Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte

Raised by her haughty Aunt Reed, Jane Eyre grows up knowing nothing other than a rigid harshness from both her distant relatives and the strict Lowood Charity School. Even through her rough childhood, Jane manages to maintain her integrity and spirit with the secret wish that things can only get better from here.

When she is hired as a governess by the dark and brooding Mr. Rochester, Jane finds her life taking a turn, for the better, worse, or both is unknown. Driven by her inner, unspoken desire for wider and richer love than Victorian society traditionally allowed, Jane must struggle between her own longing and moral standards in an attempt to find the best of both.

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Excuse the heavily influenced Goodreads description, but WOW!

This is my new favorite classic book. Unlike many other classic books in which many chapters go on with nothing actually happening, Jane Eyre is beautifully paced with a well though-out plot and memorable characters.

The beginning was not exactly slow, but a little confusing as to how it fits in with the rest of the story. It makes sense later, it sets up a lot of inner struggle further on in the story.

The writing style made me think very much of Emily Bronte, their tastes in guys was evident. There were also several parts in which I wondered if Dickens had co-authored in several of the brilliant, diabolical scheming scenes.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Violence: 3/10 (there was only maybe three short parts which are very creepy; I wish I could say why, but that would ruin the entire story!)

Language: 1/10

Inappropriateness/Romance: 3/10 (hello! This is a romantic classic, although nothing inappropriate ever actually happens)

Audience: Ages 14 and up, mostly just for the more difficult reading level.

Now excuse me while I go watch the movie……

The Other Book, by Philip Womack

Edward Pollock lives an ordinary life at his ordinary boarding school, where the food is bad and the teachers are way too serious. But one day he’s inexplicably drawn to a strange and powerful book, and suddenly the boarding school isn’t quite so ordinary anymore. Capable of boosting men to heroism or destroying them in malice and evil, The Other Book has laid dormant for 400 years, waiting for someone to restore it to its original glory.  While Edward must do his best to keep The Other book safe, a mysterious new teacher at the school becomes intent of getting a hold of the Book for her own sinister purposes.

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Sorry for not writing my own description this time (I usually do), I was at a loss for how to sum this one up. I hate to say it, but I am actually rating a book I didn’t finish. Yet I felt I needed to say something about it. I checked it out from the library because I liked the title, and the cover was updated. In the words of Agatha Swanburne: “All books are judged by their covers until they are read.”

Right from the very first chapter it will have you groaning and completely grossed out. And for no reason! I was disgusted by the beginning, which never made any sense. I won’t say exactly why, if you choose to read it you’ll find out.

The premise of the book is alright. The idea of a book that holds power in itself is okay. If it had been executed well. I was just confused as to exactly why certain things were, how they came to be, and where in the world I was. The first chapter should have been labeled a prologue, it confused me as to where I was.

It was really, really dark. Outside of the grotesque beginning, it was really creepy. The evil teacher mentioned in the description could almost be described as a witch, and the book brought about all these confusing dreams to the main character. There was also this weird comminucating with people from the past, or with people who were supposed to exist but never did. It didn’t make any sense.

I couldn’t understand what the author wanted to get across. Usually, authors start with either good character ideas or good plot ideas. I suppose this one started with a plot idea, but he was never able to marry the two. The characters were boring, the plot felt underdeveloped, and there wasn’t anything that stood out. I don’t want to say there were no plot twists, but I just didn’t care. I read the first maybe six chapters, then flipped through to see if it got better.

Overall Rating: 2/5

Violence: 5/10 (disgusting gore, and darker magical forces which are hideously evil.)

Language: 2/10?

Inappropriateness/Romance: 1/10

Audience: Ages 12-14? If there is any audience at all in a poorly paced book.

City of Orphans, by Avi

Maks is one of those mugs that you would call a ‘newsie’. A boy who stands on the corner and sells newspapers. It’s a hard way to earn money; the profit is 8 cents a day. But in 1893, that ain’t too bad for a 13-year-old.

When Maks’ sister is arrested for stealing a watch she never saw, Maks’ parents are confused and don’t know how to help her. Bein’ immigrants from Denmark, the law of the country don’t make no sense. Living in New York City don’t help much either; so much crime and poverty, and no one can help. Policemen are just as shady as the man who actually broke into Waldorf hotel last week and stole the watch.

With the help of an abandoned girl and an old, dying detective, it’s up to Maks to track down the real thief, in a city filled with the children of emigrants, who are all  poor and desperate. While some may have parents, they might as well be orphans.

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It’s funny; my first draft I wrote when I was only halfway through the book, but I totally changed my mind. The original rating was 2.5/5, and now it’s 4/5.

My original dislike came from the third person, present tense narrative. Not that that’s weird, but Avi spells out exactly how they talk, which can be hard for struggling readers and also for read-alouds. Avi also uses many incomplete sentences, even outside of conversation, but it makes it feel as though someone is narrating that speaks as they do. It makes the harder-to-read dialogue easier to swallow without having to switch back and forth between ‘normal’ speaking, and using an accent.

My favorite part about the book: Avi did his homework. He knew this subject well, and it showed. Almost in an unpleasant way; it felt like you were there, viewing the dirty underbelly of what it was like to be an orphan, hungry and cold on the streets, or even not to be an orphan, with a family who is so poor it almost would be better to be living on the streets so you don’t have any expectations of life getting better. Avi does paint a very clear picture of life approaching turn of the century.

For me, the characters almost took a back seat as he was painting this picture of what it was like without money, because no one had money to give, receive, or earn. It feels like Avi had this great idea about a plot, but as he delved deeper and deeper into the panic of 1893, the history aspect kept growing and growing until it almost made the plot insignificant.

Overall, it left something in me that I won’t forget. A deep sadness, in that, even though the story ended alright, there was still a city of orphans. I have never felt that before, for a historical fiction author to leave me wondering what happened to the rest of an entire city, even though we never met most of them.

I would be cautious who I recommend this to. The idea of a bigger picture within New York City was bleak. Not exactly depressing, but not cheerful either.

Listen to this:

(In reference to the newsboys): “Some lives in regular homes. Or, like you, don’t have no parents. They stay here or on the streets. Some sleep in those newsboys’ lodging houses. There are five of ’em. One for girls. Hey, I know a couple of guys who use old sewer pipes for homes. Some even live in rope houses.”

“What’s that?”

“Rooms with ropes stretched ‘cross. For two cents, you can hang your arms over the ropes, stand there, and sleep. Got a roof, don’t it?”

 

Overall Rating: 4/5

Violence: 3/10 (there are a couple ruthless bullies, plus a scene in which two men are shot, though no gore is described)

Language: 1/10

Inappropriateness/Romance: 1/10

Audience: Ages 10 and up.