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REVIEW: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Reader, this book was published in 1847. Back then, writers liked to describe every bird and leaf and brooklet. Dialogue often consisted of elaborate monologues. Many of the ideas and values of the time are outdated and even offensive today. Still, I couldn’t help but love it. I read an advanced copy, beautifully illustrated by Marjolein Bastin. This would be the perfect edition to own, with gorgeous watercolor paintings that Jane herself would aspire to create. What satisfied me about Jane Eyre was her spirit and character – she was unapologetically herself. She reminded me a little bit of Anne Shirley (except that Anne was more “apologetically” herself.) Jane just wants to be accepted for who she is, but she is unloved for most of her early life. The story follows Jane Eyre through several stages. Her childhood as an orphan living with cruel relatives is heartbreaking. She endures hardship at a poorly run boarding school. She is comfortable, but unfulfilled as a governess at Thor
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REVIEW: Rebecca by Daphne DuMourier

Continuing with my reviews of top ten favorites of all time, I re-read Rebecca recently. Written in 1938, it has a writing style that can put me off sometimes - long descriptive paragraphs of the house and grounds - but in this case, it didn't take away from my love of this book. The point of view is of an insecure young woman who marries a widower, Maxim de Winter,  and moves to Maxim’s family home, Manderley, where she feels she is out of her depth, and where she suspects she has enemies on all sides. Everything about the house conjures the ghost of Rebecca, Maxim's first wife. We never do learn the name of the young woman who narrates this novel. After her marriage to Maxim, she becomes known as “the second Mrs de Winter”. She feels she will never live up to the standards of her predecessor. Everyone obviously adored Mrs de Winter (the name they still use when referring to Rebecca) and must certainly be comparing the new wife to the old. ‘She’s so different from Rebecca.’

REVIEW: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

I know you’ve got mental-health stuff.’ ‘Everyone’s got mental-health stuff.’ ‘You know what I mean.’ As a person who has struggled with anxiety and depression for most of my life, I felt a strong connection to Nora. For the first half of the book, she is slowly sinking into despair – she envies her dead cat, she thinks it would be easier to be a potted plant, she is estranged from her family and friends, she dreads conversations with strangers. She’s in a pretty negative state of mind: She didn’t tell him that while coal and diamonds are both carbon, coal is too impure to be able, under whatever pressure, to become a diamond. According to science, you start off as coal and you end up as coal. Maybe that was the real-life lesson. Nora decides she’s had enough of this life, and she ends up in The Midnight Library. Her old school librarian meets her there and explains that there are infinite lives she could have lived, based on every decision she ever made. The shelves of the lib

REVEIW: Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe by Madeline Miller is a retelling of Greek myths from the point of view of Circe, daughter of the god Helios. I loved the title character, and I loved that she was reimagined as a relatable and complex character, rather than simply a villain.  Circe is a misfit. She doesn’t get along with her family, she has a hard time following godly protocol. Zeus banishes her to an island, where she spends a lot of time with her own thoughts.  But she also has some adventures. She evens the score with Zeus by having a fling with his son. She falls in love, has a child, makes some interesting friends and remarkable enemies. She turns some men into pigs (they deserved it). ⁠ Circe may have been a goddess, but the best part about this character is her humanity, her compassion, and her longing to be accepted for herself. She is one of the best characters I have encountered in a while. I felt all the emotions through Circe’s loneliness, struggles and joys. ⁠ I loved the deliciously descriptive wri

REVIEW: Stay With Me and My Sister, the Serial Killer

Last February, I read two unique and surprising debut novels about family relationships by Nigerian authors. I have never read anything like either of these books before. Stay With Me  by Ayobami Adebayo is the story of Yejide and her husband, Akin, who married for love and want to break from the tradition of polygamy. But when Yejide is unable to get pregnant, Akin’s family pressures him to take a second wife. The characters are so complex… the events are unforgettable. I felt so many emotions reading this novel. I’m looking forward to reading anything this author writes. “Yejide would have a child and we would be happy forever. The cost didn't matter. It didn't matter how many rivers we had to cross. At the end of it all was this stretch of happiness that was supposed to begin only after we had children and not a minute before.” ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Stay With Me Ayobami Adebayo Published August 1st, 2017 by Knopf 288 pages   My Sister, the Serial Killer  is darkly humorous

REVIEW: American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson

  Lauren Wilkinson sets the bar high in her debut novel. It is written as a letter from the protagonist, Marie, to her twin sons. She tells the story of how she became a spy and what it was like for a black woman to be working for the FBI in the 1980s. Marie is contracted by the CIA to go undercover and spy on Thomas Sankara. The political aspect of the book is inspired by the true events surrounding Sankara, the president of Burkina Faso during the Cold War. Ultimately, this is a story about family. The novel spans decades as Marie also tells her boys their entire family history – from her relationship with her parents and sister, to meeting their father and what became of him. “I’m writing this to give you honest answers to the questions I hazard to guess you’ll ask while you’re growing up. I’m writing it all down here just in case I’m not around to tell you.” The pace is a bit slower than the average spy thriller, but for me it pays off because of the depth of the characters

REVIEW: The Unseen World by Liz Moore

In 2020 , my reading goal was 90 books. I surpassed that goal, reading 91, many of which stood out as exceptional. The Unseen World was the first of these. I read three Liz Moore novels last year, and each one was completely different. Long Bright River is a police procedural set in an opioid crisis. The Words of Every Song is a series of interconnected short stories about the music industry. The Unseen World , my favorite, is a family mystery with a touch of sci-fi. What the books all have in common is an emphasis on characters and relationships. There was something nostalgic for me in The Unseen World . I identified right away with the child narrator, Ada, who was born the same year I was. She is 13 at the start of the book when her father develops early-onset Alzheimer’s. When I was about that age, I read A Wrinkle in Time and it became one of my favorite books. In it, Meg Murray (also 13) enlists the help of her neighbor to find her father. He is a scientist working on a scient