“Things I Wanted to Say, But Never Did” by Monica Murphy – Review

BY: BRITTANY LEWIS


Whit Lancaster burst into my life like a storm. Dark and thunderous, furious and fierce. Cold, heartless and devastatingly beautiful, like the statues in our prep school gardens. The school with his family name on the sign. He can do no wrong here. This is his domain.

He’s a menace on campus. Adored and feared. Hated and respected. His taunting words carve into my skin, shredding me to ribbons. Yet his intense gaze scorches my blood, fills me with a longing I don’t understand.

When I stumble upon him one night alone, I find him broken. Bleeding. My instincts scream to leave and let him suffer, but I can’t. I sneak him into my room. Clean him up. Fall for his lies. Let him possess every single part of me until I’m the one left a gasping, broken mess.

When he leaves me alone in the dead of night, he takes my journal with him.

Now he knows all my secrets. My hate. My truth. And he promises to use my words against me. I’ll be ruined if my darkest secret gets out.

That’s when I strike a bargain with the devil.

I’ll let Whit Lancaster ruin me behind closed doors instead.

Goodreads

[UPDATE 1/9/23: THIS POST WAS CHANGED TO REMOVE REFERENCES TO THE 30 REVIEWS IN 30 DAYS CHALLENGE. I HAD A LOT OF REAL LIFE OBSTACLES THAT LEAD TO THE CHALLENGE FAILING, BUT THE REVIEWS I WAS ABLE TO COMPLETE WILL REMAIN UP]

“Thinks I wanted to Say, But Never Did” is another New Adult romance with a bully male love interest but this time the female protagonist has more badass in her.

Summer has a tragic past, including a sketchy step-brother and step-father and the content involving them require warnings. From what I recall there is no overly graphic scenes, but I would still caution away from reading this book if even a passing reference to rape is triggering to you. Take care of yourself, there’s better books out there you’re not missing much skipping this one.

I skimmed reviews today to remind myself of the plot and characters, and this quote summarizes what I do recall very succinctly.

Basically moral of this book is, all men are trash except for Whit.

♡tanaz♡

I do remember enjoying this book, it took me 10 days to finish but I’ve been having my Alexa assistant read my Kindle books to me before bed which has slowed my reading schedule down. I also had a busy beginning of the year finishing up my Preclinical Experience and Demonstration Teaching while finishing up my Masters in Education this past August (fyi why I have not written reviews in forever).

“Things I wanted to Say, But Never Did” had some great smut scenes and darker themes throughout but it did not draw me into reading more by Monica Murphy. As you will see in later reviews, I had moments I binged either series or an author’s catalogue of books. I even began rereading a series (we will go into detail on that when I get to Penelope Douglas in a couple days).

I am keeping strong with my 4 ☆ ☆☆☆ review because I enjoyed the darker themes and drama in this book.

“Broken Hill High” by Sheridan Anne – Review

BY: BRITTANY LEWIS


‘Go live with Nate Ryder,’ they said.

‘Everything will be fine,’ they said.

Are they nuts?

Nate Ryder has been the bane of my existence for the past five years. He’s made it his personal mission to make my life a living hell and now my parents expect me to go and live with the guy for the foreseeable future.

No thanks. I’d rather gouge out my eyes with a toothpick than live with him and his little brother, Jesse. Only problem is, they have my parents wrapped around their little fingers, thinking they’re the good little boys they pretend to be.

But I know better, and so does the rest of Broken Hill High.

Nate Ryder is not to be messed with. He’s a bad boy through and through. A bully. A guy who doesn’t care who he has to step on to get what he wants. He’s the devil and he knows it.

Now that devil is my roommate.

I better hold on tight because this is going to be one bumpy ride. One where I can guarantee that I won’t come out the same.

Goodreads

[UPDATE 1/9/23: THIS POST WAS CHANGED TO REMOVE REFERENCES TO THE 30 REVIEWS IN 30 DAYS CHALLENGE. I HAD A LOT OF REAL LIFE OBSTACLES THAT LEAD TO THE CHALLENGE FAILING, BUT THE REVIEWS I WAS ABLE TO COMPLETE WILL REMAIN UP]

The first book I read in 2022 was “Broken Hill High” by Sheridan Anne. This is the first book in a 5 book series. The second book, “Broken Hill Halo” was unfortunately put on my did not finish (DNR) list.

I rated “Broken Hill High” a 4/5, but I cannot recall why. Honestly I can barely remember the book at all. It melts together with a lot of what I’ve read the past 2-3 years, romance.

The concept of the book, and the series as a whole sounded like it was up my alley. An old friendship strained, a bully romance. Hell, I started my love of the subgenre with Penelope Douglas’ book “Bully”!

“Broken Hill High” just didn’t do it for me.

It had all the tropes and all the angst and New Adult themes and scenes, but the execution and writing just didn’t hold up. I was able to finish the book, apparently enjoying it since I rated it highly, but with the second book boring me enough to DNR it I cannot recommend this series.

What I do remember about this book is that the protagonist’s parents have to travel for work or something and request she stays with her mom’s friend, but because she is 17/18 and dislikes the older son of her mom’s friend the protagonist decides to stay at home. Something happens, I believe the male love interest – even though he bullied the protagonist the last few years – noticed she wasn’t eating and secretly cared for her, and the male love interest ends up kidnapping her. Eventually the two reconcile, mostly due to teenage hormones and close proximity rather than healthy or mature connections. The protagonist has a healthier friendship with the younger brother (2 year age gap I think?) than with the male love interest.

“Broken Hill High ” did not click with me, I can’t even remember the protagonist’s name and honestly I don’t care. The synopsis says the male love interest’s name is Nate, but it’s so inconsequential to this review. This book is just a copy and paste bully trope that thinking back was really boring. Because of that I am giving a new score of 2  ☆ ☆.

“Burn Down, Rise Up” by Vincent Tirado – Review

By: Angie Haddock


For over a year, the Bronx has been plagued by sudden disappearances that no one can explain. Sixteen-year-old Raquel does her best to ignore it. After all, the police only look for the white kids. But when her crush Charlize’s cousin goes missing, Raquel starts to pay attention—especially when her own mom comes down with a mysterious illness that seems linked to the disappearances.

Goodreads


I don’t usually veer into the horror genre, but this one was billed as “Stranger Things” meets “Get Out,” so I thought I’d give it a try. It is spooky season, after all. And it’s YA, new-ish, has diverse characters… so there are some topics I love involved here.

The action centers around a “game” that mostly college-aged kids play. It’s one of those dare things, like saying Bloody Mary or playing with a Ouija board. This one involves getting on the subway late at night, and heading in one direction without looking back. You want to stay in the game for a full hour, but not get off the train. What happens to the people who fail to follow the directions differs slightly by location, but basically you are brought into the “Echo.” This is a memory from an earlier, and terrible, time in the history of wherever you are. So, it might be a different time/era in London than it is in New York, for example. It all depends on the local history.

Our story takes place in the Bronx, and our main character is Raquel. Several kids from the area have already gone missing over the course of the past year, and no one really has any leads. But then, a friend’s cousin disappears. And Raquel’s mom, who works at the hospital, gets infected with something the doctors can’t identify. In talking with each other, the girls think these two things might be linked. They learn about the game, and decide they will have to try it for themselves to help Raquel’s mom.

They actually end up going into the Echo twice. The first time, Raquel’s friend, Charlize, gets left behind. Raquel comes back affected by what she’s been through, but she’s determined to go back for Charlize. She enlists another friend and his brother to go back in with her. This time, though, she has some ideas of what she wants to tackle during her hour inside.

The Bronx Echo takes the kids back into a time when slumlords were letting buildings burn – or maybe even burning them down on purpose? – for the insurance money. A lot of people were rendered homeless, and some died in the fires. Even many who didn’t die right then became plagued with health issues stemming from living in poor conditions, smoke inhalation, etc.

This story contains a lot of imagery that is scary – whether it’s of fires that really took place, or of zombies that were probably not a real part of the history. But it also talks a lot about community, and how neighbors relied on each other to rebuild and make the Bronx better. Taking matters into their own hands was their way out, and our main characters adopt that same attitude about the Echo itself.

I did not feel like there was anything too grotesque in here. But there is a lot of action, and it’s a fun ride.

This book came out earlier this year. I was able to read it for free through the Sourcebooks Early Reads program.


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“On the Come Up” by Angie Thomas – Review

By: Angie Haddock


Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.

Goodreads


This one was on my shelf for a minute, and I’m so glad I finally got to it! Did I happen to finish it the same day the (streaming) movie came out, without even realizing they were making a movie? YES. But I’m not watching the movie version yet, so it won’t influence my review.

Our main character here is Bri, who lives with her mom and brother in a neighborhood called The Garden – the same neighborhood Thomas wrote about in “The Hate U Give.” The characters from these two books don’t directly intersect, but the events of that prior book still weigh on the residents of the neighborhood in this book.

Like all well-written characters, Bri has a lot going on – her home life and family, school stuff, and her hopes for someday being a famous rapper. Her dad was a rapper, too, but Bri gets tired of always being compared to him. She wants to make it on her own merits.

She and a few friends get bused into a different part of the city to go to an arts school. The school needs a certain percentage of minority students to get certain grants, but the school’s security guards (and some teachers) are used to treating black and brown kids with a little more suspicion than white kids. This leaves the BIPOC kids feeling like they are just “numbers” – like the school wants them for the dollars they bring in, but is not worried about them as actual people.

When this all boils over, it prompts Bri to write a song, titled “On the Come Up,” that talks about her being a thug. She’s not – but the point of the song was that people are going to see her that way no matter what she does. The song blows up – but also creates controversy. Some white moms want the song banned, pulled from streaming platforms, etc. because they don’t think it’s appropriate for kids to hear about toting guns. This brings up issues of censorship, of course, but also reiterates the points the kids are mad about at the school – like, which kids are worth protecting? Some parents think their kids shouldn’t even hear about this stuff, but some kids are actually living around it every day.

There are a few things I love about Thomas’ characters here. First, they are teens, and have some teen stuff going on in their lives – who likes who kind of stuff. But it’s not the focal point. It doesn’t even really affect the plot all that much. It’s present, but not the point. (Of course, you could make the argument that some kids have to “grow up” sooner than others, leading them to focus less on usual teen things.)

Also, there are a lot of big political issues here – but they are brought up through the interactions of these kids with their school, online critics, their own parents, or others in their environment. It’s not like Thomas has to go on some lengthy diatribe about censorship – Bri deals with it incrementally as the issue comes up in her life. And other issues of safety, cops in schools, etc. are brought up in similar fashions.

This is the second book by Angie Thomas that I’ve read, but if you’re at all interested in the YA genre, or books about black characters in America, I’d definitely recommend checking out her catalog.


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“Poster Girl” by Veronica Roth – Review

By: Angie Haddock


Sonya, former poster girl for the Delegation, has been imprisoned for ten years when an old enemy comes to her with a deal: find a missing girl who was stolen from her parents by the old regime, and earn her freedom. The path Sonya takes to find the child will lead her through an unfamiliar, crooked post-Delegation world where she finds herself digging deeper into the past–and her family’s dark secrets–than she ever wanted to.

Goodreads


I chose this one because I do read a lot of novels set in a dystopian future, and (like many of you, probably) I remember Veronica Roth from the “Divergent” series. This one is positioned to be a standalone, but could easily spur some sequels. It is also intended for an adult audience, but likewise – a teenager could easily get through it.

This took me a little while to get into, but that is not unusual for a book that involves some “world-building.” Our main character, Sonya, was once literally a poster girl for the Delegation, and her dad worked for the government. After that regime was toppled, many people who worked for them were killed or put into the Aperture.

This space consists of four apartment buildings and two streets that cross each other in the middle. The people there only get deliveries of groceries and donated items monthly, so everything is pretty scarce inside. There is a guard who controls the entrance, but otherwise the inhabitants are left to police themselves.

This is where we find Sonya, the only one left of her family. She was only a teen when the Delegation fell. A new law on the outside is allowing people who were kids when put into the Aperture to be released, as they were (assumed to be) not responsible for the decisions of their parents. Sonya is just past the cut-off birth date, though, and early on in the book she becomes the youngest person inside. She mostly spends her time with older folks – widows and widowers – and considers herself one of them. Everyone inside has lost people.

As the blurb at top indicates, she is offered a chance to earn her freedom by finding a missing girl. She is given 12 hours outside the Aperture every day to conduct her investigation. She is given no budget, but thankfully there is free public transportation. One hindrance she constantly battles is that she is recognized everywhere.

One of the debates raging in the outside world is the use of technology, and whether or not there should be limits on what is used and how. Sonya is led to Emily Knox, an infamous hacker, to see if she has any data that would help find the missing girl. A lot of the back half of the book is spent in this world – with hackers, tech, and anti-tech extremists. There is a lot of action, and a few deaths. During this time, Sonya is also learning more about the inner workings of the Delegation, the roles of her dad and her family friends within the Delegation, and the new government. This section kind of had a “Jason Bourne” vibe to me, with her constantly learning what she didn’t know.

I’m not going to give away the ending, but Sonya does find out what happened to the missing girl. She also grows a little more assertive during this whole ordeal, and uses her newfound knowledge to get what she wants in the end.

This book comes out today, October 18th. I was able to read ahead through Netgalley.


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“Lessons in Chemistry” by Bonnie Garmus – Guest Review

By: Abby Phoenix


Hi, I’m Abby! Like a lot of people, I have gone through several ebbs and flows in life with reading, from a childhood with my nose buried in a book, through various love-hate relationships with school-assigned reads, to the exciting rediscovery of reading again for pleasure in adulthood. 

Nowadays, I’ve settled into a life routine where I try to always make space for my current read, because it just helps my mood so much when I have some sort of book that I can dive back into in my spare moments. I love being absorbed into a good story, so I mostly stick to fiction. That love of being immersed into a story’s world means that I’m one of the few avid readers I know who cannot (I’ve tried and always fail!) read more than one book simultaneously. 

In the last five years or so, I’ve also tried to make it a habit to primarily read books not written by white men, in an effort to balance out all the reading I did until that point. Initially I thought that might be a difficult or overly limiting restriction, but instead, I’ve found it to be both easy to do, and incredibly enriching in terms of expanding and challenging my perspectives on the world – the very thing that we hope all books can do for us!


Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing as an average woman. But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute takes a very unscientific view of equality. But like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (“combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride”) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo.

Goodreads


“History is written by the victors” – a quote that is so true that, of course, even its own origin underscores the point that the loudest and most famous voice gets to claim sole ownership of our collective story.

Most of us know this to be true with just a little bit of critical thinking: life never has been a single, streamlined story fitting the clean few paragraphs we read in our history books. Countless stories are discarded (often forcibly) from our histories in favor of the narrative most favored by those in power, until enough time passes that we accept that story as solid fact. 

But on the other side of fact is fiction, oh, fiction. 

Fiction has always been a welcoming home for the stories untold, the ones that we know have always existed too, and might be even better. One such narrative is found in the extremely appealing period novel “Lessons in Chemistry,” by Bonnie Garmus, which introduces us to Elizabeth Zott, a woman who seems to exist completely outside of her time.

Elizabeth’s 1960s American setting expects women to be homemakers whose sole priority is keeping their husbands and children happy. As a brilliant chemist who’d love to be laser-focused on her work and nothing else, Elizabeth’s only request of the world around her is to be taken seriously as a scientist. But when she’s of course stymied in her original path by the standard tools of repression (the one-two punch of structural discrimination and societal shame), only one life option opens up to her as a possible path forward. That option, combining the identities deemed appropriate for a woman of her time (cook, teacher, and actress) and the era’s shiny new medium: a television chef.

Giving Elizabeth this platform though proves to be a mistake for those who would prefer she stay in her pre-assigned place. Looking through our 2022 lens, we all now know something that they were still waking up to in the 1960s: television has a way of lending automatic authority to anyone on its screens, and flattening their identity in the process. Elizabeth’s newfound notoriety helps her achieve a version of her original goal of establishing herself as a scientist, by the simple act of calling herself one on television. 

Additionally, and more powerfully, by using a medium that gives her direct access to women around the country (“this is a show for normal housewives!” is a message she receives repeatedly) Elizabeth is able to broadcast her profound expectations for all other women in the world. This is based in simple fact: modern society only operates as well as it does due to the consistent hard work that half of the population puts into keeping it moving. That work has tangible value, whether or not it’s socially and economically recognized. Crucially, Elizabeth both sees and inspires others to see the potential in this women’s work: women can do this, and they are capable of so much more too.

It’s a heady journey to witness, and Elizabeth and the characters who surround her (both human and canine) are largely likable compatriots on that path. But while the story itself may make you pump your fist or at the very least, nod along towards its satisfying conclusion, it’s worthwhile to examine this enjoyable read a bit more closely. Characters like Elizabeth star in so many of our favorite fictional stories that purport to tell some of the real story of the history we know: the single person who thinks differently from everyone around them and stands up to the system. This story of a charismatic iconoclast like Elizabeth igniting change in a whole society that never encountered someone quite like her is certainly cathartic as we try to reconcile how times seem to shift so quickly, turning American women from Donna Reeds to Gloria Steinems in the space of a mere decade. But it’s also a lie. 

Just like in the 1960s, and in all times before and since: there is no one Elizabeth Zott coming to save us – instead, it is incumbent upon us all to tap into our internal Elizabeth in ways small and large as we work together to build our own stories of what will hopefully one day become our history.


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“The Mountain in the Sea” by Ray Naylor – Review

By: Angie Haddock


Rumors begin to spread of a species of hyperintelligent, dangerous octopus that may have developed its own language and culture. Marine biologist Dr. Ha Nguyen, who has spent her life researching cephalopod intelligence, will do anything for the chance to study them.

Goodreads


This is some heady, classic sci-fi right here! One of the main ideas is that of communicating with another species – but this book tackles it without having to leave Earth or deal with aliens.

There are a few different stories running through the book, but eventually three main ones emerge. The one we probably spend the most time with is that of Ha Nguyen and two others who are sent to the Con Dao archipelago – off the coast of Vietnam – to study the local octopus population. This story takes place at an undetermined time in our future, where AI is more developed than it is now. One of the other characters on the island with Ha is, in fact, a non-gendered, artificially created being called Evrim. The other is in charge of security. There is another character who is often mentioned by these three, but we don’t meet her in person until 60% into the book. She is the world’s leader in developing AI, and is Evrim’s creator.

There is also a story about a hacker, who is tasked with finding a hidden portal into a system that mimics a neurological network. It’s so complicated, he thinks it might actually be a real, living brain. Can one hack those?

The other main story is about an AI-controlled fishing vessel, that utilizes slave labor (kidnapped people) to bring in its catches. One slave on the boat does mention being from Con Dao, but that is initially the only connection we can see to the other stories.

These three stories finally converge, but with only 20% of the book left. One is not exactly in sync – time-wise – with the other two. I was kind of expecting this to happen, as timeline shenanigans are rampant in modern science fiction… but the one that is a little off was not the one I was predicting!

Obviously, communication is a key theme in this one. It kind of reminded me of the movie “Arrival,” in that it really took its time wrestling with the details of how to communicate with a species that you have almost nothing in common with.

The other major theme deals with consciousness, sentience, and what it means to be alive. Are those all the same things, or not? If one is conscious, does that make it sentient? Where does self-awareness come into play? Does a species need to cultivate a culture, or merely communicate, to be taken seriously?

This book comes out today, October 4th. I was able to read an advanced copy through NetGalley, thanks to the publisher (Farrar, Straus and Giroux).


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“The Girl Explorers” by Jayne E. Zanglein – Review

By: Angie Haddock


The Girl Explorers is the inspirational and untold story of the founding of the Society of Women Geographers―an organization of adventurous female world explorers―and how key members served as early advocates for human rights and paved the way for today’s women scientists by scaling mountains, exploring the high seas, flying across the Atlantic, and recording the world through film, sculpture, and literature.

Goodreads


I’ve delved into a lot of stories about badass, historical women this year! This one seemed like a perfect fit with that theme. And, while the individual stories were often interesting… the book as a whole was frustrating.

The author introduces us to an actual society that existed (and still exists) for women explorers. It was founded because, at the time, women were excluded from other similar societies/professional groups. And yet, women were going on travel expeditions, writing books about their travels, and more!

One of the ongoing themes that really struck a chord is that, often, women were part of bigger (co-ed) expeditions that men took all the credit for. They helped write (or type, or edit) the travel books that had men’s names attached as the sole author. Or they took all the photographs. Sometimes these men were their husbands or lovers, but not always.

As I said, the individual stories were often interesting. Some members whose names are still known include Margaret Mead and Amelia Earhart, for example. Others traveled to Asia and South America; some were artists, divers, filmmakers, or mountain climbers. The book also delves into the suffragist movement a little.

This brings me to one of the missteps I felt like this book took… as it went on, it started bringing up all kinds of social movements of the time, including the plights of other races and of the LGBT community. Most of the women of the Society were white women of some means (at least enough to travel regularly), and tying their causes to some of these other ones seemed like it was treading close to becoming a “white savior” narrative.

The author tries to tie every story/chapter to the next, and often these transitions seem forced. Also, as some women were older than others, the stories skip back and forth in time, making these transitions even more wonky. The book as a whole didn’t feel like it had a great flow, if you will. Of course, this is just my opinion.

Overall, I’m glad I pushed my way through this one. I was happy to learn about some of these women, and their work, many of whom I had not read about before. But as a whole, the book felt a little like “work” to get through.

I was able to read this one for free through the Sourcebooks Early Reads program.


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BFF Shout-out and 2 mini-reviews

By: Angie Haddock


If you’ve been reading our blog for a long time, you may have noticed that I get a few of my ARCs (advanced reader copies) through a group called Books Forward. When I first signed up with them, their main headquarters were right here in Nashville. Since then, though, their New Orleans office has become home base. I only mention this because I feel like they’ve picked up a lot more New Orleans-based authors lately! (See this review.) In fact, both books I’m going to talk about today have their roots there.


The first is a coffee table book called MUTTS, by Olivia Pritchard. Pritchard photographed more than 100 dogs for this book, all mixed breeds, and all from the greater NOLA area. The main focus of the book is the pictures, although there is more info on each dog in the back/index part of the book.

This is a larger, hardcover book that would make a great gift for a dog lover. (Hint, hint – Christmas is coming.) And to that end, I’d like to highlight another aspect of this one, taken directly from the author’s note:

“In addition to hopefully fostering more love for mutts, a portion of the proceeds from the book are being donated to organizations that rescue and spay/neuter, including Take Paws Rescue, Animal Rescue New Orleans, Zeus’ Place, Greta’s Ark Animal Rescue, Trampled Rose Rescue, and the LASPCA.”

MUTTS comes out today, September 20th, 2022. Look for it at your favorite retailer or on Bookshop.org.


The next book I want to shout about today is called Phoebe Cakes and Friends: An Alphabet Tail, and is by Michelle Dumont. Phoebe was a rescued Bulldog that lived with Dumont, and inspired her to start writing children’s books. This is the second installment, and is a board book that introduces kids to the alphabet. Instead of “A is for Apple,” though, each letter represents a dog breed!

This one comes out next week, and is perfect for toddlers who love animals. Keep an eye out for it.


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“Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte – Review

By: Angie Haddock


Orphaned as a child, Jane has felt an outcast her whole young life. Her courage is tested once again when she arrives at Thornfield Hall, where she has been hired by the brooding, proud Edward Rochester to care for his ward Adèle. Jane finds herself drawn to his troubled yet kind spirit.

Goodreads


This one was first published in 1847, so I’m not going to worry about spoilers with my review. And if you haven’t guessed it, this was my pick for this year’s #SummerClassic.

The story takes place in roughly five places. The first is the mansion of Jane’s aunt, where the orphaned Jane lives with her aunt, three spoiled cousins, and various servants. The family of the house treats Jane like a second-class citizen, and she is utterly miserable. Around the age of ten, she is sent away to a boarding school. At first, this stage of her life looks like it will be just as miserable as the first. But, Jane proves herself and actually ends up thriving at the school. She even goes on to teach there for 2 years after she finishes her schooling. But eventually, she wants to see more of the world, and interact with other people.

This brings her to Thornfield, where she is hired as a governess to a young French girl who is the ward of the master of this old mansion. She befriends the girl, and several servants there, but the master of the house is initially absent. She eventually does meet Mr. Rochester in an eventful scene, where he injures himself making his way home.

Jane and Mr. Rochester strike up an odd relationship (in my mind). They enjoy each other’s conversations, in part because they feel they can be honest with each other – including being a little antagonistic at times. In fact, Rochester pretends to be engaged to someone else for almost a month just to see if Jane will be jealous.

Jane is in love with him, but doesn’t really consider herself lovable. So it’s quite a shock to her when he asks her to marry him. She does say yes, though.

Here’s the thing: we’re only 55% through the book at this point. So is the back half her married life? Nope.

All along, something’s been weird at Thornfield. Jane assumed it was one crazy servant named Grace, and couldn’t understand why Rochester was protecting her (not firing her, or wanting to talk about it). Then, as Jane and Rochester are about to be married, we learn that… he is already married! And the first wife is both crazy and locked upstairs at Thornfield. Grace, in fact, is actually her caretaker.

So the next morning, before anyone else is awake, Jane runs away. She spends a few days on the road, but eventually finds shelter with some siblings who are just a bit older than her – two sisters and one brother – and their sole servant. The brother is a local minister, and has recently set up a girls’ school, so Jane ends up working there. She eventually comes to learn, through the passing of a distant uncle, that these three are her cousins. They also inherit money from the uncle, which changes her circumstances.

In the year or so she lives with her cousins, she does write to Thornfield to check on Rochester, but no one answers. Her male cousin is pressuring her to go to India as a missionary with him, and she is conflicted about it. She decides she needs to know for sure what happened to Mr. Rochester before she can decide on leaving the country. So she heads back to find that the mansion had burned down not long after she left. The crazy wife set the fire, and did not survive the incident. Most of the inhabitants have gone on to different places, while Mr. Rochester – now blind – lives with just two servants in a nearby cottage.

Jane finds him there, and they finally marry. She lives the rest of her days with him, but continues to see her cousins semi-regularly. The male one does travel to India, so she only hears from him by mail. We learn that Jane is telling this story ten years into her married life, so she is only about 30 years old at the time, but that is where this story ends.

This was my first foray into any of the works of the Bronte sisters! Having finally read it, my question for you, readers, is… is there a particular movie version you love that I should check out? Hit me with the recommendations!


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