Book Review: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Book Review: Northanger Abbey by Jane AustenNorthanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Published: 1817
251 pages
Genres: Classic, Romance
Source: Purchased

 
The Short, Sweet, and Spoiler-Free Blurb:

A wonderfully entertaining coming-of-age story, Northanger Abbey is often referred to as Jane Austen’s “Gothic parody.” Decrepit castles, locked rooms, mysterious chests, cryptic notes, and tyrannical fathers give the story an uncanny air, but one with a decidedly satirical twist.

The story’s unlikely heroine is Catherine Morland, a remarkably innocent seventeen-year-old woman from a country parsonage. While spending a few weeks in Bath with a family friend, Catherine meets and falls in love with Henry Tilney, who invites her to visit his family estate, Northanger Abbey. Once there, Catherine, a great reader of Gothic thrillers, lets the shadowy atmosphere of the old mansion fill her mind with terrible suspicions. What is the mystery surrounding the death of Henry’s mother? Is the family concealing a terrible secret within the elegant rooms of the Abbey? Can she trust Henry, or is he part of an evil conspiracy? Catherine finds dreadful portents in the most prosaic events, until Henry persuades her to see the peril in confusing life with art.
5 Stars

Northerner Abbey might be my favorite Jane Austen novel.  One of the main reasons is because Catherine is my new favorite heroine.  She’s a tom boy and she treats her life like it’s a fictional novel.  Catherine is the kind of person that would yell “plot twist!” at an unfortunate event in her life.  I aspire to be this way.  It’s the kind of attitude I try to have when, say, I go to the ER because I’ve been awake and in pain and on Google and have convinced myself that I have appendicitis when all I really have is severe constipation and get sent home from the ER with a laxative.  Again.  See, in a novel that’s freakin’ hilarious.  In real life it sucks paying $200 for a laxative.  Catherine has quite the imagination and I want to be her in every way.

Also, could someone explain to me how Jane Austen can just tell her stories and backgrounds in an info-dumping way but keep my attention completely because she makes it fun and visual and easy to imagine?  Jane Austen has this biting honesty that is delightful to read even though her books are old.  Don’t dismiss Jane Austen.  She writes the truth.  Don’t tell me you’ve never met a person like this:

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.

– Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (p. 7)

And I love, love, love the two ladies who are constantly talking at each other but never have an actual conversation because one talks about her kids and one talks about clothes.  Jane Austen doesn’t really show many of these conversations but I can totally imagine them.  As much as Catherine is living in a fictional novel, her friend Isabella is overdramatic because she’s got the lead role in this play called life.  Isabella is clingy and scheming.  I think Jane Austen didn’t mind scheming but I think she hated it when it was obvious.  Jane Austen is the queen of sarcasm, irony and relatable characters.

Book shaming has been around since the 1800s and Jane Austen is having none of it.  Catherine loves reading novels but is also ashamed that she reads “only novels.”  Jane Austen has this to say about mere novels:

… in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed …

-Jane Austen,  Northanger Abbey (p. 23).

Overall, I loved this novel and if you haven’t read it, fix that immediately.

Content Rating: None. Clean read.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links.  

About Jane Austen

CassandraAusten-JaneAusten(c.1810)_hires

She was an English novelist whose works of romantic fiction, set among the landed gentry, earned her a place as one of the most widely read writers in English literature. Her realism and biting social commentary have gained her historical importance among scholars and critics. Jane Austen lived her entire life as part of a close-knit family located on the lower fringes of the English landed gentry. She was educated primarily by her father and older brothers as well as through her own reading. The steadfast support of her family was critical to her development as a professional writer.

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Book Review: Among the Nameless Stars by Diana Peterfreund

Book Review: Among the Nameless Stars by Diana PeterfreundAmong the Nameless Stars by Diana Peterfreund
Series: For Darkness Shows the Stars #0.5
Published: June 4, 2012
60 pages
Genres: Dystopian, Novella, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Source: Purchased

 
The Short, Sweet, and Spoiler-Free Blurb:

Before Kai joined the Cloud Fleet, he wandered… AMONG THE NAMELESS STARS

Four years before the events of FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS, the servant Kai left the North Estate, the only home he’d ever known, and Elliot North, the only girl he ever loved, in search of a better life. But the journey was not an easy one.

Featuring narrow escapes, thrilling boat races and at least one deadly volcanic wasteland.
2 Stars

Among the Nameless Stars was a prequel novella for one of my favorite novels, For Darkness Shows the Stars.  The writing in this novella didn’t seem to be the same quality that I loved in the novel.  The story was ok but not terribly interesting.  I feel like if there’s going to be a prequel it should be about something mind-blowing or amazing and the simple plot about the boat race was not enough to keep my attention.  I just didn’t see the point of this novella.  I didn’t get any new insights into the story.  It fills in details about Kai but I already knew where the plot was going.  It might be that it’s just been too long since I’ve read For Darkness Shows the Stars that made it feel like I didn’t learn anything new or interesting.

Even though I wasn’t a fan of this prequel, you should definitely still check out For Darkness Shows the Stars.

Content RatingMild, for very brief non-graphic mentions of abuse.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links. 

About Diana Peterfreund

diana peterfreund

Diana Peterfreund has published eight novels for adults and teens, including the four-book Secret Society Girl series (Bantam Dell), the “killer unicorn novels” Rampant and Ascendant (Harper Teen), and For Darkness Shows the Stars, a post-apocalyptic retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. In addition, she’s written several critically acclaimed short stories and a variety of non-fiction essays about popular children’s literature. Diana lives in Washington D.C., with her family.

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Book Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Book Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie PerkinsAnna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Series: Anna and the French Kiss #1
Published: December 2, 2010
372 pages
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Source: Purchased

 
The Short, Sweet, and Spoiler-Free Blurb:

Can Anna find love in the City of Light?
Anna is happy in Atlanta. She has a loyal best friend and a crush on her coworker at the movie theater, who is just starting to return her affection. So she's less than thrilled when her father decides to send her to a boarding school in Paris for her senior year. But despite not speaking a word of French, Anna meets some cool new people, including the handsome Étienne St. Clair, who quickly becomes her best friend. Unfortunately, he's taken —and Anna might be, too. Will a year of romantic near misses end with the French kiss she's waiting for?
3 Stars

Anna and the French Kiss was a cute teen romance with delightful writing.  There was lots of drama which is very realistic to what teen relationships are really like. So what are teen relationships really like? Hint: they lack communication and have lots of drama.  The couple in this book fights a lot which I found kind of funny and adorable.  The thing that kept me from completely loving this book was I felt like there was a little too much drama.  It gave me mild anxiety while reading it.

I couldn’t get enough of the cast of characters.  Anna’s father is a an author who is more or less Nicholas Sparks but with the personality of Gilderoy Lockhart – complete with fake white smile, purple shirt, and hair that blows dramatically in the wind.  Anna is sent to a boarding school in Paris that has “suspiciously fresh (pg 21)” food.  That made me laugh since American schools have food that looks suspiciously not like food at all.  Anna has a best friend who loves obscure words and I think she needs to be my best friend, too.

My favorite thing about this book was that Anna wanted to be a professional movie critic so she wrote a movie review blog.  She didn’t want to be a director or a screen writer.  I loved the way she described what it’s like to write a movie review.

“Why do you need to practice [writing movie reviews]?  It’s not like it’s hard or something.” [said Dave.]

“Yeah? I’d like to see you write a six-hundred-word review about one. ‘I liked it.  It was cool. There were explosions.'” [Anna said.]

– Stephanie Perkins, Anna and the French Kiss pg 122

I relate to her so much! It IS hard to write reviews.  I want to be just like Anna but a professional book reviewer.  I also found that quote ironic since I knew I was going to review this book the way Anna reviews movies.

I really enjoyed the writing in Anna and the French Kiss.  The dialogue is fun.  We get to know Anna’s backstory when touring her room and looking at interesting photos.  Here is an example of some awesome writing right here.

Bin after bin of macarons in every flavor and color imaginable. … And then I notice cinnamon and hazelnut praline, and I just want to die right there.  Crawl over the counter and crunch my fingers through their delicate crusts and lick out the fragrant fillings until I can no longer breathe.

– Stephanie Perkins, Anna and the French Kiss, pg 158

Overall, it was a cute teen romance with great characters.  I just wish there had been less drama.

Content Rating: Medium, for strong language (about 3 or 4 f-words) and teen drinking (although it isn’t glamorized)

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links. 

About Stephanie Perkins

Stepanie Perkins

Well, hello! I'm Stephanie Perkins, and I write novels for teens (and for adults who aren't afraid to admit that teen books are awesome). I was born in South Carolina, raised in Arizona, attended universities in San Francisco and Atlanta, and now I live in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina.

My best friend is my husband Jarrod. Our house is almost a hundred years old, and every room is painted a different color of the rainbow. We share it with a cat named Mr. Tumnus.

I've always worked with books—first as a bookseller, then as a librarian, and now as a novelist. On weekdays, you'll find me at my desk, typing away, downing cups of coffee and tea. On the weekend, you'll find me at the movies, waiting for the actors to kiss. I believe all novels and films should have more kissing.

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Book Review: Rump by Liesl Shurtliff

Book Review: Rump by Liesl ShurtliffRump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff
Published: April 9, 2013
272 pages
Genres: Fairy Tale, Middle Grade, Retelling
Source: Purchased

 
The Short, Sweet, and Spoiler-Free Blurb:

In a magic kingdom where your name is your destiny, 12-year-old Rump is the butt of everyone's joke. But when he finds an old spinning wheel, his luck seems to change. Rump discovers he has a gift for spinning straw into gold. His best friend, Red Riding Hood, warns him that magic is dangerous, and she’s right. With each thread he spins, he weaves himself deeper into a curse.

To break the spell, Rump must go on a perilous quest, fighting off pixies, trolls, poison apples, and a wickedly foolish queen. The odds are against him, but with courage and friendship—and a cheeky sense of humor—he just might triumph in the end.
4 Stars

Rump is a fun, humorous retelling of a traditional fairy tale that we all know, Rumplestiltskin.  The writing was charming.  The characters were funny and interesting.  Here’s a little demonstration of both the delightful writing and the great main character, Rump, who wrote this poem.

Home is a place to get out of the rain

It cradles the hurt and mends the pain

And no one cares about your name

Or the height of your head

Or the size of your brain

– Liesl Shurtliff, Rump, pg 8

This book was written before Once Upon a Time came out, but I can’t help comparing the two since they are both intelligent retellings.  There’s a scene in this book where Red is talking about the consequences of magic and I couldn’t help but hear my favorite character, Rumplestitlskin from Once Upon a Time, say “All magic comes with a price!”  Another similarity to Once Upon a Time is the ability of this story to get us to empathize with the “villain.”  I was really impressed that Liesl Shurtliff was able to keep the plot so close to the traditional fairy tale but give us back story and motivations in a way that made me see the story in a new light and not see Rump as the bad guy. It also kind of felt like a prequel because of the back story about his parents that the author went into.

Rump has a beautiful message about the importance of names and labels and our destiny.  It’s a story about not only learning from your own mistakes but the mistakes of others.

My one and only (and very small) complaint is that it felt like it ended very quickly.

Overall, it was a charming fairy tell retelling about finding your destiny that will appeal to everyone – especially if you are a Once Upon a Time fan.

Content Rating: Everyone.  There is some very mild potty humor.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links.

About Liesl Shurtliff

Liesl Shurtliff

Liesl Shurtliff was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, with the mountains for her playground. Just like Rump, Liesl was shy about her name, growing up. Not only did it rhyme with weasel, she could never find it on any of those personalized key chains in gift shops. But over the years she’s grown to love having an unusual name—and today she wouldn’t change it for the world!
Before she became a writer, Liesl graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in music, dance, and theater. She now lives in Chicago with her husband and three young children, where she still dreams of the mountains. Rump is her first novel.

Book Review: The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

Book Review: The Story of My Life by Helen KellerThe Story of My Life by Helen Keller
Published: 1902
240 pages
Genres: Classic, Memoir
Source: Purchased

 
The Short, Sweet, and Spoiler-Free Blurb:

An American classic rediscovered by each generation, The Story of My Life is Helen Keller’s account of her triumph over deafness and blindness. Popularized by the stage play and movie The Miracle Worker, Keller’s story has become a symbol of hope for people all over the world. 

This book–published when Keller was only twenty-two–portrays the wild child who is locked in the dark and silent prison of her own body. With an extraordinary immediacy, Keller reveals her frustrations and rage, and takes the reader on the unforgettable journey of her education and breakthroughs into the world of communication. From the moment Keller recognizes the word “water” when her teacher finger-spells the letters, we share her triumph as “that living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free!” An unparalleled chronicle of courage, The Story of My Life remains startlingly fresh and vital more than a century after its first publication, a timeless testament to an indomitable will.
4 Stars

The Story of My Life by Helen Keller is a beautiful memoir about the power of love, language, and learning.  It was sad and humbling to hear Helen describe how desperate she was to communicate with people.  Since Helen was deaf and blind, she would go into a rage after being so frustrated that no one could understand her.  That really struck home with me.  In college, I babysat a 5 year old boy who couldn’t talk because he had cerebral palsy.  He could answer yes or no to my questions by shaking or nodding his head.  There were times when I asked every question I could think of and he would break down in tears of frustration – just like Helen Keller described.  It was heartbreaking to see.  When the boy I babysat went to school and learned more complex sign language, he lit up.  I still remember the first time he was able to tell me a story.  He was absolutely glowing with joy.  Helen Keller’s story of learning was very touching to me since it similar to the experience that the boy I knew had.

How she was able to learn language was very interesting to read about since she was old to enough to remember the experience of understanding words for the first time.  Her teacher, Annie Sullivan, used a method of teaching with Helen that had never been done before.  The pedagogy behind how Annie taught language to someone who couldn’t hear or see was fascinating.  She had to break down and really think about how kids normally learn language and translate it into the senses that Helen had access to.  She realized that kids acquire language through imitation and through hearing it all day long every day.  So Annie would spell words into Helen’s hand all day long about everything they were doing even though Helen didn’t know what the words meant yet.  Helen learned that words represented the things that she could touch.  It was a bittersweet moment when Annie tries to teach Helen what love is and Helen can’t understand why her teacher won’t show it to her.

…how happy your little Helen was when her teacher explained to her that the best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen nor even touched, but just felt in the heart.

-Helen Keller, in a letter written to Rev. Phillips Brooks, June 8, 1891.

Before reading this, I had never realized how important books would be to Helen Keller.  They were a huge part of how she experienced a world that she couldn’t see or hear.  She talked about books as if they were her friends.

I have not shown how much I have depended on books not only for pleasure and for the wisdom they bring to all who read, but also for that knowledge which comes to others through their eyes and their ears. Indeed, books have meant so much more in my education than in that of others …

– Helen Keller, The Story of My Life, Chapter 21

There was a huge list of books that she read.  You know me.  Of course I wrote them all down.

Books Helen Keller Read

  • As You Like It By William Shakespeare
  • Speech on Conciliation with America by Edmund Burke
  •  Life of Samuel Johnson by Thomas Macaulay
  • Child’s History of England by Charles Dickens
  • The Arabian Nights
  • The Swiss Family Robinson
  • The Pilgrim’s Progress
  • Robinson Crusoe
  • Little Women
  • Heidi
  • Ivanhoe
  • Iliad
  • Aeneid
  • Treasure Island
  • Robinson Crusoe
  • Jungle Book

Because reading had such an influence on her, she often described things the way that someone could see would.  She would describe trees as green even though she had never seen the color green because that’s what books described them as.  That being said, I noticed that a lot of her descriptions – especially of nature – centered on their scent and feel.  Also, I want to write book reviews the way that Helen Keller does.

The “Iliad” is beautiful with all the truth, and grace and simplicity of a wonderfully childlike people while the “Aeneid” is more stately and reserved. It is like a beautiful maiden, who always lived in a palace, surrounded by a magnificent court; while the “Iliad” is like a splendid youth, who has had the earth for his playground.

– Helen Keller, in a letter to Mrs. Laurence Hutton, October 23, 1898

Helen desperately wanted to go to college but practical things made it extremely difficult.  She struggled with being able to even take tests since they had to be dictated to her.  Books weren’t available in braille quickly enough and she would fall behind in classes. Lectures had to be written down in advance for her to follow along.  It makes me appreciate not only my education but the technology today that allows equal access to books for people with disabilities.  I just wanted to travel back in time and make her books because they were so hard to get in braille!  As much as Helen loved books, she hated tests.  Like really, really hated them.  She describes the feeling of forgetting an answer on a test perfectly.

You are sure it is somewhere in your mind near the top—you saw it there the other day when you were looking up the beginnings of the Reformation. But where is it now? You fish out all manner of odds and ends of knowledge—revolutions, schisms, massacres, systems of government; but Huss—where is he? You are amazed at all the things you know which are not on the examination paper.

– Helen Keller, The Story of My Life, Chapter 20

She talks about the administration of the school and how they sometimes unintentionally made things even more difficult for her.  But instead of letting it frustrate her, she felt accomplished that not only had she gotten an education but she had overcome the challenges in getting one as well.

Overall, it’s an amazing story of overcoming difficult trials and making the best of what is given to us.

Content Rating: None. Clean read.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links. 

About Helen Keller

Helen Keller

Helen Keller would not be bound by conditions. Rendered deaf and blind at 19 months by scarlet fever, she learned to read (in several languages) and even speak, eventually graduating with honors from Radcliffe College in 1904, where as a student she wrote The Story of My Life. That she accomplished all of this in an age when few women attended college and the disabled were often relegated to the background, spoken of only in hushed tones, is remarkable. But Keller's many other achievements are impressive by any standard: she authored 13 books, wrote countless articles, and devoted her life to social reform. An active and effective suffragist, pacifist, and socialist (the latter association earned her an FBI file), she lectured on behalf of disabled people everywhere. She also helped start several foundations that continue to improve the lives of the deaf and blind around the world.