Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Review: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

Here is a summary of the book from the publisher's website:

At the staid Marcia Blaine School for Girls, in Edinburgh, Scotland, teacher extraordinaire Miss Jean Brodie is unmistakably, and outspokenly, in her prime. She is passionate in the application of her unorthodox teaching methods, in her attraction to the married art master, Teddy Lloyd, in her affair with the bachelor music master, Gordon Lowther, and—most important—in her dedication to "her girls," the students she selects to be her crème de la crème. Fanatically devoted, each member of the Brodie set—Eunice, Jenny, Mary, Monica, Rose, and Sandy—is "famous for something," and Miss Brodie strives to bring out the best in each one. Determined to instill in them independence, passion, and ambition, Miss Brodie advises her girls, "Safety does not come first. Goodness, Truth, and Beauty come first. Follow me." 

And they do. But one of them will betray her.

My Review:
I have been wanting to read this book for quite some time, and just this last year it was chosen as a book club selection with my group.  I have heard many glowing reviews of this novel and now that I have read it, the reviews have me confused.  I am not part of the crowd that found enjoyment from this book.

For the most part, this book was boring for me.  When it wasn't boring, I think it actually made me angry.  As a teacher in a girls school she would hand-pick a group of girls to be her prodigies.   All the girls in school wanted to be a part of the "Brodie set", so you can imagine the status given to the girls that are selected.  This part of the book made me angry, that these girls were thought of as being better than the rest.  Since when is it ok for a teacher to cultivate dividing lines among students?

Once the girls are chosen, Miss Brodie would meet with them during the schooldays.  These meeting should have been full of teaching instruction and lessons, but they were everything but that.  Contrary to the summary above, it didn't seem to me she was bringing out the best in them, as much as flaunting her own good fortune of love and beauty.

I had a hard time with the dialogue and timelines in this book.  Many times the book would be a flashback from present time and there were not always clear indicators of this change.  This book was hard for me to read and understand, and most of my book club agreed.  If you are one of the people that loved this book, I would love to know what, exactly, you find inspiring.

With themes of love, deception, and beauty, maybe you would like this book more than I did.  I know many people found more enjoyment from this novel than me.

My Rating:  2/5

Disclosure:  I borrowed this book from the local library and read as a book club selection.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Teaser Tuesday-July 21

Check out Teaser Tuesdays from A Daily Rhythm. TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

Grab your current read.

Let the book fall open to a random page.

Share with us two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.

This week my teaser is from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak:
He was the crazy one who had painted himself black and defeated the world.
She was the book thief without the words.

pg. 80

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Audiobook Review: Sisters of Shiloh by Kathy and Becky Hepinstall

Title:  Sisters of Shiloh

Authors:  Kathy and Becky Hepinstall

Narrator:  Xe Sands

Unabridged Length:  Aprox. 7.5 hrs

Here is a summary of the book from the publisher's website:
Libby's husband, Arden, joined the army not long after their wedding and died in the Battle of Antietam. Libby finds his body on the unimaginably bloody field, Josephine already, suspiciously, at his side. Libby, mad with sorrow, decides to disguise herself as a man, and she sets off to kill twenty-one Yankees, one for each year of her husband's life. Josephine, disguised as Joseph, goes along with her sister. As Libby proves herself a competent soldier, Arden begins to appear to her in dreams, driving her on and whispering accusations about Josephine. Josephine then finds herself caught in another kind of danger: she's falling in love for the first time, but she is desperately afraid of revealing herself to the object of her desire.

My Review:
Novels set in the time period of the Civil War are hit or miss with me, and this one was a hit!  I'm sure Xe Sands narration skills helped the enjoyment for me as I find myself enjoying almost any book she is reading to me.  I must say that I also find it interesting that two sisters wrote this book together, that happens to be about two sisters.

Libby and Josephine grew up in a good home with all their needs provided for.  Libby has always been a gentle soul while Josephine seemed to handle some of the hardships of life better.  When Libby's husband dies in a battle, Libby's grief pushes her mind to a scary place.  Not only does she talk Josephine into the two of them disguising themselves as men to join the army, but she even acts like a man at times when it is not needed.

The lives of the two sisters take a dramatic turn after joining the army.  They have to be secretive with all their actions, lest their secret is discovered.  When Josephine finds herself becoming attracted to a fellow soldier, Libby finds herself getting angry with Josephine's carelessness.  It comes down to Josephine making a decision and having to choose between her only sister or the only love she has experienced in her young life.

As I indicated earlier, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this novel.  With themes of mental illness, familial obligations, and love, you may enjoy it as much as I did.  I don't hesitate in recommending this novel for either personal leisure or as a book club discussion.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:  This book was provided to me by the publisher through the Audiobook Jukebox program in exchange for an honest review.