Word Up, Nerd Up

a few words about words

Main St. Book Club: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Written By: Word Nerd - Feb• 19•13

Jane Eyre

Charlotte Brontë

Release Date: October 6, 1847

Jane Eyre is the story of a small, plain-faced, intelligent, and passionate English orphan. Jane is abused by her aunt and cousin and then attends a harsh charity school. Through it all she remains strong and determinedly refuses to allow a cruel world to crush her independence or her strength of will. A masterful story of a woman’s quest for freedom and love. Jane Eyre is partly autobiographical, and Charlotte Brontë filled it with social criticism and sinister Gothic elements. A must read for anyone wishing to celebrate the indomitable strength of will or encourage it in their growing children.

I must admit, I was not happy to hear the Main Street Book Club February selection would be the classic Jane Eyre. Regency Romance is just not my thing.  At all.

Nevertheless, I settled down with Jane Eyre and was quite surprised to find…it was good. Really good.  There are no heaving bosoms and quivering members in sight, just a ferociously tough little girl in some very unfortunate circumstances.  Jane has so many horrible things happen, the reader can’t help but sing when it seems like things are finally looking up for our little orphan.

I won’t go so far as to say this is a perfect book.  I think Miss Brontë would have benefited greatly from an aggressive editor to trim some of the excess verbiage along the way.  There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.  While the book may be lacking in some aspects, the story is worth slogging through a few bloated passages.

My verdict:  Read it.  I was pleasantly surprised by Jane Eyre.  Far from the delicate flower that needs to find a strong, rich man (preferably with a title) to care for her, Jane is heroine I can get behind.  With the exception of one emo-girl performance (the forest after leaving Thornfield Hall), she is downtrodden but never defeated.  It is even more interesting if you take the time to read a bit on the Brontë family and look at the parallels between fiction and reality.

Remember us?

Written By: Word Nerd - Feb• 18•13

Have you been wondering what happened to Word Up, Nerd Up?  In a nutshell– a concussion, ballet, a new job, finishing a novel, an awesome 5 country book buying trip, more ballet, bills that want real money and not just website hits, another new job, agents, editors and critique groups- oh, my!

In short, life has been happening and WuNu had to take a backseat.  Maintaining our site had become a near full-time job…a job that pays in warm fuzzies and a graph that shows our hits.  That’s all well and good, but our utility companies flatly refused to accept those as payment.

Things have slowed down a bit, so we are easing back into the site.  Reviews come first, then we will add tutorials and recipes back into the mix.  Will we ever get back to our weekly schedule?  I sure hope so…and I hope you will stick around for the ride.

review: Angry Housewives Eating Bon-Bons by Lorna Landvik

Written By: Word Nerd - Jul• 21•12

Angry Housewives Eating Bon-Bons

Lorna Landvik

Ballantine Books/fiction

Release Date: February 3, 2004

The women of Freesia Court are convinced that there is nothing good coffee, delectable desserts, and a strong shoulder can t fix. Laughter is the glue that holds them together the foundation of a book group they call AHEB (Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons), an unofficial club that becomes much more. It becomes a lifeline. Holding on through forty eventful years, there s Faith, a lonely mother of twins who harbors a terrible secret that has condemned her to living a lie; big, beautiful Audrey, the resident sex queen who knows that with good posture and an attitude you can get away with anything; Merit, the shy doctor s wife with the face of an angel and the private hell of an abusive husband; Kari, a wise woman with a wonderful laugh who knows the greatest gifts appear after life s fiercest storms; and finally, Slip, a tiny spitfire of a woman who isn t afraid to look trouble straight in the eye.
This stalwart group of friends depicts a special slice of American life, of stay-at-home days and new careers, of children and grandchildren, of bold beginnings and second chances, in which the power of forgiveness, understanding, and the perfectly timed giggle fit is the CPR that mends broken hearts and shattered dreams.

This is not so much a novel as a collection of personal vignettes as told by the individual characters.  The shifting point of view is initially confusing, but soon settles into a comfortable rhythm.

It does have a bit of a “Desperate Housewives” vibe, with the notable exception that the main characters truly care about each other.  All of their flaws and foibles are laid bare with surprising results.

My verdict:  Read it.  Once I settled into the rhythm of the book, I found it very enjoyable.  Perhaps my favorite part of the book is that chapters are prefaced with the date (the story spans 30 years), the book club selection, the hostess and why they chose that book.  I love the little bit of history wound into the fiction.

review: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

Written By: Word Nerd - Jul• 19•12

Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy, Book 2)

Deborah Harkness

Viking Adult/fantasy, historical fiction

Release Date: July 10, 2012

Deborah Harkness exploded onto the literary scene with her debut novel, A Discovery of Witches, Book One of the magical All Souls Trilogy and an international publishing phenomenon. The novel introduced Diana Bishop, Oxford scholar and reluctant witch, and the handsome geneticist and vampire Matthew Clairmont; together they found themselves at the center of a supernatural battle over an enchanted manuscript known as Ashmole 782.

Now, picking up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliffhanger ending, Shadow of Night plunges Diana and Matthew into Elizabethan London, a world of spies, subterfuge, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the mysterious School of Night that includes Christopher Marlowe and Walter Raleigh. Here, Diana must locate a witch to tutor her in magic, Matthew is forced to confront a past he thought he had put to rest, and the mystery of Ashmole 782 deepens.

Deborah Harkness has crafted a gripping journey through a world of alchemy, time travel, and magical discoveries, delivering one of the most hotly anticipated novels of the season.

I was incredibly disappointed by Discovery of Witches, the first book in the All Souls Trilogy.  However, the last few pages sparked something that made me think the second book might be a more enjoyable read. 

The Diana in this story is not a limp and delicate flower that requires constant care.  The Diana in this story has a mind, opinions and she can walk all over town (actually, all over time) without assistance.  In short, she is a fully fledged and likable character!

Matthew remains dark and brooding, but we finally get to see how he came to be that way, rather than “he’s just a vampire”.   As his immortality unfolds before the reader, Matthew actually appears more human.  He isn’t “just a vampire”, but a man who has many responsibilities, many memories he cannot erase and an infinite number of lifetimes to experience loss. 

The cast of supporting characters and rich historical setting are superbly done.  The relationships are complex and my heart tugged with some of the decisions that had to be made. For the complete nerds in the audience (raises hand), Harkness provides a list of characters at the end of the book, noting which are true historical figures and which are fictional. 

My verdict:  Read it!  I am so glad that I did not let my disappointment in Discovery of Witches stop me from reading Shadow of Night.  I am eagerly awaiting the third book, as well as the theatrical adaptation.  I have one small rant (SPOILER ALERT!!): What is it with vampires and their supernatural sperm? I get the distinct feeling that we could put an end to all infertility with one vial of that stuff.  Are they vampires or NBA players? Dial it back a notch, guys!

review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (Main St. Book Club)

Written By: Word Nerd - Jul• 17•12

A Discovery of Witches

Deborah Harkness

Viking Adult/Paranormal fiction

Release Date:  February 8, 2011

A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together.  Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.   Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series-with an extra serving of historical realism.

I absolutely would not have picked up this book on my own.  I am really and truly over the whole modern vampire trend.  Let me sum up every modern vampire story out there– The vampire is gorgeous beyond belief, extremely wealthy and has unrivaled intelligence.  He acts coldly because he is attracted to the heroine’s scent and fears that if the facade cracks he will not be able to control himself.  The heroine is weak and needy, although she fancies herself to be a warrior.  The vampire must protect the heroine by making every little decision for her, including when to eat, sleep and bathe.  There is some powerful group that sets the rules for vampires and they are disturbed by the vampire/heroine relationship, sides are drawn and a battle ensues.

You may now skip the first two-thirds of A Discovery of Witches.

Don’t misunderstand, Harkness does a lovely job of telling the story.  Unfortunately, it is the same story we have heard many times before.  The names are different, the location has changed, but there is no doubt that the story is the same.

My verdict:  Skip it.  It isn’t until the last third of the book that things begin to get interesting.  I am actually looking forward to the next book in the series, as the story was just beginning to pick up steam when it ended on page 586.  Unless you are just dying for a rehashed vampire story, you can start the trilogy on Book 2.