#87 A Guest Review of A Heart For Milton by Trudy Brasure

My most recent post for the Austenprose blog is now up!  This time around, I reviewed a re-imagining of Elizabeth Gaskell’s classic novel North and South.  A Heart for Milton by Trudy Brasure picks up in the middle of the original work with Margaret realizing her love for Thornton, who takes a surprising and drastic action to win her heart.  With this exciting departure from the original, Brasure creates an entirely new life for Margaret and John that will make North and South fans giddy with excitement.

Check out my full review here.

This is my thirty-sixth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

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!

Complex Reading vs. Simplistic Reading

Adam and I were discussing The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway when we began discussing complex books vs. simplistic books.  We started discussing it because I was talking about how The Old Man and the Sea speaks in very simplistic language. I personally am a fan of classic literature books, books that follow the style of Jane Austen’s writing period, and also books that make you think.  It’s not very common that I read a book written in simplistic terms.  While it’s a nice break, I enjoy reading to enrich my mind, grow my vocabulary, make me think, and also make stop and pause to look and appreciate the things around me.

Adam had said he wished more writers would write simplistically. He felt that books get overly wordy and explain everything in such small detail.  He would rather be able to think about what it looked like, smelt like, felt like, etc on his own. He wants authors to cut out the “fluff” and get down to the nitty-gritty.  I can agree with him about fluff to a degree.  Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck has almost a full chapter explaining in extreme detail about a turtle crossing the road. It is the MOST boring thing I’ve ever read in my life. So on the subject of “fluff” I can agree to a degree with Adam.

The more and more I thought about what we were discussing the stronger I felt for books that weren’t super simplistic. In my eyes reading holds the keys to enriching people’s lives and minds.  For people who will never be able to travel to Europe in their lifetime, they can pick up a book and read about what it’s like. Those that will never make it scuba diving, mountain climbing, sky diving etc, they can pick up a book and read about others experiences doing it.  None of us know what it was like to live in the past when King Henry VIII ruled, but we can pick up a book and read about what it was like.  If writing was always written simplistically, we might not be able to experience any of these things through words.

Reading complex things also expands your intelligence.  The more you read the better your vocabulary gets and your sentence structure get stronger.  You learn to recognize metaphors, themes, similes, protagonists, antagonists, conflicts, resolutions, etc. 

When I think of classic literature I don’t think of simplistic authors or simplistic books – I see Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, Charlotte Bronte, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hawthorne, Poe, Arthur Miller, Steinbeck, etc. I see Pride and Prejudice, Macbeth, North and SouthTo Kill a Mockingbird, The Odyssey, The Canterbury Tales, etc.  These books are taught in schools and taught year after year because we learn from them.  As a child you’re taught with picture books, then you begin reading and move to chapter books, as we get older and our brains can handle more we begin reading “the classics.”  That is how we progress on to college and into the working environment. As our brains retain more knowledge our reading levels change, allowing us to read more complex books. I think in order to continue to grow intellectually, that adults should read complex books.  Throwing in a simplistic book here and there is ok, it gives your brain a rest, which is definitely necessary.

As I was talking to Todd last night I said to him that I think reading books with details is important as well.  For me reading poetry expands the meaning of love, reading books that discuss the look, smell, taste of things enriches my own senses.  Reading about a sunrise/sunset and then seeing one – I can understand the text better and understand the beauty around me.

I’d love to hear everyone else’s thoughts on what I’ve said.  Adam has been kind enough to begin writing a response to my thoughts that I’ll post up before the week is out.  Please comment and let me know what side of the argument you fall on!

Happy Reading!