Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Blonde Roots

Blonde Roots - Bernardine Evaristo

Blonde RootsThis is a slave's story, but not quite the one you're expecting.  In Evaristo's tale, the blacks have become the slave-traders and the whites, slaves. Doris, a poor, young English serf living on her family's farm under their feudal lord's yoke circa 19th-century, is captured by Aphrikan slave-traders and subsequently forced to endure a life of slavery as in reality so many black Africans experienced. The reader is swept through Doris' shock of capture, first experiences of servitude in a strange land, the incredible disease and death during the Middle Passage route to Amarika and a life of complete despair as a whyte slave among many in "New Ambossa" where Doris finally lands. This will read like the slave narratives you're probably familiar with from school, but so much more vivid and lifelike. The pages turn themselves as Evaristo's beautiful descriptions of life in then-Aphrika and New Ambossa reveal cultures "whyte" and "blak" and perspectives that become almost interchangeable between the two races. Truths about human nature surpass both color and culture in narratives rich with Doris' observations of her peers in slavery and the often hilarious takes on the slave drivers and masters. I even found myself forgetting the cultures (and skin colors) of the characters as the story goes on (and the pages keep turning!), and coming to understand these characters free from the supposed trappings of culture and even sympathizing with their faults, which still had terrible consequences. This part of the book, very effective for me.

I'd love to supply you with a  pithy quote from the novel however I was not able to stop reading for long enough to grab myself a post-it and mark the sections I wanted to share. Sorry about that, but it's a nice, appropriately short book, which is something to treasure these days - it gets the point across beautifully, and keeps the reader guessing long after the last words are read. Highly recommended.

Jane Slayre! Yes, you read that right...

Jane SlayreJane Slayre by Charlotte Bronte & Sherri Browning Erwin.
This is a record-breaker for the Reader's Well - only the second book that I have stopped reading in the middle since beginning the blog. In short, Charlotte Bronte's classic Jane Eyre has been butchered by vampires, zombies and apparently werewolves (didn't reach that part)... and not in the good way. I won't describe the plot here because it's exactly the same as the classic. So the only difference left to review is the presence of aforementioned creatures.

When I bought and started the book, I was ready for my first foray into the trendy paranormal-classic hybrid genre which claims titles like Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, Shakespeare Undead and The Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor, Vampire Slayer, all of them promising a fun mix of characters we've come to love (or hate) and dead things that turn their old, musty worlds upside-down. I did not get this impression from Jane Slayre. It was not hilarious on a grand scale (which it so could've been!), wasn't particularly smart in weaving the ghouls into the plot, and obviously didn't make an attempt to be scary. Actually as I read, I found myself getting bored, until I finally reached page 133 and decided I'd long surpassed the 50-page rule and called it quits. It's Jane Eyre without the heart, wit and style (excepting the many parts where the original text appears - why??). So now I'm left wondering if it's worthwhile to pick up other re-vamped (no pun intended) classics like Pride - maybe the ones that aren't based on the actual texts would be better, as they don't run the risk of reading like the same thing but not as awesome, etc. That said, here's a quote from the book which hinted at its unfulfilled silliness-potential (sob!) --

Just as she turned a corner, slice! I delivered a solid stroke, a clean cut. I wished we had planned a little better, though. I had barely enough time to fetch the head and drag the corpse out of the way between two other shelves of books before another zombie came in. Plus the green go was already making the floor slippery, as if I were stepping in pea soup...

What do you guys think, are you familiar with these books and have you, or have you not, enjoyed them? Are any of them better than others, and why do you think so?  I'm still pretty disappointed about this one, having wanted to read all of these for a long time. I had the chance with Shakespeare Undead from the library eons go, but had to return it un-read, like so many others. Maybe I shouldn't be kicking myself...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Words from the Well, 10.5...

Blonde RootsThe Sea LadyNot entirely a new Words from the Well this week, as I have merely returned to the very same Borders, the very same bargain book section and bought what I should've bought the first time - plus one another find that looks just delectable!!  So I thought I'd share it with you --

From the bargain bin:
Blonde Roots - Bernardine Evaristo
The Sea Lady - Margaret Drabble

Tarot of the Sweet TwilightLove the colors on the Blonde Roots book, they remind me of my new tarot deck Tarot of the Sweet Twilight (English and Spanish Edition)... oooh pretty colors.

That said, I've gotten a couple of recommendations from my buddy Fran, so thank you for making me put these on my wishlist:

Silent in the Grave - Deanna Raybourn (this is actually on PBS right now, if anyone's interested)
Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate) - Gail Carriger (I asked if this was the steampunk about the Italian chick, and just looking at the cover now, yes, apparently so!)

And there you go, that's it for the moment. Enjoy your reading, folks! I will see you eventually with a review of Jane Slayre by Charlotte Bronte and Sherri Browning Erwin.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Legend of the Jade Dragon (Chintz 'n China, Book 2)

Legend of the Jade DragonHere it is, the second book: Legend of the Jade Dragon: A Chintz 'n China Mystery (Book 2 in the series).  The first book left a lot to live up to, but I was pleasantly surprised.  At first, starting Dragon I thought well this is weird, there's no real villain unless you count plain ol' bad luck. But I thought that made it kind of unusual which is always nice. Emerald O'Brien has been stuck with her very own cursed mini jade dragon, a 500-year-old artifact from the Ming Dynasty, left on her table by a disheveled stranger who was in her shop for a tarot-reading. Only seconds after leaving, poor Daniel is hit and killed by a van hurtling around the corner -- the jade dragon is now Emerald's. As Em and friends investigate the artifact, they uncover secret after secret and endure crisis after crisis along the way. What is it about this exquisite piece of jade that's threatening Em's life and the lives of her loved ones? Can she stop it before it causes real damage and takes away all that she's worked hard for in her little hometown of Chiqetaw, Washington? Hmm... you'll have to read to find out!

Okay so I take it back. The books don't get worse as I read (yet! Yes, I am a pessimist about this). The character development went a little deeper, we get to know Em's friends and even wonder about them, as some questions are left as yet unanswered (tease!). Plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing, new characters enter the scene and shake things up for Em and the gang. And some magic is sprinkled throughout of course, along with humorous bits that'll make you giggle and other folks on the train look at you all weird. So I'm real glad I bought the whole series of Chintz - I just had a feeling about this one, I guess! And now that I check out the website, I want to get the Otherworld series too... oooh, sexy fairies!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Blog Hop Giveaway Winner!

The winner of Reader's Well's Blog Hop for Japan Giveaway is...

Susie Bookworm!!

Congratulations, I have sent you an email requesting your information and will be sending you your prize as soon as possible!  Thank you ALL for entering and giving generously towards Shelterbox which as we all promised, will help the organization send much-needed shelters and other items to those in Japan affected by the earthquake and aftermath.  If you would like to give more, or for the first time, please don't hesitate to surf directly to Shelterbox and donate.  Again, thanks everyone for an awesome giveaway, now I'll need a few days to get over the excitement, but should have yet another giveaway up pretty soon - especially as I am approaching the wonderful 5.0. of followers to the Reader's Well.  You guys rock, have a great weekend!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Words from the Well, 10!!!

Yay, welcome to the 10th installment of Words from the Well!! And how exciting it is. Awesome sale at Borders, plus some other acquisitions from elsewhere combine to make today extra special.  Oh yes - AND it's Friday! 

From the Awesome Borders Bargain Bin:
The Black Madonna - Davis Bunn (just realized now this is Book 2 of the Storm Syrrell Adventure Series)
Jane Slayre - Charlotte Bronte; Sherri Browning Erwin (yessss!)
Water Witches - Chris Bohjalian ("clash between progress & tradition; science & magic" - sure, why not!)
Touched By MagicMistress Shakespeare - Karen Harper (wanted this since it was hardcover)

From Paperbackswap:
Touched by Magic - Doranna Durgin (unicorns!!)

A couple of unexpected things came in at the library via inter-library request but I was (am!) too swamped to even pick them up, so they were sent back to their homes. I won't even tell you what books they were because if you knew, you would kill me. But I swear, it is crazy right now. Nevertheless, I have finished Petals on the Wind and have continued on in Yasmine Galenorn's fabulous series with Legend of the Jade Dragon: A Chintz 'n China Mystery. Thanks for checking back today, everyone, and --

Don't forget to enter the giveaway for 2 beautiful Modern Library Classics of Marcel Proust's masterpiece(s):

Swann's Way (In Search of Lost Time Series, Book 1
Within a Budding Grove (In Search of Lost Time Series, Book 2)
PLUS you get some "swag" which for a blogger whose life is sadly not devoted to book expos, etc., means:
Bookmarks!  Some beautiful bookmarks, literally, from throughout the world. And...
1 adorable little blue moleskine booklet with blank pages.
TODAY IS THE LAST DAY! Terrible, I know. The excitement is too much.
Enjoy folks, and have an awesome weekend!


Words from the Well brought to you partly by The Story Siren, who created the meme.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Petals on the Wind

This week it's Petals on the Wind (Book 2 of the Dollanganger Series) by V.C. Andrews. I wanted to read this before I forgot Flowers in the Attic (Book 1) - reviewed here - but it's also hard for me to believe I could forget it.  I'm not usually a series-reader as you may have noticed because the sequels never live up to the first (see Outlander series, for instance), and in many cases each installment seems to get worse and worse until you feel you're drawn into a downward spiral of wasting time that could be spent on fantastic stand-alones that were actually inspired. But I digress. Petals on the Wind is no such installment but is totally entertaining, as we are swept from these poor children's lives in their nasty grandmother's attic, pining for their greedy, neglectful mother's attention - to their freedom, as they find a sweet guy who takes them in and watches them fill out their destinies.  Of course this is not all as fancy-free as that implies, since our heroine Cathy is a vengeful spirit, bent on giving her mother the cold dish of revenge she's asked for since locking her 4 kids (now 3) up in her mother's attic, and all for the love of money!  Terrible!

So this is where we find out the real backstory, all illusions are dispelled as Cathy (the oldest girl) goes hot on the trail of her mother, following her and her money and "lapdog" husband.  She has dreams and aspirations but only as they serve to make her mother jealous or miserable. She yearns for success only to throw it in her mother's face over and over again, until it all comes to a head at the end and Cathy finally gets her revenge... don't you wanna know how she does?  Flowers in the Attic (Book 1) is a classic by V.C. Andrews, but you don't get the full story without at least Petals on the Wind (Book 2).  The struggle is harder, the characters develop in an aftermath of a tragedy that only grows as the saga continues.

These books surprised me at first, and I'm glad I 'discovered' them. Mystery? Chick-lit, romance, horror? Who knows? I'll be sure to pick up the next few in the series at some point (definitely before I forget the last two!) once I call off the moratorium on book-buying... gah is it painful! And with the Park Avenue Borders closing!! And my Strand gift card! :sigh:

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Jane Eyre: The Book!

Jane EyreThere was no possibility of taking a walk that day.

So you saw the movie, and now you're wondering if it's worthwhile to start from the beginning again with Jane Eyre as Charlotte Bronte imagined her. And that really depends on you - whether you enjoy the whole doom-and-gloom Victorian-dark-age scene, or if you're mad about a star-crossed, repressed feelings and tortured love among humans... although if you're not into that last part, there's probably some Jane Eyre Vampire Hunter thing floating around somewhere. I'll check on that.

Anyway, like in the movie you've got all these things and more to dive into, however as you'd expect, you have plenty more time to involve yourself in the claustrophobic, sad world of Jane and her suitor(s) than watching the movie will allow you. No flashbacks here, no pretty people (in the main cast), no cinematic shock moments -- but still great writing and storytelling, Jane's voice as clear as day and carrying more force and more pride than Mia Wasikowska was probably allowed to. Oh yes, and-

...I must smother hope; I must remember that he cannot care much for me. For when I say that I am of his kind, I do not mean that I have his force to influence, and his spell to attract; I mean only that I have certain tastes and feeling in common with him, I must, then, repeat continually that we are forever sundered; and yet, while I breathe and think, I must love him.

SPOILER: But what I still don't get about Jane Eyre: why does Mr. Rochester have to be in his final, beaten-down condition in order to be considered an equal to Jane? It gives the impression that whether or not he learned from his mistakes, it is the fact that he has become a different man that either makes him more appealing to Jane, or makes him more suited to her (a woman). If I have to take the feminist perspective.

Now the next thing is to go take the Goodreads Jane Eyre Challenge, for a chance to win a Kindle.  I know, who cares about the Kindle, just go challenge yourself!  I might challenge myself again someday to re-read the book in the Norton edition with whatever enlightening commentary.  Yet another challenge, to avoid buying the edition with the cover posted here... :drool:

Friday, April 1, 2011

Blog Hop for Japan Giveaway

Hello readers and welcome to the Blog Hop for Japan Giveaway, courtesy of April @ My Shelf Confessions. The Hop: several bloggers are hosting giveaways from April 1st to 15th to help support the victims of Japan's recent earthquake. If you've read the news or watch TV, you know the cause, but I will just reiterate:  Japan experienced a hugely destructive earthquake and subsequent tsunami on March 11th, that claimed almost 20,000 victims and left hundreds of thousands homeless and without food, water and power. If you want to help out, please clink the donation widget below or on the right sidebar. All funds donated through this blog and others will be directed to Shelterbox, a not-for-profit organization that supplies disaster victims with the "emergency shelter and life-saving equipment" they need. Who else is in the Hop? See the list just below, and scroll down a bit to see what awesome stuff I'm giving away...
Giveaway -- Now that you ask, the lucky winner of this giveaway (chosen by will be graced with 2 pristine copies of French literary classics (in English, of course) and some fun gadgets as follows:

Swann's Way (Modern Library Classics)In Search of Lost Time, Vol. II: Within a Budding Grove (Modern Library Classics) (v. 2)
  • Swann's Way (In Search of Lost Time, Vol. I) by Marcel Proust
  • Within a Budding Grove (In Search of Lost Time, Vol. 2) by Marcel Proust
  • 1 mini blue Moleskine blank notebook
  • assorted international bookmarks
Rules:    To enter, leave a comment to this post with some variation of your email address so I can contact the winner for mailing info. I was gonna use a form, but too much craziness. US & Canada only. Contest ends Friday, April 15th. That's it! Again, please take a moment to donate via the widget on my right sidebar.  Thank you!