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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Strands of Bronze and Gold- Jane Nickerson


Spoiler Alert

After being disappointed by several YA novels in the past few weeks I was in desperate need of a book that was good, enthralling, interesting… And I pretty much found them all in Strands of Bronze and Gold.

I love a fairytale retelling, in fact it is one of my VERY favorite things in the whole world. So I was happy that this was a Bluebeard retelling and hopefully that it was accomplished better than Kill Me Softly.

Sophia is a red headed 17 year old when her father dies and her rich Godfather requests she come live with him. When she arrives at Wyndriven Abbey Mississippi it is the year 1855 and while she is used to the North’s views on slavery her Godfather runs a plantation and it bothers her that he keeps slaves.

Bernard lavishes her with jewels, dresses and everything her heart could desire and Sophia begins to fancy herself a little in love with him. He may be in his late 30s or 40s (the book never says) but he is still very handsome and nice to her.

Slowly, though, Sophia finds out that he isn’t a very nice man, he is cruel, jealous, manipulative and controlling. He hides letters her family sends her, refuses to allow her to attend church or have friends. The slaves who are overly kind to her are sent away or treated harshly. Bernard does not tolerate back talk or any opinion that differs from his own. He tries to be romantically affectionate with her on multiple occasions and while at first she likes it, though deems it inappropriate; soon she finds his kisses and caresses revolting.

Sophia finds out that he has had four red headed wives, Tatiana, Adele, Victoire and Tara. She finds out they are all dead, even though Bernard swears that Victoire left him for another man after their son died. She doesn’t think much about their deaths since people die all the time. Tatiana in child birth, Tara committed suicide and Adele who was always sick took ill on a trip and died. She begins to see their ghosts and calls these dead wives her Sisters.

Sophia meets a young preacher and falls in love, but knows that Bernard will never let her go. She finally gets Bernard to invite her siblings over Christmas and once there he convinces them he is a great match for Sophia and loves her. He proposes and tells Sophia no one will want her now that she has spent so much time alone with him in his house and that her family is so poor and in debt that they will never make it without his money. All of which is black mail, but true. She agrees to marry him. She hates Bernard at this point because she has seen him do many awful things including; lashing a slave, telling her she is stupid, making lewd remarks in her presence, being mean to his dog and killing her cat. He has giant mood swings and she has to walk on egg shells around him or else the whole house suffers.

After her family leaves Bernard tries to rape her and then has to go out of town on business, he leaves her his keys and tells her she has access to every room in the house but not the old church, because it is not safe. She wants to escape him so she goes snooping, finds teeth in his room and eventually puts together he killed his wives. She gets into the church and finds all four wives bodies along with Victoire’s lover and maid. Bernard finds her in there, tries to kill her, she escapes, Bernard dies, leaving Sophia the heir to his entire estate. She and the preacher get engaged and the end!

I enjoyed the story, I found the characters to be good and well flushed out, the descriptions were perfect and the author wrote about life in the south with slaves and on a plantation with beauty and clarity. She brings in the under ground railroad and the unjustness that African American’s suffered at the hands of their “masters.”

I thought the way she retold the gruesome tale of BlueBeard was good and done with great writing.

However these were the issues that prevented this from being five stars;

1) Sophia- I didn’t care for the main character, I found her kind of annoying actually and maybe a little bit stupid, though she is written like the author was trying to have us believe she is strong and smart. I though minor characters like her maid were written better

2) The wives- this is a fairytale retelling, but I could not understand why Sophia kept seeing their ghosts and why their ghosts were interacting with her, this bit of supernatural stuff didn’t fit in so well with the storyline.

3) Bernard and Sophia’s relationship- BIG pet peeve here. His actions towards his ward were pretty nasty, think Judge Turpin in Sweeney Todd, but only there at the end. At first he is romantic, educated, kind and not really a bad suitor. But I didn’t like him because I thought “yuck he is hitting on a girl 20 + years younger than him, gross. The age difference is freaky”…But this got me to thinking. In Jane Eyre Jane is what? 19 or 20? And she married a man in his late thirties or 40’s. I didn’t think that was bothersome. In Sense and Sensibility Marianne is 16 years old when Colonel Brandon takes an interest in her and he is 35. True it is about a year or more before they are married, but I didn’t find that disturbing either. So why not? ANSWER: Because of how the authors wrote the characters. Jane is written as an adult, naïve, sure, but Charlotte Bronte writes her as the grown up she would have been in that time period. Marianne, while passionate, is written as an adult woman. Jane Austen wrote her like that because at 16 in that time she would have been looking for a husband, or a job! Sophia is written to sound like she is still a little girl, like she is 14 or 15 instead of the adult woman of 17 she would have been in 1855. In this time period a poor girl would be blessed to find a wealthy attractive man to marry because women still didn’t have a lot of rights and finding work was hard. It was considered normal and ok for a young woman to marry and older man. The way Sophia’s inner thoughts and personality were written lends a younger voice to her, making Bernard’s intentions far harder to swallow, as a reader.

4) Bernard-the villain- He was too unsympathetic a character. I didn’t like how the author forced the villain label on him. He was written as just a horrible beast with no good qualities. It was as if the author was obviously slapping the role of bad guy on him when the story goes in that direction all by itself. I would have enjoyed this book more had Bernard been a character I could like, loving, kind, hints of evil, but nothing too: BOO! IN YOUR FACE! I AM A BAD GUY. Then when you find out he slaughtered four wives it’s even more of a WOW, didn’t see that coming. It’s what I enjoyed about Kill Me Softly, I liked the bad guy because he didn’t seem like a “bad guy.”

Over all a satisfying read that I couldn’t put down and quite enjoyed. As M. Bernard would say; á la prochein.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Breath of Eyre- Eve Marie Mont


First off let me say straight out I hated this book. I thought it was the most pointless piece of drivel I was have read in a while… aside from Velveteen

This book is a) stupid and b) a little confusing.

It is supposed to be kind of a Jane Eyre retelling, but eh… You’ll see. YOU.WILL.SEE.

Emma is a sad lonely girl who is plain, boring, dull, a Mary Sue with en evil step mom who doesn’t think much of herself. Her mom died about eight years prior and this will wind up being SUPER important.

Emma really likes her child hood friend Gray who goes to a Hippie semi private school and has a bad boy reputation. Emma goes to a prestigious all girls’ school called Lockwood. She is there on a scholarship and EVERY girl there hates her cause they are ALL rich a snobby stereotypes.

As we start the book Emma almost drowns in the ocean at her sixteenth birthday party the week before school starts. When school starts she is excited because her new room mate is another scholarship girl named Michelle, the ONLY girl of color we are told over and over again at Lockwood. Michelle has a big ole chip on her shoulder and is a character I just could not stand.

We find out Emma has a giant crush on her English teacher Mr. Gallagher. Like writes poems about him and stuff. And that the beautiful perfect blonde Elise Fairchild is basically her arch enemy.

So Emma and Michelle become friends and Michelle convinces her to attend a bon fire at the semi private school that Gray attends since Michelle is crushing on this boy named Owen. The girls go, it is Halloween, and on the way back Emma is struck by lightning. Which throws her right into the character of Jane in Jane Eyre. We spend pages about 74-115 basically reading copy and paste Jane Eyre with a few tidbits of Emma’s personality.

Emma cannot remember being Emma and is sucked into Jane’s story, living her day to day life as Jane. I loved Jane Eyre, ok? But this book made the Jane parts BORING. It was literally copy and paste. If I wanted to re read Jane Eyre I would have just fucking re read it. It has a very Wizard of Oz (the movie) feeling. Her headmistress at Lockwood is Mrs. Fairfax, Gray’s sister Anna is Adele and Mr. Gallagher is Mr. Rochester.

Then we find out Emma has been in a COMA for six weeks! When she wakes up we then have to deal with some boring Michelle/Owen/Gray drama and all the rehabilitation that comes with being in a coma for over two months.

Emma is really mean to Gray the couple of times they hang out after this, even though it is obvious to the reader that he really likes her.

When she returns to school there is awkwardness between her and her English teacher who she LURVS even more after the Jane experience. The teacher winks at her twice, which totally grossed me out.

Emma decided she would rather be in Jane’s world because she misses the love she and Edward found together, and this is where it gets too stupid… The author throws in voodoo at this point. Michelle’s aunt explains that she needs to go back and settle unfinished business and teachers her how to summon the loa to do so.

So then Emma, Michelle and Owen go together to the Junior Prom where all three of them guzzle down a bottle of champagne before hand. This is ridiculous since Emma drinking three wine coolers got her drunk at Halloween and caused her to act like an ass. Granted Emma buckled to peer pressure from bitchy Michelle, but c’mon.

So Emma, pissed and kind of drunk, winds up at the stables at her school and low and behold it is on fire! So she runs in to save her favorite horse, falls and knocks herself out and winds up right back at Thornfield where she wanted to be any way. However she is not happy. This is where the book starts to really piss me off.

She decides she does not actually love Edward and feels like he treats her like a pet and not like his equal. 1) This book was written in a time where this was about as “equal” as a relationship in a fucking GOTHIC ROMANCE was going to get. I have read this book a dozen times, back off your high feminist horse. Emma read the book, she knew that was how Edward treats Jane, don’t make him into a villain when he isn’t one.

She states that since our engagement he expected even more obedience from me than when I’d been his employee which is ruining the romance found in Jane Eyre. I think the author of Breath and Eyre and her character Emma didn’t quite understand that Jane was as feminist as she could have been for the time period and that wanting a husband doesn’t mean you are any less a feminist. The relationships, at that time, between a man and his governess and a man and his wife were WAY different.

Then came the really weird stuff. Breaking away from the story line Emma goes in search for Grace Pool and meets Bertha who looks just like Emma’s dead mom. Grace Pool spins this tale about how Edward only married Bertha for the money and he treated her like crap and left her alone all the time so depression swamped her and finally when Bertha miscarried she went crazy and instead of sending her to a hospital he kept her locked in the tower like an animal. So… uh….right…

1) Yes Bertha is a sympathetic character, but not quite this sympathetic, the author has warped the story line at this point

2) Any hospital in this time period would have been awful, Edward’s treatment of his crazy wife is way better than any she would have found at an asylum in the 1800’s.

3) Yes Edward acts douchey in Jane Eyre by not telling Jane about Bertha and trying to marry her any way….However, it is the climax and major plot twist for the book…

4) Bertha was probably a paranoid schizo or had bipolar disorder….There isn’t anything that cures that aside from medication that was not available during this time period.

So since Bertha looks like Emma’s dead mom the two of them run away together. However Bertha tells Emma neither of them can escape their fate so per the storyline Bertha goes back to Thornfield and sets the place on fire. Emma goes after her and sees her jump off the roof and die, she wanders into the burning stables and BAM is back in the real world waking up again in the hospital.

So after this her father tells her that her mom had bipolar disorder and that she didn’t die of a bad heart. During a fit of depression her mom drowned herself in the ocean, and big bad: she was KNOCKED UP. Well then they have some father daughter bonding go up to the attic to dig through all her dead mom’s crap and when Emma reads the suicide note she figures out her mom had miscarried, so she didn’t kill herself and her unborn child.

Issue here: if her mom had bipolar disorder why wasn’t she medicated? The answer: because they prescribed her LITHIUM which made her feel yucky and they agreed AS A COUPLE for her to stop taking it… Umm… I have depression and I have friends with bipolar there are about a DOZEN medications that have been around for the last ten years she could have been on aside from Lithium… Did the author not do ANY research?

Emma and Gray begin to date…..Blah, boring but whatever.

Emma goes back to school and finds out Michelle is being blamed for the barn burning and even though Michelle acts like a cunt through most of this book Emma goes to the hearing and defends her friend, this makes them both social pariahs, more than what they were but they get to keep their scholarships. Emma now hates Mr. Gallagher because he is soooooo Edward Rochester.

Now because Emma told the committee she thought rich golden child Elise burned down the stables Elise spills a HUGE pathetic secret she knows about Gray. Apparently a year ago Gray got drunk at a beach party in Jamaica and his best friend’s sister drowned and everyone blames him…Now I get we are shadowing Jane Eyre here. But the author makes it sound like Gray is going to lose his college scholarship for this and that this is a HUGE deal…Um…there were a dozen people on the beach with Gray that night, the girl that drowned was older than him and he was drunk…. I have done the scholarship thing, unless he was cheating or doing Roids or was given a morale scholarship this incident would not hurt him.

Naturally when Emma finds out she is upset and acts like a bitch, Gray uses the phrase, “I’d hoped you could redeem me.” Which I gotta say NO 17/18 year old would ever say. They fight and don’t talk for a few weeks.

Finally Emma gets her head out of her ass and decides to find Gray and forgive him, she wants to be with him. She finds him about to commit suicide (cause his life is SO over) and almost drowns again trying to save him. They spend another two weeks apart due to some stupid communication issues and then finally hook back up at the end. Though Gray has enlisted in the coast guard so after graduation he will be leaving, but they are going to date long distance.

Yeah I will NOT be reading the other two books since apparently all Emma does is get knocked out and wind up in fairy tale land….Her dad’s health insurance bills are probably going to bankrupt them.

The writing wasn’t awful it, was the plot and characters that suffered. They were all unsympathetic and the author fairly butchered one of my favorite novels with all the nonsense.

The best part was the fun Which Literary Heroine Are You quiz I found at the back… I am a Hester Prynne and Catherine Linton…Go figure lol.

Bright Blessings!