because both of her parents were killed in a plane crash, which probably is why she’s such a control freak. But Emma? Nope. She’s perfect. Beautiful and bubbly with her loving nuclear family.

I suppose that’s a fair choice for Roberts to make, Emma being perfect and all that, because it does add diversity to the group of women. But it’s just not fun to read about. Where is the conflict? Seriously, the entire conflict of this book is Jack’s fear of commitment which I did not think was all that irrational. The climax of the story takes the form of a fight he and Emma have and, to be honest, I was on Jack’s side. Who doesn’t think that a declaration of love and happily ever after is not so crazy to hold back on if you’ve only been dating for two months? And what Emma does to spark the fight was pretty dumb, I thought. She knows this guy, she knows the issues he has with space and commitment, but instead of talking to him to test the waters, she just goes and does something only to explode when he doesn’t react the way she wanted him to. Also, I kind of resented the way that Emma’s friends completely took her side on the issue, too. My friends, and my mother, would point out everything that I did wrong. But then again, I’m a spinster and Emma’s boinking hot dudes.

So I guess in the end I was jealous of Emma, but in my defense it was really hard not to be. Yeah, I would like to have her wonderful life. So thanks, Nora Roberts, all you’ve done is made me feel even worse about being a plain Jane, chubby single gal.

Lindsey’s Grade: C

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Book Quotes

One of my favorite things about reading is coming across a passage that just grabs your attention and really speaks to you. The last few years I've been trying to remember to write down such passages. I don't always remember, but I have accumulated a small collection, and I thought I'd share from that.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
She was borned in slavery time when folks, dat is black folks, didn’t sit down anytime dey felt lak it. So sittin’ on porches lak de white madam looked lak uh mighty fine thing tuh her. Dat’s what she wanted for me—don’t keer what it cost. Git up on uh high chair and sit dere. She didn’t have time tuh think what tuh do after you got up on de stool uh do nothin’. De object wuz tuh git dere. So Ah got up on de high stool lak she told me, but Pheoby, Ah done nearly languished tuh death up dere. Ah felt like de world wuz cryin’ extry and Ah ain’t read de common news get.

Sigh. I love that. This passage occurs as Janie is explaining to her friend why she left her second husband, a wealthy storeowner who basically treated her as an ornament. This is such a beautiful, wonderful book.

All She Ever Wanted by Anita Shreve
I count you among the most fortunate of persons to have felt so strongly for another human being, however unhappy the outcome. Is this not the point of our existence?

This passage really speaks to me because it makes me think about my first love and my first broken heart. I remember how badly I hurt, but I also remember how grateful I was that I had the chance to love someone like that.

The Alchemist's Daughter by Katharine McMahon
He didn’t teach me that with some people what seems to be real, isn’t real at all. I used to trust what I saw. He taught me that if I could see a thing and touch it, and if it behaved as I hoped it would, then these were true qualities. But I find that men aren’t like that, so how do I know what I can trust?

I think that this passage by itself is wonderful. But it also is an amazing synopsis of the book. The heroine was raised by her scientist father, and she lived with him until she met a man who seduced her, married her, and took her away from her sheltered life. I just love how McMahon was able to capture her book in this single passage.

Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazer
Maybe I should have packed up and gone to Washington for good, used my friends there to find a position. Put that Wayah Town behind me. There are many who can make new selves at a moment's notice. Slough a skin, dismiss memory, move on. But that is not a skill I ever acquired.

Like the character in this book, I have never acquired that skill either. I remember reading this and thinking of the people I know who seem to be able to move to another stage of their life and abandon the old one. And I thought about how much I value the people I've met at each stage of my life and how I hope to never lose those connections.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin
I would give up the unessential; I would give up my money, I would give my life for my children; but I wouldn’t give myself. I can’t make it more clear; it’s only something which I am beginning to comprehend, which is revealing itself to me.

This is so powerful. It is a distinction I think a lot of modern mothers are not able to make. When I read this I recalled the feeling I got when I read The Feminine Mystique for the first time. I remember being overcome with the need to call my mother and thank her for never sacrificing her own identify for me. That, in my opinion, is the best gift a mother can give.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Oh, Wuthering Heights, where do I start? The romance in this book is unparalleled—it moved me more than any love story ever has. I cry when I reread these passages. (Yes, I'm that lame.) There are so many passages that make me cry and take my breath away. Here are my favorites.

What were the use of my creation, if I were entirely contained here? My great miseries in this world have been Heathcliff’s miseries, and I watched and felt each from the beginning; my great thought in living is himself. If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger; I should not seem a part of it. My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath—a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He’s always, always in my mind—not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being.

Two words would comprehend my future—death and hell; existence, after losing her, would be hell. Yet I was a fool to fancy for a moment that she valued Edgar Linton’s attachment more than mine. If he loved with all the powers of his puny being, he couldn’t love as much in eighty years as I could in a day. And Catherine has a heart as deep as I have; the sea could be as readily contained in the horse trough, as her whole affection be monopolized by him.

“You teach me how cruel you’ve been—cruel and false. Why did you despise me? Why did you betray your own heart, Cathy? I have not one word of comfort. You deserve this. You have killed yourself. Yes, you may kiss me, and cry, and wring out my kisses and tears; they’ll blight you—they’ll damn you. You loved me—then what right had you to leave me? What right—answer me—for the poor fancy you felt for Linton? Because misery, and degradation, and death, and nothing that God or Satan could inflict would have parted us, you, of your own will, did it. I have not broken your heart—you have broken it; and in breaking it, you have broken mine. So much the worse for me, that I am strong. Do I want to live? What kind of living will it be when you—oh, God! would you like to live with your soul in the grave?”
“Let me alone. Let me alone,” sobbed Catherine. “If I’ve done wrong, I’m dying for it. It is enough! You left me too—but I won’t upbraid you! I forgive you. Forgive me!”
“It is hard to forgive, and to look at those eyes, and feel those wasted hands,” he answered. “Kiss me again, and don’t let me see your eyes! I forgive what you have done to me. I love
my murderer—but yours! How can I?”

May she wake in torment!” he cried, with frightful vehemence, stamping his foot, and groaning in a sudden paroxysm of ungovernable passion. “Why, she’s a liar to the end! Where is she? Not there—not in heaven—not perished—where? Oh! you said you cared nothing for my sufferings! And I pray one prayer—I repeat it till my tongue stiffens—Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living! You said I killed you—haunt me, then! The murdered do haunt their murderers. I believe—I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be with me always—take any form—drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh God! it is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!

Yes, I know Heathcliff and Cathy love past the point of madness, but I still eat it up. Swoon!

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Mrs. Allen was one of that numerous class of females, whose society can raise no other emotion than surprise at there being any men in the world who could like them well enough to marry them.

An observation only a single woman can truly appreciate, I think.

River Lady by Jude Deveraux
Immediately, Wesley knew there was only one cure for her misery: he was going to make love to her.

And sometimes I write passages down because they are just too ridiculous not to.

Book Review: The Untamed Bride

Full disclosure: I like pretty much everything Stephanie Laurens writes. This summer when I was purging my book collection for a yard sale, her books were absolute keepers. So my love of her work probably makes me biased when I review her books.

The Untamed Bride is the first in Laurens's new four-part series about the Black Cobra Cult and the four Englishmen who are tasking with bringing it down. The four men are army officers who have been stationed in India since Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo. (Laurens ties these men to the Cynsters—the family that most of her books are based on—by explaining that they fought with the Cynster men at Waterloo.) The governor of India turns to the four men when he needs help in bringing down a villainous cult that follows a man called The Black Cobra. These cultists are essentially terrorists who go into villages and murder, rape, and pillage for no purpose other than to cause civil unrest. The British government has surmised that the Black Cobra himself is an Englishman who is capitalizing on the general feelings of anti-imperialism. The four men (actually five, as I'll explain) finally find the man they believe to be responsible after a few months of investigation. But this man is the son of one of the most powerful peers in England, an earl who essentially has the Prince Regent's ear. So they cannot accuse the son of being an evil cult leader without solid, irrefutable evidence. It is only after one of the five is murdered by the cultists that the other four discover their fallen comrade managed to attain this crucial evidence before he died. And he passed it on to them.

Royce, the Duke of Wolverstone (a.k.a. Dalziel from Laurens's Bastion Club series) is England's ex-spymaster, and he devises a plan for the men to bring the evidence safely back to England where he will then publicly expose the public. Three of the men will carry a copy of the evidence and one will carry the original—but no one will know which is which. Each man is to travel by a separate route back to England—but they will not know each other's routes. Only Royce knows the routes, but even he does not know who is going which way. Each man resigns his military commission and goes on his way. That is essentially the introduction to the whole series. And of course, because this is a series of romance novels, each man will undoubtedly acquire a lovely young lady along the way.

The Untamed Bride is Derek's story. Derek (or Del as he is called because of his last name that I can't remember—Delborough, maybe?) is the oldest and highest ranking of the men. He travels by sea back to England, and although there are a few threats on his life along the way, he makes it safely to Southampton. But there is a letter waiting for him at Southampton from his only living relatives—his aunts—telling him that they have arranged for him to escort a Miss Deliah Duncannon to her home (which is in the same county as Del's family home). His aunts, of course, don't know that Del has more pressing matters on his plate. He tries to avoid the responsibility of escorting Deliah, until she quite by chance happens to save his life from a Black Cobra assassin. Because the assassin saw her, she is now at risk, and Del agrees that she will join him. Oh yeah, and Deliah is a stone-cold fox.

A lot of people complain that Laurens's heros and heroines are all the same. And... they are. But in this book, I think it works. Deliah is returning to England after seven years away in Jamaica where she was sent by her family after she had an affair with a man that did not do the honorable thing (i.e., he slept with her and refused to marry her). She's a very headstrong character who basically tells Del what he's going to do and when he's going to do it. But her sexual desires and strong personality have left her feeling like she does not fit in among polite society. When Del tells her that she is going to meet all of the Cynster wives (oh, yeah, there is totally a Cynster reunion in this book) which includes a duchess, a countess, and a lot of rich married women, she is understandably very nervous and worried about fitting in. But, because she's just like all the other Laurens heroines, it is actually a wonderful experience for her to find a group of women that see all her characteristics as strengths and not flaws. I thought that was very well done of Laurens. I also thought it was a bit of a response to her critics, as if she was saying, "There's a reason they're all the same, you know." I liked the fact that Deliah could be a strong woman who still had a lot of insecurities because it made it easier to relate to her.

Also, I gotta say, I actually liked that the hero and heroine jumped into bed with each other (not right away) with little prior thought or planning. If you've ever read a Laurens book, you know that the build-up to the nookie is often ridiculously drawn out. That was one aspect that made this book feel different than her others. All in all, this wasn't my favorite Laurens book, but it was still a fun read. In the back of the book there is a sneak peak of the next book in the series, The Elusive Bride, and I'm really looking forward to that one, too. The heroine, Emily, was with the fifth officer when he died, and she is the one that passes the evidence on to the other four men. Should be a good read!

Book Musings

I was in Barnes & Noble today, and I noticed a few things:

1. Am I the only one who gets depressed in bookstores because there are so many books you want to read but never enough time?

2. Why do parents let their kids scream repeatedly in B&N? I think it's akin to a library. (Not that public screaming is okay in any store, but bookstores seem worse somehow.)

3. They have issued a deluxe edition of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It has painted illustrations and a gorgeous hardcover. I'm pretty pissed because I want it bad but I already have the original paperback edition! Urgh! I mean, I understand that they couldn't come out with that edition until they knew the book would be a success, but still! I want! (Family members, take note for Christmas!)

4. I have decided to give Jane Eyre another try. Mostly because I totally want this shirt, and I need to decide if Mr. Rochester is on the same playing field with Heathcliff, WHO I ADORE. (BTW, check out Kate Beaton's comic that the shirt is based on. It is awesome.) Last time I tried to read Jane Eyre, I was in high school and generally had poor literary tastes. I think I quit before Jane even met Rochester because as I recall it was quite depressing. I already know the ending, though, so hopefully that doesn't ruin the experience. I don't think it will because I've come to realize that I enjoy the classics for the amazing writing more than the pure story. I have my beloved romance novels for the stories.