Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Review: "North and South" Classic a Month #12.2013

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
3.5 out of 5 stars

This book was recommended to me by a good Twitter friend a few months ago and I put it off because my library only had one copy. And then I remembered, duh I have a Kindle and there are always lots of free classics on there so I looked and yep, there it was. :) I did enjoy reading this and there were great parts but on the whole, I felt it was pretty average. If I were describing this book to a potential date, it would be "sturdy constitution, decent upbringing, with impeccable manners." But don't let that discourage you! I would still recommend it and would probably even reread it at some point. Also, I feel like I missed out on a lot because I've never seen (or heard of) the BBC series and this is definitely a book that would (does?) work well as a television show.

It's impossible to discuss this book without comparing it to Pride & Prejudice. Both are stories set in the 1800s and feature young people from different classes falling in love. Each of the couples clash immediately upon meeting, trading sharp barbs of wit and sarcasm. One of the duo (coincidence that it is the guy in both cases?) falls in love waaaaay before the other and spends half the book trying to ignore their feelings while simultaneously encouraging chance encounters.

She had a bracelet on one taper arm, which would fall down over her round wrist. Mr. Thornton watched the replacing of this troublesome ornament with far more attention than he listened to her father. It seemed as if it fascinated him to see her push it up impatiently, until it tightened her soft flesh; and then to mark the loosening-the fall. He could almost have exclaimed-"There it goes, again!"

And then, there is an epiphany where the female suddenly realizes that she was a fool, A FOOL I tell you! Margaret was not a ready lover, but where she loved she loved passionately, and with no small degree of jealousy. She is suddenly in love with the guy but now she can't have him for some reason or another, until the very end, when they must both swallow their foolish pride and come together. Metaphorically speaking of course, I'm pretty sure the corsets and bustles would have gotten in the way. ;)

Now, you're probably wondering why you should read this if it's just like P&P. N&S is a much quieter love story, less dramatics, more tears, lots more death. But the biggest difference and the thing that makes this book worth reading is the commentary on class divisions...North vs South, tradesmen vs "genteel", factory owners vs the union workers. I never really thought I'd enjoy reading about economics but I did. Gaskell knows how to write, that's for sure. Not just making economics interesting but her world building and descriptions were first-rate.

"I don't know-I suppose because, on the very face of it, I see two classes dependent on each other in every possible way, yet each evidently regarding the interests of the other as opposed to their own; I never lived in a place before where there were two sets of people always running each other down."

She makes you feel for both Thornton, as the hard-working mill owner, and Higgins, the poor union worker. Higgins was one of my favorite characters, with his gruff attitude and tender heart. And when he takes in the orphan children...awww. So many of the characters died, though. I kind of had a problem with that, mainly because most of them happened very suddenly and were done and moved on within a page or two. I'm just glad Higgins didn't die, I wouldn't have forgiven her lol. And I'm going to end this review with two wonderful quotes that need to be turned into resolutions somehow. I'll start working on that now.

"Surely, if the mind is too long directed to one object only, 
it will get stiff and rigid, and unable to take in many interests."

"Thinking has, many a time, made me sad...but doing never did in all my life.
Do something...do good if you can; but, at any rate, do something."

Monday, December 2, 2013

Review: "Nancy Drew & The Secret of the Old Clock" Classic a Month #11.2013

Before I get to my review, I have a few things to say...first, I hope everyone who celebrates had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I'm typing this on Saturday afternoon and I've had a pretty great 3 1/2 days off so far! Sis and I stayed home Thursday and watched the parade, cooked some yummy mini pies (okay, sis made the pies), and then we made & ate a super good Thanksgiving dinner. Then we watched the football game (go Cowboys!), ate some pie, and watched an awesomely cheesy made-for-TV Christmas movie (confession: I have a serious weakness for these!) Friday we braved the crowds for some afternoon Christmas shopping, came home and had some leftovers and decided to put up the Christmas decorations. :)  So I hope your day(s) have been just as nice and relaxed as mine!

And the second thing I wanted to talk about was my blogging slump. Because it's pretty clear I'm in one and I don't know what to do about it...or if I want to do anything about it. I'm still reading and have had some good to great books that I'd like to talk about, but I'm just being so lazy lately. All I do in the evening and weekends is sit on the couch and watch TV. And when I do get off the couch to do something, I don't want to sit at a computer and type for several hours. I tried last weekend and ended up finger-water-painting instead lol. Which is okay with me right now. So I'm going to continue my Classic a Month reviews for sure but I'm not going to put a lot of pressure on myself to do much more than that. I hope y'all are okay with that and I hope my slump goes away soon. Okay, now let's talk about the Girl Sleuth, Nancy Drew! :)

Nancy Drew #1: The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene
2 out of 5 stars

This book was so hard to finish! Obviously I'm used to reading older books with different values and language than present time, but there was just something about this one that I couldn't handle. Nancy Drew is 18 years old, just graduated high school, and wants to be a lawyer like her father. Even though this is the first book in the series, it doesn't feel like it. We don't get a big introduction like in the Baby-Sitters Club, we just kind of jump right in with Nancy saving a little girl after she falls off a bridge. The only people I recognized from reading it as a child were Nancy, her dad, and the housekeeper. Her BFF and boyfriend aren't in this one, which was kind of disappointing. I do have the 2nd book also and am debating whether I want to read it right away and see if it's any better or not.

Due to a series of strange events, Nancy finds herself investigating the mystery of a dead man's will. Nancy didn't know the man when he was alive, she has no personal investment in the contents of the will, she's just basically a nosetta. Oh and she really dislikes the people that got all his money from his first will. After talking to a bunch of people connected to the man, she becomes sure that there must be a second, more current will that will give all these nice people money and leave the snotty girls nothing. Each chapter shows Nancy in another predicament and another (agonizingly slow) step closer to solving the mystery. Duh, just read the title of your book, Nancy, and you'll know where to look!

She rescues the little girl from the river bank where she fell which is where she meets the two old aunts who have just had some furniture and silver stolen from two men in a van. Nancy races off to chase after the men and unable to find them, instead goes to report the burglary to the police. Because it's her business. When she gets home, she immediately starts questioning her father, the wonderfully handsome successful lawyer, about everything he knows about old Josiah Crowley. (The old man who died.) Mr Drew seems to enjoy being cross-examined by Nancy so he tells her all about all the relatives Josiah should have left money to and didn't. The next day, Nancy runs into Ada & Isabel, the most obnoxiously spoiled brats ever, who just happen to be the ones who inherited everything from Josiah in the first will. Nancy gets some gossip from the dressmaker and later, at lunch with her father, some more from a fellow attorney... honestly, does anybody in this town not have gossip about a dead man??

Then Nancy gets caught in a freak thunderstorm and can't get the top of her fabulous convertible down so she drives into some stranger's open barn and scares the living daylights out of a poor girl inside. And hey, guess what? The girl and her sister should have gotten money from Old Josiah too! Why did he even have the first will and why didn't he make this newer will easier to find?? In the next chapters, Nancy: saves a puppy and gets attacked by its mother, discovers a future opera star, plays badminton, helps an old lady who fell and couldn't get up, sells tickets for a charity ball to those awful girls & gets a clue about where the will could be (hint, look at the title of the book!), gets a flat tire and changes it herself, takes a trip to a summer camp and hikes a lot, spends the day out on the lake after her motor boat dies and fixes it herself, and discovers the summer home where the clock and will might be.

And what does all this snooping get Nancy? Locked in a closet by the moving van thieves with no one for miles to hear her screaming. Serves her right, honestly. But this chapter was one of my favorites of the whole book, it was so real and her emotions went beyond "sparkling eyes" and inquisitiveness. Of course, she gets rescued and catches the bad guys with no bodily harm. Drat. And finds the clock, which contains a little notebook of Old Josiah's and tells all about a newer will in a safe deposit box. Nancy and her father take it upon themselves to go get the will and read it before taking it to anyone actually related to Josiah. But it's okay, because turns out he did leave money for all the nice people and none/very little for the not-nice people. So everything works out in the end and Nancy is truly bitten by the snooping bug.

I obviously had trouble with this book, but I can see how it would still appeal to younger children, even 70 years after it was first published. Nancy is a strong, confident, pretty, young woman who has adventures but is also a lady. She has a wonderful father figure who allows her to be independent in an age when that was frowned upon. She gets into dicey situations but everything always comes out sunny at the end of the book. It deserves to be a classic.