Zoella Book Club 2017

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Hello everyone! 

I'm back again with some more book reviews. This time I wanted to talk to you about the Zoella and Friends Book Club 2017 with WHSmith. I have always been a big fan of Zoella and I have loved her previous two book clubs, so it will come as no surprise that I was very excited about this one. As soon as it was announced I hopped online and ordered the box set. Then I had to wait 2 months for my exams to be over before I could binge read them all! 



Yes I know, I read them at the end of August and it is now February, but I thought that this collection of books would be a perfect way for you all to get a scent of summer in your reading. That way you can escape from all this horrible weather we're having in the UK. Let me tell you a little about each book.



Letters To The Lost by Brigid Kemmerer 


This story runs in parallel lines between Juliet Young and Declan Murphy as they fall in love through letters and messages all the while not knowing who the other person is. Juliet is the perfect dutiful student, prim and preppy, but destroyed on the inside by the recent death of her mother. Declan is your typical bad kid, he has a bad reputation and a bad attitude to match. Their worlds collide when Declan finds a letter Juliet has written to her mother in the graveyard where he does his community service. This book is heart-wrenching and hard to read, but will take you right back to that person who everyone disapproved of, but turned out to be the best thing for you at the time. 


After The Fire by Will Hill 


I was so excited to see this book on the list and it definitely lived up to my expectations. It is loosely based on the Waco scandal in America and I remember reading about that happening so was very intrigued. The story tells the life of Moonbeam both before and after the fire that started her life. She grew up in a religious cult in the American desert ruled by the disgusting and ruthless Father John. Moonbeam knows the world she lives in is wrong so she starts a fire to break out and change it all for the better. This is a gripping 5 star read through and through! 


Girlhood by Cat Clarke 


Sadly this one was a little bit of a let down, I wanted it to be a much darker thriller than it actually was. It follows Harper trying to escape her past and the loss of her sister by throwing herself into her new school life, but then a new girl arrives and her story is scarily similar to Harper's. After her arrival Harper's world starts to fall apart, leaving Kirsty as her only connection to her old life. The ending was much fluffier than I wanted it to be, but it is a good example of how forgiveness and understanding can go a long way in improving a situation. Definitely still worth a read if you like light thrillers. 


History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera


I was a bit dubious about this one as I had read quite a few mixed reviews and I don't think it was really the right book for me. It has great representation and deals with loss and LGBTQ+ relationships very well, but I found it difficult to connect with Griffin as a character. Griffin needs to come to terms with the sudden death of his ex-boyfriend Theo and rebuild his life and friendships on new ground. He turns to Theo's new boyfriend and for answers and comfort, but it doesn't turn out quite how he was expecting. It is a well written story of life after death and new starts, worth a read if you are a fan of David Levithan. 


Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu


Aaaaah this book! Every woman and girl on the planet should read this book at the age of 12-16 and take home its very important message. Women are not disposable, we are not the weaker sex and we can stand on equal footing with men. Feminism is not about pushing men down to let us women rise, it is about finding a place to stand next to them as equals and working together. This book is everything I wanted The Power to be. Vivian Carter is the woman we should all be. She is fed up with being downtrodden by her male teachers, subject to chauvinistic remarks that go un-reprimanded. She creates a feminist zine and takes her school, her town and the world by storm! 


Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt


This book ripped my heart out, shredded it like confetti and threw the bits to the wind. Jack's family have taken in 14 year old Joseph as a foster child. Joseph has come straight out of juvenile detention after a very troubled back-ground lands him in serious trouble. Joseph isn't what Jack expected, Joseph is sensitive, kind and completely heart-broken. As he opens up to Jack, he tells him how he fell in love and how that love resulted in a little girl called Jupiter. Joseph has never even seen her, but his longing for his daughter is so strong that he enlists the help of sensible Jack in his quest to find her. Read this book, it will break you, but it is worth it. 


The Start Of Me And You by Emery Lord


This story is super cute and quite fluffy, probably the only fluffy book in this selection. My Mam is actually afraid of water so I enjoyed how the author dealt with the protagonist Paige's new found phobia. This phobia sprung to life after her boyfriend drowned. Now Paige is not only dealing with a very real fear, but with the new label of "dead guy's girlfriend". What Paige struggles with most isn't the loss of her boyfriend, but the loss of their potential. They weren't together very long and now their chance of a future has gone. This inspires Paige to make a list of goals in the hope that it will bring her back to life. This brings her into Max's world. Max is everything a nerd love interest should be, he is geeky, kind and really funny. I fell in love with him on the first page he featured. Read this book if you want to feel uplifted by new chances and teenage friendships! 


The One Memory Of Flora Banks by Emily Barr


My Mam reckons this book will be a classic one day. Flora has short term retrograde amnesia, meaning she loses her memory several times throughout the day and has to have lists and post-its at the ready to remind herself who she is. Then one night she kisses Drake at a party and remembers it. She goes on a quest to find Drake, but he has moved to The North Pole. Defying everything anyone expects Flora follows him there, all the while trying to remember how she got there! This story is gripping, funny and very difficult to not get attached to. Flora's struggle is inspiring and I wish more people would read this book. 

Wow, that's it! All 8 books from the selection. As you can see they cover a really wide array of topics and genres within the YA heading. There is definitely something in there for everyone and if you ever thought Zoella's book club would be full of fluffy insubstantial romances I hope I have changed your mind! 

Have you read any of these? What were your thoughts on them? Let me know in the comments below :-) 

xoxo

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February TBR

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Hello everyone! 

How are you all doing today? Have you got any interesting plans for the weekend? I am working this weekend, so I'll just be doing some reading and hanging out with Mr. GingerSnap in the evenings. Fingers crossed he will have finished the bookcase he is building for our house. If my February TBR goes to plan there will be quite a few additions!


Some may say I am being ambitious with what I want to read in Feb, but I like a challenge :-) 


1. Dubliners by James Joyce 


I don't know too much about this one beyond it following 15 Irish people and their every day lives in Dublin. I believe it shows different aspects of middle class Irish life. I'm quite excited to read this one because my Mam hated it and we have very different tastes in books. Generally if she disliked it, I will probably love it. 

2. Two On A Tower by Thomas Hardy 


I'm so excited about this one as Thomas Hardy is one of my favourite authors. This story follows two star crossed lovers as the try to navigate their feelings and avoid the minefield that is social class. The astronomy aspect of this novel also appeals to my inner scientist and I can't wait to get my teeth into this classic! 

3. The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar


I have been trying like crazy to avoid spoilers in the massive hype around this book. By the looks of things it is set to become a modern classic, taking the world by storm, but to be honest they had me at the word "mermaid". 

4. Nevernight by Jay Kristoff 


I'm a little late to the party on this book, so when I heard that the author was working on book 3 I decided it was time to tackle the first two. This one is quite a gruesome high fantasy novel. It tells the story of Mia Corvere, trained assassin and ruthless killer. She is determined to avenge her father's death, but first she must survive the rigorous training of the mysterious Red Church. I'm so excited to get to this one as it has been ages since I read anything like it. 

5. Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare 


I have been eking out this trilogy for as long as possible because of how much I love these characters. I never want to leave them behind, but it is time. My curiosity over how the story ends has won out over my dismay at finishing the story arc. This one follows the end of Tessa, Will and Jem's fight against the destructive Magister's automatons. The automatons are set to destroy the Shadowhunter world, the world they fight so hard to protect. I have a feeling this will break my heart, but I am feeling ready for it! 

Finally... 6. Thief Of Time by Terry Pratchett


This one is a bit of a cheat as I am already 1/4 of the way through this, but I'll count it nonetheless. Mr. GingerSnap has been building up my collection of Discworld Collector's Library editions as they come out and he bought the next four for Christmas. I have to wait for next year for the next 4 so I'll be dragging these ones out across the year to try to avoid too many withdrawals. Thief Of Time is the final book in the Death story arc and follows Time's son as he creates a clock which threatens to destroy time itself. So far I am loving this and can't wait to see what wonderful twists of plot this brings. 

What are you guys reading? Do you think this is over-ambitious? Let me know in the comments below :-) 

xoxo

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January Favourites and Reading Wrap-up

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Hello everyone, 

Dreary January is over and it is time to move onto the most romantic month of the year - February. For the next few days the internet will be over-flowing with people's thoughts for January and I thought I would join the throng by sharing the books I read this month and all the things I have been loving :-) 
I did read 2 more books, but they were on my Kindle

In terms of books, I read 7 books last month. Quite a tidy number if I do say so myself! Here are some brief thoughts and star ratings:

1. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton - thought provoking, but a bit depressing! 4 Stars

2. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen - stunning, soothing and funny! 5 Stars

3. The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells - gruesome and chilling, an ideal winter read. 5 Stars 

4. The Truth And Lies Of Ella Black by Emily Barr - fast paced, but a little bit disappointing! 3 Stars

5. Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare - as always her urban fantasy setting is incredibly vivid and her relatable characters made me cry like a baby! 5 Stars 

6. Silas Marner by George Eliot - slow to get into, but a lovely tale of family love and the simpler things in life. 5 Stars 

7. The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton - loved it at first as I thought it was going to be a thrilling spy novel, but then it turned biblical and it all turned out to have been a dream. Bit of a weird let down! 3 Stars 

Now it's time to talk you through my favourites! Are you ready? There are quite a few. 

Mr. GingerSnap and I have been re-watching Game Of Thrones ready for season 8 coming out next year. It's so strange watching it and now knowing what is coming. We noticed so many plot twists which when we first watched we thought "wtf, that's a bit odd", but now it makes so much more sense!! Seriously guys, go back and re-watch. 


I always get a little bit sad in January, it's probably a mixture of the cold wet weather and not having the festive period to look forward to. This year we decided to brighten up January by doing lots of interesting things out and about. To that end we had a load of friends down for the New Year's weekend, which was so lovely and cosy! We went to Stafford to see Tower Players put on Mort by Terry Pratchett in the theatre. They were absolutely fantastic and if they ever perform near you, please go and see them. Then to end January in the best way, we drove off to London last night with another friend to see Hollywood Undead live in Koko London. Last night was phenomenal and I would go and see them every night of the week if possible! 


I have also been loving being cosy and watching comfort shows this month, which includes My Name Is Earl and Friends :-) To make it even cosier Mr. GingerSnap has been making me a great many hot chocolates! 

So that's me for the last month! I'm currently reading Thief Of Time by Terry Pratchett and am hoping to finish that soon and move on to some very exciting new releases. Keep your eyes peeled for my February TBR! 

What have you guys been reading/loving this month? Let me know in the comments below :-) 

xoxo

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Top 5 YA Fantasy Series

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Hello everyone! 

This post is probably going to show my age, so let's kick things off with me saying that as a 24 year old woman I can sadly no longer class myself as a young adult. However, being a fully fledged adult does not mean I don't still enjoy reading YA as a genre. If you are old, like me, when you were a teen YA didn't really exist and all those books came under teen fiction. YA sprang to life when I had already passed into adulthood, so forgive me if some of these books blur into other age groups. 

Long intro aside, I am here today to give you a brief over-view of my top 5 YA fantasy series :-) They are in no particular order!


1. The Great Library by Rachel Caine


These books are for those of you who love books about libraries. They follow Jess as he integrates the Great Library of Alexandria on the orders of his book smuggler father. He was born into the brutal world of smuggling illegal books around the world, with no mercy shown to those who are caught by the library. Overtime the library has seized control of the world, rationing books and knowledge to only those deemed worthy. This provides and ideal environment for anarchy to grow. The anarchists like to burn: books, libraries, cities. They value human life above books. Now Jess is stuck somewhere between the two. His love of books makes him want to protect them, but his even fiercer love of his friends is tearing him in two. 


2. Abhorsen by Garth Nix

Sabriel is missing, I lent her to a friend :-)

The Abhorsen series has been going on for years, I read the first three books when I was still a teen! The book starts with Sabriel, the daughter of the Abhorsen crossing the wall into the Old Kingdom to find take up her heritage. As the Abhorsen-in-waiting she has to learn how to use the 7 bells to banish creatures returning from the rivers of death. This might sound a bit gruesome to some of my more squeamish readers, but I promise you these books are gripping. The next few books bring more main characters into play, creating a complex landscape of inter-woven stories. 


3. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke  


I love these books so much, Dustfinger was the first male character I ever truly fell in love with. This story follows Meggie and her father Mo as they run from the criminal Capricorn. Capricorn is no normal villain, he is the villain of a storybook, plucked out of his own story by Mo's silver tongue. Meggie has inherited Mo's gift, but she also has a gift of her own. Her written words can alter the story she is reading, but this comes with a price when she reads herself into a story she has rapidly lost control of. This series blurs the lines between the real and the written in the most fantastic ways :-) 

4. Tales Of The Otori by Lian Hearn 

Again, some books are missing! 

The Tales Of The Otori are loosely set in medieval Japan with elements of magic. Takeo was born in a remote village, worshiping a forbidden god. When his village and family are massacred he discovers he has mysterious skills, skills some may call magic. These skills mark him as a member of the Tribe, but his skills surpass even their levels of normal. He is the most powerful Tribe member for many generations, transforming him into a hunted man. Add to this his heritage as an Otori and a forbidden romance with the most beautiful woman in the empire and you have one hell of a good story! This book is for lovers of Game Of Thrones and The White Queen. 

5. The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare


This series being on the list will not surprise anyone. Cassandra Clare is well known as the queen of YA fiction after her Mortal Instruments series shook the world. Don't get me wrong, I love that series, but this one struck me more. Tessa is such an interesting character fighting between her feelings for two different men and her own strong morals. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, it follows Tessa, a young american woman arriving in London to meet her brother. Her brother never shows and she is kidnapped by the terrible Dark Sisters who torture her into revealing her ability to change into any person she chooses as long as she has access to a personal item of theirs. If this wasn't enough, she is drawn into the world of the Shadow Hunters, sworn to fight demons invading our realm. Among these are Jem and Will, two men as different as night and day, but both quickly staking claims on her heart. She must join their ranks to fight not only demons, but The Magister's harsh destructive automatons which threaten to over-run the world. 

I hope this hasn't rambled on too much for all of you! Please let me know your favourite YA fantasy series in the comments below :-) I'm always looking for new recommendations! 

xoxo

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A Beginners Guide To H. G. Wells

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Hello everyone! 

Today I'm here to talk about the grandfather of classic science fiction - H. G. Wells! This author has long been a favourite of mine, ever since I discovered The War Of The Worlds. Which I'm sure many of you will know from the excellent movie. The problem with this movie is that it can overshadow the books a little so I'm going to give you a beginners guide to reading this amazing author's work. 


Let's start with the most accessible of his novels: The War Of The Worlds and The Time Machine. Both of these novels are fast paced and thrilling. The War Of The Worlds details an alien invasion of planet earth, bringing with it the near destruction of human kind. The Time Machine tells the story of the nuttiest of all professors creating a time machine taking him thousands of years into the future. What he finds there is at first glance utopia, but with a little digging he learns that all paradises come with a dark price. When I read these novels I completely forgot they were written in the 1800's, the language is fluid and easy to read. These are the best place to start for H. G. Wells, once you've read these there is no going back and you'll be begging for more stories! 



The Invisible Man is almost as fast paced as the above, but it is a little slower to get into which could be off-putting as your first read. Once you are used to H. G. Wells' writing style you'll fly through this one. It follows Griffin, a mad scientist who has perfected a formula for making creatures invisible. This sounds amazing in theory, but it leaves Griffin desperate and friendless, slowly descending into murderous madness. He will stop at nothing to find the cure. I love the flow of this narrative, it jumps backwards and forwards in time as Griffin's tale becomes clearer, leaving you desperate for more after each page. 


The next two books aren't really hard to get into, but they do fall on the weirder end of the H. G. Wells scale. The Island Of Doctor Moreau is all about the horrors of vivisection and the ultimate mad scientist. Doctor Moreau lives on a deserted island with only his "creations" for company, creations is a kind word really. They are more like monsters, blended from the corpses of men and animals. This is a cautionary tale of what can happen when you try too hard to control nature.

Penguin's Little Black Classics collection is pure genius and they did not miss their mark with their choice of three short stories. The Sea Raiders tells of man-eating sea creatures raiding a seaside resort, which sounds comical, but when you read it it's terrifying! The Magic Shop and The Land Ironclads are two of his strangest stories and are not for the fans of realism. These two would not be out of place in Wonderland! The Magic Shop walks that fine line between tricks to delight children and sinister illusions made to frighten and horrify adults. The Land Ironclads tells a story of destruction on the battlefield at the hands of unstoppable mechanical fiends. Both these stories are bizarre and twisted, more for those who appreciate surreal literature. 



H. G. Wells is the perfect author to read if you love Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, he perfectly captures all the dangers of scientific advancement whilst weaving tales of terror and suspense. His novels are timeless and I wish more people were still reading these! 

Have I inspired you to read any of these or have you already read them? Let me know in the comments below :-) 

xoxo

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Why You Should Read Mansfield Park

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Hello everyone, 

This year is going to be the year of the chunky classics. I'm planning on sinking my teeth into as many as possible, starting with Mansfield Park by Jane Austen! I did cheat a little bit with this one and started it in 2017, carrying it over into the new year to wrap it up, but I am so glad I started with this one :-)



I have been a fan of Jane Austen since I was a child, I loved watching the tv and movie adaptations and I devoured Sense and Sensibility! From there I went on to read all her shorter novels, with Persuasion reigning as my long term favourite. Then I read Mansfield Park and boy did it knock Persuasion off its pedestal! So I am here today, singing the praises of my new favourite Austen, to give you 5 reasons why you should read this book. 


1. Fanny Price is the most fascinating heroine I have ever encountered
As a general rule novels are either character or plot driven, with the majority of character driven books being dictated by the protagonist. This is not the case in Mansfield Park. Fanny Price is so passive that she is almost invisible. I have never read a novel with a heroine you barely notice! She just bobs along following her cousins and their friends, reflecting on their decisions and predicting the outcomes of their poor choices. She is the ultimate advocate for patience, showing that if you make choices selflessly and based on good morals you will eventually get what you want. 

2. This book is laugh out loud funny!
I found so many of these characters completely ridiculous that I couldn't help laughing out loud at their antics. In my mind the winner of the most ridiculous person award goes to Henry Crawford. This man is such a pompous ass, in fact he is almost a caricature of the typical womaniser of Jane Austen's day. He makes sport of causing young women to fall in love with him, filling his jar of hearts everywhere he goes. Sounds familiar for some men (and women) of our day too right? However, he meets his match with Fanny. He chases her for so long to no avail that he convinces himself he is in love with her! Obviously he isn't really, it is a case of wanting desperately that which he can never have. A very good taste of his own medicine if you ask me. 

3. Hating a literary character is a lot of fun
I'm assuming many of you have read Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix, or at least watched the movie. Is Dolores Umbridge not one of the most hateful characters you have ever read? Well Fanny's Aunt Norris certainly gives her a run for her money. I hated her from my first encounter with her, she is mean spirited, snobbish and controlling. She despises Fanny for no better reason than the circumstances of her birth and idolises Maria for being high-born and beautiful, despite Fanny being a far nicer person than Maria could ever be. Reading her downfall at the end of the book and watching her get the social isolation she deserves is so much fun! 

4. Mansfield Park is a clever piece of social commentary
This book shows close up the very common practice of poor relations handing one or more children over to wealthier relatives to raise and house as their own. In the days before birth control family sizes could get a bit out of control and sending your children away wasn't seen as harsh, but as a kindness. Fanny is a recipient of this "kindness". Theoretically it should be great for her going to live with richer "betters", but in reality she is never truly accepted as one of their own. She lives in that twilight zone of better than a servant, but not as good as one of the children. It is a hard place for her to live and gives her all her strong morals and very dutiful nature. The commentary is seen most strongly when Sir Thomas (Fanny's uncle) urges her to accept Henry Crawford's proposal of marriage based on his lineage and wealth. Sir Thomas purposefully ignores his questionable morals and improper behaviour, growing angry at Fanny's protestations that she does not love him and would be miserable. In those days women were almost forced to marry men they did not care for on a daily basis and this is something Jane Austen spent her whole life rebelling against. Obviously there are more areas of social commentary than this, but I chose this as an example because I felt it to be the moist poignant. 

5. There is romance in abundance! 
So many people read Jane Austen's novels for the romance and it is definitely not lacking in this story. There is something here for everyone! The unrequited love of Julia for Henry Crawford is touching and cute, making you reminisce about all the silly crushes you had when you were young. Edmund and Mary's love burns bright and passionately, with arguments causing sparks to fly. This one definitely reminds you of that destructive relationship you held onto for too long. Maria and Mr. Rushworth have a selfish form of love, with Maria loving his money and status far more than she loves the man himself. Henry Crawford's pursuit of Fanny is comical and laughable, it made me want to reach into the pages and shake Fanny saying "please don't fall for this man, he doesn't really love you!" And finally, the slow-burning natural love of Edmund and Fanny is the cherry on top of a wonderful bookish cake. Fanny loves Edmund for years, supporting him and advising him even when it pushed him into the arms of another. She is so selfless and kind, that you wish for Edmund to love her almost as much as she does. Eventually he comes to his senses and realises that he what he desperately wanted to see in Mary Crawford has always been there in Fanny Price if he had only cared to look :-) 

Those are my reasons to read Mansfield Park and if they don't persuade you nothing will! I wish I could go back and read this book from scratch all over again, but as I can't do that, instead I'll look forward to the many times I will be re-reading it. I hope you enjoyed this post, if you've read this book let me know your thoughts on it in the comments below :-) 

xoxo

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Ethan Frome Review

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Hello everyone, 

If, like me, you are currently in the south of England you will be experiencing some very stormy weather! Now I think this is an excellent excuse for staying indoors cozied up with a good book. For me, one of those books is Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton so I'm here today with a review for you. 


Ethan Frome is a struggling farmer in a small isolated hill town in America. He has been leading a life full of misfortune, trapped first by sickly parents then by a loveless marriage and he is beginning to wonder why any of it is worth doing at all. This is when his wife's cousin Mattie comes to stay, in name she is there to care for his wife Zenobia, but in reality she is there because she has nowhere else to go. Ethan falls in love with Mattie's vibrant optimism, her yearning for knowledge he can teach and her good humour. He starts to fantasise about what life would be like with Mattie by his side instead of Zenobia. Now, feelings like that don't stay secret for long and Zenobia decides to intervene with disastrous consequences for the whole family. 


Rating: 4 Stars 

Positives: Excellent writing and characterisation, very thought-provoking 

Negatives: Depressing as hell

For lovers of: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy 

I gave this book 4 stars simply because of how much it made me think. Normally a story has a clear villain and some people would argue Zenobia is that person, but I disagree. All the characters are at fault really. Zenobia is the un-loving hypochondriac wife who is nonetheless jealous of her husband showing attention to another woman and does her best to thwart his happiness. Ethan is the husband who despises his wife, neglects her and lusts after her younger and more attractive cousin. Mattie is at  fault for encouraging Ethan, knowing full well he is married and that leaving his wife would render her destitute. All I see in this book is desperation. I pitied all of the characters and their hopeless state. At one point I had growing respect for Ethan when he resolved to not leave his wife and do "the right thing", but then he attempts suicide with Mattie and ruins it all. Yes I understand their reasoning, but him alive with Mattie or dead with her leaves Zenobia in the same position. There is a very misplaced sense of romance to their actions, which I appreciate, but do not like! 

The writing of this story is very compelling and I will definitely pick up more Edith Wharton. I have heard her described as one of the true American realists and I think it is essential to read her work as a comparison to Thomas Hardy's very British realism. Ethan doesn't have the amiableness of the iconic Tess or Hester, but he is nonetheless a very believable character. 

I am hoping to move onto a more up-lifting book next, most likely some more Jane Austen. I think more than one book like this in a row would be bad for my morale! Mansfield Park feels like a suitable joyful novel :-) 

Have you read this book or other works by Edith Wharton? Let me know in the comments below :-) 

xoxo

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