Classic Book Review: The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

It is with profound relief that I write this review. I thought I would never finish. Yet here I am, mid December, having finally finished the book I set out to read in March! I’m going to copy and paste what Goodreads had to say about The Woman in White:

The Woman in White famously opens with Walter Hartright’s eerie encounter on a moonlit London road. Engaged as a drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie, Walter is drawn into the sinister intrigues of Sir Percival Glyde and his ‘charming’ friend Count Fosco, who has a taste for white mice, vanilla bonbons and poison. Pursuing questions of identity and insanity along the paths and corridors of English country houses and the madhouse, The Woman in White is the first and most influential of the Victorian genre that combined Gothic horror with psychological realism.

With that out-of-the-way, I have to say that I’m divided about this book and I’m going to try to make sense in this review, but my overwhelming relief in finishing may be clouding my brain a bit.

The story was fantastic. I love how it was written like a confession to the police, pasting together a story that you almost can’t believe, with unreliable narrators. So much fun. I will admit that it didn’t shock me. I’ve been reading historical romances for 20 years now, so the sneaky marrying for money and then trying to get rid of said spouse plot has been used multiple times. But this was done in a more gripping way. I was sucked in after the first 150 pages. Fantastic. I loved the creepiness of it.

Unfortunately, there were several irritations along the way. I am not a fan of the Victorian lady, or should I say grown up child. I know that this was what was expected of women in this time period, but I did not understand the love that Mr. Hartwright had for Miss Farlie. Miss Farlie was an adult child and Mr. Hartwright and Miss Halcombe spent much of the time shielding her from all knowledge of anything like parents. How Mr. Hartwright didn’t fall in love with Miss Halcombe I’ll never know.

The second little irritation was in the second half of the book. Miss Hartwright has kicked butt and nearly out maneuvered a nasty guy and yet she keeps saying over and over again how she is “only and woman.” I just can’t. If it had been once or twice I could have skipped over it, but it was enough that my eye started twitching every time it was written. She had already proven herself equal and I wanted to reach into the book and slap her!

Overall, I enjoyed this tremendously. The good outweighed the little irritations I had with the book and I’m trying to decide between 3 and 4 stars on Goodreads. I keep changing it.

This was the final book I needed to read for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2016! Go me!

Classic Book Review: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

My mother grabbed The Martian Chronicles out of a Little Free Library a year ago and I was a fan of Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451, so I decided to pick up this little book for my Back to the Classics 2016 Challenge. I didn’t read the Goodreads blurb before reading, but it would have explained a lot. Nearly everything, in fact.

The strange and wonderful tale of man’s experiences on Mars, filled with intense images and astonishing visions. Now part of the Voyager Classics collection.

The Martian Chronicles tells the story of humanity’s repeated attempts to colonize the red planet. The first men were few. Most succumbed to a disease they called the Great Loneliness when they saw their home planet dwindle to the size of a fist. They felt they had never been born. Those few that survived found no welcome on Mars. The shape-changing Martians thought they were native lunatics and duly locked them up.

But more rockets arrived from Earth, and more, piercing the hallucinations projected by the Martians. People brought their old prejudices with them – and their desires and fantasies, tainted dreams. These were soon inhabited by the strange native beings, with their caged flowers and birds of flame.

The Martian Chronicles is a book of short stories about humans colonizing Mars. It takes quite a few stories to really understand that they are cohesive overall – there is a story here, just not 100% following characters, it’s following Mars.

The book was published in 1949, so I did some research about “space stuff”. As I was reading I couldn’t help thinking about how much more we know about space than Ray Bradbury knew when he was writing. Despite it being set in the future (which happens to be now, yes, now!) the marriages are very 1950’s-esque, even among the Martians. The first pictures of earth from space were in 1946 and 1947; the first picture of the surface of Mars was in 1976. Knowing this helped me get a bit more into Ray Bradbury’s mindset while he was writing this. As far as humanity was concerned, this could have been the truth when it was written.

The Martian Chronicles is a sad book with colonization themes. The portrayal of humans was so sad and yet so true. It does end hopeful. Overall, it was a weird read on par with reading 1984 in 1984. The only words I can use to describe the experience are, unfortunatly, weird and interesting.

Until next time!

January Reading Wrap-Up

When you can’t dance, read!

Mount TBR – my own books that I read

  • See How They Run by Ally Carter 5/5
  • Illuminate by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristof 3/5
  • Itch Rocks by Simon Mayo 4/5
  • Space Dumplins by Craig Thomson 4/5
  • Waiting on You by Kristan Higgins 4/5
  • Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen 3/5
  • The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey 3/5
  • Vintage Veronica by Erica S. Perl 4/5
  • Chasing Shadows by Swati Avasthi 3/5

Back to the Classics 2016 – all these were reviewed on this blog and came from the library

  • Animal Farm by George Orwell 3/5
  • And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie 4/5
  • The Time Machine by H. G. Wells 2/5

Library Books

  • A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean 4/5

NetGalley Reviews

  • Radioactive! by Winifred Conkling 4/5

Although this looks like great reading, I added 9 books to my physical TBR. Basically, I replaced all the books that I read. I’m trying very hard to have a smaller physical book TBR. I care some about my eBooks, but not as much as the books taking up physical space. Next month I would like to read more than I buy. Happy reading, everybody!

Back to the Classics Challenge 2016

I’ve always wanted to read more classics. The problem with this is that I haven’t liked many classics in the past (a hang up from school, I think), and there’s no accountability in my desire to read. A secondary reason is that classics tend to take more brain power than I have available at any particular time. I’m a busy woman with many distractions. I tend to go for the lighter books that I can put down easily when my daughter needs help or it’s time to fold some laundry. So this year I’m going to get some accountability in my desire to read some classics. I’m going to participate in the Back to the Classics Challenge hosted by Books and Chocolate. It’s a great one because you can read 6, 9 or 12 books depending on how your year goes. Below are the challenges and my tentative selections for each.

  1.  A 19th Century Classic – The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
  2. A 20th Century Classic – Animal Farm by George Orwell
  3. A classic by a woman author – Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  4. A classic in translation – The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
  5. A classic by a non-white author – The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon
  6. An adventure classic – The Time Machine by HG Wells
  7. A fantasy, science fiction, or dystopian classic – The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
  8.  A classic detective novel – And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  9. A classic which includes the name of a place in the title – Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
  10. A classic which has been banned or censored – Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  11. Re-read a classic you read in school (high school or college) – Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  12. A volume of classic short stories – Dubliners by James Joyce

I will admit to being intimidated by a few of the above. Reviews and updates will happen periodically, so look out for them if you’re interested. Any words of advice as I embark on this journey?