5.24.2016

Top 10 Books About Which I Feel Differently Now That Time Has Passed

Top 10 Tuesday is an original feature of The Broke and the Bookish.
This week's theme: Top 10 Books about which I feel differently now that time has passed. (less love, more love, complicated feelings, indifference, thought it was great in a genre until you became more well read in that genre etc.)
This is a tricky one. I feel like most of this is going to be an "it's complicated" situation...

1. The Tin Drum, by G√ľnter Grass - Yeah, starting with some heavy stuff here. Sorry, not sorry. This was required reading for one of the courses I took in college for my English minor, called "The War Novel." The professor chose to focus on the World Wars, so it was full of O'Brien, Grass, Hemmingway, Celine, Barbusse and - god help us - Proust. Of the ones that I actually read (because I definitely didn't trouble myself with half of them), The Tin Drum is one of the ones I hated most. But nine-ish years on, it's grown on me. You can't make me re-watch the film (LOL nope) but the style and the voice are more appealing now. 

2. Save Me the Waltz, by Zelda Fitzgerald - In high school, I was obsessed with the Fitzgeralds. Ob. Sessed. In 2003, I managed to acquire a disintegrating 1968 paperback of this, the only novel attributed to the wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald. I keep it squeezed on a shelf tightly, between two other books in the hopes that it will keep it from deteriorating further. I love it more with every read. It's clumsy and human in a way that Scott's novels strive to be but almost never achieve.

3. Lester Higata's 20th Century, by Barbara Hamby - I loved it when I read it in 2010. But now I can't remember why. Almost nothing from it has stuck with me, aside from Hamby's inherent poetry.

4. Angels and Demons, by Dan Brown - I know. I know. Dan Brown. Dan Brown was once the crown prince of popular fiction. He couldn't write those historical thrillers quick enough for the populace's hunger for them (or Tom Hanks' for that matter). I read The DaVinci Code overnight - in about 6 hours. But Angels and Demons I read over the course of a college semester. I just didn't have the option of not sleeping one night to try and get through it. I think, for that reason, I liked A&D more - because it lived with me longer. But now I honestly could barely tell you what the difference is between the two. Blame Tom Hanks and that awful hair he has in those movies.

5. The Echo-Maker, by Richard Powers - Another one from college that I'd rather forget. This was for a Contemporary Fiction class (and it was very contemporary, as the book came out the same year as the class) and I thought it was wretched. And something about just the memory of reading it makes me angry. It won awards! It was a Pulitzer finalist! And it was a waste of my time.

6. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by JK Rowling - As the release of the 7th and final Harry Potter book approached, I re-read all of them. I had done this for the last four books. Up until that time, Goblet of Fire had been my favorite. And then something changed. I honestly can't tell you what it was, but a switch flipped as I re-read Order of the Phoenix that summer, and it was like re-discovering something you'd lost in an old house when you were a kid, that has suddenly turned up in a desk drawer 2,000 miles away. However many years later, still my favorite.

7. The Color of a Dog Running Away, by Richard Gwyn - When I first read this book, I was sooo into it. But, looking back, it's kind of like The DaVinci Code Lite.

8. Auraria, by Tim Westover - Loved this book when it came out, still love it, and I wish that more people knew about it!

9. Mystery on the Moors, by Barbara Michaels - I picked up this 1967 paperback at a Books-a-Million in probably 1999? 2000? It was my first introduction to the gothic novel (Jane Eyre hit my desk about two years later) and I pretty much thought it was the best thing ever. In retrospect, it's not that great. However, I still have my poor (like Save Me the Waltz) disintegrating copy (the cover is now completely gone), and it's another one of those books that I *know* no one else has read, and that makes me a little sad.

10. Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen - Of all the Austen novels, this one took me the longest to come around to. Fanny is kind of a push-over as far as Austen heroines go, and she's in love with her first cousin which, you know, is weird. Frankly, the damn thing bored me. But when I gave it a second go, I noticed the subtle bite of the narrator's tone, the quiet judgement falling from Austen's pen, and the sweetness of its simplicity. I find that I like it much more now.


5.22.2016

Collected Book Reviews (5/15-5/22/16)

Our next review will be along shortly! In the meantime, be sure to check out more from the critics in this week's collected reviews:

LaRose, by Louise Erdrich
which Mary Gordon praises as "superb." 

Girls on Fire, by Robin Wasserman
which Michael Schaub says is "nearly impossible to put down."

Jade Sharma's Problems, which
the author discusses with Devin Kelly over at 

And finally The Bridge Ladies, a memoir by Betsy Lerner, 
about mothers and daughters, and their struggles to get along. 





4.29.2016

Review: Charlotte Collins, by Jennifer Becton

Charlotte Collins
A Continuation of Jane Austen's
Pride and Prejudice
, by Jennifer Becton
published independently, 2010 | 256 pp
When Jane Austen was alive, one would not yet have conceived the notion of a spin-off. But since her time, secondary characters have made excellent material for just that, whether it's an alternate perspective of a beloved novel's main events, or a continuation of a novel that follows one of the story's side branches, as we have with today's subject - Jennifer Becton's Charlotte Collins.

For any lover of Pride and Prejudice, this is a delight. Its is constantly pointing in the direction of its inspiration, but it does not suffer for that. It is it's own creature, blossoming from a cutting, as it were, of the original novel - similar, but laying down its own roots - its movement independent of the original.

The story begins some seven years following the events of Pride and Prejudice. Mr. Collins has died (in a manner suiting his folly) and Charlotte must find her independent way in the world. She will not do so alone, however, for her younger sister Maria seizes on this opportunity to make Charlotte her chaperone as she finds her way through society and attempts to secure a husband of her own. In Jennifer Becton's hands, their tiny world of Kent becomes much larger, and Austen's characters blossom into leading players.

For many readers, Charlotte and Maria are thankless supporting characters to the Bennet sisters' plot, so seeing them so fully fledged here brings a kind of comfort. Becton's ancillary characters create a new part of the world that is remarkably detailed and bears the sort of witty appraisals one might expect from Austen's own pen (were it not for some of this author's indulgences in 19th century American exoticism and a slightly more passionate portrayal of emotion in general - both common traits in this brand of writing).  It is a credit to both Austen and Becton that Charlotte and Maria (and Lady Catherine) have a strength of their own and have no need to stray far from there inherent characterization in this newer continuation. They are all very much the same people, but it is the new story that allows us to see them in full form.

Charlotte Collins is a real tribute to Jane Austen, with shades of her other novels - most particularly, I found, Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility; but it bears the mark of its home world most of all. I have not found, in my reading of Austen offshoot fiction, a work focusing on a minor character to do so as successfully as Jennifer Becton has managed here. And while I can't recommend this book to someone looking for a fresh or modern Austenesque novel, I think that anyone who loves reading Austen in its original form could give it a go and be the better for it.