Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Jane Austen's "Emma"

At first I wasn't too sure if I was going to make it past the first chapter of Emma. I have attempted to read it a few different times, but could just never get past chapter 1. But I am proud to say that not only did I make it past chapter 1, I actually finished the entire book! WOOHOO! I was quite excited and despite having moments of not liking it at all, I did enjoy Emma overall. It didn't make it to the favorites list and probably won't be a re-read for quite some time. But overall, it was a good read and I am glad that I stuck with it.

One of the things that I really just couldn't get past or enjoy or appreciate was Emma herself. She was such a silly, petty, gossipy, nosy, young lady. Not to mention rude and ridiculous. I know she was Miss Austen's main character and so I can't rip her a part too much. But my goodness. She drove me crazier than Mrs. Norris in Mansfield Park I think. I just don't have much patience for girls like her. For girls who are so caught up in other people's business that they aren't paying attention to their own actions, thoughts and character. For girls who are more worried about the gossip of the day than the little services that need to be attended to. For girls who don't watch what they say and cause more harm than good. Now, granted she did change her ways some by the end and she did begin to care more about others than herself and her plans for how life should work out for others. But it took a lot to get her to that point and unfortunately it was just too much for me to endure.

However, the one thing I did really appreciate was how much character development there was in everyone. Miss Austen really outdid herself in the way she built her characters throughout the entire story. From the introductions to the end pictures of their character traits and personalities. I enjoyed getting to know each character, even though some of them (like Emma herself) drove me a little crazy. Miss Austen clearly knew how to write characters and write them well. She made you love or hate them, as well as grow with them as the story continued on. She made her characters become aware of themselves and at the same time challenged her readers to become more aware of themselves in light of Emma and her friends. To look at oneself and see what things weren't so nice or needed some work. I appreciated that a great deal and think that of all of her books Emma has done that the best.

While Emma isn't a favorite I am glad to have read it and to have read it in it's entirety. It was a challenge, but a good one. And now, I am off to read some more!

Happy reading!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

"Mansfield Park" wrap-up

I finished Jane Austen's Mansfield Park on Sunday and have just now sat down with the intention of writing about my final thoughts of it. I took a day of not starting any new books or do anything book related so that I could just sit, soak in the memories of Mansfield Park and form my thoughts about it for my wrap-up post.

In my last post about Mansfield Park I wrote that I was falling in love with the book despite it having so many reviews against it. And I have to say that I finished the book absolutely loving it. While there were moments and characters in particular that drove me crazy and made me want to spit, I loved the story as a whole and Jane Austen's expert way of weaving a story that touches the heart.  It was my second book of Austen's that I have read in its entirety and was definitely worth every minute and even staying up way past my usual bedtime on Sunday to finish.

I wrote in my first post about things I loved. The slowness of the story and the character of Fanny Price. I loved those two things the entire way through. But what I didn't love one bit was the character of Mrs. Norris. OH MY GOODNESS! She was an annoying old crank who needed to get off her high horse and be put in her place! So many times when she was included in the story I would find myself reading faster just to get past her. Or shaking my head at whatever ludicrous thing she said. Or huffing out loud at her oh so precious opinion of herself or her favorite nieces. Seriously, the woman drove me crazy! I know she served a purpose in Jane Austen's mind and story. That she was (in her mind) the epitome of good-hearted old aunts and the most doting, thoughtful, well-intentioned lady of the family. But in reality, I saw her as nosy, selfish, rude, thoughtless and down-right mean. And not just towards Fanny. She pushed herself and her opinion onto Lady Bertram and Sir Thomas. And of course just had to make sure that if her opinion wasn't heard she still ended up with some credit for some hair-brained idea. I know that Jane Austen had a reason for including her character. But I am not entirely sure why. I think the story would have been drastically different and then maybe not as loveable without her character. But there were too many moments where I just rolled my eyes when she appeared. But oh well. That's just my opinion.

One other thing I loved dearly was Fanny's relationship with her brother, William. Even despite the distance and the time apart, they loved each other deeply and had each others best interests at heart every step of the way. William especially showed his care for her when the two of them went home for a visit and Fanny found herself among a family of complete strangers and treated as a complete stranger. William tried to make sure she was cared for despite only having a short-while before shipping out. The letters and the conversations Fanny shared with Edmund about William showed how much she cared for him. And I loved that. I love it when an author (any author) incorporates strong family ties. Coming from a big, loud, boisterous but amazingly loving family, I value everything that has to do with families and the important relationships that come from families. My siblings are my best friends and I love them with everything in me. My brother is my buddy. I can hang out with him despite him being 9 years younger than me and have a fantastic time. I can wrestle with him or have serious conversations. I love him and he loves me. And our family is a core piece of who we are. I love that Jane Austen included that for Fanny. I think any book and author that does that and does that well is a real gem and something to be highly valued.

I loved Mansfield Park. I really did. It is one that will definitely be re-read and one that will definitely take it's place among the many favorites I have. I can't wait to read my next book for Austen in August. I am not sure if I am going to read Pride and Prejudice (this would be a re-read) or Emma (a first time read) next. Any thoughts or suggestions on which to pick?

Happy reading!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Sooo behind on stats...

I don't know what my problem is, but I am just having a hard time remembering to record and post my reading stats at the end of each month. I feel like I just posted June's and here we are already a good way into August and I haven't posted July's yet. Oh well. Maybe one day I'll get back on track with it. 

It's not that I haven't been reading. I've been reading a ton. Maybe too much. Maybe not enough. Who knows. I have been soaking in book after book and as always enjoying reading through my long list of favorite blogs. I just haven't taken the time to stop reading for ten minutes and record my stats. Yes, that sounds incredibly lazy of me. But it's true. And why give up even ten minutes of reading when you are caught up in the middle of an amazing story? That's just silly to me.

Oh, and being only 7 months done with the year 2013... I have already read 14 more books and 73 more pages than what I read all of last year. Not too shabby!

Well. Without further rambling. Here are my stats for the month of July. 

Books read this month: 
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins 
Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples by Francis Chan
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky 
Gods At War by Kyle Idleman  
The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees 
The Lost Daughters of China by Karin Evans  
Still Alice by Lisa Genova 
Silent Tears: A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage by Kay Bratt

Favorite book read this month: 
it would have to be a tie between The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott 
and Silent Tears: A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Oprhanage 

Least favorite book read this month: 
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
I wish it had had a stronger, better ending!

Number of pages read this month: 
3,360 pages

Number of pages read this year: 
17,362 pages

Number of books read this year: 
69 books

Number of Classics read so far: 
15 of 76

A book with mixed reviews...

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen is often known as the most difficult and least-loved of her 6 major novels. It has some very mixed reviews on Goodreads, Barnes and Noble and Amazon. It has been criticized and thrown away half-read by some. Not to mention it's film adaptations have some pretty strong reviews against them as well. But while many have disliked it, it has been dearly loved and cherished by others. While it is disappointing that so many have discarded Mansfield Park, I am glad there are those who have held onto it and seen it's value. That there are those who love it every bit as much as her other novels. That encourages me as I am reading and falling in love with it this weekend. 

I am currently half way through my first reading of Mansfield Park... my first of 3 books chosen for "Austen in August" hosted by Roof Beam Reader. And so far, despite a very slow beginning, I am loving every bit of it. I started reading it in bed last night and have spent most of my lazy day today reading (in between short naps, of course!). I have to admit that I am a bit surprised with how much I like it due to having heard and read so many negative things about it. But in reading it and looking more into the back story, as well as digging further into the reviews to find those who do love it, I am glad I chose to be brave and pick it up. I am glad I have stuck with it despite the slow beginning. And I am excited to spend the rest of my evening reading (I have a good 6 hours before bed... plenty of reading time!).

I am enjoying Mansfield Park for a variety of reasons. One thing I like about it is that it is a slow read. And what I mean by that is that I like the fact that I don't feel like the story rushes through details or that Jane Austen rushed the development of her characters. I like that it is a book that is set to an easy pace and tone. Some books I feel are just so busy and fast that you hardly get one character or situation read and understood before it's time to move onto the next (think Hunger Games or Harry Potter which I dearly love). But Jane slows everything down and she takes each piece of the story in her own way, time and fashion. She spends a great deal of time showing the marriage relationships of the 3 sisters in the first chapter and later spends numerous chapters on the play the young people wanted to perform. And she uses that slow pace to set up the story in a great way. She writes in a way that keeps everything tied together, but yet doesn't rush her reader to try and work to keep up with every little detail or character. Some might argue that the slow pace of the book is why they dislike it. And that's fair. But to me I think it's perfect and has added so much to my enjoyment of the story as a whole.

Another thing (or rather a person) I love is Fanny Price. She is so not your typical leading lady. Especially in comparison to Lizzie or Emma. And that may be why so many dislike her. But I love her. She reminds me of myself in some ways. Quiet. On the edge of the scenes. Observant.  Respectful. Loving. Loyal. Opinionated, but not outspoken. Content to stay quietly at home. Easily embarrassed. Easily won over with a kind word. And so many other things.  Fanny wasn't asked if she wanted to live with her Aunt, Uncle and Cousins. She wasn't asked if she wanted to leave her brother whom she dearly loved. She wasn't asked if she wanted her life to change drastically. But she made the most of it. And she did it with grace and poise. Fanny's character is one that just makes me smile as I read her thoughts or see the actions of her extended family and their friends through her eyes. Her intense loyalty and love to her family even though most of them haven't really earned it is admirable. And of course, my heart can't help but ache as she watches Edmund focus on another lady and push her more into the background than ever before. She may be the leading lady, but yet in some ways she isn't and I can't help but love that about the story. 

I may only be half way through it and things could take a turn for the worse, but I am really enjoying and falling in love with the story of Mansfield Park. I won't be able to say it's a favorite til I have read my other picks for "Austen in August," but I can say it's one that I wouldn't mind re-reading one day, not to mention buying a hard-copy for my book shelf. Well, I am off to read some more. I will write again when I have finished!

Happy reading!

what I imagine Mansfield Park to look like