Title: Johnny Tremain
Author: Esther Forbes
Number of Pages: 256
Genre: Historical fiction
Book Number/Goal: 4.5 / 12

Esther Forbes left college to join the WWI effort; she published Johnny Tremain, which is set in the American Revolution, during the heart of WWII. Unsurprisingly, American patriotism is the book's biggest theme. Johnny, an arrogant silversmith's apprentice, loses the use of a hand and is forced to leave his craft. He matures into a proud (but not arrogant) young man through the influence of role models and loyal friends, and through the war, which breaks out around him. The end sees him a patriot, ready to take up arms and face his fear of death for his country and the liberty of oppressed people everywhere.

I didn't really care for this book. Johnny is difficult to like, especially in the beginning. His hand is burned when one of the other apprentices, whom he has continually mistreated, plays a prank on him, and one can't help but think that Johnny deserves it. Even as he grows up, he's not easy to like; and the book seems less concerned with likeable characters (though they are quite believable) than with historical happenings and general patriotism. Still, it's not an uninteresting read, especially if one is curious about the American Revolution as concerned lower-class citizens.
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([personal profile] stardancer May. 29th, 2009 11:55 pm)
Title: Jane Eyre
Author: Charlotte Bronte
Genre: Romance-Gothic horror-Bildungsroman (a character matures internally through encounters with the external)
Book Number/Goal: 3.5 / 12

From Sparknotes.com:

From its beginning, Jane Eyre explores and challenges the social preconceptions of nineteenth-century Victorian society. Themes of social class, gender relations, and injustice predominate throughout. 

This was a difficult read for me, though not as difficult as it was when I was twelve (I didn't get it at all then). It's quite long and the combination of styles, though done well, is unusual (I'm a little biased here; I don't care for horror stories). It is, however, a "classic", and the themes that Bronte used and the ideas she challenged tell a lot about the society she lived in.
Title: The Second Jungle Book
Author: Rudyard Kipling
Number of Pages: ? (I read it from the Gutenberg Project). Maybe 150, printed?
Book Number/Goal: 2.5/12+
My Rating: 4.5/5

Kipling spent the early part of his childhood in India, then made repeated trips back in his adulthood. The First and Second Jungle Books use people and talking animals to tell moral short stories, each bracketed by a pair of poems. Mowgli--yes, the human child raised by wolves and romanticized by Disney--features in about half of these.

I have owned The Jungle Book for a long time and was thrilled to find the sequel on the Gutenberg Project (by the way, if you haven't looked into that yet, do it! There are so many fantastic books there). I love the way Kipling weaves India in, from tales about the natives--biased, of course, by his British colonial views, but fascinating--and the way he portrays the animals who mentor Mowgli., farTheir personalities are tied to their species, so that Kaa, far from being Disney's idiot snake who ties himself in knots, is actually a 200-year-old, intelligent plotter of a being who trains Mowgli in hunting apes and snake courtesy. These stories are wonderful enough on their own, but they're also good to look at if you're interested at all in India in colonial times.
Title: Howards End
Author: E.M. Forster
Number of Pages: 271
Book Number/Goal: 2/12+
My Rating: 3/5

Howards End is generally regarded as Forster's greatest work. It explores the lives of three different families: the Schlegels, representing the more idealistic, intellectual part of the upper class; the Wilcoxes, representing a more stolid, conventional British upper-class ethics and society; and the Basts, representing the very bottom of the middle class. Forster uses their increasingly interwoven lives to explore questions of gender, class, money, and England itself.

The book was less boring than I thought it would be; there's actually quite a lot of scandal involved. It's not for the faint of heart, however; most chapters open with long descriptive passages, of houses or countryside or the state of England; definitely a difficult read. If, however, you're interested in this time period--the end of the Victorian era, just beginning to hint at the Roaring Twenties--or social/economic/gender questions, or books generally considered "classics," then this is a good choice.

Title: A Room With A View
Author: E.M. Forster
Number of Pages: 204
Book Number/Goal: 1/12+
My Rating: 4/5

This book was written at the turning point between the Victorian and Edwardian Eras of Britain. It is shorter and less complex than Forster's later Howards End (which could be a pro or con, depending on what you're looking for). It has elements of comedy, a rich cast of characters, and engaging dialogue. Its heroine, Lucy, fights her way from strict Victorian codes and boundaries--especially those of gender and class--to the newer, more liberal ways of thinking.

I enjoyed this; Lucy is a sympathetic character, and while the answers to her struggles seem obvious to the reader, it's also easy to understand why she thinks and acts as she does. It is a romance, but most of the romantic elements lie in Lucy's journey to find her place in a changing world.

Name: [personal profile] stardancer
Goal: At least 1 "different" book a month
Definition of "book": Anything at least novel-sized; also including books of poetry or plays.
Books read so far: 0
A little about my goal and my reading habits: I'm a fiction addict, and I love fantasy especially. While this is fine, I know that there's a lot of great stuff out there that I never get to. I'm defining a "different" book as one that I wouldn't normally pick up, glance at, and immediately devour. I know it's vague, but I know what I mean by it! I think my first project will be Jane Eyre. I've been aspiring to the classics lately. (Oh, and this count does not include the fantasy books, old favourites, and fanfic that I devour regardless of what else I'm reading.)


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