Book Review: Agnes Grey

Image via Goodreads

Image via Goodreads

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

After a belated book club this week, followed by a fantastic birthday weekend, I can finally share my thoughts on Anne Brontë’s Agnes Grey.

I haven’t read so-called “literature” in a while, so I felt rusty, but the book club babes and I agreed that it was great to be challenged intellectually. One friend even commented that she enjoyed needing to consult a dictionary a few times!

Agnes Grey is the perfect novel if you haven’t kept up with the classics since college. It’s a short read with a simple plot: Agnes is a 19-year-old living in rural England who decides to become a governess to help her family who’s struggling financially.

A pious young woman with a strict sense of morality and integrity, Agnes must learn how to raise the spoiled children of the English elite. Her patience is tested, first with the Bloomfield brats and then with the Murray girls. Time and again, she is insulted for her shabby clothes, plain looks, and other indications of her lower socioeconomic class.

Unlike the gothic romances of her sisters Charlotte and Emily, Anne Brontë’s debut novel is not tragic. Despite her meekness, she attracts the interest of Edward Weston, the town’s parson, who spends his time assisting the poor villagers. It’s not much of a spoiler to say that Agnes and Edward find their happy ending, since the stakes of this story are so low. Other than terrible demon-children abusing animals for their own amusement, you never get the sense of real danger.

When it comes to literary merit, Agnes Grey is not even remotely in the realm of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. The plot is too straightforward, the style too expositional, and none of the characters ever develop, for better or worse. In fact, as I was reading, I kept giving Brontë a pass given how difficult it was for a woman to write in the 19th century, all the while knowing that she’d never be published today.

That said, for what this book is—an autobiographical narrative of one woman trying to remain true to herself in a world of vanity—I appreciated the reading experience. At times it even felt like a Victorian version of “Mean Girls,” with Agnes playing a Cady Heron who never flipped to the dark side. Those of us who were victimized by the richer, more attractive and popular Rosalie Murrays and Regina Georges will feel vindicated when the nice girl wins in the end.

Although all the Brontës are creatively successful in their own rights, there’s definitely a reason why Anne lives in the shadow of her sisters and Agnes Grey rarely makes it on required reading lists in school.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Classics I Still Haven’t Read Yet

Classic PicMonkey Collage

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is all about those books that are still collecting dust on our to-read lists. Every book blogger has experienced the guilt of knowing that you should read a critically-acclaimed or otherwise particularly awesome novel, but have yet to get around to it. Excuses know no bounds!

On any typical “Best Books of All Time” list, I can cross off about 20 percent of the works, which is better than the average American (a poor standard), but could definitely use some improvement. In fact, at the risk of humble-bragging, I would have read many of the classics I’m about to mention in high school had I not been in honors and AP English classes. Instead of reading popular classics like Huck Finn and The Picture of Dorian Gray, I delved into more obscure ones, like Saint Joan and The Return of the Native.

Yep, that might have been the most hipster thing I’ve ever written, and I completely deserve to be publicly shamed a la Cersei Lannister in “Game of Thrones.”

Anyway…moving on! High school-me may have been preoccupied, but present-me needs to get it together and finally cross off these ten classics that I still haven’t read yet: 

  1. A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
  2. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  3. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
  4. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  5. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  6. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  7. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  8. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  9. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
  10. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Alright, time to see if you can out-hipster me…how many of these classics have you read?

Literary News: In Case You (Really) Missed It

coffee-flower-reading-magazine

The past 14 hours have been a whirlwind of fun: last night my book club met to drink a few bottles of wine while discussing the horrendous novel All the Birds in the Sky (review coming next week!). This morning was even invigorating, because I was finally able to login to Pokemon Go, the mobile game that’s taken over the globe. I’ve been gallivanting around San Francisco hoping to catch them all!

But now it’s time to get serious…I have a confession to make.

In full disclosure, I have a terrible habit of filing away articles for my blog, then forgetting that they exist. Every time my cursor hovers over the bookmarks folder on my browser, I cringe and try to ignore the growing list as best I can.

But 2016 is half over, and I just can’t take it anymore! Time for some summer cleaning!

Here are the first six months of literary news in review, in case you really, really missed the boat, or just want to relive the excitement!

Literary Feminism

  • “Damn, you’re not reading any books by white men this year? That’s so freakin brave and cool” (Jezebel)
  • “In literature and in life, men and women still want different things in a mate” (Jezebel)
  • “One weird trick that makes a novel addictive” (Jezebel)

Harry Potter News

  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to be eighth book” (BBC)
  • “J.K. Rowling’s History of Magic in North America was a travesty from start to finish” (io9)

Hollywood Adaptations

  • “Ava DuVernay confirmed to direct A Wrinkle in Time” (IndieWire)
  • “Inside the peculiar new home of Tim Burton’s Miss Peregrine” (Entertainment Weekly)
  • “6 adaptations that fixed the book (according to the author)” (Cracked)
  • “First Look as Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf on A Series of Unfortunate Events set” (Spinoff Online)
  • Will drama about young William Shakespeare picked up to series by TNT” (Deadline)

Et Cetera

  • Placing Literature maps out real places you’ve read about in books” (Lifehacker)
  • “The mass-market edition of To Kill a Mockingbird is dead” (New Republic)

Can you tell I’m a fan of Gawker Media publications? After reading this list, what literary news made you most excited? And if I missed any headlines, please send them my way!

Top Ten Tuesday: Underrated Books I Enjoyed

2000 rating

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is interesting, because it’s all about the books that don’t get enough love. Out of all the novels that I’ve kept track of reading on the ultimate literary social platform Goodreads, I’m supposed to choose my top ten with fewer than 2,000 ratings.

Unfortunately, it seems that my favorite books are also everyone else’s, so finding these diamonds in the rough was more difficult than I expected (hence why I’ve reduced my top ten to my top five!).

That said, there is a lot of diversity in this list, from junkie thriller to geeky romance. There’s historical fiction, a modern retelling of a classic novel, and even a two-sided love story. So pick the book less traveled and enjoy!

Bait by J. Kent Messum
590 Goodreads ratings: avg. 3.4 stars
My rating: 3 stars

The Gendarme by Mark T. Mustian
1,467 Goodreads ratings: avg. 3.68 stars
My rating: 3 stars

Gilded Age by Claire McMillan
730 Goodreads ratings: avg. 3.08 stars
My rating: 3 stars

The Thorn and the Blossom by Theodora Goss
823 Goodreads ratings: avg. 3.3 stars
My rating: 4 stars

Talk Nerdy to Me by Vicki Lewis Thompson
1,454 Goodreads ratings: avg. 3.78 stars
My rating: 4 stars

Top Ten Tuesday: Literature You Should Read If You Love Ancient Greece & Rome

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Image via The Broke and the Bookish

I know it’s Wednesday, but I couldn’t resist participating in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, even if it is belatedly! This meme, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is about literature every [blank] should read, inserting the blank for whatever our hearts desire. I was originally going to title this post, “Literature Every Classics Major Should Read,” but let’s face it, we already have!

As many of you might know, I majored in Pre- and Early-Modern Literature at University of California, Santa Cruz, and minored in Classical History. I am absolutely obsessed with ancient Greek and Roman texts and have read these epics, plays, and essays multiple times. But even if you never studied these in college, you can consider them the best starter course into this fascinating period of history.

This blog post is also perfect timing, considering that I only have one month left (!) before I’m traveling to Greece and Italy to walk the lands where these amazing philosophers, dramatists, and oral historians once lived! To say I’m excited is a huge understatement!

Classics Collage

  1. Iliad by Homer
  2. Odyssey by Homer
  3. Aeneid by Virgil
  4. Art of Love by Ovid
  5. Symposium by Plato (Be sure to watch “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” a theater production/film that has a song about this story!)
  6. Medea by Euripides
  7. Bacchae by Euripides
  8. Oresteia (Agamemnon, Libation Bearers, and Eumenides) by Aeschylus
  9. Three Theban Plays (Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone) by Sophocles
  10. Lysistrata by Aristophanes

(Side note: As a former scholar, I’m not a fan of using articles in these titles. If you want to sound sophisticated, refer to Homer’s Iliad rather than The Iliad by Homer. After all, it’s an epic that’s part of an oral tradition, not a novel!)

So are you interested in the tales of ancient Greece and Rome? Which of these have you read, and what did you think? Let me know in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday: Book Bloggers You Should Follow

toptentuesday

Image via The Broke and the Bookish

In this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, we’re giving shout-outs to other awesome book bloggers! After almost five years of blogging with today marking my 400th post (!!!), I have virtually met some amazing people in this community, and these ten ladies are at the top of my list!

Some are getting degrees in English or creative writing, others are working in lit as librarians or editors, but all of us are absolutely obsessed with reading! I highly recommend that you subscribe to their sites and follow them on social media!

  1. Alison at Hardcovers and Heroines
  2. Bridget at Dog-Eared and Dog-Tagged
  3. Stefani at Caught Read Handed
  4. Marsha at Book Club Cheerleader
  5. Alicia at A Kernel of Nonsense
  6. Sam at Taking on a World of Words
  7. Maren at The Worn Bookmark
  8. Stephanie at Stephanie’s Book Reviews
  9. Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies
  10. Cristina at Girl in the Pages

There are too many great book bloggers out there to list them all, but who else deserves a shout-out? Tag them in the comments!

giphy4

Congrats everybody! You rock!

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I Love, But Other People Don’t

Image via The Broke and the Bookish

In this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, it’s all about the haters. Which literary characters do you love, but other readers don’t–or vice versa?

I think that this is a great topic, because I’ve always gravitated toward characters with an edge, whether they’re bad boys in romance novels or super villains in comic books. Nobody likes a goody-two-shoes, after all!

My top ten list features men, women, and the occasional dragon or anti-christ who have betrayed–even murdered–those closest to them. However, all in my mind have redeemable qualities and justifications for their actions. Call them awful, selfish, ruthless, or evil, but you certainly can’t call them one-dimensional!

Carey Mulligan as Daisy (Image via Wikipedia)

So-Called “Selfish” Women

1. Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. Edna Pontellier from The Awakening by Kate Chopin
3. Medea from Medea by Euripides

Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff (Image via Wikipedia)

Debatable “Leading” Men

4. Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
5. Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
6. Meursault from The Stranger by Albert Camus

The Malfoys with Bellatrix (Image via Harry Potter Wiki)

Villains Better Than Heroes

7. The Malfoys from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
8. Smaug from The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
9. Lady Macbeth from Macbeth by William Shakespeare
10. Satan from Paradise Lost by John Milton