Tag Archives: books

Currently Reading…Jane Eyre

8 Nov

Okay so I’m on a sort of classics reading binge right now. Not sure what initially sparked it but I sure am glad it happened! I think it might be due to the fact that at least once a year, I read my favorite book of all time, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden (you can read a bit more about my obsession with TSG here). Though I took AP English in High School and plenty of World Lit classes in College, I somehow never read Jane Eyre of Wuthering Heights! I know, I know! I’m missing out right? I would certainly agree as I am currently 100  pages into Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte’s masterpiece and I can defiantly see why this book has had such an endearing quality through the centuries.

Yes, the book is dark and brooding but that is part of the charm of it; we all have a dark spot inside us, some place that recognizes Jane’s pain and even revels in the icy winters and barren landscape of the Yorkshire moors. I grew up in North Eastern Pennsylvania and have experienced cold that pierces your lungs and freezes your tears and I just love how Charlotte Bronte evokes those memories of the cold, the way it settles into your body, into your hair. I love Jane’s perspective, especially the ‘I’s of her speech that gives the reader a window into the very soul of our protagonist. I also deeply love that Jane is a heroine similar to Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennett in that she is strong willed, even in a society that balks so freely at that trait in a woman. She bites her tongue but then she also does not shy away from defending herself and I think that is what makes her so admirable. Jane is far from perfect but she always feels flesh and blood.

 

I feel like I’ve discovered a secret little treasure in this novel (okay, it’s a literary masterpiece so not really secret but maybe…new to me?). I look forward to my evenings after dinner has been made,work has been finished and baby has been put to bed, when I can curl up in front of the fire with a mug of hot chocolate (and occasionally, a hot toddy!) and delve into the mysterious and magical world of Jane Eyre.

I cannot wait to see the new movie starring Michael Fastbender and Mia Wasikowska but I’m one of those people that have to read the book first. It’s a fine line between speeding through a novel to get to the dessert: the movie, and savoring each line. I hear the movie is beautiful and lucky for me, Netflix also has an earlier version on instant-stream starring miss Sookie Stackhouse herself and Charlotte Gainsborough.

Have you read Jane Eyre? What are your thoughts?

 

 

In the meantime, here are some stunning covers for the many, many editions of Jane Eyre out there! (I just love a good book cover, don’t you??)

The Many Faces of Jane Eyre:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Into The Book: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

8 Nov

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor evokes so many beautiful landscapes, especially those in Prague. So I thought I’d gather a collection of images of the actual locations described in the book. Get ready to bask in some Gothic architectural beauty!

Below is the stunning loveliness that is The Charles Bridge: a medieval bridge in Prague where a lot of the scenes in the book take place. From Zouzana’s epic marionette show, to Akiva’s fight between his Seraph siblings. It’s pretty easy to see why this gorgeous location played such a large role in the story.

You can totally picture some angels going to battle here can’t you?

Here are some images of Prague in Winter (when the book takes place) and the incredible streets that make up this fairy tale city.

 

 

Laini Taylor does such an excellent job of describing the heat, the rich scents and sounds of Marrakesh that you hardly need visual accompaniment but just in case…Here’s where Karou goes to meet Izil to pick up teeth and secrets and here’s where she first spots Akiva!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now Elsewhere…is whole other story. As for now, you’ll have to use your imagination!

 

Happy Reading!

Halloween Re-Read: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

13 Oct

In honor of Halloween I decided to re-read a book that I truly enjoyed last year but that I sort of rushed through because of things like work, college, toddler…the usual stuff that makes you start reading at 1 am. Now that I have a bit more time on my hands with college being finished and my son about to be in preschool, I decided to give this book another shot. Here’s the thing: I liked Daughter of Smoke and Bone when I originally read it but I didn’t love it…or so I thought. A few months ago I started getting that itch to read it again out of the blue and as it turns out, the story really did stick with me more than I had thought. I found myself wanting to go back to those Gothic, winding streets of Prague in winter which give way to jewel shaped buildings and portals to another world…Elsewhere. I found myself really, really wanting to travel back to Elsewhere where an angel and a demon fell in love.

If you haven’t before heard of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, you need to get yourself on board sister! Upon my re-reading of it, the story bloomed again before me with new life and felt more real than it had the first time (I blame my statistics class for squashing my poor, day-dreaming soul). This is one of those books that you just need to read to understand as the premise is so broad and strange but also completely addictive.

The big question of the book is “Who Is The Daughter Of Smoke And Bone?”

Karou is a young art student (with natural jewel-toned blue hair and a plethora of tattoos) living in modern day Prague. All her life she has felt a deep emptiness, struggling to understand who she is in the absence of a ‘normal’ family. A human girl, Karou has been ‘raised’ by monster-like devils or demons who exist in some strange, other-worldly portal between lands (ours and their own). Brimstone is a half man, half ram being  who has been as much a father to Karou as possible though his stern nature and elusive answers to her questions have always made him more of a mystery than a true parent. But despite her strange upbringing, Karou loves her Chimera family (Brimstone, Issa, Usari, Twiga and Kishmish: all variations of mixed animal and human parts) even if their existence makes no sense in her own, human world. She spent her childhood in Brimstone’s shop, watching him select, study and string teeth on necklaces as various poachers and nefarious characters came and went through the portal that connects Elsewhere to the human world. But as Karou grows up, she soon learns that the door of Brimston’es shop can open anywhere in the world whether that’s Prague, Paris or Florida and she now finds herself being sent on mysterious missions by Brimstone to collect, of all things, teeth. Now 17, Karou no longer lives in the shop but in her own loft apartment in Prague as she tries to create some semblance of a normal life.

Then one day, strange sightings start appearing all over the world, strangers whose wings are invisible to the naked eye but appear in their shadow, begin marking Brimstone’s portals with a hand print that cannot be removed. Somewhere, Elsewhere, a war is raging, one that will have a profound affect on Karou, the family that she loves, and a mysterious angel who is the enemy of her very blood but with whom she is irrevocably connected.

 

What I loved about this book (besides the stunning imagery and drool-worthy settings!) was they way Taylor created such rich and full back-stories for the characters. She didn’t just stuff them in here and there as fluff but rather wove them into the storyline so that when things finally came together at the end of the book, you feel like you have a truly deep understanding of characters and their motives. Karou is a kick-ass heroine but she’s not so tough-shelled that she’s impossible to relate to. She has a deep emotional emptiness, a longing for family and a strong desire to protect the ones she loves at any cost. I also love that her connection and romance with Akiva is a lot deeper than it first appears. I don’t want to spoil any parts of the story but let’s just say that if you have any contempt for insta-love (aka 90% of YA books out there these days) you’ll find this book to be refreshing and inspiring. On the surface, it’s a YA fantasy novel but once you get into it, you find that it is about so much more. Daughter of Smoke and Bone has that unique quality of not only good vs. evil but also the ramifications of war and the questioning of moral and obligatory responsibilities

Like I said, strange premise right? But trust me, you’ll fall in love with Taylor’s poetic writing style and her ability to keep you guessing until the very end! I don’t want to give away any more of the story because it’s just too good and you have to discover its magic for yourself!

The highly anticipated sequel title, Days of Blood and Starlight, comes out in November and I for one, cannot wait! Have you Read DOSAB? What do you think about it?

x0

Rachael

The Real Secret Garden

27 Feb

I don’t know if there is a book more dear or magical to me than Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. I first read it when I was in the second grade (it was the children’s version and I’m pretty sure I got it at the dollar store but none the less) and proceeded to do every subsequent book report on it through 5th grade (miraculously, none of my teachers ever caught on). I remember staying up late with my mom making shoebox diaramas of the garden with mintures of Mary, Colin and Dicken and the little sheep and flowers. In fith grade I finally read the full version of the book and it was no less than wonderful to me.

Now at 25, The Secret Garden is still my favorite book of all time. I recently bought a children’s copy to read to my two year old son who, like his mommy, can’t get enough of books regardless of their subject matter (I read him Madeline E’ngel’s A Wrinkle In Time when I was pregnant). Also, to my joy, Chick-fil-a has recently started giving children’s classics with their kid’s meals (so now we have a chick-fil-a version of TSG as well!).

I was doing some research a few months back for my upcoming trip to England (I have around 50 cousins there along with some scattered relatvies in Scotland that I’ve mostly never met) and came across the actual, real-life garden that inspired Mrs. Burnett!! Obviously, this will be a stop on our itenierary and…I’ll secretly move my things in when no one is looking.

Mrs. Burnett apparently got the idea for the book while staying at the home between 1898 and 1907. She spent hours wandering through the gardens and observing its inhabitants. The little red robin that shows Mary Lennox the way to the hidden garden door actually appeared in real-life to Frances who found a hidden door of her own, giving her the idea for the story! (I’d like to meet this clever robin!)

This place made me instantly swoon and I think I’ll just have to take up perment residency there! (Hey, you can actually buy the apartments within the home!) The house is called Great Maytham HallTake a look at its breath-taking beauty below.

You can also (swoon!) get married there. What do you think? Can’t you just see The Secret Garden coming to life here? I personally want to buy a white cotton dress and giant garden hat and spend my days writing and sleeping among the flowers…but maybe that’s just me.

Fanny Burney on Jerry Springer…thoughts?

27 Feb

Here is a super funny video I found on youtube. It’s a ‘what-if-the-18th century-met-Jerry Springer’ version of Fanny Burney’s Play Wiltings.

What do you think?

Currently Reading…The Duchess by Amanda Foreman

27 Feb

So yes, I’m reading two books at once which can be confusing except the the subjects of both (Marie Antoinette and Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire) are so similar that it makes the whole precess feel almost like reading one super awesome book. Really. The two famous women of the late 18th knew each other well and became close friends when Georgiana went to Paris and stayed with the Queen at Versailles.

Both women had married young and were around the same age. Both had experience with distant and rather emotionally frozen husbands and both had a deep love for fashion. Just as Marie Antoinette set the fashion world on fire in France, Georgiana was the fashion queen of England. Both women were hounded endlessly by the paparazzi of the day (the local papers) and criticized for their outlandish fashion statements.

Above, the Duchess of Devonshire is being mocked for her methods of political gain, shown kissing the butcher the gain his vote for The Whig Party. The Whigs were the political party endorsed by the Duchess and her Husband as well as their inner circle known as the ton.
Above, a scene of gambling which became infamously synonymous with the Devonshire house and their aristocratic friends. Georgiana had a known gambling problem and throughout her life, incurred large debts because of it.
This image above shows Marie Anotinette and her husband King Louis in a satire of her ‘barnyard life’. The queen was outwardly criticized for her ‘make-believe peasant life’ she created and lived out in Le Petit Trianon, a gift home from her husband.
This image shows Marie Anotoinette’s famous hairstyle in which she wore a boat atop a large pouf in her hair to commemorate a French Naval victory. Georgiana also famously wore a similar look.
Though neither woman could be called a saint, they both suffered similar feelings of being imprisoned in their marriages and both felt the constant need to ‘preform’ for the public as well as the fellow members of the aristocratic class. Both women used fashion as a means to express themselves and to gain attention and political prowess in a time where women had very little. Are you madly in love love with them yet?
Though there have been countless books chronicling the life of Marie Antoinette, none before had analysed the role her fashion choices had in the making of the woman and the hostilities against her. If you want a totally different take on 18th century life, politics and propaganda (and of course, the queen herself) you MUST read Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution.
 I have already seen the movie The Duchess staring Kiera Knightly and Ralph Fiennes but I was not a huge fan (I think I’m in the majority here but stay with me). I feel like it focused too heavily on just a few aspects of her life and didn’t really give good insight into just how insecure Georgiana felt from her upbringing (her constant need to please her parents is discussed thoroughly in Amanda Foreman’s book). Though it was a feast for the eyes and the actors did an amazing job at bringing the characters to life, the movie was very, very depressing. And I know Georgiana’s life was far from happy but it would have been nice to have given her more moments of happiness  along with showing her suffering.  Below are some images form the film version of The Duchess.
Above: A costume from the film on display, the wedding dress.
Above: More of Georgiana’s amazing costumes worn by Kiera throughout the film.
I have a major crush on this hat.

Currently Reading…Queen of Fashion:What Marie Antoinette Wore To The Revolution By Caroline Weber

27 Feb

Everyone knows at least something about the infamous Queen of France Marie Antoinette. Where you can only recall that she was beheaded during the French Revolution or that she had killer style (Sofia Copella’s film comes to mind) there’s no doubt that the woman was amazing. For her to still be a staple of popular culture today, more than 200 years later, is no small feat.

I’m currently working on a novel that takes place in the late 1700’s and though it will deal only in part with France, I couldn’t resist the plethora of visual-imagery-eye candy (can i coin that?) that is Caroline Weber’s book. It details the beautiful complexity of life, love, politics and fashion in the young queen’s life and how her fashion choices reflected her political views, her emotions and even played a part in her tragic downfall. Fashion, as always, has a story to tell that goes far beyond the lines of color and structure. Back in the 18th century, it was a for women who had very little rights and freedoms, to express themselves.

So without further ado (no idea if that’s the correct spelling), I give you all things fashion and Marie.

* Fun fact from the book: Marie loved to ride horses and often did so wearing trousers and in a ‘more masculine’ ridding attire. She also fashioned ‘masculine-feminine’ jackets and tailoring details.